Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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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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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?


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10 health care marketing folks to follow on Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years now. It has become my go-to source for everything: research, breaking news, trends, health care marketing information, and meeting wonderful people. Over the years, I’ve used the “list” function in Twitter to easily organize the people I follow so I can quickly browse through categories like “news outlets,” “journalists,” or “healthcare marketing” folks.This post is to highlight some of those on my list because if you are in health care social media you should be following them too. Now believe me when I say this list is not all-inclusive, and I know there are many folks who deserve to be on this list, but there’s just not enough space in a blog post to single out all the amazing minds who are sharing info!

@leeaase Lee Aase is probably one of the best known folks in health care social media. If you look him up on Wikipedia, here’s what you’ll find: “Lee Aase is an American pioneer in using social media tools in the hospital environment, and is an advocate for social media adoption in health care.” I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him a few times by phone, and even called him once to get his opinion on a course of action when we were going through a crisis situation. Of course his advice was amazing, but beyond that, he’s a genuinely nice person who has really figured out what it takes for a health care organization (or any organization for that matter) to be successful in social media. Be sure to check out his blog too .

@edbennett Ed Bennett is someone I came to admire admired several years ago when I  first I stumbled upon him and his blog, Found in Cache http://ebennett.org/. I was so grateful to make that connection. He’s got a  soothing voice, is quite witty and also loves dogs, which in my opinion makes him a great guy! I think of him as one of the pioneers in this field, and we have much to thank him for, including the big list of hospitals in social media (now moved over to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media). While we haven’t met in real life yet, I’m hoping (fingers crossed!) it will happen one of these days. It would be my honor.

@nickdawson Nick is a guy with some wonderful, original thoughts about health care and the social media world but is also willing to talk about many subjects. I LOVE his LinkedIn profile: “Former hospital leader now using design-thinking to inspire better staff and patient experiences.” He seems to travel a lot more than I ever could think about, and is a speaker at many of the big conferences. I’m hoping to hear him one of these days, but until then, I’ll have to follow him on Twitter and I hope you will, too. And, don’t forget to check out his blog.

@hivedan Dan Hinmon is the head of Hive Strategies, and works in hospital social media.. He shares a wealth of information and personally is such an enjoyable person to chat with. He’s also got a blog that should be on your reading list, the Social Media Strategy Blog. And be sure to check out his 7 core values at the heart of social media.

@danamlewis Dana Lewis is one of those people who I consider simply amazing. She manages the social media efforts of Swedish Health Services and is the founder of Healthcare Communications and Social Media, #hcsm, a weekly Twitter chat. You can find information on #hcsm here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked her a question on Twitter and always receive a quick, helpful response.

@riggrl When I met Jen Riggle on Twitter, she was working for a firm on the East Coast. She’s got a wonderful take on the industry and she is also a guest blogger here on Hospital Impact , so you may be familiar with her amazing work. She is kind, thoughtful, smart and witty, and shares fantastic information you won’t want to miss.

@ReedSmith Reed is one of those really smart guys who is thoughtful and is always on my “go-to” list with questions about the industryHe is the founder of the Social Health Institute and is also a consultant for health care organizations and practices that are using social media. Be sure to follow his blog for new insight into health care and social media.

@Ahaval I’ve followed Ahava Leibtag for quite a while, and recently had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. She is one of those people who never seems to stop! She’s smart, funny and so hard working that  her passion for this industry comes through loud and clear. She’s a thought leader on digital strategy and a talented writer who always shares valuable information. You can check out some of her publications here and her blog here.

@chrisboyer Chris directs digital marketing for Inova Health System, and is simply amazing. His blog says “Chris Boyer is an active participant in the rapidly evolving field of healthcare new-media marketing. He’s a speaker and educator and someone who puts talk into action by creating and testing new digital strategies.” He is, in a word, brilliant, in my humble opinion, and I’ve learned so much from him. Be sure to follow him on Twitter AND subscribe to his blog.

@dandunlop Dan Dunlop is the president of Jennings, a health care marketing agency. Dan is one of those folks who you feel as if you’ve known for a long time, even if you’ve never met him in real life. I chat with him often on Twitter, and also love to read his blog, The Healthcare Marketer, where you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks of the trade, as well as some through-provoking questions on why we do what we do.

If you’re using social media for your hospital or medical practice, or if you’re in the field and just tweet personally, be sure to tweet these folks and introduce yourself. And like so many people in the Twitterverse, they are all kind and willing to help you with questions you might have, or point you in the right direction.

There’s also a group of “health care influencers” who can provide an overview of the health care industry and trends.  Also, be sure to follow the hashtags #hcmktg and #hcsm to keep up with all the latest in the health care marketing field.

Now I know there are so many others I could and should have mentioned here, but I limited myself to 10. So let’s add to this list and share some of the “tweeps” on your health care social media list.

 This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org


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Just sitting in the waiting room, working

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

My dad has had a rough time lately. After experiencing a rogue gallstone that caused a little havoc and a big scare, my 86-year-old dad was recovering nicely from his surgery. Until last week. He fell outside his surgeon’s office. He ripped up his hand pretty badly and that led to him not being able to drive again for a bit.

So I’ve been my parents chauffeur for their “social calendar” as my mom says. That basically consists of a wide range of doctors appointments, blood work, lab tests and runs to the market.

Thanks to the miracle of today’s technology (which I will never understand!) and a boss who is amazingly supportive and trusting, I’ve been able to keep up with my workload and not miss a beat. When you do social media for a living, a phone, tablet or laptop is all that is required, and it can literally be done from anywhere. Given the ridiculous amount of time spent in doctors’ waiting rooms, it’s like I’m sitting at a desk anyway!

And that brings me to my point. Many of us can do our jobs any time, from anywhere. And for people who are given the opportunity to telecommute, I am willing to bet that their employer is getting back a lot more than they expected. After spending many years in offices and those dreaded “cube farms” I am so ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to telecommute. I know I work hard, but I also appreciate the fact that my director trusts me. In my mind, it all comes down to trust.

I would never do anything to damage that trust because I recognize how much I value this aspect of my professional life. That’s why when I see big companies like Yahoo rethinking their telecommuting policy, I think what a shame it is to do that to people. With the craziness that is our lives, and the demands of jobs and the balancing act that so many of us juggle between work and home, frankly, when there’s trust, then employees who CAN work from home SHOULD be given that opportunity.

Of course I’m not an employer. And honestly, my company does NOT have an official telecommuting policy. Of course in healthcare, that’s rather difficult… or is it? We see more and more about online medical care. So I don’t think we should discount that either!

But if I WAS an employer, I would hope that I would and could trust my employees enough that I would give them the freedom to do their jobs in the best way, best place and time for them. After all, if you’ve got happy employees, won’t you have a better bottom line?

Oh, and to all those doctors who make you wait an hour and a half in the waiting room, our time is valuable too.


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Why I don’t work on Sundays

candleThis is a rant. I don’t do these often. For a long time, though, I’ve had some thoughts I couldn’t quite put into words. It’s more of a feeling that just couldn’t be quite defined. Until now.

But this week I came across a post that just got me thinking. And it made me mad too, and I realized that what I had been thinking about was this: people are expected to do way too much these days, and something’s gotta give.

Here’s the post: “Why productive people work on Sundays.” The title alone annoyed me. It implies that people who don’t work on Sundays are not productive. Wrong. Everyone has their own way of working and everyone has their own workload to manage. It doesn’t mean that you have to work on Sundays to be a productive, worthwhile member of society or a valued employee of a company. I consider myself to be a very productive person and pride myself on how much of a workload I manage on a regular basis. I do what it takes to get the job done, and I know I’m not alone in that. And I’m willing to bet that all those other productive people are not working every Sunday.

The other thing that bothered me about the post is the fact that this writer is suggesting that we take time out of what is conventionally known to all as the “day of rest.” For me and Mr. J, Sunday is our day to enjoy the morning and relax and then go out for a leisurely lunch and cocktail. It’s the one day we indulge ourselves in some R&R time. That’s our time together. I would imagine that for those with children, that day is ever more precious, and needed more too!

Now granted, there are some professions and jobs that just simply have to work on Sundays… nurses, doctors, waiters and waitresses, the retail industry, and the list goes on. But those people have other days off.

The other thing that post made me realize is that there are some factors at play that make up the reality of today. Thanks to the horrible economy, most companies have fewer people expected to do more with less money. So there’s a bigger workload for most people, who are already stretching themselves too thin. And how many hours of our lives are we expected to dedicate to a job rather than our lives? When did it become the norm to live to work rather than work to live?

Now, let’s add to these expectations the fact that if you’re not part of the social media world you’re probably not going to be a top candidate for any jobs in the field of marketing or public relations (or any number of fields for that matter), right? In this industry, if you’re not part of social media, you may as well call it quits and retire. So let’s add on the hours that you can spend (lose?) just keeping up with Facebook status updates, tweets, retweets, hashtags and lists in Twitter, Instagram pics, Pinterest pins, and so on. And don’t forget the time post to your own blog, and catch up on the reading of all your fave blogs and commenting on those posts. Hmmm.

Do you see where I’m going here… suddenly a 40-hour a week job becomes 60 just to get your work done and keep up with everything in the social sphere. I know there are many people who are just totally driven and are not happy unless they’re working all the time. But for the most part, those people are often self-employed. There are others of us who work for companies who are trying to do manage workloads that should be handled by more than one person, and who are also trying to keep up with being a part of the social world. They also try to maintain some sort of family life.

As my dad used to say, “You’re burning the candle at both ends.” I can’t think of a time in history when this is more true.  And this is the reality of today. I don’t think everyone can keep up this pace for too long. Eventually, it’s going to meet in the middle and there will be no wick left, and the candle is not a candle anymore. It’s given all it had to give. There’s nothing left to burn.

So how long do you think you can keep going at the pace you’re going? When is your candle going to meet in the middle? Do you feel it necessary to work on Sundays? Do you think it’s necessary to be productive? So many questions. I’d love to hear from you.


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Why people use social media as their personal soapbox and why hospitals should care

business man with laptop over head - mad

Years ago, when someone was unhappy about a product or service, the response was typically to call a customer service department or write a letter to the editor. Of course they also complained to family and friends – and that word-of-mouth bad advertising went a long way.

Today, social media gives people a powerful voice to share their thoughts, good or bad, about any topic under the sun, and be heard like never before.. Think about that. One person behind a keyboard or with a smartphone in his or her hand has the potential to be heard by millions of people around the world. It sort of boggles the mind when you think about it, doesn’t it?

So with that potential reach, it’s no wonder that when someone is disgruntled, they’re heading to their favorite social media networks to post a complaint, a photo or a video showing bad service or poor judgment (think Dominos pizza) by employees. It’s the place to go to complain, unless, of course, you’re in the “business” of social media. Then you might think twice about it as I recently did.

Just a few weeks ago, my dad was hospitalized in a very scary 10-day stay at a hospital. That hospital is part of the health system for which I work AND manage its social media. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad Dad was there and received the care he did and is now home. The doctors and staff were wonderful, but there were some things that just didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked.

Being an employee, I knew who to call to talk about it. But if I wasn’t, I probably would have taken to social media to make a comment or two. Then I thought of the many patients and their family members who find themselves in a hospital each year. According to the CDC statistics, more than 35 million people are hospitalized every year. The statistics here show that about 54 percent of people are on social networks. That means almost 19 million of those people are using social media. How many of those 19 million people do you suppose would know who to contact in a hospital if they weren’t happy about their care?

In this day and age, the chances that a disgruntled and unhappy patient will take to social media to vent and be heard are pretty good. We know people want to be voice their opinions, especially when it comes to their health, and what they see as bad care.  Think about the bad advertising that can result from those posts. Think about the potential reach of those social postings. It’s no wonder that people are hopping on their social media soapboxes to complain when they’re not happy with their hospital care.

Now let’s remember this: out of a total of 5,724 hospitals in the U.S., only 1,501 are using some form of social media. That’s only about 26 percent of hospitals. (There’s an interesting infographic here on how hospitals are using social media these days, and of course there’s the big list of hospitals on the Mayo Clinic Social Media Health Network.).

Those negative comments can certainly impact your hospital’s reputation and brand image. After all, word of mouth advertising is very strong. When it comes from friends or family, it’s even stronger. The 26 percent of hospitals using social media might catch those negative posts and complaints, and then be able to respond and do something about it to reverse potential damage to the brand. If they’re NOT in social media at all, then there’s no chance of responding. Let’s just hope the post, photo or video doesn’t go viral.

When you think of it in these terms, it’s easy to see why hospitals, and any brand in any industry, must consider being part of today’s social networks. How do you deal with unhappy patients/customers on your social networks?

(This post was originally written for and was published on http://www.hospitalimpact.org on 8/15/2013.)