Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Social Media — forget technology: it’s all about the human connections

communicaitonsI’ve always said that my favorite part of social media is to be able to talk to people one on one. It’s a nice change. After years of issuing press releases, and coordinating interviews, and writing speeches and newsletters to SEND a message out, I was never able to get to know people in the audience, or receive

With the dawn of social media came a huge change. People are connecting with each other and those people may never have known each other if it weren’t for the networks and the changes and capabilities technology  has given us

Today, I read this article in the Huffington Post about why brands need to become more human in social media, and it’s a trend that’s needed because of the way technology is changing. There are many salient points in the article, and you certainly won’t hear any argument from me when it comes to technology changing. It’s a constant, ever-evolving  thing, and it can be hard to keep your finger on all those changes

Respectfully, though, I need to argue with the author about the reason brands need to be more human. It’s not because of technology changing, but it’s because the technology is now there that allows brands to BE human. The past decade has drastically changed how individuals can connect with others and how brands can reach their audience. I propose that the reason brands should even enter the world of social media is to strip away all the corporate speak and just talk to other people.

The days of one-way messaging are long gone. The days of a brand spitting out its mission and vision and a few ads are over. If brands are NOT putting a human voice behind their social media and interacting with their audiences, fans and communities as people, then it’s all pointless.

I’ve often said that my favorite part of my job is the chance to get to know people in our brands’ communities as individuals. These one-on-one relationships are important, not only for the brand’s reputation, but because it is done with sincerity… and that’s something that must be part of all of your communications. If it’s not, social media users today are savvy enough to know when it’s just corporate speak. And then it’s time to rethink your plan, because it’s just not working.


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What job candidates can teach health care communicators

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes we do a job for so long that we lose perspective. We think “been there, done that.” But it’s never a bad idea to take a fresh look.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a candidate to fill an open position on our media relations team to replace a colleague who recently left. I developed four questions I thought would give me a good sense of her work style and skills and where her passion lies. Getting a better feel for that would help me determine if she was a good fit for our team.

The interview went really well, and the questions did exactly what I hoped. They led us to a much deeper discussion of how things have changed in the world of public relations, marketing, and inevitably, social media.

As I spoke with her, though, I realized our discussion was actually making me reexamine how we do things. As a result, I came up with some essential actions hospitals should consider when launching their own marketing plans and social media efforts.

Blogging – Don’t have a blog? That’s understandable. While incredibly valuable from a content marketing standpoint, they are time and resource intensive. So why not counter that by looking for guest blog opportunities for your experts. They could be either one-time posts on a breaking news item or a regular column on timely topics. Either way, by selecting well-respected and well-read sites (think KevinMDWomen’s Health or Psychology Today), you’re positioning your expert among a whole new segment in the population. Be sure to include links to your social sites so these new readers, in turn, can connect with you there.

What’s on your calendar – Hopefully you’ve got a calendar for social media, similar to an editorial calendar that will guide your content through the year, at least on a general basis. But is that working for you? How are you developing that calendar–are you building it in a silo, or as part of a team looking at the larger objectives and mission within the organization? Does the calendar include posts that will build engagement and trust for your brand, or is it only a placeholder to support tactics in the marketing plan? It’s a new year, and it’s time to evaluate your calendar and its content.

That brings me to another topic I didn’t discuss with the candidate, but something that needs to be addressed on a regular basis:

Analytics – That dreaded word. But the fact is, if you’re not looking at how your social media efforts are working, then they are probably not worth doing. We all know resources are short, especially financial ones, but the back-end analytics on many of the more popular social media sites like Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all free. (As a side note, if you set up a Twitter advertising account, you will then have access to the analytics for your account. On Pinterest, as long as you verify your website, you also will have access to the analytics.) These give you a snapshot of what is and isn’t working in your social media plan.

You also can dig as deeply as you’d like in many of them. I’ve found Tweet Reach for Twitter accounts, campaigns and hashtags. For Pinterest, you can check out one of my favorites, Tailwind (formerly PinReach). If you do have a budget for it, then you’ve got even more choices. The fact is, though you can still analyze what you’re doing at a basic level for free, you want to be sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting your time in the social world.

Those are three things we should all be looking at, but there are plenty more. What are you reevaluating or working on in terms of your social media plan?

A version of this post was originally written for and appeared on http://www.hospitalimpact.org. One thing to note, we ultimately hired that fantastic candidate (hi Elena!). 


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Getting the message out — keys to effective communication in the digital age

communicationsFor my entire adult career, my jobs have always been in the communications departments of large companies. In the many roles I’ve had over the years, I was usually involved with communications to a variety of audiences — employees, physicians, customers/consumers, media, board members, general public, etc. The rules of thumb of communications have remained consistent through the years, in that communications should be strategic, timely and appropriately tailored to each audience.  That’s all well and good.

The problem today, with digital tools like social networks, is the timeliness factor. We no longer have all the time in the world. The longer you wait to post an important message on your brand’s Facebook page or tweet it out or post it to your online newsroom can make or break a brand. If there is an important customer/consumer/patient piece of information to get out there, your brand can certainly take a lot of heat for not being timely and getting the necessary information out to the public as quickly as it should have. And if you don’t, what’s your defense? We couldn’t get our act together?

Working as a communication pro in the digital age means we no longer have the luxury of “working within a news cycle” to craft a message as perfectly as possible. We no longer have hours to deliberate as a group over one draft after another. Today, it’s much more important to get the key points of the overall message out as quickly as possible. And it must be honest, forthright and timely.

Personally, I think one of the worst impacts to a brand’s image is when a major piece of information about your product or service gets to the general public by any means other than YOU. You should be the one taking charge of the messaging and leading that effort by being the first one out there and using every avenue at your disposal to do so — traditional media, social media, websites, online newsrooms, blogs, etc. as well as internal communications so your staff is aware of what is happening too.

Once it’s out there, you can’t control what is said, and you can actively talk WITH your audience, not just send the message out there. That’s the beautiful of communication in the digital age. If negative comments or inaccurate information is out, you can respond to the criticism and provide the right information. You can be on top of the messaging, if you get out in front of it, and your brand will be all the better for it; even if it is delivering bad news, it’s all about being honest and forthright and timely. People will appreciate that and your brand will benefit from it.

Is your brand working with the new rules of the digital age in terms of timely communications?


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On being open and honest in social media

fictionEveryone has their own personality, their own unique self, and that is one of the beautiful things about social media — that the true self can shine through when people are open and honest.

Of course I’m willing to bet there are some people who aren’t completely honest. They may feel the need to put  their best self forward, slightly tweaking their own little personalities to be the best they can be in the social world. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I tend to do a bit of that, especially in my day job. Sometimes the things I think or would like to say might not be the most appropriate things to tweet while representing a brand. And that makes sense.

Then there may be other people who develop a persona just for social media. Like tweeting from their dog. They assume what they think is their dog’s personality and tweet out what they think their dog might be thinking. OK, I get it. Fun, quirky, and now sort of overdone.

Then there are those who are anonymous and like being that way, and feel free to say anything they want, because they are protected behind that veil of anonymity. And if their true identity were revealed, they would probably be mortified.

I tend to follow the rule of “would I want my mother to know I said that” when I’m in the social media or blogging worlds. If it’s something mom wouldn’t approve of, you probably won’t find me typing it out to the world.

I appreciate the relationships I have built through Twitter and Facebook and to some extent, LinkedIn. I feel like I’ve connected with and gotten to know some amazing people who I otherwise never would have. To me, the great thing about social media is being able to connect to people and feel like you know them. Some day you always hope to meet some of them IRL (in real life), but if that doesn’t happen, you can still stay connected.

Then there are others who love to start rumors, or lie outright and spread their lies through the social networks. And often times, the lies are believed to be true, because, after all, if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?

Today, I came across this article: “Pheme: The social media lie detector being developed by EU Researchers.” And while it’s fascinating, it really kind of made me sad. I’m not so naive as to believe that everything said in social media is true, or everyone is representing themselves honestly. At the same time I like to think that for the most part, people are decent and good. Of course there are rumors that spread like wildfire through social networks, and sadly, many people believe them. When I read this article, I couldn’t help but think that if we need such “lie detectors” to determine fact from fiction, we’ve gone in the wrong direction.

While it may be a good tool, I’m going to rely on old-fashioned gut instinct and a little personal fact checking when I suspect something doesn’t really ring true. After all, that has worked well for many years, right? Or am I just old?


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Schedules or Spontaneity – what makes you the best you can be?

photoPlans and lists and schedules, oh my! For some people, that’s their worst nightmare. For me, well, I need structure. I need those plans, and lists to check off and schedules to follow. Even if I try to be spontaneous, it backfires on me and gets me agitated and anxious and worried. Whether it be my work or my personal life, when my routine and my schedule are thrown off, I’m in for a bad day, and probably a sleepless night.

My husband, on the other hand, hates making plans, never uses a list unless he’s grocery shopping (yes, he does that and I’m SOOO grateful!), and never feels the need to check anything off. If something gets done, it gets done, if not, well, it will get done another time. I can feel myself gasping for air at the thought of that. Opposites attract, so they say!

It took me a long time to realize that this was just who I am. It’s not a character flaw, or a personality deficiency, it’s just the way I function at my best. When I was doing media relations as my job, it’s no wonder I was a walking breakdown ready to happen. The fact that any one phone call from a reporter doing a story can throw a wrench into the works of your day is too much for my need for organization and structure to bear.

That’s why doing social media is such a good fit for me. I can plan my day around a set schedule, and do it quite easily. For a while, I was filling in as a media relations officer for one of the hospitals while we recruited a replacement for the role. So I was juggling my normal, set schedule, with a bit of the more haphazard, constantly fluctuating world that is PR and media relations. Looking back on this period, it’s no wonder I was a bit loony!

Now I’m feeling more like myself, back into a set schedule and being more productive, and much happier. Social media lends itself to this type of personality. You can stick to a schedule, like responding to tweets and Facebook comments, set time aside to build content, and even identify a block of time when you can read blogs and articles to keep up with what’s going on in the constantly changing industry. Yes, it can be a 24/7 world, but it can also be one set by a calendar and a to-do list too. Ahhhhh, I feel better already. And wow am I productive when my days are carefully planned!

What about you – are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of guy/gal, or do you need that written-in-ink kind of day to be your most productive self and feel your best?


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Does your company have a strategy or are you a fish out of water?

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

I think it’s often easier to find the things that are wrong in your company rather than appreciating the good things. Recently two things opened my eyes to just how lucky I am to work for the company I do.

The reason for this post, though, is not to shower accolades on my employer, but rather to point out some important things that could impact the marketing and social media efforts of companies.

Last weekend I was at a wedding, and one of my former colleagues was there. I was thrilled to see her because I adore Caitlin. She is a smart young woman, a beautiful and talented writer and a genuinely nice person.

She is now working for a biomedical company. She made a point of telling me how behind the times the company is. There is no overall marketing strategy, there is no coordinated communications efforts or advertising efforts, and social media is a completely mystery to them. In fact, the vice president asked her, “So, that Skype. Is that Facebooking?” Wow. It seems almost impossible in this day and age, right? Surely that company is an anomaly, yes?

Apparently not. Yesterday, I read a post shared by Mark Ragan called “Lessons from a social media disaster.” The post describes a company that appears to be in total chaos: no strategy, no leadership, no IT support, no content creators. Another wow.

So I guess that company that was NOT an exception to the rule. I guess I am lucky in that I work for a company with a clear mission, vision and goals. On top of that we have strategies and clear tactics for all of our marketing and advertising efforts. What we do always supports the overall mission, whether it be marketing, social media, advertising, or caring for our community. We also have policies and procedures so everyone can understand what is expected of them.

Having worked in this environment for all of my career, I think I would be completely lost in a company that didn’t function this way. It’s hard to imagine trying to do anything today when you don’t have a coordinated effort among all the parties responsible for your company’s success. In fact, it sounds like a perfect prescription for failure, right?

Or maybe I’m just partial to doing things that make sense. Personally, I think it’s that strategy that holds the key to success in everything you do. Without a plan, you’re kind of like a fish out of water, especially when it comes to social media.

Do you have a plan when it comes to your marketing and social media efforts? Are there things that you would change about your organization’s environment or culture that you think would help its success? What would it be?


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Please don’t text and drive

Photo by poka0059/Flickr

Photo by poka0059/Flickr

I consider myself to be a pretty coordinated person. I can definitely walk and chew gum at the same time, and I can talk on the phone and type, and other multi-tasking efforts come pretty easily to me. But texting and driving was never one of them.

I was thrilled when my home state, along with many others, passed a law that prohibits texting and driving. At the same time, I’m not so naive that I believe that everyone follows the law. But I have to tell you that I am just appalled with the number of people who still think they can text and drive and be safe.

I had an appointment today. I had to drive four miles from my house. I have a habit of looking in my mirror when I am stopped at a stop sign or a red light, because once I got rear-ended and, well, old habits die hard. So today, during my 4-mile drive which consisted of very few stops, I counted at least three people who were texting and driving.

It seems to me that people today are of the mindset that you have to be available and responsive no matter when it is (morning, noon, night) and where you are (bathrooms, meetings, sleeping). Now I am of a certain age when a car phone was a really cool thing to have but not necessary. I’m also the first to admit that technology never ceases to amaze me. It has given us a myriad of things to celebrate and enjoy on a daily basis, like blogs and social networks, and the ability to share our opinions.

At the same time, it has a dark side, and this is one of them. It’s made us obsessed with being available 24/7. I admit that I feel this pull too. The smartphone tends to do that to us.

But when I see so many risking their own lives and threatening the safety of others because they think they can text and drive, it brings up a number of thoughts and emotions.

  • I’m really angry that they would put others’ lives in danger because they own a smartphone.
  • I wonder why people think they are so indispensible that they must be available and responsive no matter when it is or where they are. I’d really rather not get an answer from someone who is driving (or in the bathroom!).
  • I’m curious as to what it’s going to take to stop people from doing this. My guess is a serious accident, and then it’s too late.
  • It’s a shame to me that as wonderful as technology can be, it has to have a dark side that is SO dangerous.

Do you text and drive?