Virginia Hock shared how her team at Children’s Health creates engaging content using patient and team member stories

Virginia Hock, External Communications Manager at Children’s Health, has always worked to feature patient and team member stories in their social content, but recently her team has shifted to focus solely on gathering and creating this type of content.

This shift started when she looked at what was performing best on Children’s Health channels.

For the patient posts, we share a little bit about the patient’s story, why they were here, and what they’re doing now. Virginia Hock
Originally, they’d been sharing a lot of health and wellness articles along with their patient and team member stories.

“But we saw that it didn’t really resonate with our audiences unless there was a trend or news story happening at the time,” Virginia explained.

They decided to target people who are potentially looking at Children’s Health for their expertise or people who were engaged patients or family members. She explained that they wanted to share more inspiring content to show those audiences that kids are resilient, and Children’s Health is just there to provide for them and help along the way.

“We want to communicate to patient families as well as community members that if they ever need us, we’re here for them,” Virginia said.

And, through more inspirational content that would resonate with audiences, the team hoped to increase engagement across their channels.

Along with Social Media Specialist Jehan Sheikh, Virginia became a “social media journalist” and started to work with other departments across the hospital to gather stories.

“Jehan has a journalism background and she came into this to help see it through a storytelling lens,” she said.

Virginia, Jehan, and their newest social media team member, Abbie Maynard, have a lot of ground to cover. As a team of three, they rely on sources for their information — which tend to overlap for both patient stories and team member stories.

“We work with groups like Child Life, our clinical programs, marketing team, creative services, volunteer services, our foundation, clinicians within the health system, and internal communications,” Virginia said.

They built relationships with the teams to keep lines of communication open.

“Sometimes they’ll tell us ‘I know this patient family, I’ll set you up with them,'” Virginia said. “Or if we see a photo that our creative services team has taken, we’ll ask if they have information about the patient.”

She explained that often, once they hear about a patient and have a signed consent form, they’ll reach out to the family for more information and ask to feature them — while following the proper protocols.

Maintaining strong relationships with various teams has been key to their content gathering process.

We really create relationships with each team and then meet with them regularly. Virginia Hock
“We really create relationships with each team and then meet with them regularly,” she said. Those meetings depend on the team — whether they want to meet monthly, weekly, or just touch base when needed.

And because their offices are located outside of the hospital, Virginia, Jehan, and Abbie have to make an effort to maintain relationships with different team members within the hospital.

“We may not see them every day or work with them all the time,” she said. “We meet with them when it’s appropriate and share different information, but also let them know we’re here for them, and they can send us social media content ideas, too.”

She emphasized the importance of avoiding one-sided relationships and instead building goodwill with each group, so they can rely on one another.

When they gather content from a certain team, they make sure to communicate with them along the way regarding approvals and follow up once the post goes live with how it performed.

“That way we can continue to seek effective content that’s engaged well with our audiences,” Virginia said.

The stories are then turned into social content to use for individual posts or as part of larger campaigns.

This new campaign has helped support our new strategy. It’s showing how our team members are here to help kids back to being kids. Virginia Hock
“For the patient posts, we share a little bit about the patient’s story, why they were here, and what they’re doing now,” Virginia said.

They use a similar format for the team member posts well. “We try to show that our team members are providing the best possible care in as many places as they can,” she said.

Virginia also notifies the patient’s family or team member’s department when they’re featured so they can share the post out to their networks and create engagement.

The team has also recently launched a new brand campaign called Kids Rule, which allows them to use their patient stories content in new ways.

“Kids are resilient,” Virginia said. “This new campaign has helped support our new strategy. It’s showing how our team members are here to help kids back to being kids.”

According to Virginia, the content is being met with positive reactions and increased engagement.

“We’ve seen an outpouring of love from people for their care providers or physicians and patient families that they know,” she said. And because of that, they’ve shifted to boosting these posts as well.

They’re also trying to take some of the stories from their social content and apply them to other channels across the marketing and communications team — including internal communications and media relations.

“Even though we’re doing one thing for social, we’re taking that content and seeing how we can use it cross-functionally,” Virginia explained.

For Virginia, the most rewarding part of this social strategy has been getting to know the patients and their families.

We want to communicate to patient families as well as community members that if they ever need us, we’re here for them. Virginia Hock
“By sharing a patient family’s story on social media, we are able to provide them with what we hope is another positive experience outside of receiving care at our health system,” she said.

Virginia also explained being able to reach more people and show followers and people in the community that Children’s Health is there for them has been a huge win.

“We know going to a hospital can be overwhelming,” she said. “But we want people to know that great things are happening here and that we are committed to our mission of making life better for children.”

Moving forward, Virginia hopes to revisit how they share informational health and wellness content.

She explained that type of content is still important. “We’re hitting our stride with the team member and patient stories, but we have a whole host of informational content that should be shared,” she said.

And in order to start sharing that content effectively, Virginia said they’ll need to shape it differently. “I’d like to see us sharing informational as well as inspiring content and just serve it up differently for our audience,” she said.

For other hospitals looking to refresh their social content with a similar strategy, Virginia advised doing an audit of your channels.

“Take a look and then audit your channels to make sure it makes sense,” she said. “Every health system is different.”

According to Virginia, a strategy like this works for her team because they provide care to children and that type of content tends to resonate on social media. She suggested looking at who your audience is and who the people you’re serving are.

“Then, once you realize what kind of content resonates on your channels, make sure you have a group of people who are going to help you provide content ideas and approve it so when you are ready to post you can,” she said. “It varies for each team, but if you have an organized process in place it will be easier to gain access to a wide variety of content.”

Virginia Hock has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2018. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.