Breaking down silos, blending communications and broadening reach

For in-house communications pros, internal silos often prevent some of our best work.

Most corporate communications departments are made up of internal and external communicators. I fear those silos are often preventing some of our best work and stifling creativity. We should consider changing the mindset and start blending our efforts to become more effective and efficient.

A great story is a great story whether it comes from internal communications or from our PR efforts. And at the same time, when I think beyond our traditional methods, collective teamwork can foster more innovative approaches to communication.

At the Cleveland Clinic, we are attempting to tell more of our own stories to a broader number of stakeholders hoping they’ll engage with our content. Some of our most powerful stories are about the people who work here, what they’ve done and how they do it.

We recently shared internally a story of how one of our emergency medical technicians came across a pregnant woman in active labor on a lawn a few blocks from the hospital.

His training and experience allowed him to help immediately, delivering the baby and ensuring that both the mother and her child were safe. His actions gave everyone at the Clinic a sense of pride.

The media, though still critically important, has changed so dramatically that we need to find new ways of sharing great news content and stories that otherwise might be overlooked. We’ve had to shake off old habits and think about communicating differently to the broader audiences that matter to our organization.

For example, the Clinic was featured in a TIME Magazine piece about the first patient to undergo deep brain stimulation after a stroke limited her ability to move one side of her body, pick up her grandchild or even turn the pages of a book

Soon after her surgery, she was again able to do the things most of us take for granted and eventually was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians baseball game. Her inspirational story was shared with a number of different audiences and told from a variety of perspectives.

TIME’s cover story was a general interest story about this being the first surgery of its kind in the world. But it was also a tremendous source of pride internally to our caregivers because it highlighted the great clinical teamwork and our ability to help a patient with a debilitating condition.

The story also spoke about the investments we make in our innovative caregivers and researchers in order to advance patient care. And in addition, the story was of great interest to our donors, other media, and a number of influencers across the country.

Our overall communications goal at the Clinic is simple. We always want to amplify our news, whether it begins internally or externally, to engage with a broad and engaging audiences. So in this case, we created a variety of assets and content to make this very easy to share with organizations, influencers and media to extend the life of the story.

News coverage gave this amazing story life and brings very important, third-party validation to an organization that you cannot buy. But employing complementary strategies and trying new approaches to broaden your reach and drive engagement with content is essential for communicators in today’s environment.

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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