Reaching a large audience can be a huge struggle, however, Tim McManus has figured out just the formula. In 2011, Tim McManus was serving as CEO of HCA’s Reston Hospital Center in Virginia and saw a need that wasn’t effectively being met. This was when the idea struck him to begin a blog. Knowing information and feedback was critical inside the company, Tim began a blog for the company. Many times, blogs can become out of date extremely quickly, but Tim has the answer for those issues as well. After starting his own blog called “Tim’s Take,” he has figured a strategy to continually keeping his readers interested.  Through the course of the interview, he gives the secrets of his blogging success and ways to make blog posts more interesting.

HCA: When did you start your blog?

Tim: I started the blog, “Tim’s Take,” in October of 2011 when I was the CEO of HCA’s Reston Hospital Center in Virginia.  I continued the blog after joining Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospitals in June of 2012.

HCA: Why did you start it?

Tim: It has gotten harder and harder to reach a lot of people in a short period of time.  Frequent communication is really important both for sharing the story of what is happening in our hospitals, but also for getting feedback from employees, physicians and the general public.  I started the blog as a vehicle for keeping up that dialogue.  It doesn’t replace frequent rounding in the hospital or other forums like CEO Town Hall Meetings, as it is really meant to complement them. I am also able to gauge, in real-time, how many people read the message and which ones stimulate feedback and discussion, metrics that really cannot be achieved through other written communications like email. In the last year I have had over 50,000 views of the blog, and I could not have reached that many people in any other way.

HCA: What’s been your most popular post to date?

Tim: There is no question that the most popular blogs are the ones that are very personal to either me or one of our employees, offering the reader a glimpse of what is really happening from my perspective. Sometimes that means sharing difficult subjects.  The most popular post was about the unexpected loss of three of our employees, nurses who passed away for different reasons within the same week.  The first day the post was live, it got almost 1,200 views. It was a testament to how much of a difference these nurses made to our organization and patients, and served as an opportunity for everyone who knew them to share their fond memories.

HCA: Do you have a set schedule for writing or just write when the mood strikes?

Tim: I post every week without fail. Occasionally, I’ll add a secondary post. My goal is to keep it timely and not ask the reader to do too much.  I try to post mid-week which is better because more people are likely to see it without the rush of the beginning or ending of a week.  I look for things that inspire me, like a staff member or patient who I see during rounds. Sometimes it is a related to the vision and direction of our organization.  I avoid any topics that look or feel like a marketing effort, because this isn’t about selling a service we offer – it’s about the people and the emotion behind the work we do, which is both important and very personal.  Our employees didn’t get into these jobs because it was easy.  Most did it because they felt like they would make a difference and feel rewarded by their impact to our patients.  Those are the kind of stories I like to share.

HCA: What are a couple things you’ve learned from being a blogger?

Tim: You have to be honest and reveal more of yourself than may be comfortable, and the blog has to be a good balance between work life and personal life. The ones that I have written about my family absolutely generate the most personal feedback directly in the hallways of the hospital. On Valentine’s Day, I talked about taking my two young daughters on a double date, and the reaction from people reminded me how important it is to be open and also how important it is to have work-life balance. The blog is also a way to be conversational. I write all my own messages and I try to write them as I would speak, rather than how I would write a formal communication.

HCA: Anything else you’d like to add?

Tim: It’s incredibly important to keep the blog frequently updated.  If you let it sit for more than a week, the message is stale and you lose people’s interest.  The key is to keep it dynamic with topical and current content.