Gold medal communications lessons: From a Greek diner to the Olympics

When hungry customers came rushing into my dad’s Greek diner, the Holiday Grill in Southampton, New York, they expected delicious food within minutes of their arrival.

Dad was ready. He had the eggs cracked, bacon cooked, and burger patties separated and ready to be tossed on the grill. Everyone in the kitchen, from chefs to waitresses to busboys, knew exactly what they had to do. Dad’s system of advance preparation and good organization allowed him to satisfy what otherwise would have been overwhelming demand, keeping his customers happy and coming back.

Similarly, communications departments at organizations ranging from Fortune 500 corporations to health systems to governmental agencies confront sudden, sometimes overwhelming demand for content to satisfy their ever-expanding media channels, as well as journalist inquiries. The best way to rapidly deliver quality content is to follow the Greek diner model. Have a system. Prepare in advance; be well organized; assign clearly defined roles; insist on teamwork; and share resources.

These principles have served me well through my career, as a producer for the Today Show, a broadcast producer at seven Olympic Games, and a communications and marketing leader at three different health systems.

Communications officers have to be better prepared than ever because they have a vast number of media channels to supply with content. At the Mount Sinai Health System, our communications and marketing output includes articles for biweekly print publications and departmental reports; content for Mount Sinai’s website and intranet; thought leadership articles for external publications; videos for our website and social media sites; stories for journalists; as well as promotional and advertising copy.

In large organizations, communications team members should have the skills of a journalist – the ability to develop sources, dig up interesting facts, and write stories in a compelling fashion. We rely on a beat system. Our media directors assume responsibility for a department, such as cardiology or oncology, gain expertise in the specialty, build relationships with doctors so they are well informed of developments in research and clinical care, and, importantly, learn of patient success stories, which are an essential component of our content. They must gain consent from patients, including all required authorization forms, write up the stories as reporters, arrange for video shoots, and feed information to our social media experts.

The content, then, must be programmed, which is the duty of an editor in our newsroom, who determines on which channels each story will appear. Programming the right story to the appropriate audience is essential for any content creation effort. It’s the same approach I utilized as a health producer on the Today Show, programming the thrice-weekly “Forever Young” segments on healthy aging, which I scheduled six months in advance. In preparation for the Olympics, we anticipated which events and athlete stories would capture the interest of our audience, and planned accordingly.

At Mount Sinai, we feature new research on a monthly basis, preparing a press release, producing a video, and sharing information across social media platforms. Every month, a major disease is highlighted, consistent with the national health observances calendar. Our media team writes about new procedures and finds patient success stories.

Just as TV producers at the Olympics provide all interviews and footage to a central video library, all our stories must be shared so they can be repurposed across channels. They are based in one central repository, in our case, the Mount Sinai news bureau, where they can be used by social media and advertising specialists. This collaborative process is essential not only to ensure efficiency, but also to avoid overlap. We cannot have multiple teams asking patients or doctors to repeat interviews. No fiefdoms or silos are permitted in our communications effort; we must be one team, willing to share and collaborate.

The system worked well during our recent announcement of the new Mount Sinai Robotics Institute. A broadcast to all employees was followed by an article in our “Inside Mount Sinai” publication, and promotion on video screens across campus. Externally, we released a press release, accompanied by tweets about the Robotics Institute, and Twitter video of Dr. Ash Tewari performing surgery as part of the annual Worldwide Robotic Surgery Education program. Media outreach to reporters resulted in articles about the new Mount Sinai Robotics Institute.

This is the most efficient and effective means of running a communications team, utilizing the best practices of broadcast television, as well as the planning and organization system that enables the smooth functioning of a Greek diner. My father would be proud.

Dorie Klissas is Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Mount Sinai Health System

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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