High Stakes

In with the new: Donald Trump, Twitter, and healthcare communications

As strategic communicators focused on helping healthcare providers engage with the people who matter to them, we constantly examine what message delivery tactics prove most effective. David Jarrard, our firm’s CEO, wrote recently about the power of simple and emotional messages in this cycle’s presidential primaries.

In addition to David’s observations about the messages themselves, I would also note how fascinating it is to watch how those messages are being delivered. The press release – long considered dead – seems to be alive and well. But what about the power of the press conference? Posters and attack ads? And, most intriguing to me – what, if anything, does Donald Trump’s success with Twitter mean?

Some media observers, after all, have been writing for months now that Twitter is dying. (“Sad!” as Mr. Trump might Tweet.)

While I certainly believe Twitter has a place in healthcare communications, providers for the most part don’t have the luxury of being able to make the volatile pronouncements that Trump and other candidates have. And it’s that very lack of restraint that’s often needed to make the social platform a successful messaging tool in electoral politics.

Here are two ways I believe Twitter can be utilized effectively in the healthcare arena:

  • To demonstrate providers are attuned to the healthcare issues that matter to people. 

    Twitter creates echo chambers. (#NeverTrump, anyone?) When the echo chamber and the resulting noise grows loud enough around healthcare-related topics – take the Zika virus for instance – providers can take what they’ve learned from monitoring Twitter to provide easily accessed, credible information on trending topics.

  • To drive users to thoughtful, more robust content. 

    Unlike Trump, who uses Twitter’s 140 characters at high volume to gain maximum attention and ultimately drive subsequent (i.e., free) media coverage, providers can thoughtfully use Twitter to initially engage with people and direct them to more in-depth and comprehensive information on important healthcare topics. This can lay the groundwork for becoming a patient’s provider of choice – and an industry thought leader.The bottom line: Twitter can be an effective communications tool, but I would discourage using Twitter like Trump. (Really went out on a limb there, huh?) Instead, think of it as a tool to connect your organization to timely conversations, then elevate it above the chatter and limited information.


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