SickKids and social media: an interview with Janice Nicholson

In November, Ashley Weinhandl with the Ontario Hospital Association and health writer Colleen Young interviewed Janice Nicholson, Senior Manager of Strategic Communications at SickKids. Janice has taken on the exploration and launch of social media at SickKids over the last few years and here are a few snippets related to social media. See the full interview where Janice talks about  what channels the hospital chose and why and describes the Upopulis platform. In a nutshell, social media use at SickKids is about providing trusted and consistent information, receiving feedback and listening to the conversation.

Ashley: Tell us about your experience. What unique learnings have you encountered?

Janice: I’ve learned that it’s important to manage expectations about social media. It is not the solution to all of our communications challenges; it is simply another tool in our tool kit. I also have come to believe that to have a real effect in the social network, we need to have a coordinated approach. We have a strong brand and to maximize our voice and reach our audience on channels like Twitter, we need to maintain one brand. By having too many voices out there we end up splintering off into smaller channels. If we maintain master accounts, we can share the messages of all of our SickKids family through one voice and reach a wider audience. The key is to target those messages using keywords and hashtags. There is a lot of interest in embracing social media at SickKids, but we must manage expectations of who is using social media at SickKids and how they will represent our brand. We are taking a phased approach and now that we have taken the time to listen and are beginning to establish a voice, we are on to the next phase. We plan to continue to build as we start to engage our staff and stakeholders and help engage them in the conversation.
Ashley: What one piece of advice would you give other institutions for community building?

Get involved with social media as fast as you can because if you’re not there they will still be talking about you. Being there allows you to know what is being said so you can respond accordingly. Since it’s free, it is a great tool for not-for-profit and publicly funded institutions. The important thing to remember is that you are entering a channel that moves at a crazy speed and you need to be extremely responsive. So while it is free to use, it requires resources and an investment of time and strategy. There are resources required and you have to take it seriously and have a plan.

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