Meet the Experts – Deborah Braidic

Deborah Braidic

by Ed Bennett on January 10, 2010

in Profiles,Uncategorized

Our next interview with Deborah Braidic, who manages social media (and many other projects) at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. She is responsible for a comprehensive program that includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, and a wonderful Blog. Deborah maintains fresh and engaging conversations in these communities, and is great example for other Childrens Hospitals.

Please introduce yourself
I am Deborah Braidic, Web Content Manager, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and I am delighted to be interviewed here on Found in Cache.  I’ve been at Childrens for 4.5 years split about half and half between the fund-raising side of things and the web content side of things.

Tell us about your hospital and the department where you work.
Our hospital has got over a century under its belt as a center treating children and just over 3/4 of a century as an academic medical center affiliated with the University of Southern California.  We treat roughly around 90,000 patients each year.

We make the unabashed claim in some places of having the highest ratio of medi-cal (medicaid) patients of any other comparable hospital in the nation.  This makes us fanatically proud of our status of being listed as a U.S. News & World Report hospital.

What got you interested in social media?
I have to admit that our team was interested in social media and social networking for some time before we were permitted to approach the throne.  And for a long time, we labored under the suspicion that they would probably never let us do it anyway.

You can imagine our delight when our CEO returned from a conference and wanted to know more about how social media might benefit the hospital.

We took the opportunity to put a proposal together and, to our surprise, it was accepted with a minimum of weeping and gnashing of teeth.   I think what helped was that our VP of fund-raising stood up at our first “pitch” meeting and basically said “I think we would be stupid if we didn’t do this.”  I think we owe a lot to that one comment.

What aspects of Social Media do you focus on for your hospital?
I would say that we focus on a little bit of everything at this point – we monitor our brand, we provide customer service outreach when called for, and we use the platforms to share “feel good” updates about our hospital and what is going on within our walls.  For the most part, we attempt to keep our outgoing messages consistent with our overall branding.

Is there a particular Social Network that you prefer for your hospital program?
My personal preference is Facebook because it allows people to provide us with unsolicited and solicited comments about how we are doing, both as a hospital, and as a communication channel on Facebook. I feel that the users on Facebook have the highest degree of connection to us as well.

What are the goals of your social media program?
I would have to say that our goals are probably shifting right now and I can’t say too much because I haven’t gotten my new “evil schemes” approved yet but my belief is that we have taken a pretty passive approach to social media thus far, and this was part of our plan to listen as much as we possibly could.

But now, we’re finding ourselves stepping back and saying, “OK, well our plan was to create devoted fans,” and we definitely have people following us but would we consider them “devoted fans”?  The only way that we will know this is if we begin broadcasting in a way where we know whether we can get anyone excited to “do” anything online on our behalf.

This is something I am currently giving some careful thought to in order to adjust our strategy in the next few months.

What’s your opinion on trying to measure ROI for your social media efforts?
Ah – the age old question.  I heard a quote (or probably saw it on twitter) that measuring ROI on social media is like measuring ROI on the concierge in a hotel.

My opinion is that measuring ROI is about as easy as measuring the depth of someone’s feelings.  I recently met, for the first time, a mom of one of our long-time patients who underwent an innovative surgical procedure as a young boy at our hospital.  She shared with me, “you know, I probably am not going to keep going to the hospital’s website again and again, but to have the updates arrive in my Facebook feed really makes me feel connected to the hospital.”

That feeling of connection is tough to measure but my hope is, that when we really need it, we will be able to bank on the feelings of those closest to us.

As for how I personally feel about social media ROI, I think that a beautiful, elegant way to measure it is on its way to us soon – I probably won’t be the brilliant mind who comes up with it, but when it does, we’ll be grateful to be able to apply it and get on with business as usual with new information.

But even if we get to the point that we can’t prove that our ROI is amazing, I think with some experience under our belt, we’ll be that much quicker to adjust based on the ROI metrics.

How much staff time do you and your team devote to social media a week? How much do you think is right?
How much time we devote to social media each week really depends on which week it is and how much is going on at the hospital.

Weeks where we have a lot of public activities, I may put in as much as 10 hours working with the various groups throughout the hospital to put the messaging out.  A normal week though includes anywhere from 3-5 hours a week.

I don’t know that there is a right amount of staff time.  I think the more important factor is how much the person dedicating the time really cares about the fans, the followers, and the organization’s messaging.

Can you share a success story? Something that has proved the value of social media for your organization.
I have to say that the success stories for me have been things that people posted to, mostly, our Facebook page, without prompting, and without us providing them a solicitation to comment.

Just recently an individual posted a comment that he would do anything to work at our hospital.  Another individual posted a few months back that, based on our photos and interactions online, it convinced him that we really do our utmost to take care of our patients (paraphrases for both).

I have to admit that this is how we wish to be perceived in the community and to have this kind of unsolicited feedback is amazing and very gratifying.

What changes do you think we’ll see in the future in terms of how hospitals use social media?
My feeling is that hospitals, and this includes our hospital too, will find better and better ways to truly engage their fans rather than just “putting out an update.”  I’m already beginning to see that other hospitals are putting out fewer updates in a single day and recently, I saw an online “best practices” list indicate that one update per day is max for Facebook.  I felt grateful and relieved that we were already (for the most part) abiding by that rule without prompting, but I am sure that we’ll see more “best practices” come out that will adjust our thinking about what really represents true fan engagement.  This will be fun to see.

Any final thoughts?
My final thoughts are that, even though it might be tough to convince your higher-ups that your hospital would benefit from engaging in social media, it’s really not that big of a deal.

We worried that we would get slammed by angry parents or that something would go viral that was none too flattering for us, but (and I have my fingers, elbows, and legs crossed as I say this), none of that has happened.  Life for our hospital has gone on as per normal, with the exception that, if we do have some particularly good news, we get to share it with people who care about us, directly, in a way that is fun and integrated nicely into their lives.  And that’s fun!

  • sdjensen

    Loved this! Excellent comments/inspiration for anyone interested in social media marketing in the healthcare field! I would love to see UNMC in Omaha and other regional hospitals follow suit.

  • http://www.childrenshospitalla.org Deb Braidic

    Ed, as usual, I am thankful for the wonderful introduction on your blog and will be closely watching to see what others have to say about the things we’re up at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

  • http://www.KruResearch.com Kevin Kruse

    Ed and Deborah, great interview! Loved the line of questioning and I just joined the CHLA Group so I can follow your efforts moving forward.

    One question Deborah, I noticed you set up a “Group” as opposed to a “Fan Page.” Any specific reasons why you chose one over the other?

    -Kevin

  • http://www.chla.org Deb Braidic

    Hi Kevin,

    There are quite a few groups out on FB that have self-organized in allegiance to our hospital. These have been great to see. However, we do have an active FB fan page, which is our official presence linked from our website and all other social presences.

    http://www.facebook.com/childrensla

    Love to add you to our fan base. And thanks for the question.

    - Deb.

  • http://www.streamsidefarm.com Cindy C.

    Great interview. I’m coming from the perspective of seeing a need at a local hospital, but no social media at all. Any suggestions, as someone who doesn’t already work for the hospital, on the best way to approach and pitch this to them?

    Glad I found this blog through medXcentral! I’ll be back!

  • http://www.childrenshospitalla.org Deb Braidic

    My perspective is that Ed’s data collection featured on his blog is a great place to start for finding peer hospitals already doing this and doing it well to pitch a hospital on moving forward. It’s much harder to say ‘no’ when it looks like you might risk being the last person to the party.

    • http://www.childrenshospitalla.org Deb Braidic

      This is a reply to Cindy C.’s question.

  • http://www.hcg.com Carmen Gonzalez

    Great interview. Deb, I am a big fan of Children’s Hospital, as I once worked at City of Hope and am familar with the collaboration between both hospitals concerning cancer treatments for children. I’m excited about your eagerness to do even more in the social media relam and will be keeping an eye out.

    • http://www.chla.org Deb Braidic

      Love to hear from you and so great that you worked for an organization so close to our hearts. We collaborate with them a lot and know that they provide amazing care.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Cavan Cavan Reagan Reichmann

    Great interview, Deb! I recently started in a similar position with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and your work has provided many great examples.

    • http://www.chla.org Deb Braidic

      So great to hear this feedback Cavan! I love to hear that what we are doing is helping others gain their footing in these spaces as well. Thanks for the wonderful comment and best of luck with all of your efforts!

  • http://www.WordDriveCommunications.com Jane Sherwin

    Deb and Ed, looks like the comments on this one just keep on coming! I found this interview last week and think it’s an excellent piece to share with my health care clients–most of whom are at least thinking about social media even if they haven’t started. The smaller ones are so busy with other communications that they just don’t have time to get started. They could probably all benefit from some very young staffer who’s already launched in the social media world and full of enthusiasm.

  • Gina Schlagel

    This was a great interview. Always like to hear how other hospitals are making social media work and hope we can learn best practices from our peers. Great job!