A Young Wizard’s Lesson to Hospitals About Social Media

If you saw the new Harry Potter movie, you may have noticed it was darker than any of the previous Potter movies. Harry’s world is more unpredictable than ever.  His universe is in a dire state.  He’s not sure who to trust. And he’s not even clear on how to proceed to solve the dilemma he’s in.

Flickr: Loimere

It’s much different from earlier Potter movies, but people still came (in droves) to watch … and watch again. Sure, the film is artistic and, and after all, it is Harry Potter, but still…it’s a dark movie with an unresolved ending. Not the typical blockbuster.

The social media lesson here? It doesn’t have to be good news. It doesn’t have to be happy. It doesn’t even have to be resolved. But if it’s a compelling story, it does have to be told.

Many times, especially in hospital marketing, we fear when something bad happens at our hospitals–a notable figure dies, a mistake is made, a breach in security causes panic, an infectious disease was traced to our staff member. But, in a hospital, it can’t all be bouncing new babies and stories of remission. In hospitals, sometimes, bad things happen.

Even if your hospital is not engaged in social media, the story will often make its way to the blogosphere and into the media. The facts may not be accurate or the timeline correct, but the kernel of the story will appear with or without your input. Social media gives us the opportunity to respond immediately, or even be proactive. Even if the facts are dark, even if the issue is still unresolved, the story can still be told. And it’s okay to blog that you can’t blog about an issue (for example, a personnel issue).

Being consistently open will encourage people to go first to your hospital’s website or blog to get the real story. Being open, without breaching patient privacy or employee confidentiality, will certainly earn you the respect of your community, including your employees.

There’s an interesting podcast produced from the authors of the book Tactical Transparency that interviews leaders on how this “openness” looks in business settings. One you might find interesting is an interview with Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, from back in 2007 when he first started his blog.

Interviewer Shel Holtz does a nice job of posing some questions you may want to consider before you begin your social media program, specifically if you are considering initiating a blog. Remember, there’s no magic here, only a new tool called social media that helps us communicate openly with our communities. “Alohomora,” as the young wizard would say.

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