For hospitals and large healthcare systems, fostering emotional investment in their mission is critical.
That’s no small task for internal communications professionals, who are charged with reaching hundreds or even thousands of employees who are always on the go.
Yet St. Louis Children’s Hospital has excelled in this area. When the communications team overhauled its IC function in 2015, it went from “trying to build a house with only a hammer” to delivering engaging content that is advancing the hospital’s goals. The team did it by:
- Dedicating a full-time resource to IC
- Developing an IC plan
- Launching Poppulo for its internal platform
John Twombly, a senior consultant for SLCH, recently shared how his team is using IC to foster engagement with the hospital’s mission in both the virtual and real worlds. Here are six key strategies that emerged from his presentation.
Nearly two-thirds of SLCH’s 3,500-person workforce are not tied to a desk. That means the majority of the hospital’s staff don’t have the luxury of reviewing email on a desktop during their downtime.
To deliver content that staff can access from anywhere, John makes good use of Poppulo’s responsive templates. Internal communications are sent in mobile-friendly formats that look great on any device. Employees can view the weekly newsletter and other communications at their convenience, whether they are taking 15 in the breakroom or relaxing at home after a long shift.
Cut Down on the Clutter
In fast-paced environments like hospitals, staff have limited time for reading walls of text. That means IC professionals have only a minute or two to get their point across.
In response, John and his team keep it simple. The weekly employee newsletter, “Children’s Chat,” has a clean format that is free of visual clutter. The top half of the newsletter is dedicated to feature stories. The bottom half is divided into “need to know,” “nice to know,” and “most popular” articles. Hospital-wide announcements are sent using single-topic bulletins. Keeping content relevant and concise ensures that even skimmers and scanners get the message.
Encourage Two-Way Communication
Poppulo’s social media features have proven to be a key ingredient to building engagement at SLCH. Since launching the platform in 2015, the internal communications team has amassed more than 3,000 comments on its articles and has yet to pull one for policy violations.
While employees enjoy reading each other’s comments, the team has found the feature to be an invaluable “canary in the coal mine.” Questions and concerns that surface in the comments section can help the team identify and address potential issues before they become problems. In fact, hospital leaders have reversed course on some decisions based on feedback in the comments section.
This responsiveness has fostered a culture of trust and accountability. It has also reinforced that employees’ contributions matter—not just to the patients and families they serve, but to the organization as a whole.
Keep the Organization’s Goals Front and Center
It’s easy to lose sight of an organization’s overarching goals in the day-to-day bustle of a hospital. To ensure SLCH’s goals stay relevant, John and his team start off the year by sharing what SLCH’s leaders plan to accomplish in the coming months.
They build on this throughout the year, often by embedding video pulled from leadership talks or employee forums into the newsletter. As a result, they continually reinforce the organization’s goals. The strategy resonates with employees; analytics consistently reveal that these communications earn high rates of interest.
Share Stories That Connect with the Mission
Building emotional engagement is all about helping employees see how they make a measurable difference for their organization and those around them. The switch to Poppulo provided SLCH with an incredibly effective tool for achieving this.
The platform’s multimedia capabilities enable the SLCH team to both show and tell emotionally powerful stories that get at the heart of their mission. And the social media features encourage employees to be cheerleaders for their peers and the hospital’s overall mission.
Use Data to Fine-Tune the Strategy
Internal messaging is only effective if the content is being read. For John and his team, there is no guesswork as to what is working in terms of reach.
Poppulo provides the SLCH team with real-time insight into what messaging is earning the most attention. As a result, the team can constantly tailor its strategy to ensure that content resonates with employees. And it’s working—surveys show that the hospital’s weekly newsletter and single-issue bulletins are the top choices amongst staff for news and information.
Engagement That Extends Beyond Click-Through Rates
Poppulo’s benchmark tools enable SLCH to compare its engagement rates against other healthcare organizations and across all sectors. With exceptional open and click-through rates, the hospital has earned high marks for building connections with its internal communications.
But as any organization can attest, there is more to IC than click-through rates. Those rates need to translate into engagement in the real world, too. Again, SLCH is hitting it out of the park. For example, attendance has skyrocketed at the hospital’s annual employee gala during the past two years. And in 2018, employee giving, conducted in partnership with the hospital foundation, exceeded its goal for the entire year by September.
Poppulo made it easy for SLCH to elevate its internal communications from static emails to a full-scale engagement tool. Check out John’s webinar, Transforming the Internal Communications Function at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, to learn more about how the platform helped the hospital reimagine what is possible with IC.