The (healthcare) social CEO: Now more than ever


The social CEO: Now More Than Ever

Social media can make you a stronger healthcare leader – especially in times of crisis such as the current #COVID-19 pandemic.

One need only look to individuals such as @DrJoshuaTepper, the current president and CEO of North York General Hospital and former CEO of Health Quality Ontario. Over the past few years, Tepper has shown seemingly effortlessly how he uses Twitter to engage with different audiences, espouse views that matter to him, and amplify messages from the organizations which he is represents.

But Tepper and others like him continue to be the minority in the Canadian healthcare system.

Which is why Damian Corbet’s book The Social Ceo: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader (@TheSocialCsuite) released last year is particularly relevant. In the book, Corbet provides strategies and techniques leaders can use to develop and maintain strong social media platforms.

Corbet also provides a number of first person case studies of CEOs in various industries who have harnessed social media to advance their agendas. For the healthcare sector, Corbet could not have chosen a better voice than that of Julia Hanigsberg (@Hanigsberg), the President and CEO of Holland Bloorview (@hbkidshospital) in Toronto.

As with Tepper, Hanigsberg, has proven adept at using social media and especially Twitter to develop a respected presence and expand her role as CEO to incorporate new communications channels.

As she writes in the book, “my approach has been to use social media as an extension of transparency in my leadership … If you imagine the quintessential open-door leadership approach, how much more effective is it if that door is open to all of Twitter?”


CEOs such as Hanigsberg and Tepper have been able to use their strong presence on Twitter and other social media platforms to become trusted and credible voices when it comes to COVID-19.  It is easy to find many other good examples in Canada such as @AlexMunter, the president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and relative neophyte social media presence @BrucePSquires, the President of McMaster Children’s Hospital.

In national or provincial healthcare organizations examples again are easy to find, such as @DorisGrinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and @EGruenwoldt, President and CEO of Children’s Healthcare Canada.

They all bring an an authentic presence, transparency, and credibility to the discussions taking place.

But social media is not for all healthcare CEOs.

If it does not fit your personal style and if you do not have the support of a strong communications team, social media can be at best an onerous additional burden and at worst a public relations nightmare. Communications staff can help with providing strategic guidance and monitoring of social media accounts but those CEOs who abdicate their personal accounts totally to the control over others are missing the point, big time.

It needs particular skills and presence to be willing to put yourself forward on social media and to be the target of every member of the public (and/or staff) who are unhappy about your particular organization. Also, in many Canadian organizations and associations, the CEO is not the official spokesperson for the group and that often precludes them having a strong professional role on social.

Some healthcare organizations such as Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto took an organized approach some years ago and trained the C-Suite as a unit on how to use social media effectively. This paid off with individuals such as hospital VP @IreneAndress continuing to use Twitter to great advantage.

However, many healthcare organizations continue to struggle to develop comprehensive social media strategies and find a fit for the CEO in those strategies.

After reading Corbet’s book I quickly roughed up a list of pros and cons for healthcare CEO involvement on social media:

Why the CEO should be on social.

  • Raise profile of CEO as chief spokesperson for the organization
  • Amplify work of the organization
  • Provide a more personalized approach
  • Permits more engagement with others than corporate account
  • Potential to increase credibility of the organization
  • Provide ability to network/connect with other senior-level health care administrators
  • Allows use of other social strategies such as tweet chats
  • “Go where you stakeholders/constituents are”


  • Needs personal attention to be effective (e.g. posts not done by corporate staff)
  • Can be time consuming to monitor and manage
  • Can open CEO to attacks and unpleasant interactions
  • Can raise unreasonable expectations from those expecting direct action from CEO
  • May not match personal style/approach of CEO

As noted above, social media is not for all CEOs.

But for those or are interested and looking for a handy primer, The Social CEO is a good, current primer.


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