Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. For membership information, please click here.
When a couple named Nicole and Trey learned that their in-utero baby had a severe heart defect, they wept for days.
They vowed they would do everything they could to fight for the baby, whom they nicknamed The Tin Man because he needed a healthy heart.
Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children told the story of the infant’s birth and surgery in an inspiring video called “The Tin Man,” drawing 58,000 views on YouTube. It proves the power of video, particularly in a hospital setting, where doctors and nurses heal people and cheat death every day.
The medium draws new patients, wins the confidence of worried parents, and pays financial returns, says Michael Schmidt, director of digital media and philanthropy for Arnold Palmer Medical Center in Orlando, Fla.
“The Tin Man” was the hospital’s first video that followed a patient’s story as it played it out, Schmidt says. The camera even peered at the beating heart of the baby during surgery.
“Nothing in that video was recreated,” Schmidt says. “Everything that happened in that video was Holden’s actual treatment at the hospital, including the surgery.”
Return on investment? How’s this: “We had used ‘The Tin Man’ at a handful of events,” Schmidt says, “and we can attribute at least $100,000 of fundraising to this video.”
Here are some tips for making your own great videos:
Arnold Palmer had tons of videos of doctors sitting in front of bookcases and talking. Staffers decided to go back to the drawing board and come up with new goals.
They decided to tell success stories in a dynamic ways, creating a positive brand experience for the general public. Foremost of all, the hospital decided to celebrate the patients it serves, not itself.
The point, Schmidt says, was to “tell it through their eyes, and their point of view, rather than from our point of view.”
2. Establish trust with your leaders.
For the kind of stories Schmidt wanted to create, he needed access to the operating room, or to follow a family through treatment. So they discussed their plans with the medical leaders, who were receptive, though cautious.
“When we filmed ‘The Tin Man,’ the surgeon said, ‘You can do this, but I have veto power over anything in the final cut,” Schmidt recalls. “We said, ‘That’s fine. We want you to be comfortable with what we’re showing.'”
After the doctor saw the video, he said, “We need to do more of these.”
3. Ask your advocates what they want.
Schmidt asked parents and families who were longtime patients and fans of the hospital what communication they needed. Here were two recurring themes that came up:
- “Show me what it’s like for my child to have surgery or go through treatment.” Parents wanted to see what would lie ahead, to peer inside the operating room.
- “Show me another family that has been through this same thing, with a positive outcome.”
In other words, give them hope.
Schmidt explains: “You can just reach the depth of despair when your child’s going through chemotherapy, or they’re on their fourth heart surgery and have been in the hospital for three months.”
4. Remember that emotion trumps reason in storytelling.
Don’t clog your videos with data and pie charts. Don’t use dry logic. Tell a great story. Empathy will win over your audience if they can focus on one person.
“You can’t walk in half a million pairs of shoes at once,” Schmidt says.
5. Collect best stories from your staff.
Schmidt asks doctors, “What is that story from your career that you really hold on to?”
Here’s one: Schmidt was interviewing Dr. Alex Levy on another subject when Levy brought up a little girl he had treated. By the time Levy had finished telling his story, Schmidt sat him back down, turned on the camera, and had him go through it again.
The video “Chloe’s Wedding Day” (104,200 views) tells how a 4-year-old came into the emergency room on Christmas Eve; she was vomiting. It turned out she had a brain tumor, Levy says. Levy recalls that father asked if he would ever get to walk his daughter down the aisle in her wedding.
“I don’t know,” Levy replies. “We’re going to try damn hard to make that happen.”
After three surgeries and a year and a half of chemotherapy, Chloe has been out of therapy for six months and there’s no evidence of any tumor. Levy told the dad he hoped to attend that wedding someday. Dad told Levy that he, the doctor, would be the one to walk Chloe down the aisle.