Sarah Collins — Social Media Strategist at Baptist Health in Northeast Florida — and her Wolfson Children's Hospital colleagues are no strangers to posts going viral. In 2017, one of their videos went viral when it was shared by Ellen DeGeneres and has since reached 23 million people and drawn nearly 7 million engagement on their social channels to date.
But, in 2018 they had to tackle a different kind of viral campaign on social: A PR story about one of their Pediatric ICU nurses adopting twin patients that kept being picked up by TV, print, and social media outlets all over the world over the course of the year.
According to Sarah, the story came to the attention of Wolfson Children's Marketing and Communications Manager Vikki Mioduszewski in November 2017 and was picked up by local media in March 2018 — that's when it took off.
Wolfson Children's, part of Baptist Health, was where PICU nurse Jessica Hamm first encountered her future children.
They published the story themselves in their team member publication Care Connection, on Baptist Health's intranet, and as one of the first in-depth stories on their new blog, Juice, in April. Wolfson Children's PR pitched it to media and after a local TV station ran it, the story got picked up by media on four continents, including ABC World News Tonight, USA Today, Belgian publication Her Lasste Nieuws, and a one-page spread in People magazine in May, 2018.
But the big moment for the story came late last year when a producer for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon wanted to feature it.
“Because it was a surprise, we weren't able to coach Jessica or tell her that she was going to be on the show, and we knew a national program would likely not mention our regional brand,” explained Sarah. “So we developed a full communications plan in advance that hinged on social media so we could leverage the coverage on our own.”
After the segment went live on The Tonight Show's Facebook page, Sarah jumped into action to make the most of the traction the story was gaining.
“We shared their Facebook post to our page, then took screenshots and shared it to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn,” said Sarah. “But because it was their content, we couldn't boost it on our Facebook, and I really wanted to make sure that we got our name in there somehow.”
“Just by that one action, we drove nearly 5,000 views to our blog within one week,” said Sarah.
In total, their blog about Jessica's story has earned more than 6,500 unique page views — 80% of which occurred the week after the Jimmy Fallon post.
“We also know that 98% of our total page views on this blog came from Facebook,” she said. That number includes not only the traction they gained from Jimmy Fallon, but also the hit they saw in May after the People magazine feature.
“Throughout the year, it's been popping up here and there with different media outlets coming across the story. But it's mostly been TV and print, with some social hits here and there,” explained Sarah. “So, we were pleasantly surprised that we figured out a way to link some of this excitement back to our own website.”
For Sarah, the success of this story became even more exciting when she analyzed the hits to their blog — which relies on social media for traffic.
“This was our top story for the year,” said Sarah. “The next highest number of unique page views for one story was 1,573, so at 6,500 views, it blew everything else out of the water.”
According to her, that's all thanks to the partnership they have with PR.
“This story really took on this life of its own because it's so genuinely positive and heartwarming, and it just continued to give us new angles and opportunities to share it again. Whereas normally we wouldn't push the same story multiple times. It also built broad awareness of the Wolfson Children's Hospital brand and the range of complex medical care we provide since the girls have benefited from neurosurgery, critical care, rehabilitation, and many other services. In that way, social media helped us meet key marketing objectives.”
Sarah said it's been exciting to see how the story has developed over the year and a half and how people continue to respond to it.
“Watching the girls grow up and seeing how well they're doing now compared to how their story began has been really special,” said Sarah. “Not only for our followers, but for our team members as well. They love to see updates on the twins and follow along in their journey.”
As Jessica's story was also a patient story, Sarah says they've had people comment and share their own stories as patients at Wolfson Children's, which provides more opportunities for UGC and stories they can share with their PR team.
But, Sarah stressed that due to the personal nature of Jessica's story, they had to be careful in how they handled it. “Comments have been overwhelmingly positive,” Sarah explained. “We just want to make sure we're not asking the family to do more than they can or want to do.”
Sarah emphasized the importance of sharing stories like Jessica's across their social channels.
As for anyone working to connect a PR story back to their digital channels, Sarah said to be as involved as possible in where the story is going.
For her, that means not only forging a strong partnership with the PR team, but also staying on top of where her colleague is pitching in order to track and engage the channels where the story is gaining traction.
“If another person or outlet is leading the story, get involved and tag your accounts where you can. Be part of the conversation in a nonintrusive way by commenting like we did on Jimmy Fallon's post,” said Sarah.
“This was a giant story for our PR team and reached over 225 million impressions across TV, print, and online. So we really had to work together to connect as many of those audiences back to our owned channels when possible to hopefully convert them into subscribers or followers.”