Category Archives: Blogs

Is marketing the last to get social media (correctly, that is)? Or do they play nice in the sandbox with Corp Comm?

This morning during my daily perusal of blogs and tweets, I came across an interesting post from Amy Mengel, “Five reasons corporations are failing at social media.” Within the comments of her post was another blog entry from Gary Hayes, “Corporations in social virtual worlds – psychopaths or welcoming friends?” Both posts make an awful lot of sense, and both make points that I’ve seen in my own experience.

One year ago, I moved into an eCommunications Manager position with my organisation. It was, as one member of staff claimed, “the best job in the company” — and she was absolutely right. I got to work super-closely with some fab guys in the IT department and thus was able to pair my mar/comm skills with my affinity for technology. The role included ghostwriting a blog, and developing a virtual presence through Twitter, directories, and other channels, to drive traffic to the postings, get some traction on the blog, (which had, up until then, been rather neglected due to a lack of resources), and build out a true community of engagement.

In moving to this position, I left the Marketing team to join the Corp Comm team. The blog was viewed as a positioning effort, and truth be told, because of its very nature, was rather tangential to the core business. I loved it…Everything I was doing — tweeting, blogging, scoping the virtual world for mentions, building friendships with other healthcare folks — was just up my alley. The fact that I could hone my skills on the technical side with what I knew about communications and writing? Even better.

The funny thing about this was that, particularly in the early days, the Marketing team seemed hardly impressed and, in fact, quite uninterested with what I was doing online. Months later, social media became mainstream and other organisations — including competitors — started dipping their toes into the virtual stream. It was then that some curiosity was piqued. While the head of the marketing team seemed somewhat interested, the rest of staff (including one specific VP) seemed content with developing Web pages for new programs and initiatives instead. However, as Amy notes in her blog whilst quoting Jason Falls, “corporate Web sites [are] little more than online brochures.” Indeed…and agreed.

The very few who were interested wanted only to use social media to tout new products, reiterating again their “talk at them” rather than “talk with them” mentality. No, no, I tried to reason. It’s to listen and to collaborate, rather than to shout and to promote. My keen Creative Director summed it up well: “These are intelligent people. They know the B.S. already and block it out effortlessly. They’re not going to stand for another commercial about how fabulous we are.”

I preferred to make virtual healthcare friends. After seeing a tweet asking for examples of healthcare in social media, I DMd the author with a list of two dozen examples. I became engaged in the Sunday evening #hcsm chats regularly. I exchanged ideas on quality with folks I valued. This is what it was about — connecting and engaging with forward thinkers in healthcare. Those are the ones I wanted to read the blog…and to be involved in my own network.

An interesting point that Gary brings up in his post is a simple, yet necessary, idea: understand the culture by spending time there. Although a few of the marketing staff wanted to get involved in social media, they didn’t know anything about it. They’d neither skulked nor lurked in any forums, nor on Twitter, nor investigated relevant blogs. Without knowing what audiences already exist, how can one truly understand where one ought to be? As they say, there’s no need to necessarily create the conversation; rather, try to go where one already exists.

The conversations do exist, of course. The quality people are out there. I realize most marketing teams do understand and engage in social media more so than perhaps those I’ve known. I wonder if most of them get the idea of talking about something broader than their own products, as Amy notes, or if they just want to shout “Look at me! Look at me! I’m awesome!”

If Corp Comm departments are typically tasked with positioning an organisation and marketing departments tend to be tasked with branding and promotions, how can they work together to develop a clear-cut, strategic plan with which everyone agrees? While it really shouldn’t be this difficult, my past experiences sometimes makes me wonder why we can’t all just get along..?

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Social media examples in healthcare

Since moving to London and trying to get my life back again upright, I’ve fallen rather far behind in my blog postings. One such example of my delayed work is this list of social media use in healthcare, which I’ve been meaning to post for about a month. Sigh.

In gathering articles for a daily newsletter that I created, Media Monitoring, sent to 3,600+ subscribers, I came across many links and examples of Premier member and non-member hospitals and other health organizations implementing social media in interesting ways.

We’re now all familiar with tweeted surgeries, as pioneered by Henry Ford Health System. This new use of Twitter provided information to medical students, clinicians, and even the general public as we were, for the first time, allowed into the [virtual] OR to witness the first incision. There are plenty of other examples of how this new method of communication is connecting us and removing hurdles within the disparate world of healthcare. One needs to look no further than a quick scan of say, The New York Times’ health section or a healthcare media expert’s blog for new stories; there are plenty of ’em.

The list I’ve quickly put together is not intended to be comprehensive by any stretch of the means. Rather, its purpose is to highlight a few different concepts of use and mentions in trade publications. Another piece worthy of consideration in the list, I believe, is to  note the development and frequency of social media use. As it is in chronological order from November 2008 through mid-September, it’s easy to see the increasing mentions and interest in Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as they relate to healthcare.

I believe social media in healthcare is not a fleeting trend; it’s here to stay. Obviously, we may alter today’s tools used in lieu of the next shiny object, but the fact remains that engagement, interaction and connection are all necessary to improving the health of our communities.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite uses of social media in healthcare?

As a p.s. to this post…Upon looking for Henry Ford’s Twitter link, I found another cool and October-appropriate example that they’ve created. It’s Pinky Swear, a Facebook app that lets users send “mammography reminders to friends, along with information about how to set up an appointment.” Cool-o.

Social media use in tragedies

As I write this post, I’m re-watching Spike Lee’s “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” which if you’ve not yet seen it, I highly encourage it. It’s extremely powerful, though incredibly hard to watch at times.

I remember when Hurricane Katrina happened, and I remember surfing the online news to see what new information we could get. It seemed with each day, with each hour, it was unraveling into a horrific situation that should never have occurred in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I’ll hold off on my social commentary for now, however.

It was during this event that I first learned the importance of what we now term social media during a crisis. I was, of course, looking for information on the standard news sites like CNN, MSNBC, etc., F5-ing constantly to see if there were anything new posted.  I then found something more informative and personal: the blog updates from an employee of the Internet domain name service, DirectNic (who have, since 2004, hosted my own personal Web site).

DirectNic was headed out of New Orleans and some of its employees had stayed behind to ensure the data center would remain functional. Michael Barnett was using his blog (through Live Journal) to let his friends know he was okay. However, his blog turned into much more than online notes to his friends and family. His updates were read across the nation, particularly after the site link was posted on Fark. He had more information, it sometimes seemed, than the media and was sharing it openly with the rest of the breath-holding nation.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of this in tragedies that affect our hearts and our health. One twitpic image tweeted by Janis Krums moments after Capt. Sullenberger heroically landed the USAirways flight in the Hudson was circulated across the globe in a flash. A few years earlier, we had the tragic events of September 11. This was PT (pre-Twitter), where nearly everyone communicated simply through e-mail, and blogs were more related to the geek set. I recall, for example, a friend sending out periodic group e-mails to all of us, as we desperately awaited her next communication.

Let’s fast-forward back to the present. We can now track hurricanes through iPhone apps, weather-related Twitter streams, sites tailored for mobile browsers and, of course, plain ol’ Web sites. I suspect that if Hurricane Bill had turned out to be anything greater than a Category 1 storm, we’d be looking for information from our neighbors – the everyman who’s actually experiencing the event – rather than the media. CNN’s iReport.com is set up for that, but breaking news will likely come from our Twitter and blogger friends. Perhaps we just leave the hourly updates to the traditional media channels. (Aside: The folks at Mashable gathered a great Hurricane Bill list together last week.)

At my own company, there’s a specific, multi-faceted disaster plan in place that is constantly reviewed and updated as needed. One component of it is an employee-only (i.e. private) Twitter stream that we can use to tweet out instructions or updates in the event of an emergency.

As a side note…Yet another thing I’m particularly proud of with Premier was the quick response by staff during Katrina (although I wasn’t employed there at the time). Member hospitals unaffected by the storm volunteered supplies and medical employees and, in fact, clinical staff from Premier went down to help as needed. Another VP was instrumental in orchestrating suppliers to transporting desperately needed items to the area, even speaking on two phones at once to quickly get the information passed. That quick, innovative response was what was needed. It raises my eyebrow that it was arranged by private organizations, rather than the federal government, though.