Hospital touts TV exposure through social networks

Learn how Children’s in Boston, setting for a reality show, expanded its online audience.

Learn how Children’s in Boston, setting for a reality show, expanded its online audience

Imagine if a reality TV show was filmed at your work place. As a communicator, how would you publicize that to your internal and external audiences?

That was the question the communications staff at Children’s Hospital Boston faced when it agreed to give access to ABC camera crews for the taping of “Boston Med.” The eight-part medical series showcases what happens at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with Children’s.

The camera crew spent four months at Children’s, filming the lives of doctors, patients and nurses. Now the stories are unfolding on national television Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT.

“To know that you and your co-workers and your place of employment are featured on a national television show is really amazing,” says Ryan Paul, Children’s social media strategist. “Within the New England area, Children’s Hospital Boston is the place you take your kids to, but outside of New England, the name kind of drops off. This show has given us national exposure, and we want to take advantage of it.”

The 40-member marketing, communications, Web and public affairs staff decided it was important to get the message out about the TV show, both internally and externally, by using social media.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how Children’s did it:

Sharing the message internally

“Boston Med” creates quite a buzz around the hospital, especially on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings.

Updates about the show and video clips are posted on the hospital’s intranet. Reminders about watching the show, along with posts about what people are saying about it on Facebook and Twitter, are flashed on TV screens throughout the hospital.

The hospital also tries to get a sense of what the staff is saying about the show on social media platforms.

“We have a very liberal social media policy and encourage our staff to use it, as long as they don’t break any privacy regulations or let it interfere with their work,” Paul says. “We have been told on numerous occasions that many of our doctors and nurses go to our Facebook page and read the stories when they’re having a difficult day. It always puts us in a great mood to see the inspiring and heartfelt things people say about us.”

Building a microsite

The hospital created a microsite, thesmallandmighty.org, to generate buzz about the TV show and showcase the hospital. The communications staff wanted to keep it separate from the hospital’s main website, childrenshospital.org/, but the main site displays a banner ad linking viewers to the microsite. The microsite gives the staff more flexibility about adding content and details about the show, instead of just relying on ABC’s website, http://abc.go.com/shows/boston-med.

The microsite was created by a local company, but the hospital communication staff re-designed it and added content. On the site, viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at each episode, highlighting doctors and patients. It also features a list of other inspiring hospital patient stories.

The site isn’t strictly focused on the TV show, though. It features information about the hospital’s latest technologies, news alerts and a way for viewers to donate to the hospital. The site also links viewers to the hospital’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blog sites.

To advertise for the microsite, the hospital placed ads in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. So far, more than 17,000 people have visited the site since it launched July 1.

“We wanted the microsite to be a central place for people to go and they could have all the information in front of them,” Paul says.

One question remains: What will happen to the site when the show is over?

“We haven’t decided what we want to do,” Paul says. “We don’t want to get rid of it, and we’re trying to figure out how we can continue it or maybe transition it on to our main website.”

Connecting with Facebook fans

Facebook is used as a place to gab about the show. So far, the hospital has sent out 11 updates about it.

“If we are not featured in that week’s show, we will post a reminder at some point the day it airs,” Paul says. “If we are featured, we post a reminder the day of, right before the show starts and again the following day with a link to view the episode online.”

Paul says it’s difficult to judge how many fans the Facebook page has gained, because the numbers increase at all hours of the day.

“We do receive a lot of comments, likes, and wall posts, so all of those go into our fans’ news feeds to help promote our page,” Paul says.

Here are a few examples and the analytics behind each post:

It’s time for Boston Med! Make sure you turn those TV sets to ABC by 10pm. Let us know if you’re watching.
– This post received 381 likes / 155 comments / 157,972 impressions

Don’t forget to watch Boston Med tonight at 10pm on ABC. If you’ve been watching, let us know what you think. This episode features Sara Dumas, a teenager with a congenital heart defect who is in need of a heart transplant. By the way, did anyone see our full page ad on page A9 in the New York Times? Take a look: http://twitpic.com/25ie5w
– This post received 126 likes / 39 comments / 130,021 impressions

Did you watch Boston Med last night? Let us know what you thought! We’ve also created a website with more information about the show, including behind-the-scenes info and more about the doctors and families featured on each episode. Check it out at http://thesmallandmighty.org/.
– This post received 192 likes / 90 comments / 123,210 impressions

Paul says a majority of its 165,000 Facebook fans are moms.

“They’re really excited about all that we do and after watching the show, we’ll see a lot of posts about how they and their families went through the same thing,” Paul says. “It makes it real when you see it on TV and then people share their own stories.”

Here’s a sampling of what fans are saying:

Nancy Jeffery Harrison: This hits close to home for me, as well! I am fortunate to work where this baby was born, but my own son was born with Tetralogy of Fallot and was treated at Children’s Hospital. Very much looking forward to seeing this episode and seeing the faces of so many wonderful, caring experts!!!

Amy Cabral Bowman: I thought it was great…especially Sam’s story. My son was also born at Brigham’s and transferred to Children’s to have lifesaving heart surgery, so I could sympathize and relate to their story. I realized when I was watching the show last night that it was the 16th anniversary of my son’s first surgery (when he was 2 days old). Thank you Children’s!!!

Amy Ford Warren: These posts are all SO encouraging—we are expecting a baby in November who has a diagnosis of Transposition of the Greater Arteries—met Dr. Brown this past week and am very assured knowing that we are in the best of hands with this facility.

Talking about TV on Twitter

Erin McColgan, the hospital’s media relations coordinator, handles the @ChildrensBoston Twitter account.
When the communication team tweets about the show, Paul says they don’t give a simple status update.
“We always try to link it back to something, whether it’s a YouTube video, a trailer or our blog,” Paul says.

He says the amount of tweets it sends out about “Boston Med” varies week to week, depending on whether or not the hospital is featured in the show.

“If we are featured, we’ll usually tweet once a day leading up to Thursday, then about eight times on show day—so roughly 11 tweets a week,” Paul says. “If we are not featured, we usually ease off and tweet once that week asking people what they think of the show, then on show day saying we are watching.”
McColgan shares three examples of tweets and Paul shares his reasoning behind why he likes each one:

Let us know what you thought of tonight’s #BostonMed on our FB page http://www.facebook.com/ChildrensHospitalBoston

“This was our first tweet to encourage conversation,” Paul says.

WOW! did you see that heart beat? Dr. Fynn-Thompson is incredibly skilled http://bit.ly/9eNii6

“We sent this out as a live tweet during a very cool part of the show,” Paul says.

“”It’s good to be alive!”” – Sara Dumas #BostonMed

“Sara painted this on her hospital window, and we found it inspiring,” Paul says. “It was also our most highly retweeted tweet.”

Each hospital featured in the show has developed its own communication strategy about promoting it, but if Massachusetts General tweets about the show, Paul says he RT’s the message. Since the first show aired on June 21, the hospital gained between 75 and 100 Twitter followers. During the hour the show is airing on Thursday night, Paul says, the hospital gains seven followers, on average.

McColgan also monitors what’s being said on Twitter about the show. She shares her favorite tweets:

@jtphibbs: @ChildrensBoston I loved Boston Med… I can’t wait to visit Boston in August…

@CaperWheelLady: @ChildrensBoston 1st ep. of #BostonMed was gr8! Looking 4ward 2 seeing u featured on 2morrows ep. Hoping 2 also C some of ur ortho stories.

@lgt1230: @ChildrensBoston definatly love the show and the hospital they have been great to my daughter going there tomorrow

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