As the grey squirrels frolicked in the trees above and a soothing breeze gently rocked my hammock, I pondered a possible scenario for social media in health care.
I envisioned a lively blog, with super-interesting posts from healthcare leaders. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, nutritionists and others shared their wisdom on a variety of timely topics. They helped people understand the most compelling — and often complex — issues of our time. They spoke about everything from how to make healthcare more affordable to steps you can take to prevent serious health problems. They kept a pulse on hot topics and made valuable contributions to the conversation.
In addition to the written word, they communicated via concise videos on a YouTube channel. They got to the point quickly for those who only had a minute or two to spare to absorb the information.
The blog posts and channel videos appeared on a regular schedule planned in advance.
Audiences came to look forward to the posts. They subscribed for alerts so they wouldn’t miss the week’s or month’s newest addition. They liked Facebook and LinkedIn pages and followed Twitter accounts tied to the blog and channel. They shared posts with their friends and followers because the info was too good to keep to themselves.
Over time, they developed connections with the experts. They asked them questions on their blogs and video channels, as well as live online chats, Google+ hangouts and webinars that followed. They began to see them speak on TV and radio. They went to see them speak in person.
They felt a deep connection. They wanted to turn to them when health questions or challenges occurred.
Behind the scenes, a social media strategist worked with a team of writers, videographers, web developers and graphic designers to help the experts polish up their content. The strategist developed an editorial calendar and measured views and interactions. As time went on, the strategist tracked visits to landing pages on websites and conversions such as making an appointment with a doctor.
The scenario didn’t just include owned and earned media. It was supported by paid media such as boosted Facebook posts and promoted tweets.
In the end, the experts were very pleased to tap the power of social media to connect with key audiences in a scale never before possible. And those in the audiences got to know, like and trust the experts to the point that they made appointments with their organization when they needed health assistance.
Wow, it was fun thinking about the possibilities! Amazing where the mind can go on a relaxing Saturday in the back yard.
Every now and then, you get some clarity. You find something that sums up precisely what you have been trying to convey. That happened for me this week when I read this entry by Ann Wylie in Public Relations Tactics (April 2014):
“Content marketing — aka brand journalism — is relevant, valuable and interesting information that you publish, post or present in owned, not rented, media. Instead of pitching your products and services, content marketing messages position your organization as an expert in your field. Not just blog posts and status updates, content marketing includes conference speeches (and your coverage of them), bylined articles, marketing magazines and e-zines, and more.”
That’s it! That’s what I do, and plan to do for years to come: Brand Journalism!
In recent years, I’ve defined myself as a “public relations professional with social media experience” or a “digital strategist.” I’ve tried to weave in my experience with content strategy for websites and intranets. I’ve spoken about my passion for social media and love of internal communications. I’ve talked about how I get great satisfaction out of researching, planning, implementing and evaluating strategic communications plans that support business goals.
Yes, I am a public relations professional. I do have social media experience. I have worked on digital strategy, although I like to pull in experts to assist with technical aspects such as web design, SEO and online advertising.
So there you go: I’m a Brand Journalist! That’s my passion. It’s my sweet spot… my groove.
It makes sense, really. I worked as a newspaper and editor for a dozen years before entering corporate and then government and then, again, corporate PR/communications/marketing. Heck, I started covering basketball games for my hometown newspaper as a 15-year-old. My dad drove me to my first assignment.
I feel in the flow while developing a strategic communication plan — and then pulling together content that helps educate, inform and entertain key audiences, those that could make or break my employer. It gets my juices flowing writing a human interest article or Q/A with a thought leader; collaborating with a creative designer, photographer or videographer; tracking viewership and getting feedback for improvement…
I think that’s why I did internal communication for so long. It was so cool to segment audiences, foster two-way communication with them, integrate an intranet, town hall meetings, e-mails, broadcast voice mails…
Then, social media came along — and I got the great fortune of tapping its power to build mutually beneficial relationships via blogs, web chats, YouTube, streaming video and social networks. I experienced how the online supports the offline, how setting up a strategic speakers bureau integrates with a continuing series of web chats. Meantime, I saw my wife help many, many people thrive while living with cancer and other chronic illnesses through her blog and Facebook page. She had gained a bunch of experience in healthcare marketing communications before cancer entered her life.
I hope this blog entry helps you more precisely define what you do. I suspect that there are a bunch of us former journalists now working in PR, marketing and communications who sometimes fumble with describing their focus. It’s a continually evolving area, with the blurring of lines between PR, marketing, advertising and digital — and, dare to say, journalism. Technology has given us the power to “go direct” with key audiences and influencers as never before. Networking is on steroids.
Footnote: Just realized that this post has a bunch of I’s, when this as actually been a We endeavor. Brand Journalism is a team effort that involves supportive leadership, collaborative teammates, outside resources. It definitely is not a go-alone proposition. We’re all in this together.
A blog post by Forbes contributor Ewan Spence this week confirmed what I’ve been hearing — and experiencing — as the administrator of Facebook business pages: They are becoming a paid marketing and public relations channel. The days of “free” organic reach on this massive social network are dwindling with each passing year.
Citing research by Social@Ogilvy, Spence noted: “From 16% of followers of a brand page being shown a piece of content in 2012, the percentage of organic reach has dropped to roughly 6% in February 2014 for an average page, and just 2% for large pages with more than 500,000 likes.”
He adds: “And the unofficial advice from Facebook sources to community managers noted in the report? Expect it to approach zero in the foreseeable future.”
This confirms a belief of mine: You need an integrated approach to social media marketing. Don’t get overly dependent on Facebook, especially if you have a limited budget.
Strongly consider channels such as blogs, YouTube, Pinterest. LinkedIn. Twitter, Instagram… and, dare I say, Google+ when researching and planning your strategic public relations and marketing plans. Think outside the Facebook box.
You may have noticed that I used the terms “public relations” and “marketing” in the previous sentence. I find this excerpt from the excellent new book Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program by David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek very helpful:
“The concepts of marketing and public relations are often used interchangeably, even by those who are involved in the field. There are many definitions of both terms, but simply, ‘marketing’ is a multidisciplinary process by which a company or institution actively promotes, sells, or distributes a product, idea, or service to potential customers. ‘Public relations,’ on the other hand, is a process (an aspect of marketing, in fact), by which a company or an institution tries to encourage broad, public understanding and acceptance of an idea, product, or service among its various potential audiences.”
Any thoughts on the changing role of Facebook in your marketing and public communications strategies? Please comment.
Many times, I thought about scrapping this blog. Due to a demanding job and a desire to spend my spare time with family (doing things like attending a basketball game at my alma mater), this communication vehicle veered off the priority list.
But there are so many interesting things happening, that I’ve decided to pull this out of storage!
As time goes on, I’ll share reports on great books such as Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social by Mark Fidelman and ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care by Rohit Bhargava and Fard Johnmar. I’ll give you highlights from talks like the one Matt Trotta of BuzzFeed gave at Cincinnati PRSA this week and Krista Neher of Bootcamp Digital presents on a regular basis. I also plan to interview some of great social media and digital gurus such as Kevin Dugan.
Yes, there are lots of great things happening in social media and digital. Time to shift this baby from park to drive.
For those who may wonder if there is room for doctors in the social media space, you need look no further than Dr. Natasha Burgert of Pediatric Associates in Kansas City.
Dr. Burgert, a private practice pediatrician (full-time patient care), shows by example how social media can deliver tangible results for doctors. She shared her experiences in an excellent webinar this week called “Convince Your Docs to Dive into Social Media.” The webinar came as part of my employer’s membership in the Social Media Health Network.
As Dr. Burgert pointed out, she is not a social media expert, lawyer, public relations or marketing pro, or IT person. She is simply someone who “has a passion for educating families in unique ways, in order to promote and encourage positive heath choices for her Kansas City community.”
She cited convincing stats reported by Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, such as 80 percent of patients use the Internet and 44 percent talk about health care providers online. One in three — people like my wife — talk about themselves in “participatory medicine.” They are increasingly connecting via mobile devices.
“What does this mean?,” she asked. “Being online matters to our patients… Why is this great news? We can go where our patients are.”
Dr. Burgert had an “ah-ha” moment during the H1N1 flu outbreak a few years back. Instead of repeatedly answering the same questions coming by patients via phone, why not do something online that they could access at their convenience? Why not save time and reassure patients by answering their questions in a space they already visit? Why not serve as their information source, instead of having them go to Dr. Oz or WebMD?
She overcame the usual fears: What if I do something wrong? What if I’m not good at this? What am I getting myself into? In fact, she listed six considerations that often derail doctors thinking about social media — (1) The How-To: Technically. How do we use these tools?, (2) Legal. Are we just opening ourselves up to get sued? (3) What about HIPAA? How can we keep private things private? (4) Vulnerability. How will this change our doctor/patient relationship? (5) Time. How much time is this going to take? (6) Return on Investment. Is this going to be worth it?
She overcame all — and pointed out that the ROI has been impressive. She gets a patient a week, thanks to her social media efforts. When you factor the national average cost of care per year, that translates into $114,00 per year.
Over time, she has developed authentic relationships with patients. “Social media is bigger than the dollar,” she said. “The value of the online space is deeper.” She found that being online was “SAVING ME TIME!” Patients came to appointment equipped with knowledge. When she’d start to go into an explanation, a patient would cut in and say: “I already read that on your blog.”
Dr. Burgert found that she was making a difference in her community… and even had attracted a worldwide audience. “What I do online positively impacts the health care of children,” she said. “The goal is universal. Change the outcome of health. Healthcare communicators: Be valuable to your patients to see impact. Create a place where doctors want to participate.”
She shared a content formula that works — 70 percent curating/sharing valuable information from evidence-based sources, 20 percent creating your own content, and 10 percent fun (after all it’s “social” media).
“Social media is a tool to share a message,” she said. “YOU will be the trusted source, no matter the author.”
Plus, your evidence-based “good stuff” will move to the top of Google searches and push down the not-so-good medical advice.
Speaking of Google, Dr. Burgert pointed out that docs who do social media have a much more impressive “digital image.” If you Google the name of a doctor who blogs, tweets or otherwise uses social media, you’ll get links to a lot of information related to the doc. If not, you get very little.
Dr. Burgert finished with steps PR and Marketing pros in health care can follow to get physicians in their organizations to move into the social media world. That’s another topic, and I’ve hit my blogging time limit for the week. Hope you found this helpful. I’m excited about the work of Dr. Burgert and others. They are tapping the power of social media to help lots of people.
Recently, somebody made a good point to me while I was selling her on the idea of doing a blog. She wondered how we could get busy people to read the blog — without having to visit the site to look for updates, or without needing to subscribe to yet-another e-mail alert.
I explained how I use iGoogle and, to a lesser extent, Google Reader to read the latest posts on 10-15 blogs on my must-read list. I also among a few old-timers who use the Feeds area in my Internet Explorer browser to keep track of blogs and Twitter search term updates, but I didn’t want to go into that.
For me, it’s been very time-effective to have connections to about 10 blogs on my iGoogle page. I can see the name of each blog — as well as the three most-recent posts on each. Also, I do subscribe to other feeds through Google Reader, which appears on my iGoogle page, too. But I haven’t learned near as much about Google Reader as I should. I’ve read several posts lately about power users who employ the Reader to manage subscriptions to dozens of blogs and websites. I’ve got room for improvement in that area.
All of this makes me really appreciate that I took a home-study course years back about RSS (Really Simple Syndication). I take it for granted that people know to click on that ever-present orange square to subscribe to blogs and websites. No need to go visit the blog to see if it’s been updated. No necessity to subscribe to yet-another e-mail.
Yet I’m finding that a lot of people aren’t familiar with RSS, iGoogle and Google Reader, or Internet Explorer Feeds. Another opportunity for me to share some of what I’ve learned about these tools.
I’m really curious to hear how you manage your blog reading. Please let me know in the comments section.
I had just finished reading Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, the classic 2006 book that had somehow escaped my reading list. Krista Neher, author of the Social Media Field Guide, had suggested the book in her Bootcamp Digital last fall. Got it for 1 cent, plus $3.99 shipping and handling, on Amazon.
“Imagine a time with no Facebook, or YouTube, or Twiter,” I said to my daughter, as teenagers swarmed to the tables with iPads, iPods and iWhatevers. “How did we do social media? With blogs, podcasts, message boards, wikis… some of the online resources we now take for granted as we connect with family, friends and associates.”
That’s why I recommend that people still read Naked Conversations, even though at times it seems like something from the Three Stooges era of social media. (I say that because my daughter and I have been getting a kick out of the dated phrases and behaviors in the classic film clips lately. Who calls guys mugs, girls dames or toots, or tries to get laughs by smacking someone or biting their leg? Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. Woo-woo-woo…Sorry, I digress. 🙂 )
Anyway… there is a lot of very helpful information in Naked Conversations. It served as a good refresher to me — and helped me better understand some nuances that hadn’t been clear to me before.
I particularly like the fact that two of the top bloggers in the world share their experiences with the medium. They give many examples of successful blogs. They do a fantastic job of selling businesses on the power of honest and open blogging.
They end with this recollection of their conversation with Yossi Vardi, the adult supervisor of ICQ’s four student founders:
“He pointed to us research showing that story-telling and conversations are at the essence of human culture. In that light, blogging is a point on a cultural continuum that goes back all the way to when our ancestors sat in caves shivering around fires and doodling on the walls. To paraphrase Vardi, blogging is storytelling and conversations on steroids.
“Ultimately, blogging has ended one era and ignited another. In this new era, companies don’t win just by talking to people. They win by listening to people as well. We call it the Conversation Era. It doesn’t change everything because as John Naisbitt told us, everything never changes. But something has changed, and blogging is impacting business of all sizes in most parts of the developed world. It has made the world a smaller, faster place.
“And business is the better for it.”
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