Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it

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Another year ends and a new one begins

2015On this last day of 2014, like many people, I find it a wonderful time to reflect on the year that was. This was truly a bittersweet year.

Globally the news was unsettling, to say the least. Planes disappeared or were shot out of the sky. Russia reminded us that they still remain a threat. Entire communities were devastated by fire, mudslides, floods and tornadoes. Ebola became a frightening reality and a household word. More shootings happened at more schools, with more lives senselessly lost. The ugliness of racism was brought into the spotlight. Police officers were assassinated.

We lost people who made us laugh, like Robin Williams; and people who made us think, like Maya Angelou. Members of Congress stomped their feet like children and refused to work together to support the people who elected them.

Personally, we took a major loss when we sold our first home. My dad was hospitalized in a long, scary night. I said goodbye to a colleague and friend. My dog had some major health issues, including an emergency vet visit on Mother’s Day. We had an ant invasion in our new home on Father’s Day. I saw a milestone birthday that made me face the reality of how short life really is.

In the midst of all that, it’s easy to get mired in the negativity. But being able to recognize the blessings in life that really matter helps keep us grounded and feel just a little safer in our own small part of the world.

My husband and I faced some of the most trying times in our marriage — and came out stronger in the end. My dad recovered and is doing well, and still bowls at the ripe old age of 87, along with my mom, who’s now 86. In fact, we celebrated their 64th anniversary. My dog recovered and is well, and they both make me smile every day.

I’m incredibly fortunate to still have my parents with me as I reached the age of 50. We are blessed to have the means to buy a new home with the solitude we were hoping for. I learned that true friends are rare and must be appreciated. I have a job I enjoy that sometimes let’s me help people who I’ve never met, thanks to social networks. I was also fortunate to form new friendships with wonderful people through those same networks.

When I sit back and think of all the blessings in my life, I know I have much to be thankful for — and family and friends are tops on that list, along along with the little things that make life wonderful. Things like having the time to read a book, watching fireflies from our deck on a warm summer night, having a true friend who will laugh and cry with you, celebrating holidays with family, and watching dogs run with pure joy are just some of those.

As this year closes and I prepare for another new year, I’m grateful for all those things. Focusing on those are what’s important and helps to manage the big, bad, scary things that are happening all around us every day.

So what are the little things in life that you are grateful for as we welcome 2015?


Supporting an important cause, and an inspiring woman

I don’t know about you, but this summer has been a whirlwind.  When we moved to our new home in June, I don’t think we knew just how much work we were in for. It has been three steady months of projects and work and painting and decorating and renovating and shopping and cleaning and rearranging. Needless to say, my blog and any summer fun took a back seat to what needed to be done (thanks to a bit of an obsessive personality trait!). But now, summer is over, the house is in really good shape, and now it’s time for me to get back to blogging.

Last week, as I was trying to catch up on some personal emails and reading, I came across a request from a total stranger. It was a simple request — to help spread the word about the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day on September 26. For anyonheathere who reads my blog, you know I don’t usually post about specific medical conditions. But I truly believe that a big part of blogging and social media is to make use of it to bring attention to things that deserve it. And when I read the request, didn’t I feel silly lamenting about missing some fun this summer.

When Heather Von St. James reached out to me, I was truly honored. Her request was a simple one, and I am doing my best to fulfill her request and have a small part in sharing her story, all in the hopes that you will pass this along. Let’s make this go viral!

Mesothelioma is relatively rare and is caused by asbestos exposure.  Each year, 3000 people are diagnosed with it. In 2005, Heather was only 36 when she was diagnosed, shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Lily. At the time, she was given only 15 months to live. Eight years later, and one lung less, she is now not only surviving, but thriving and is leading a cause to spread the word about mesothelioma — a disease thdid you knowat is preventable but takes many lives.

I have spent my entire career in the healthcare communications field. But the decades do not diminish the emotions that I feel every time I see someone who has won their own personal battle, or the tear(s) I shed when I learn of someone whose life was cut short, usually too soon. I am incredibly grateful for the fact that I have not had to find out how I would react were I to receive such a diagnosis. I can only hope that I would have the strength and courage to fight the same way Heather did and so many others I have had the good fortune to meet over the years.

So when Heather reached out to me for help, I was honored to have an opportunity to help spread the word about this cause and to highlight what an inspiration this woman is. You can read much more about Heather here and you can also learn more about mesothelioma.  It’s incredible to see how well she’s doing, and so admirable to see how she has taken her own experience to help prevent others from going through what she has.

I hope readers of this blog will be as inspired as I was by her strength and perseverance, and will help to spread the word as well.

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A house sold, a house bought, a 9-hour move and nothing social about it

moving boxes If you read my blog, which has been basically non-existent for months now, you’ll know that we were in the midst of selling our home. Well, finally, it happened, with closings on both houses and the big move on the same day.

Now I spend my life in social media. It’s my job. But I honestly can say that documenting any of this process through social media was the last thing on my mind. In fact, with the exception of the photo you see here, it wasn’t on my mind at all!

I know there are people who automatically think to take a photo of something and Instagram it and post it to their Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s a natural occurrence, and it’s second nature to them. It’s just a part of life. And sometimes I wonder why I don’t do more of it.

Looking back, I wish I had taken more photos, but not for posting, just to have some sort of documentation of it all. When I think about others in my circles — tweeps, Facebook friends, or fellow pinners (no, I’m not on Instagram), I know that so much of this process would have been captured with selfies, pictures of moving trucks, empty rooms, full rooms, last looks at the old house, first looks at the new house, signed closing papers, etc. Did these thoughts even pop into my mind to do this? Absolutely not.

Maybe it’s because the move and all the details were overwhelming to me. But with the exception of that sole picture, there was nothing that was photographed, no status updates, no Pinterest pics or tweets… it was simply days of packing and cleaning, and then and unpacking, cleaning and scrubbing, laying down shelf paper, hanging curtains and getting organized. 

Maybe it’s that I do it for a living and so I’m less apt to do it for my personal life. Or maybe it’s an age thing and I’m just not programmed to think that way. 

 Whatever it is, I’m also always conscious of not wanting to overshare, and not wanting every aspect of my life to be out there for people to see. Maybe some things should be kept private. Maybe [gasp!], people might not care to read some things people are posting!

I love social media. I love how you can connect with people you might never have known. I am hooked on getting news on Twitter at any time of day or night. I learn so much from reading others blogs, and II am so grateful that I have been able to reconnect with people I lost touch with years ago.

And then there’s the down side. The people who clearly are so self-indulgent their posts are dripping with it. The people who appear to have their priorities in all the wrong places. There are some posts that just bother me, that cause me to question my own beliefs, and that’s just NOT what social media should be, right? 

I recently read a post by a woman I met on Twitter several years ago. Margie Clayman is a smart, funny and witty marketing pro. Most of all, I respect her ability to be very frank while writing beautifully on her blog. Recently her blog had a post on why she was deactivating her Facebook account. I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s got the right idea.” And briefly, every so briefly, I thought about doing the same with mine. But I didn’t.

Was it the fear of missing out? Perhaps. Was it that I didn’t want to lose the connections I’d made? That’s more likely. Whatever the reason, now I can only blame myself when I read posts that annoy me, or make me envious or any of the other seven deadly sins. I understand social media. I understand the world we live in. I understand the need for some people to share their drinks, their food, their dates, their runs to the bathroom… but I just don’t think that’s what social media is all about.

So by all means, please do celebrate the big moments in your life — the weddings, the babies, the new homes, the engagements, the dinners with friends, the reunions… but maybe be a little more selective, and maybe people won’t be so turned off that they tune out completely. And whether you think I’m totally out of line here or you agree, please feel free to leave a comment! 


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More changes in Facebook and “Heartbleed” – what you should know



Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.

You can read more of this post on Hospital Impact:

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I stand corrected, and I’m happy to admit I was wrong!

In yesterday’s post I expressed my disappointment in the David Ortiz selfie because I read that it had been pre-arranged as a promo for Samsung. This morning I updated that post, and now, well, I am basically recanting! 

I just read this article, indicating that The White House says it was not pre-arranged and would not authorize the President’s image for any commercial use. And David Ortiz himself told the Boston Globe that it really was spontaneous

And I believe in Big Papi, and his good nature, and I now believe it was just that… another in a long line of Big Papi moments. Keep the selfie’s coming! Let’s just hope Samsung doesn’t decide to commercialize it again. 


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Nothing is free anymore. Don’t be fooled.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Red Sox fan, and yes, I’m was also an Obama supporter. (Let the comments fly — feel free!). Red Sox fans love to see their team celebrated. So to see them at the White House with the president is just a wonderful thing.

As I watched the live stream of the event, I saw an unbelievable moment when Big Papi himself, David Ortiz, presents POTUS with an “Obama” Red Sox shirt and stops the action to take a selfie with the President who was happy to do so. So here’s this great selfie that I loved and had to retweet, along with nearly 40,00 other fans.

But today, it turns out the April Fools joke was on me and so many others. Apparently the selfie that appeared to be a spontaneous moment full of fun and good humor was once again, sponsored. Yes, that’s right. Just like the multi-million retweeted Ellen/Oscar celeb selfie, this was also pre-arranged as a promo for Samsung.

Now I know that brands have lots of power and they also rely on their advertising and marketing to make a profit. Yup, I get it. But I feel duped and disappointed to learn that this was not a good-hearted, spur-of-the-moment thing. Instead, it’s just another way for a big brand to capitalize on a great moment.

Seems to me even social media is all about the money now, and it’s becoming more apparent by the day.  What a shame.

UPDATE: In this morning’s Boston Globe, David Ortiz vehemently denies that the photo was pre-planned. I certainly hope that is the case. I think we all want to believe that these kinds of magical moments still happen. And if it is true, leave it to Big Papi to be the one to make us all believe they can.

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What doctors need to remember in social media

laptop and stethoscopeBack in 2011, I wrote a post about why doctors should be careful when using social media. Not that I’m changing my stance on that, but I think social media, and clinicians’ use of it, has come a long way in just a short amount of time. If it was accepted before, it’s expected now!

So what prescription should a doctor write for himself when it comes to using social media? The answer is pretty simple. Use it, and remember what it’s for!

Recently, the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline issued guidelines for doctors on how to use social media appropriately. I’m glad they did this for two reasons – it lets doctors know that it’s OK to post out there in the big social sphere, and they won’t lose their license by doing so. It also gives them the dos and don’ts of what to do. And that’s always a good thing.

There are a lot of doctors out there who figured out a long time ago that social media is a great tool. They are leaders in the field, and their use of social media has allowed them to voice their opinion on hot health topics, to serve as thought leaders on the healthcare industry and the use of social media, and to simply share information.

Two that immediately come to mind are Kevin Pho (@KevinMD on Twitter and on his blog) and Wendy Sue Swanson (@SeattleMamaDoc on Twitter and a blogger for Seattle Children’s Hospital). They learned early on the power of social media and have been touting the benefits of connecting with people through these channels for years. They’ve been tweeting, speaking at conferences, and becoming leaders in the industry through their openness, their acceptance of new technology to reach more people, help people, and perhaps just maybe, make people healthier.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There have been some well publicized cases of physicians using social media inappropriately. In one such case, a R.I. physician posted protected patient information on Facebook. She was fined, and she removed her Facebook account.  In another, more recent case, a physician clearly stepped over the line talking about a patient’s chronic lateness and of a stillbirth.

That’s why having official guidelines is not only recommended, but is  a necessary part of hospital business these days, at least in my humble opinion. Well before the R.I. Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline developed its guidelines, we developed our own for our physicians. We felt that by arming our physicians with the information they needed, they would be less likely to get into trouble, and perhaps be less timid about using social  media  as a communication tool.

When the R.I. Board came out with its guidelines, we saw it as an opportunity to remind our own physicians of the guidelines we already had in place, and in case they missed them, we provided a link to the state-wide guidelines. From our own @RIHospital, I’m thrilled that one of our emergency medicine doctors, Megan Ranney, M.D. (@MeganRanney), has taken to Twitter like a pro. She was also interviewed by the Associated Press for a story on the release of the new guidelines.

In the article, Ranney is quoted as saying, ‘‘I do think you have to use your professional judgment.” She also gives good advice – think twice before posting something.

For hospitals in today’s social world, keeping your doctors abreast of the many uses of social media is an important part of the communications and marketing efforts for any hospital. Get them on board, let them comment, let them blog – being “social” can help position your hospital’s brand positively, if, of course, the tools are used appropriately.

Do you support doctors’ use of social media at your hospital? Would you want to connect with your doctor through social networks? I’d love to hear from you! 

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


Tragedy in my hometown

I had to share this post from a friend/colleague who has written about what many of us have been struggling with this week. Well worth the read.

Somewhere in the Middle

People in every town say it: That would never happen here.

But it did happen, in my hometown of Danvers, Mass.

I don’t live there anymore, and aside from six months in 1997-98, and college breaks, I truly haven’t lived full time in Danvers since I left for college in 1987.

But it will always be my hometown.

So, like many others, I was devastated this morning when I read about a 14-year-old boy, a recent transplant from Tennessee, who had been reported missing.

Then I saw another news story about all public schools in town being closed because of a homicide investigation.

My immediate thought was bullying – that some kids picked on this young boy and it went too far. My heart broke for him.

But it wasn’t long before we learned that the homicide being investigated was that of a young woman, Colleen Ritzer, a 24-year-old…

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#$@*-Off For Breast Cancer Awareness

This is an amazing post. Many of us, especially health care marketers, get all wrapped up in the topic of the month without thinking about how those living with the disease, condition, etc. feel about all the hoopla. Thanks to Sandra for sharing her thoughts on this – I’m sure she represents a large population.

Cats & Cancer

The much-hated (for me) Pinktober is now in full swing.  What is Pinktober?  It’s the 10th month when yogurt suppliers, kitchen appliance manufacturers, carmakers, Facebook pages and other media messages are tagged with “breast cancer awareness.”  They want you to buy stuff and do stuff for the cause.  They want to take your money, later donate some of it, and not tell you how they use the funds.  Some call this “Pink-Washing.”

This year, there is a “Go Braless for Breast Cancer Day.”  WTH?  What does going braless have to do with breast cancer and what are people really thinking?  Will men go all day with an open fly for prostate cancer awareness?  Will teens decide to cut themselves for leukemia awareness?  Maybe women with mastectomies and no reconstruction ought to go shirtless for the day.  Wouldn’t that raise some “awareness?”


If someone wants to relate to…

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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?