Seattle hospital draws crowds through creative communications

Swedish Medical Center creates open negotiations blog, live-streams knee surgery and films a doctor lacing up football with a robotic device.

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Employee negotiations can be the sausage-making side of any business with a unionized staff—a process best not opened to public view.

Blogs, on the other hand, are as public as communications get. And when you allow anonymous comments, you risk allowing dissent and snark of a sort that would make most executives blanch.

But the Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center has dedicated a blog to its negotiations, figuring that discussions are going to happen somewhere online anyway.

The blog is just one aspect of the five-hospital system’s Web and social media strategy, which has helped draw throngs to events, brought in faraway patients who’d viewed live surgery on the Internet, and offered CEO forums to employees at their workstations.

Swedish—which has 9,000 employees and a total operating revenue of $1.5 billion—promotes its message through clever uses of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among other platforms. It employs a marketing and communications department of 10 people, one of whom is dedicated to social media, says Communications Director Melissa Tizon.

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