When Baptist Health’s health news site reported on the risks of an e-cigarette that looks like a flash drive, parent-employees at the Jacksonville, Florida hospital network were concerned.
Four of them asked if their school publications could reprint the article warning about the device, which reportedly accounts for half of all e-cig sales in the United States.
That’s a win for Juice, the hospital’s recently launched brand journalism site.
“Employees are finding our information so interesting that they want to share it,” says Vikki A. Mioduszewski, editor of Juice.
Brand journalism is often billed as a way for organizations to reach the community and news outlets through newspaper-style content. That’s a major goal of Juice, but the site is also illustrating a little-mentioned bonus: communicating and engaging with employees.
Juice is one of a growing number of storytelling platforms launched by hospital groups eager to promote good health and tell their own stories in an era of dwindling news coverage. The five-hospital and physician office network in Jacksonville is using journalism tactics to build its brand, offer health tips and promote patient successes.
“Sometimes within a minute of it being posted, the phone will ring from a TV reporter,” says Cindy Hamilton, director of corporate communications. “‘I just saw the story you posted, and we’d like to do that.’
Ragan Consulting Group advised the Baptist Health marketing and communications team on creating the brand journalism site and weekly newsfeed.
“I’m really proud of Juice and how the communicators at Baptist upped their game,” says RCG founder Jim Ylisela, who worked with the team for two years. “They reinvented themselves as a newsroom. They upgraded their storytelling skills, in writing, infographics and video. They became their own publishers.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to watch it happen, though I kind of miss going to Jacksonville, especially in January.”
Storytelling thrives at hospitals
As organizations full of experts and inspiring stories, hospitals are a place where brand journalism tends to thrive. Cleveland Clinic, Advocate Health Care, Cape Cod Healthcare and others are establishing themselves as go-to sources of medical information. This brand-building not only serves a public good, it also makes it more likely that potential patients will think of the organization when the need arises.
The platform especially helps Baptist Health connect with a younger generation that gets its information largely online, Mioduszewski says. This includes young mothers seeking pregnancy and pediatric services of the sort offered by the network’s Wolfson Children’s Hospital. By offering health news, Juice connects patients with the hospital network between visits.
One advantage of a website like Juice is that it allows the organization to make greater use of its content. Rather than writing up a press release that might never get picked up, organizations can produce stories that reach audiences internally and externally.
“When you only work with media, and you tell your story just to them, you get one hit and then it’s over,” says Mioduszewski. “And you’ve got this great content that you can’t use in other places.”
As financial troubles shrink the size of newspaper staffs, the remaining reporters are often grateful for the resource Juice provides.
“They rely on us as a resource and a source of truth,” Mioduszewski says. “It’s actually helped them do their jobs more effectively, because we’re giving everything they need to them on a silver platter.”
Newsjacking—and delivering lifesaving information
The story on e-cigarettes is one of many examples in Juice of brand journalism, or pegging stories to a news event in order to offer a hospital’s own information and expertise. After a school shooting in Texas left 10 dead and 10 more injured, Juice published a story citing an emergency medicine physician on steps one can take to keep an injured person alive while awaiting medical help.
Among other points, it advised, “Apply direct pressure. While someone else calls 911, you should apply firm pressure to the bleeding site with your hands, cupping them around the affected extremity like a clamshell.”
The story mentioned a U.S. Homeland Security program called “Stop the Bleed.” An employee contacted Mioduszewski asking for training, which Baptist Health plans to offer in the future.
“That’s a non-clinical person who reached out to me,” Mioduszewski says. “So they might not know that you can still save a life even if you’re not a physician or a nurse.”
Following the recent deaths of designer Kate Spade and chef and travel host Anthony Bourdain, Juice posted a story that used celebrity suicides to shine light on mental illness.
“Familiarize yourself with 5 signs of suicide risk and local resources before you need them,” the headline urged.
(The signs are: Chronic pain; a prior suicide attempt; depression, other mental disorders or a substance abuse disorder; family violence, including physical or sexual abuse; or having guns or other firearms in the home.)
The story quotes the system director for Inpatient Behavioral Health at Baptist Health, and highlights the health care network’s free “Mental Health First Aid” courses at several locations.
Baptist Health plans to launch a marketing effort to reach the community, a primary audience along with journalists, Mioduszewski says. Meanwhile, employees have helped spread the word beyond the walls of the hospital. (Communications opted in all 11,000 employees, and Juice has an additional 1,400 external subscribers.)
Juice’s five writers, as well as its graphic designers, have other duties in addition to the website, but the site has unearthed potential writers as well. Mioduszewski reached out to a psychologist as a source and received a well-written reply.
“He wrote back brand journalism style,” she says. “He tied his subhead to his main topic. … It was delightful.”
Which means Juice plans to recruit him as a guest contributor in the future—another way of expanding content and showcasing experts.