One Woman Keeping Tennesseans Calm And Informed In A Crisis

elizabeth-hart-tn-department-of-health

Meet Elizabeth Hart, the one woman managing the Tennessee Department of Health’s social media, which means she is keeping us all up to date on COVID-19 in the most thoughtful way possible. I met Elizabeth through a local group in the city, Nashville Women of Color in Communications. When we first connected, I was intrigued at her role and thought what better time to get a glimpse into being on the frontlines, ensuring Tennesseans are informed through a digital medium that truly requires finesse and levity to maintain.

Elizabeth is the Associate Director of Communications for the Tennessee Department of Health.  Normally her role is a steady ride with responsibility for the agency’s social media platforms, main contact for media outlets and crafting educational campaigns for public awareness around issues including Opiods and HIV. However, over the last several weeks, her role has been amped all the way up! 

This information could literally be provided minutes before I share with the public via Twitter and Facebook.

Each day, she walks in and proceeds to monitor, field and communicate in real-time with Tennesseans on the current state of COVID-19. From scheduling out important messages that the community needs to know, to connecting with multiple media outlets, to constant meetings; as new developments and updates are changing constantly. Additionally, every day at 2pm she pushes out the current # of cases confirmed in TN for the day. As she shares, “This information could literally be provided minutes before I share with the public via Twitter and Facebook.” As she further shares, “over the last 20 days the Tennessee Department of Health has received an increase of over 1.5 million impressions to our social media!” That is definitely indicative that social media is leading a lot of how the public is receiving their news and updates around COVID-19 aka the coronavirus. This is also why her role is so imperative, as she not only has to communicate updates via social media. She has to constantly affirm trust in her audience. With so much information both real and fake being circulated, Elizabeth is constantly seeking to be a trusted source for Tennesseans that deals in facts along with care and might I say, she is killing it!

over the last 20 days the Tennessee Department of Health has received an increase of over 1.5 million impressions to our social media!

During our conversation, it resonated with me that this intelligent, experienced woman of color is helming an extremely key government agency’s social media platforms during a global pandemic. A time where the human race is anxious, fearful, unsure and seeking information that can help them navigate these unprecedented times. This is definitely no small feat but one that Elizabeth was divinely prepared for. As she shared, “I have been through a crisis before”. She has been in the crisis communications game for a minute (16 years to be exact) and her words were actually able to affirm my no stress vibes that we will get through this. Starting at the Indiana University School of Medicine (she is also an Indiana native),  two years ago she was a part of the team deployed to Florence, SC in the wake of their devastating hurricanes. “Crisis will inevitably happen but it is the trust you build with your audience that will help people believe in your word and brand” she shared, “Build your community first.” Nashville is definitely a city that knows what community embodies and over the last few weeks we have put that into action from the tornado to now.  

I have been through a crisis before.

With a job that naturally has so many different variables and can produce many outcomes (both negative and positive) depending on the choice of words, I wanted to know how she was “self-caring” during this time. “When I get home I do not turn on my computer”, she shares. “I may respond to a quick message via my phone but that is a part of my self-care”.  She also shared that last Friday, she intentionally took a few hours out of her day to go to the ultimate place of self-care for women, the hair salon. Traditionally, within the African American community, the hair salon has been a place of refuge, laughter, sisterhood and solace. Your stylist wears many hats from a friend, to mother figure to therapist. As she shared, “having that time to do nothing was definitely the self-care I needed…I literally gave my stylist a hug when I left.”

As we wrapped up, because she was headed right into another meeting around the new 50-person call center just announced, I just had one parting question. Are you actually sleeping and thankfully her answer was, yes.

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