Growing Thought Leaders

Engaging Internal and External Audiences Key

Like growing a lush garden, developing a reputation for your practice or individual physicians as thought leaders takes cultivation. It’s no easy task. No matter how much your physicians know, no matter how impressive their credentials, you have to disseminate that knowledge consistently in a way that will appeal to their peers and other professionals.

The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. By engaging internal audiences such as colleagues and staff, and nurturing relationships with influencers in your specialty, you can create a web of authority around your physician that goes well beyond what you can accomplish individually.

Using the Intermountain Healthcare’s Cardiovascular Clinical Program as an example, Jason Carlton, the organization’s social media manager, shared advice for developing content and guiding docs to become thought leaders during the Public Relations Society of America Health Academy held in Orlando earlier this year.

Conference as Content

The Cardiovascular Clinical Program sought to enhance its reputation as a top-tier research center in order to attract other cardiologists and practices to potentially partner with. The social media manager does this, in part, by leveraging its physicians’ speaking engagements at professional conferences. These events offer a prime opportunity to engage industry peers, and as a result its content – including blogs, video interviews, and posts from “brand ambassadors” – is oriented toward those audiences.

Importantly, Carlton notes, the process should begin well before the conference itself. His recommendations include:

  • Have doctors and staff prep blogs ahead of time to post during the event.
  • Distribute a news release about your participation and key points of your presentation to local press, being mindful of any embargoes from the conference organizer.
  • Distribute the news release on one or more online distribution sites (e.g. EIN, EurekaAlerts) for search engines to find.
  • Repurpose content of the release for tweets to gin up interest in the weeks and days leading up to the event.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your practice and other key terms relevant to your topic or the conference, and save links as they arrive for more shareable content.

During the Conference

The conference floor is ground zero for content gathering. Carlton recommends the following:

  • Live tweet during the conference, particularly during your doctor’s presentation, to deliver up-to-the-minute information to other professionals. Enlist other physicians in your practice, including your brand ambassadors, to do the same.
  • Collect content from other presenters and exhibitors. This might include presentation decks if available, and links to others’ studies and reports. This can all be great shareable content.
  • Gather intelligence for future posts during speeches. Take pictures and get names of the people in them.
  • Be your own media. Conduct video interviews with your physicians and their peers, either in a studio if available or simply in front of your own booth. Share the clips on your practice’s website and social media, or even Facebook Live, using relevant hashtags and handles. Ideally, clips should be 2-3 minutes long.
  • Identify influencers. Frequently, these will be other presenters or workshop leaders. Tweet what they’re saying, including their handles (researched in advance). Follow them and share their posts. They will likely return the favor.

By delivering a steady stream of quality content, you can gain eyeballs of other professionals and unlock potential working opportunities. But the process takes time and effort. If you involve both internal and external resources, and expand your view of what constitutes great content, you’ll go a long way toward building your practice’s expert creds online.

Rx for Reputation Health

Manage Online Reviews

What’s worse than a negative online review of a physician practice?

A negative review that’s left to linger in perpetuity, unanswered, like sagebrush drifting across a ghost town. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a whopping 99% of healthcare consumers said physician ratings found on the Web were “very important” or “somewhat important” in their decision making.

Digital recommendations can be a boon to your office, but digital slams can be equally impactful in dragging down business. Seventy percent of consumers base purchasing decisions on online recommendations from strangers, and that figure rises to 80% for Millennials, according to a 2015 study by global market research firm Mintel.  Some 86% of consumers will hesitate to purchase goods or services from a business with negative reviews on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades.com and ZocDoc.com.

Clearly, your online reputation is important, and requires attention and nurturing. During the Public Relations Society of America annual conference in Orlando, which SPRYTE attended, Matt Weber, CEO of ROAR! Internet Marketing, presented “First Aid for Online Reputation,” which offered techniques to help physicians take command of their standing in cyberspace.

First, Do No Harm

Poor or rude service, long waits, arbitrary billing practices or missed diagnoses may foster negative reviews, so start by running a professional, pleasant operation. Why invite negativity? If, despite your best efforts, patients complain online (and there will always be a few), you can manage that feedback and maybe even turn it into a positive endorsement.

Claiming or register your business on the relevant review sites, then keep your ear to the tracks. Just about all of them will alert you when reviews are posted, but you should also sign up for Google Alerts or FreeReviewMonitoring.com for your practice’s name.

There are also paid tools for review monitoring, including:

The Treatment Plan

If a good review shows up, great! No need to do anything, unless you want to write a brief “thank you” note in response.

When a bad review surfaces, however, spring into action pronto:

Respond quickly, preferably within 24 hours. The more prospective patients who read negative comments without seeing your side, the worse it is for your practice. Additionally, no response gives the impression you simply don’t care.

Set up login information and keep it handy. Make sure key support staff have the passwords for all the key review sites, so someone else can respond quickly if the designated employee is unavailable.

Create template responses. Be ready to go with a pre-written but sincere apology and promise to do better, or to address the patient’s issue in more detail, offline and in private. Then follow up. With a few tweaks, you can customize your reply quickly and let the commenter know you’re listening to their specific concern.

If you believe you’ve addressed the problem to the patient’s satisfaction, consider requesting an amended review. A changed opinion could be a great outcome for your practice!

Solicit reviews. You can do this with a third-party site that will manage the process, like SurveyMonkey.com, or by e-mailing patients requesting a review, with direct links to the major review sites.

Review Malpractice

Don’t ever post a fake review, or ask a friend or relative to do so. Google and other sites have algorithms that will weed out fraudulent reviews, and they’ll be removed.

And don’t post reviews from the office, even if they’re legitimate ones compiled from patients. Review-posting on behalf of others is frowned-upon by search engines. Not to mention, patients may not provide their completely honest feedback while they’re still in the office.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, patients and clients will share their negative encounters with your practice on the Web. But if you are monitoring and KNOW what they are saying about you, you can be in control of reviews, rather than letting them control you.

Providers Need to Understand Patients’ Perspectives

Juneteenth – America’s Other Independence Day

Americans love their Fourth of July holiday. After all, it’s America’s birthday – the day we traditionally set aside to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of a free nation where “all men are created equal.”

But for many, those hallowed words proved hollow. Hundreds of thousands of slaves throughout the young United States – especially in the South – would need to wait almost another century before their rights to equality were officially recognized.

Another View of History

On July 5, 1852, famed African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, delivered an impassioned speech spelling out the irony inherent in the July 4th celebration:

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” Douglass said. “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim…”

It would take another 13 years, hundreds of thousands of lives, and a Civil War that tore apart the fabric of the American nation before four million African-American slaves would get their own taste of freedom.

Juneteenth – Freedom Reborn

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, military commander of the defeated Confederate state of Texas, read aloud General Order No. 3, telling the populace of Galveston that: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Spontaneous celebrations among the newly freed African American population quickly erupted across the South as Juneteenth was born. African-American communities across the U.S. soon adopted Juneteenth as their own holiday, using it as an occasion for celebrating freedom with public events, picnics and church gatherings.

Lesson: Understanding Leads to Compassion

Once we understand the history of Juneteenth and how it came into being, it’s easier to appreciate why many African Americans consider Juneteenth to be a day to celebrate not only the vision of freedom President Lincoln described in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation but also the original promise of the Declaration of Independence.

Since our childhood, we’ve been told that America is a melting pot, comprised of people from all over the world, representing a multitude of religious backgrounds, races, cultures, customs, languages and lifestyles.

Healthcare providers face the everyday challenge of understanding how these differentiating factors may affect individuals’ or families’ attitudes toward illness, pain, coping and death. It is important to appreciate why these attitudes are held, because they can significantly influence their willingness to explore various treatment options. Hospice, in particular, can be an especially touchy discussion topic.

For example, according to statistics, African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but they make up only 7.6% of hospice patients. Ironically, African-Americans have a disproportionately higher rate of cancer and heart disease, which are among the top hospice diagnoses.

Researchers point out several reasons for this incongruity. As a rule, African-American families tend to be less trustful of the American healthcare system. In addition, because medical decisions tend to be made within the family, there may be a reluctance to consult with a new, unknown healthcare professional or someone outside the home. Finally, statistically speaking, African Americans tend to be especially reluctant to cease life-prolonging procedures such as tube feeding, organ donation, and palliative care in the hospice setting – because extending life is generally seen as something to be preferred.

Honoring Differences

Healthcare communicators need to recognize that their messages may be perceived very differently by diverse audiences and adjust accordingly.

As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve to one that is more population health-oriented and patient-centered, there is a growing need for healthcare providers to educate patients, families and the general public about what they can do to stay healthier, as well as the nature of specific healthcare challenges and treatment options.

Understanding their emotions, how they think, and the reasons behind these different perspectives is vital to helping patients and families make treatment decisions that are most appropriate for their individual situations.

It’s not unlike coming to appreciate the Juneteenth holiday. The better we understand the history and background of our patients, the better we can understand and honor the views and emotions that influence their decisions and actions.

Pulse Anniversary Reminds Us of Crisis Preparedness

Orlando Health Did Very Well

Next Monday is June 12th, the one year anniversary of the horrific tragedy at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, where 49 innocent individuals lost their lives and many, many more were injured.

SPRYTE Communications was fortunate to recently be in Orlando at the Public Relations Society of America’s Health Academy annual conference and to attend the pre-conference session on America’s worst terrorist attack, delivered by Orlando Health’s Director of Public Affairs/Media Relations Kena Lewis, APR, and Heather Fagan, Deputy Chief of Staff for the City of Orlando.

Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), one of Orlando Health’s eight hospitals, is just three blocks and less than half a mile from Pulse.  It is Central Florida’s only Level One Trauma Center.

The first shots were fired at 2 am, the first patient arrived at ORMC at 2:14 am and the first media update was at 5 am.

But it wasn’t the first time ORMC or the city had planned for a major emergency with massive casualties.

According to Fagan, the City of Orlando routinely conducts “table top” regional training exercises.  They knew exactly who would take the lead and how to collaborate within minutes of the first shots.  “It was easy to jump in,” as a result she said.

Still there were lessons Fagan and her team at the city learned including:

  •  For consistency and to avoid duplication, assign a single individual to news monitoring.
  •  Record interviews for fact checking and never forget the cameras are always on. Document everything.
  •  Establish relationships with important collaborators outside your organization before you need them.
  •  Know the IT players in your organization before you need to work with them unexpectedly in an emergency.
  •  Put resources in place for multi-cultural and multi-language responses.
  •  Ask yourself, do I have to make this decision today? If not, move on to more urgent matters.

According to Lewis, emergency training is part of ORMC’s culture.  Multi-layered teams simulate trauma alerts at least three times a month.  “Preparedness and drills save lives,” she said.  But you can never plan for the shock and the emotions that result from massive numbers of casualties.

That’s why Lewis’ team has a “Compassion Statement Puzzle.”  This is a guide that makes it easier to draft an appropriate statement for any given incident in the heat of an emergency.  Statements are already started. The practitioner chooses from already drafted phrases in columns such as Introductory Statement, Sentiment and Action Statement.  There are also adjectives and reminders about audiences.  What a great tool.

Lewis was highly complimentary of her team and detailed what worked particularly well during the crisis:

  •  A single email address, mediarelations@orlandohealth.com for inquiries
  •  Having an onsite broadcast studio
  •  Excellent working relationships with the medical center security force
  •  Using ORMC doctors as spokespeople
  •  Engaging freelance videographers and photographers in a flash

Both the City of Orlando and ORMC decided to put the needs and interests of the local media first, acknowledging that local media were relaying critical information to the local community and they were more important than the hundreds of well-resourced national and international media converging on the scene.

Lewis and Fagan’s presentation was followed by a hands-on crisis communications training exercise in a JIC (Joint Information Center) led by one of Broward County, Florida’s Public Information Officers.  It was excellent in spite of the 97 degree heat and 100 percent humidity.

On Monday, Central Florida will observe Orlando United Day.  The SPRYTE Team will be remembering the 49 people who lost their lives on June 12, 2016, and the love and compassion displayed by the diverse, inclusive citizens of Orlando.  Deep down we know this could happen anywhere and that no amount of training and anticipation is enough.   #orlandounited