Liz Martin

Liz Martin on telling University Hospitals patient stories “Humans of New York” style

“My career path has not been linear,” says Health founding member Liz Martin.

Health articles are great, but we're full of our own amazing stories.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in English, everyone thought Liz would become a teacher, but that didn’t feel like the right fit to her. Instead, she embarked on a near-seven-year adventure that took her throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Some of her adventures included working for automotive designer Carroll Shelby in California, helping run her aunt's bed and breakfast in Alaska, and volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras. Liz ultimately returned to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where she accepted a full-time editor position at American Greetings, the Cleveland-based greeting card company.

While at American Greetings, Liz earned a master’s degree in creative writing, and, shortly thereafter, moved to Connecticut to work for a nonprofit focused on service learning programs in under-resourced U.S. high schools and building primary schools in developing countries abroad.

“Writing was the common thread through all of my travels and jobs,” says Liz.

After her work in Connecticut ended, Liz returned to Cleveland, bought a house, and began working for University Hospitals in their executive and internal communications department. But, “there was a need to breathe new life into our social media efforts,” Liz says.

Seeing social media as an opportunity to do some creative writing and bring a testimonial-based approach to the channels, she took on the challenge and ultimately became UH’s Senior Social Media Strategist.

“I refused to use another stock photo.”

“Health articles are great, but as a large healthcare system, we're full of our own amazing stories – and photos, for that matter,” she says.

Liz began by going into the hospitals themselves and looking for everyday inspirational stories that would otherwise go unshared. Using a rough editorial plan based on nationally celebrated monthly health topics, she interviewed patients, took their photos, and posted them in first-person on UH and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Facebook page.

It snowballed from there. With every story Liz posted, more arrived – typically in the form of comments on the original post. “Social media is a conversation, and sometimes there's a brand voice that works — certainly, if we're giving direct healthcare advice. But if I have mom Rebecca, for example, telling in her own words how UH Rainbow saved her premature son, it’s automatically more meaningful and authentic.”

Like many Health members, Liz is a team of one.

Covering a healthcare system consisting of 26,000 employees and over one million patients a year, Liz jokes that her workload could support a team of ten. To that end, she’s building a strong case for more staff, and, in the meantime, relies on her helpful colleagues (and interns) on the Communications Team for help with story collection.

Liz is also managing the social media budget, streamlining the comment monitoring and service recovery process, and formalizing the intake process for the increasing number of social media requests she receives. And all while staying HIPAA compliant!

“What I enjoy most about my job is knowing how special it is for people to have a voice, to share the stories that have impacted their lives so deeply,” says Liz.

Indeed, the patients featured in her social posts often will jump into the comments themselves, empathize with others going through similar challenges, and develop new relationships. Liz’s overarching social media strategy for University Hospitals is to make those kinds of connections and conversations happen. She uses storytelling in social media as an opportunity to educate both current and potential patients on the services offered at UH, ultimately driving patient volume for the system.

“I'd rather share fewer stories and know that people are inspired than pump out a stream of posts that no one is engaging with. I don’t want to post for the sake of posting. I want to add value to people’s days and lives with the content we share.”

Liz has been a member of Health since it began in 2016. Check out her stories on University Hospitals and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Facebook pages.