Thurston Hatcher shares how he and his team at Rush are continuing to grow their Pride Month celebrations across social media

Pride Month is much bigger than your average health awareness month, it’s a worldwide cultural celebration, so we wanted to make sure we were active in it. Thurston Hatcher
According to Thurston Hatcher, Social Media Strategist at Rush, over the last few years they had made increasing efforts to have a social presence around Pride.

“But this year, I felt like we needed to think it through a little bit more and be more purposeful in our approach,” he said. “Pride Month is much bigger than your average health awareness month, it’s a worldwide cultural celebration, so we wanted to make sure we were active in it.”

This year, Thurston wanted to use the opportunity to do something original — rather than digging up the same story they’d used in previous years.

“We wanted to make sure we had an array of strong, meaningful content to work with,” said Thurston. At the beginning of May, Thurston and his team got together with colleagues from their photography and video department and a colleague in their marketing and communications department who is devoted to community engagement.

“We also work very closely with our university counterparts, so our Pride initiatives were done in tandem with the university,” he said.

One of the first things they did was arrange for a photograph with some key players from across the institution.

We wanted to make sure we had an array of strong, meaningful content to work with. Thurston Hatcher
The photograph documented the CEO of Rush University Medical Center, a leading university representative, and the leader of their LGBTQ Committee putting up the Rush branded flag with the Pride colors.

“It was not only a really fun photo, but it worked really well,” he said. “Our engagement was pretty strong on social media with that piece of content.”

Then they worked with their production group, who does their video and photography work, on some customized animation for their social channels.

Thurston spoke with the team about developing an animation they could use on Instagram and Facebook. The end result began with Pride flags waving, then it evolved into the Rush logo, and ended with their Rush pride branding.

“We were able to use that on Instagram, and I published it on Facebook,” said Thurston. “It ended up being general enough to work for both the Health System and for the university, and we got a good response from that animation across our channels.”

Thurston also structured their content plan around Pride events across the hospital and university.

We documented our float in the Chicago Pride Parade and made sure we had pictures of that to share across social media. Thurston Hatcher
“We documented our float in the Chicago Pride Parade and made sure we had pictures of that to share across social media,” he said. “We also had events on campus that we got social content from as well.”

They also worked with one of their primary care physicians who specializes in treating and working with LGBTQ patients to develop a blog post, which they worked into an additional array of content.

Because of the nature of their content and the way they put it together, Thurston said it worked across their social media channels — with some minor tweaks and specifications.

“In my experience, videos on Instagram work better if you can have the square sizing as opposed to the rectangular one where it ends up being smaller,” he said. “So we had all our videos edited into two versions that would work on any platform, and still have the sizing we wanted for Instagram in particular.”

Over the course of the month, they put out around two pieces of content a week across Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook — with a higher volume going out on Twitter.

After Pride Month was over, Thurston shared a highlight report of their campaign results with the people leading LGBTQ efforts at Rush.

“I think people were excited about what Rush as an institution was doing and what we in our social media were doing to share that,” said Thurston.

In my experience, videos on Instagram work better if you can have the square sizing as opposed to the rectangular one where it ends up being smaller. Thurston Hatcher
From their 126 social media messages across their hospital and university accounts, they received 5,800 total engagements with a reach of 815,000. Thurston also said their engagement was split nearly evenly across their three channels — with 1,700 from Facebook, 1,900 from Instagram, and 2,000 from LinkedIn.

Thurston said one of their main takeaways was the benefit of planning ahead.

“It makes sense to start early — probably even earlier than we did,” he said. “Next year, I’d like to get started in April.”

He said a visual element he’d like to experiment with more is their Pride logo, which currently shows the Rush logo on top of a rainbow flag.

“I’d like to come up with something a bit more interesting and unique than that,” he said. “I also want to look at incorporating more written health and wellness content and maybe doing more with Instagram stories than we did this time.”

For Pride next year, they plan to do more original content through live-tweeting and Instagram stories.

We had the good fortune of knowing this is a priority and a commitment for the institution. Thurston Hatcher
“We experimented with that a little bit at a Pride event on campus, which got a decent reaction,” he said. “And that was just through the employees or staff that were there. It showed that there were a lot of employees and staff who were engaged in this and care about it. And I think that means something to people outside of Rush as well as current patients and potential patients in the future.”

Thurston emphasized a lot of their success through their Pride initiatives comes from the fact that it’s a long-standing institution-wide priority.

“It really helps when this work comes organically and isn’t forced,” he said. “We had the good fortune of knowing this is a priority and a commitment for the institution. And, if you feel like you have that same liberty and support, it only makes sense to put out this kind of content to demonstrate that.”

When approaching a campaign like this, Thurston said it’s important to get the key players involved as early as possible.

“There were people we needed to actually get things accomplished and make this successful, like our video and photography team,” he said.

“But it was also crucial to make sure everyone was heard. One thing we could continue to work on in hindsight is thinking more system-wide. Moving forward, I want to be more collaborative with our hospital partners in putting some of this together. You want to make sure all of the people who are under the brand are consulted on this.”

Thurston Hatcher has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2018. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.