Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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An extended leave of absence, explained

half fullFor a long time, I struggled with doing regular blog posts. Then, just when I had gotten into a semi-regular blogging routine, wham. The proverbial you-know-what hit the fan.

First, a colleague at work resigned so I was doing double duty filling in for that role while still doing my own job. Then the holidays were upon us. Then we put our house up for sale after finding a house we loved. (Anyone ever heard that selling or buying a house is one of the five biggest stress-inducing events in life? Believe it.) Now, combine that with a personal health situation (nothing major, but still…) and there you have it — all the ingredients for the recipe that makes a blog post just about the last thing on a to-do list. In fact, the thought of writing a post just added to my stress. I felt like it was one more thing I couldn’t possibly add to my already filled days.

My hubby always reminds me that things could be worse and that we are very lucky. Sometimes he loses his patience with me because I lose focus on that. He’s right and I do appreciate all the blessings we have been given. Though, in the middle of times of stress and change, it’s not as easy  to remember that. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easier to see the glass as half empty. So I’ve made a conscious effort to focus on the good things in life, to be more positive and see the glass as half full. Along with that is being grateful every day and not allowing “things” to overwhelm me. Going back to blogging is all part of it, because writing can be so cathartic (if it’s not viewed as a chore). I’ve also gone back to a regular exercise routine and some yoga thrown in a few times a week, and eating healthy and a few other things that contribute to a more serene, happy life.

I’m grateful for the life I have. I feel very lucky to be at a point in my life where I basically enjoy what I do for a living, and am able to pay my bills every month and have a husband who keeps me focused on what’s important, and two dogs who make me laugh every day and show me what unconditional love is. The other stuff is, well, just that — stuff that sometimes gets in the way of things. But we shouldn’t let that “stuff”  let us get sidetracked from what is really important in life.

So here I am, writing my first post in about four months. I’ve also decided that I don’t necessarily want to always write about social media. So you may see some more personal posts thrown in here and there, and I hope you don’t mind. A colleague and friend I’ll call “E” actually made this suggestion to me. She a wonderful writer who has a fantastic blog I really enjoy. All of her blog posts are personal ones. She writes as a way of getting her emotions out and on paper, a sort of therapy; it’s a release for her, a way of coping. “E” went through a recent family tragedy, and right now is dealing with a serious medical issue with a loved one too. She has a lot more to deal with and feel stressed about than me. It’s a definite reality check when you see how much others are facing. It can make you feel silly, really, to think that you’re overwhelmed by things that are trivial to so many people who are going through much bigger issues.

So that’s where I’m at right now, and for those of you who are reading this, thank you for still being here! I hope I don’t disappoint in this and future posts. Because anyone who takes time out of their own busy life to read anything I might have to say is just one more thing I’m grateful for in this life. And of course, thanks to “E” for the encouragement to write this post and get back to this. Sometimes all we need is a little push, and we should be thankful for those too!


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Change of seasons… time to catch up

I admit it. I was a slacker over the summer. I chose to enjoy my favorite season of the year by spending lots of time outside, reading books, walking the dogs, and generally enjoying life. And (I hear a collective gasp here) I unplugged for 2 weeks. I had a great summer!

So what happened during that lovely summer? I fell way behind in my blog reading, I lost touch with Twitter friends, and I posted nothing on my blog. Yet this 365-day a year, 24/7 world of ours doesn’t stop for someone taking some time off from long days. So, how do you catch up? Here are three tips I’m using.

Start tweeting with Twitter friends again. The same rules apply — be personal, be kind, and admit you were a slacker! Your true tweeps will forgive you.

Catch up on your reading. Go to your Google Reader, or reader of choice, and filter out some of the ones that everyone else has already tweeted. Like those 1000+ posts from Mashable. By now it’s old news. Go to some of your favorites and read the posts with headlines that catch your eye.

Make a plan. Recommit to a schedule so you don’t “fall” behind again now that the season has changed. Set aside time to read your blogs, post to your own blog, catch up on Twitter, and schedule set times for your social media activity. It really is like riding a bike.

Did you stray from your schedule over the summer? How did you catch up?


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Should we really post it just because we can?

I recently read a post by Ryan Hanley (@RyanHanley_Com) about the use of the word guru and how everyone is now able to get on the web, call themselves a guru and repeat everything the real “gurus” have been saying for years and call it their own. It got me to thinking that with all the blog posts, Facebook status updates and tweets posted in a day, it’s very difficult to weed through and find the real gems. And there are no web police to monitor for plagiarism (or is there and that’s something I’ve been missing?).

I subscribe to a variety of blogs, mostly about social media, because I still consider myself in a learning phase. Frankly, with the exception of a few people who are clearly thought leaders and true experts in this field (some folks come to mind like Brian Solis, Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Gini Dietrich and others), I think we’re ALL still in the midst of the proverbial learning curve when it comes to social media. There’s something new, something different, something changing. Every. Single. Day. But I digress. My point is that there ARE true thought leaders out there, but it’s hard to hear what they’re saying because of all the other chatter from the self-titled “gurus.”

As I was going through my RSS feeds tonight, I did what I normally do — I scroll through and read things that have headlines that are appealing, catchy, new or different. (Another reminder that headlines are KEY!) Then I saw this: “Women on Social Media Ideal Targets for Ads, Experts Say.” REALLY? Did we honestly need experts to tell us that women are targets for ads? Who are these “experts” who have decided that this is news? Because to me, it’s just clutter in an overwhelming RSS feed list that was sorely neglected during a long weekend.

What this headline did was prove to me that people are so pressured to get information out there and post content, they’re not thinking about what’s real, what’s important, and, to put on my PR hat here, what is really “news.”

So just because we have the ability to post something because of the great big online world we are now afforded, it doesn’t mean it really should be posted. (Kind of like this rant right now, but I sure feel better posting it!) What do you think — are too many people sharing too much “stuff” just because they can? Would love to hear from you!


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The art of hospital blogging

We are behind the curve. I hate to admit that, but since we have not yet launched blogs for our hospitals, I have to face that fact. Many would say that launching a blog should be the first step in a social media plan. There’s good reasoning behind that…

Blogs are important for hospitals for a myriad of reasons. First, with a dwindling media market and very few reporters who are dedicated to covering the health beat, a blog is a perfect way to tell your story the way you want it told. Want to highlight a patient success story? Put it on your blog. Want to help with recruitment for a hard-to-fill position in the hospital? Have a guest blogger explain a day in the life of working in that job. Want to talk about a hot news topic? Include a column by one of your doctors or nurses, thereby getting the word out to the public on what they need to know while positioning your doctor or nurse as the go-to expert on the subject. Want comments, feedback and engagement? Just ask for it. Photos, videos, podcasts? The more, the merrier!

It makes so much sense for a hospital to have a blog as an important part of its marketing efforts and brand loyalty. And it should definitely be considered a key tactic within an overall strategic marketing plan. As I began to develop plan to launch our own blogs, I of course had to do some research to see what other hospitals are doing. As always, I started at my go-to place, the blog of Ed Bennett, Found in Cache. (Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without Ed!) He reports that as of January, 106 hospitals had a blog.

So what are they doing?

They’re getting media placements from good blog posts.
In a recent webinar, Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic reported that sometimes blogs are incredibly helpful in getting a story into mainstream media, and he cited a video they shot with a professional baseball player who had a procedure done at Mayo. While traditional media were reluctant to do the story based on a pitch (pardon the pun), they later landed several placements in major media outlets. First, they had the baseball player’s story, then they had a follow-up story of a woman who learned about the procedure through Twitter and Facebook, had the procedure, and met the player! The result was great stories featured in major media outlets. By the way, Mayo Clinic has a total of eight (yes, eight!) blogs, all designed for different audiences. That’s more than I could even begin to manage, but nevertheless, amazing.

They’re telling their patients’ stories, and more.
The Children’s Hospital Boston’s Thrive blog is a wonderful mix of patient stories, a variety of medical topics and safety issues for kids. It has posts from the “blogger in residence,” a former Boston Globe reporter, as well as three physicians who blog regularly (one is the medical communications editor), and the hospital’s director of family and patient communications. The blog features timely posts calling attention to major news stories featuring Children’s Hospital Boston. The Thrive blog also includes a great section called One Patient’s Story, devoted exclusively to patient stories told from the viewpoint of the bloggers, clinicians, or parents, and includes many photos.

Life in a Medical Center is the University of Maryland Medical Center’s blog. It is designed for “patients, employees and friends of UMMC” and contains a nice mix of patient stories, health advice and feature articles on different programs. The bloggers are a diverse group of web writers from UMMC–clinicians, experts and patients themselves. At UMMC, they also use their blog to share great stories, and many are from the perspective of the patient or the parent of a young patient. Who wouldn’t want to read a story about a 14-month old with a MRSA infection, told from the point of view of the terrified parent?

They’re keeping it fresh.
In order for a blog to be successful, new content must be created regularly, at least once a week, as recommended by Lee Aase in his social media pyramid. Unlike a hospital website, which tends to be more static, a blog needs to be regularly updated to keep people coming back to read it, and of course to leave comments. This can be daunting for small hospitals or small communications departments that already handle many other duties. Given this, it’s understandable why blogs are the least used social medium for hospitals.

What are some other benefits of blogs? You can include your Twitter feeds right on your blog page, link to your hospital website for more info, and, of course, create your editorial calendar well in advance to align with your overall communications/marketing strategy and meet the community’s needs.

So why aren’t more hospitals (like us!) using a blog? Is it the resources and time, or is it something else? Interested to hear your feedback.

(The post was written for and originally appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org)