Who’s doing some (online) community building?

As PR practitioners, we want to take advantage of the opportunities the many online social web platforms afford us in connecting to our many stakeholders. Definitely so for hospital communications, where we want to build relationships of trust and dialogue with our communities. Here are two organizations that are doing good things on the social web to connect with their communities.

The Scarborough Hospital

The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) operates on two campuses in Toronto’s east end. Lately I have been noticing many tweets and other online updates related to “ReFRESHing our Menu,” the patient food revitalization project. Using  foods grown in Ontario, TSH’s chefs have been at work creating new menus of fresh, home-made dishes to feed patients rather than the ubiquitous “hospital food” some have had the pleasure of experiencing. To connect with stakeholders on this food journey, TSH has used their Facebook page to ask followers to tell them what their favourite comfort foods are. TSH’s consultant chef Joshna Maharaj (@joshnamaharaj) tweets often about the kitchen escapades and occasionally tweets photos of new creations as they happen.

These are not groundbreaking ways to share information, but I believe it does well to share  good news about the hard work TSH is doing in  improving the patient experience, especially where nutrition is considered, while at the same time asking for patient/follower input. While TSH uses other platforms like their blog, Twitter, and Flickr to share all sorts of media, organizational news and health news in general,  I think what I have seen so far regarding just this one little project on patient nutrition and menu redesign is a good example of how we can create hopeful, lighthearted and forward-thinking online communities — even in the sometimes scary and politically fraught land of health care.

Tomorrow, Chef Rodney Bowers will be on The Scarborough Hospital’s  General Campus to create a special menu  for patients with the resident chefs as reported here.

Trillium Health Care Foundation

Health care is largely about the relationship between patients and caregivers. Trillium Health Care Foundation knows this, and has been using it as the backbone of their current “Calling all Heroes” campaign. To engage their donors and patients, Trillium’s Foundation started a visually – poppy project inviting people to share stories about the Trillium health care provider, volunteer, or employee in general who was their “hero.” Enticing participation with the chance to win a year’s supply of Tim Hortons coffee (yeah, I don’t know why Tim Hortons doesn’t have an apostrophe either), Trillium’s Foundation will award both the nominee and the winner when the contest closes. In the meantime, they have been tweeting and sharing videos on YouTube about the upbeat reports of great patient-to-staff interactions. All this is to encourage donor support for their “Giving 110%” campaign on now as the organization needs to raise $110 million for three key priority areas.

Why is this a good example of how to use online communities? Trillium Health Care Foundation uses more than one platform to drive interest while generating input from their communities. By aiming the spotlight on “Heroes” they may be very successful in reminding their community (and their donors) about the very good work they do for their community — and thank them for the gratitude bestowed on them by patients and their families.



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3 responses to “Who’s doing some (online) community building?

  1. Hi Nikki,
    Great post on how Ontario hospitals are using social web forms to connect with their patients and community. I especially like that Scarborough General is supporting sustainable growth though its local food providers. Do you think there’s a difference between how corporate and governmental agencies use online communities? should there be one?

  2. Hi Susanna
    Yes there is definitely a difference between how corporate and public agencies should online communities — the difference being that hospitals are publically accountable and need to perform community engagement through a variety of mediums. The need for more community engagement between hospitals and their communities has grown readily apparent. Services and health care facilities usually do not go through any sort of major change without some level of community consultation. All this is more than due diligence — it is necessary to build the organization’s reputation and gather much-needed community support.
    Businesses don’t have to engage their customers in the same way.

  3. Galia

    Hi Nikki,

    Thanks for the post. I’m fascinated how hospitals are on top of social media. I also like the Scarborough example. It’s a good way to shed the bad stereotypes about hospital food.

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