Stephanie Ramos is the Communications Manager at Mount Sinai Health System. Using her background in marketing, Stephanie has developed the internal communications strategy for Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital and its 4500 employees from scratch. 


Chuck:
Welcome to Chuck Chats Stephanie. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Stephanie: Thank you! This is so cool! It reminds me of AOL when I was in middle school. :)

Chuck: <insert weird AOL dial-up sound> You’ve got mail!

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Stephanie:
Love it! I haven’t chatted this way in a while, and I think it’s a great idea.

Chuck: I’m glad you think so.

You’re very active (especially for an internal communicator) on social media. For learning, do you prefer Twitter or LinkedIn more?

Stephanie: I prefer LinkedIn, only because I spend more of my time there. I find it easier to streamline the content I am reading. Twitter has a LOT going on! I’m still learning Twitter, and like so many, I’m in a struggle with Facebook.

Chuck: I quit Facebook for so long. Then got lured back in. . . and kind of wished I hadn’t. Reminds me of a giant dumpster fire most days. 

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Stephanie:
My family is there, so I am trying to refocus my energy there. I focused my energy on all of the other platforms, and I just haven’t found the right purpose or intention for Facebook yet.

Chuck: I’m curious if Instagram will ever be a collecting place for internal communicators, but right now LinkedIn seems to be the go-to spot.

Stephanie: I agree! I learn so much from the people I follow on LinkedIn. I love Instagram for workout videos and livestreams from friends, but it’s very in the moment and less curated.

Chuck: You are a communications manager at Mount Sinai Health System in NYC. How much of your job is internal versus external?

Stephanie: I am a part of Mount Sinai Health System and my role is specifically for Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a hospital within the system.

Right now, we are going through a lot of change, so most of my work is internal. We’re doing a lot to support our people right now. I also help the corporate marketing and PR teams.

Chuck: That makes a lot of sense.

What’s one thing you think people misunderstand about internal comms in healthcare?

We use email a lot to communicate with our managers. But most of our staff don't sit behind computers. 


Stephanie:
That’s a great question.

I think people undervalue facetime.

There’s a lot of thinking that an email will solve the problem and get the word out. Our best forums are face-to-face. We have rounds with the staff regularly and have multiple daily leadership huddles. Those are our best opportunities, not only get information out but to listen and take it in.

Chuck: I know I’m preaching to the choir here but it’s naive to think any one communication channel will ever solve any problem all on its own.

Email does get singled out because of how easy and revolutionary it was at the time, but then people abused it. . . like PowerPoint.

It’s not PowerPoint’s fault that people create crappy presentations.

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Stephanie: Don’t get me started on PowerPoint!

We use email a lot to communicate with our managers. But most of our staff don’t sit behind computers, or if they do it’s not their computer. Email is not a priority for them and they don’t have time to look at PowerPoint decks.

Chuck: I’ve heard this so often that it almost sounds cliché, but I’ll let you verify it.

Is your toughest audience nurses, followed by physicians?

Stephanie: For us, the physicians have been tougher. We are still learning what they need and how we can help them overcome hurdles in their jobs.

We have improvement forums set up for nurses that seem to be successful, and with rounding we can catch them.

It’s harder to catch a physician.

Chuck: I’m now imagining this great video series called “To Catch a Physician…”

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Stephanie:
Jackpot if you actually catch one! But it’s not their fault—technology has made their jobs incredibly difficult.

Chuck: What are some of your bigger ideas in internal communication? What’s something you’d like to try?

Stephanie: I’m incredibly lucky. Some of the biggest challenges and most interesting things are things we are trying now.

Right now, we are working on “culture change," which is such a loaded term.  

We will be in a new hospital in several years, and we are trying to get our employees to become more agile and feel empowered in their work. I don’t know what it all means for my role as an internal communicator yet, but we are doing a lot of training in improvement, coaching, and problem solving that I think will be very valuable.

Our leadership team understands the value of listening, recognition, and involving the staff during changes. 


Chuck:
A physical or geographic change can make it a bit easier to launch other types of changes. And I imagine the emphasis on internal comms will only increase before and after the move.

Stephanie: I never thought about that but it’s true.

However, the new hospital we are building is so different that we have to start the changes now. We are forcing a lot of “transformation” on people in the coming years.

Luckily, our leadership team understands the value of listening, recognition, and involving the staff during these changes.

Chuck: Any particular reason why you put the word transformation in quotes?

Stephanie: I know it’s a favorite of yours and others on social media! It’s a term we use to encompass a lot of the physical and clinical changes here.

Chuck: Oh. . . .guilty as charged. Last week, I did a Chuck Chats webinar about planning in internal comms.

Would you describe yourself as a planner?

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Stephanie: Yes and as I learn, I become less of a planner!

We have a content calendar and lots of templates for what’s going to happen throughout the year. However, I’m learning that the more you listen to your audience, the more that changes.

A lot happens around here pretty quickly, and the planning I do is more asking basic questions like “Who is it for?” “What is it for?” and of course stylistic and editorial guidelines for our brand. But I do find myself working more last minute as I gather information and learn from our people.

Chuck: And there’s the classic Ally Bunin question, “Who else needs to know?”

Stephanie: Exactly.

A big part of what I “preach” is about audience. Our team has come a long way in recognizing that not every message is for every person.

Chuck: Personalizing content and relevancy is something that’s been missing from internal comms for a while and is still missing for some companies.

What are you doing to personalize internal comms?

Stephanie: We are still learning about our audiences and we use a lot of face-to-face forums to communicate.

I have some incredible partners in patient experience, nursing, and IT who help me understand the workflow and needs of particular groups. We rely on each other to get the message out to the right people.
 

Basically, it feels like “marketing” with the best “clients” in the world!


Chuck
: Where does your passion for IC come from?

Stephanie: Honestly, I came from a marketing background where I was not particularly enthused about the industry (finance).

I was looking for a marketing job in healthcare and recruiters kept steering me toward HR. I didn’t understand why. Luckily, this role came my way and it’s something I didn’t know existed.

Basically, it feels like “marketing” with the best “clients” in the world! And it’s in healthcare, which is great.

After almost two years here, I can’t see myself doing anything else. The employees are not only a rewarding audience to work with, but they’re also complex and interesting.

Chuck: I couldn’t agree more Stephanie. And somewhere there’s one kid who wants to be an astronaut when they grow up, another wants to be a YouTuber. But maybe one day a kid will want to be an internal communicator. . . maybe one day.

Stephanie: I hope so! I’ll shout it from the rooftops! :)

I can’t see myself doing anything else. The employees are not only a rewarding audience to work with, but they’re also complex and interesting.

 

Chuck: Thanks for taking the time Stephanie.

Let’s wrap this up with the same question but you can only answer in emojis.

What are your thoughts on the future of internal communications?

Stephanie: 🌱💃 🎶 👍

Chuck: Care to decode a few of these?

Stephanie: It’s a growing practice, and I hope our employees dance on the way to work!

Chuck: Stephanie, thank you for your work in the internal comms space and all the great sharing you do on LinkedIn and Twitter. You’re helping the profession grow.

Stephanie: Thank YOU for this opportunity, Chuck!