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Make sure it gets read: Five tips for creating content that works in Healthcare settings

Tim VaughanTim Vaughan·

Simply communicating content isn’t enough to guarantee engagement. Communicators need to deliver content that employees want to read.

That can feel like a heavy lift, especially in large, fast-paced healthcare systems and hospitals. After all, internal communications professionals are competing with high-priority needs for employees’ attention. And they are often doing it with limited staff.

It doesn’t need to be that way. As St. Louis Children’s Hospital has found, having the right strategy and tools in place make it easy to deliver content that employees will read—and act on.

From Dated to Digital

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, SLCH is a member hospital of BJC Healthcare, the area’s largest employer. Up until a few years ago, SLCH was using painfully dated tools to connect with its 3,500-member workforce. Its digital IC channels consisted of email and an intranet blog. Not only was the blog cumbersome to use, it was not responsive and the team had no insight into its effectiveness.

In our digital, social-media-fueled era, the hospital’s antiquated software wasn’t cutting it. Employees want to easily access content on the go, and they want to interact with the information they receive. So in 2015, SLCH dedicated a full-time resource to IC, developed a robust communications strategy, and launched Poppulo for its IC platform.

The result: Employees rate the hospital’s email newsletter, “Children’s Chat,” and email notifications as their top choices for receiving information. Open and click-through rates are above average. And other measures of engagement, such as employee giving and attendance at the annual employee gala, are through the roof.

In a recent webinar for Poppulo, John Twombly, a senior consultant for SLCH, presented how the hospital upgraded its IC strategy to drive higher levels of engagement. Here are five key takeaways you can adopt to make sure your content gets read.

Make it Accessible from Anywhere

Connect with employees across devices. People increasingly expect to get their information on the go. But in the healthcare field, where a significant percentage of front-line staff have limited downtime or access to a computer, this is imperative.

At SLCH, about two-thirds of the hospital’s workforce are not deskbound. By using responsive templates, the hospital delivers reader-friendly, mobile-ready content that employees can access from anywhere. They no longer need to be tied to a computer with intranet access to keep pace with the latest news.

Make it Fast

Don’t make employees work for the information. Healthcare workers juggle a staggering number of priorities—sometimes with life-and-death consequences. Employees simply don’t have time to wade through lots of content, no matter how compelling the prose.

Rather, content should be relevant and concise. Further, it should be packaged in clean layouts that are free of visual clutter. Employees who don’t have time to read the full article or watch a video should still be able to glean key points at a glance.

SLCH’s weekly internal newsletter, “Children’s Chat,” divides articles and updates into “need to know,” “nice to know,” and “most popular” categories. Urgent and important messages are sent using single-topic bulletins that get straight to the point.

Make it People-Oriented

Tell stories that people want to read. Storytelling is critical for building an emotional investment in your mission. IC professionals in the healthcare industry are blessed with ready-made stories about how staff members transform lives every day.

Good stories need to be supported by strong images. And even better stories can be told with an emotionally powerful video. John and his team often use Poppulo’s multimedia capabilities to showcase the transformative influence that staff members have on their patients and families. The result? Employees are regularly reminded that they—and the organization they work for—are doing work meaningful work that matters.

Make it Interactive

Enable and encourage employees to like and comment on content. Allowing unfiltered commentary might give some IC professionals pause. But it can create a powerful motivator for attracting and retaining attention.

Poppulo’s social media tools allow staff members to engage with content at a level that is simply not possible with a static email newsletter. SLCH also uses it to keep a finger on the pulse of the organization. Questions and concerns that arise in comments sections shed light on potential communications breakdowns or policy issues.

The team answers every question within hours and elevates negative feedback to the leadership team’s attention so that it can quickly be addressed. Providing this space for a 24/7 digital conversation is helping to foster a culture of trust and accountability.

Make it Based on Data

Listen to what your audience wants and tailor your approach accordingly. Poppulo’s platform enables IC professionals to track open and click-through rates on each newsletter issue, right down to individual articles.

John often uses the platform’s quick-map feature to gain real-time insight into who clicked on what, taking the guesswork out of your communication strategy. Not only does this provide evidence about what’s effective, but it also helps John and his team better direct the conversation during content strategy meetings.

A Strategy That Delivers Results

SLCH has earned state, regional, and national awards for its IC, and with good reason. In just a few short years, the team transformed its IC from limited functionality to a communications powerhouse that is fostering connections with and between its workforce.

The hospital’s program proved so effective that all of BJC Healthcare’s communications members have adopted Poppulo. As a result, the entire system has adopted a consistent look while gaining better standardization and efficiency.

Learn more about SLCH’s successful IC strategy by viewing John’s Poppulo webinar, Transforming the Internal Communication Function at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.


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