Michael Krivich, a healthcare marketing blogger, recently asked why so few hospitals pursue blogging. Krivich believes that hospitals ought to be pursuing blogging as a way to control how information is put out into the world. Krivich notes that just because a hospital does not blog does not mean it is not being written about in the broader community (Krivich, 2014, March 22, http://healthcaremarketingmatters.blogspot.com/2014/to-blog-or-not-to-blog-hospital-that-is.html).
My first thought while reading this blog had nothing to do with social media. Rather, the blog called to mind something from my graduate level training (second master’s degree) in educational foundations and disability studies. As I was reading this blog post, I thought of Burton Blatt’s photographic expose Christmas in Purgatory (1966). Blatt’s book had a historic impact on the deinstitutionalization movement because it showed a side of institutions for the so-called intellectually disabled rarely, if ever, seen by the general public. Blatt’s book was evidence that things in institutions were not as they were represented.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that all institutions, be they in the healthcare industry, education, or elsewhere, are necessarily at all like the institutions in which Blatt photographed, but it does call to mind that institutions can never be sure who is controlling their content.
Like Krivich, I also was thinking in terms of social media and its ability to shape the public discourse about institutions. While I agree that institutions need to act decisively to counter any negative perception concerning their reputations and may more effectively be able to leverage their reputations with regards to social media, I would also add that a dose of prevention also is a positive public relations strategy.
What I mean by this is that it is not enough just to put out a story via social media or a more traditional source of media. One must also put forth a good faith effort to provide humane and, preferably, excellent treatment and professional services while avoiding negative exposure. It may seem fairly obvious that this would be the case, but yet this concept still needs to be amplified.
Social media and other forms of marketing are important to telling an institution’s story. The best way to tell a positive story, though, is through satisfied patients/clients/customers. In combatting negative publicity, an institution, whether it be a healthcare organization, a school, a college/university, a religious institution, or a business, must seek to excel in its mission, but with its morals intact. Anything less can be problematic.
Social media can be a way of telling a story in a certain way. Indeed, as has been suggested, it is a positive way of accomplishing that particular goal. However, one has to make sure that the institution is putting out is actually reflected in the minds of the consumers in which they serve. Thus, social media has become an important tool in storytelling, but effective service that backs up the claim is still essential to brand storytelling.