Navigating change requires teamwork

Working together is the only way to change an comms organization, says Eileen Sheil, head of comms at the Cleveland Clinic.

At the Cleveland Clinic over the past couple of years, we’ve pushed our team to do things we haven’t focused on in the past as we realized we needed to become more digital, mobile and measurable.

Our corporate comms team is a highly motivated and talented group of individuals that we built carefully over time. With each new opportunity to hire, we looked for a different skill set that complimented and strengthened the team as we worked to drive national awareness of the clinic.

We strive for our work to be results driven, measurable and based in research. We focus on the quality of outcomes, rather than the quantity of outputs. In addition, we have been very focused on creating shareable news content to help amplify the news and stories we send to journalists and key influencers.

We revamped our newsroom, refocused our use of Twitter, and created strategies for amplification. Teamwork is essential to the success of our work during this climate of constant change.

Healthcare comms is fast-paced and complex; unexpected events occur quite often. Our job requires a deep knowledge of the organization as well as strong connections built on trust with each other, and with our doctors and patients.

Working seamlessly as a team is critical when managing a crisis or when identifying stories and determining the best way to tell them. Every stage in the process requires strong communication, open sharing, and attention to detail to achieve the best outcome.

The communication’s business continues to change from new technology, to consumer behavior, to a changed media landscape and more. Being successful requires constant teamwork.

When we began the journey towards our focus on digital communications, we learned a few lessons along the way. It was clear that storytelling would be a big part of our efforts, but finding the right audiences was a shift from the traditional public relations and internal communications approach.

We had to focus on how to reach not just the media, but also key stakeholders, patients and potential patients, key influencers, and the 66,000 employees we call caregivers.

As an agile team, we had to adopt a mindset of breaking down silos, sharing information, and creating strategies that worked across platforms. It required changing the way we’ve always done things.

Change is not easy but embracing new ideas is essential and it requires strong teamwork and collaboration.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. She can be reached at She is also on the IPR Board of Trustees and is a member of AMEC.

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