Editor's Note: This post by Jessica Levco originally appeared on Ragan's Healthcare Communication News and previews a pre-conference workshop from the 5th Annual Health Care Social Media Summit in October, which is part of Social Media Week at Mayo Clinic.
Featuring moderator Mark Ragan, “Communicate in a crisis to inform employees, the public and media” is a session you won’t want to miss.
Czark shares her thoughts about the hurricane:
Tell us a little about the crisis you faced. How did social media come into play?
Last October, Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Eastern Seaboard and left New York City and the tri-state area devastated. Our streets and tunnels were flooded, subways and mass transportation halted, and electricity cut throughout the city and surrounding area. Our health care system in the city also was challenged, with many neighboring hospitals forced to evacuate and temporarily close as a result of the storm.
NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) remained operational during Sandy and needed to communicate important information, such as the status of surgeries and appointments and how employees could get to work.
With our community living with limited electricity and delayed emails, social media became a reliable method of communication. Our Facebook page was vital in communicating important messages to our patients, their loved ones, and our nearly 20,000 employees. Our engagement increased nearly 300 percent the week of Sandy, and the social media team was available to provide updates and answer questions.
How were you and your team able to handle the crisis on social media so effectively?
We prepared the best we could for Hurricane Sandy and knew social media had to be a large part of our communications plan. The Friday before the storm, the hospital's Emergency Preparedness team held a communications meeting and gathered necessary stakeholders to share contact information, key messages, and plans for weekend updates.
After the meeting, our team created a social-media plan with key messages, posts for the weekend, and a monitoring schedule. We used Facebook for the majority of posts, because it’s where we had the most-engaged audience, but we monitored Twitter and used it to supplement our Facebook content. We also worked directly with the president of our hospital to monitor his personal Twitter account and shared updates with our team.
In addition to regular monitoring, we created original content and photography that showcased our NYP team working during Sandy. We also shared information about ways our community to get involved and to help, whether through blood and food drives or volunteer opportunities.
Is there anything a hospital communicator can do to prepare for a crisis?
There’s no magic solution to be 100 percent prepared for a crisis. The one thing you can always expect is the unexpected, and social media has changed how normally guarded hospitals must communicate and share information.
Having a basic structure in place will provide a solid foundation and the ability to easily adapt as things change. Here are some additional tips:
- Create a crisis communications team (a small group encompassing necessary stakeholders).
- Have multiple forms of contact information for all communicators.
- Develop draft key messages/statements that can be easily tweaked.
- Think of your audience(s) and how best to communicate with them. Is social media the best method, or is it your blog or website? For our patients and employees, Facebook proved a more effective communication tool.
- Develop a potential list of questions you might be asked, and identify point people in your organization who can answer them. Don’t ignore questions from your community.
- Don’t be afraid of over-communicating. During a crisis, people want to feel informed. You can never communicate too much.
See this page for details on all of the events in Social Media Week at Mayo Clinic (including links to Social Media Health Network member discounts), or go directly to the Ragan site to register for the Summit.