Do you remember the young heart patient who warmed hearts around the world with her Kiki Challenge from her wheelchair in the hospital followed by a visit from Drake?

There was more to creating the viral hit than just posting a video and rolling the dice.  Kary McIlwain, the CMO of Lurie Children’s Hospital is one of our keynotes at our upcoming Healthcare Marketing Summit on Thursday, November 1st in Chicago where she’ll share the story behind the story of the viral video AND Drake’s visit!

Kary shared a few of her insights with us in advance of the event…

What’s the anatomy of an effective viral video?

There is no way to predict what will become viral — a few things to watch for that give you a better chance:   A universal humanly appealing moment, a visual story, has someone socially relevant (on trend, leverages a celebrity or current movement, etc.) and content.

How does Lurie Children’s Hospital manage the fine line of marketing and capitalizing on its patients?

Our patients and families are grateful for the care they receive and many, many, want to share their stories.  We only share patient and family stories of those who are in that group and follow a very strict signed release procedure to make certain we never infringe on anyone privacy overall or rights to keep their care personal and private.

How do you strategically create opportunities such as the viral video with Sofia doing the Kiki challenge?

Our heart center was a strategic focus for us so we were closely monitoring them for any news.  When we met Sofia, we knew immediately that we had a very special young lady. We focused all of our social efforts around a consistent push. As I said above, you never know what will be viral but through focused efforts, you can help increase the odds.


Interested in hearing more about the story behind the story of Sofia’s exciting story and visit from Drake!? 

Kary will be sharing the details at our November 1st Healthcare Marketing Summit.  Find out More! 


What is your favorite campaign you’ve worked on and why?

Oh boy, so hard— The Softer Side of Sears and Miller Lite were truly culturally relevant and changed business, but I’ll keep this to health care.

The whole process of moving Lurie Children’s to a new idea that could umbrella, fundraising,  each line of business, the overall brand and internal employee engagement.   The institution had separate silos and ideas for all these constituencies.

The “All, For your One” campaign was borne out of an idea that everything we do is for a child and we treat every child as an individual — that idea has come to umbrella all of our campaigns:

  • Fundraising Campaign – “For Every Child” helps us do more and reach more children
  • Employee Engagement Campaign- “The Power of All”  We are the “All” that exists to serve every child
  • Lines of  Business – Heart Center;  Cancer and Stem Cell; all rally behind the  idea of “All, for Your One!”

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout your career.

People first- take good care of the people who give you their time and talent and the work will follow.