Build Loyalty with Peer-to-Peer Healthcare Communities

User-Generated Content Helps Patients Thrive

Every hospital and healthcare delivery system wants to build a deep connection with patients, families, and the community. But sometimes far more powerful connections can be formed when the organization takes a step back and allows those audiences to connect with each other with user-generated content.

Cultivating an online community of patients, who share a common condition, disease, or experience, can be an effective way to build loyalty to your organization while delivering helpful information to the group, according to a recent webinar by the New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO). And the best part is you’re empowering group members to create that content.

 

User-Generated Content is Highly Prized

If you’re considering setting up an online community, the first and overriding question to ask is “What’s in it for them?” Typically, members who join a group, such as one devoted to a specific disease, are seeking:

  • Treatment information – Who’s doing a clinical trial?
  • Practical information – Topics that may not be gleaned easily from clinical experts, such as quality–of-life issues (e.g. “How do I travel cross country for a wedding with my condition?”)
  • Emotional support – camaraderie with others affected by the same thing, like bladder cancer, or cirrhosis.
  • Loyalty – the warmth of the group that gets people coming back because they feel like they’re part of something.

These communities live and die on user-generated content. They should be places of peer-to-peer communication. This is not the forum to promote the health system, provide tips from your physicians, or post an “Ask the Expert” column.

After all, “everyone is an expert in their own condition,” noted John Novack, who oversees the million-member Inspire health and wellness social network. And these de facto experts frequently want to share their knowledge and experiences with others. If members of the group are exchanging information and it’s seamless, they will feel like the community is their own, and that’s good. It can be scary, Novack said, because you’re not controlling the content, but you can be the guiding light.

That means identifying active contributors, and leveraging them (if they want to be leveraged) into community “champions.” These members may already be blogging, speaking, creating videos on YouTube or serving on patient advisory councils.

To build champions, said Colleen Young, community director for Mayo Clinic Connect, “watch their activity and behavior online, and nurture it. Think about rewards – you can never say thank you enough, and there are many ways to thank people.” She adds that simply being given the opportunity to contribute user-generated content can be meaningful “compensation” for those with a voice they want to have heard.

 

Building Connections, Removing Barriers

Here are some more tips from the experts for building a community of user-generated content:

  • Encourage commenting. Every page should allow comments. This will foster engagement, and those asking a question one day will be the same ones answering that question the next.
  • Reduce barriers to get people to engage. Make sure the registration process is easy, and connecting with others is simple. Think of the population you want to attract, and see if there are barriers specific to those members.
  • Consider featuring “boutique” pages or blogs within the community. Think of these as specialty shops within a shopping mall, where visitors can get information specific to them.
  • Moderate, but resist interfering. The Mayo Clinic has a staff of five monitors for Connect, to ensure everyone is respectful and following the rules. Intercede only when necessary, such as when someone starts giving hard-and-fast “thou shalts” or dispensing medical advice that’s not grounded in their own experience.
  • Learn from your community. Not only can members learn from each other, your clinical staff can learn from them. Young recalled how a nursing team monitoring the Mayo community gained a better understanding of what it’s like to be in an epileptic unit, awaiting a seizure. The direct feedback of patients is a great way to see what it’s like on the other side of the gurney.
  • Don’t expect overnight success. When you see a successful community, it looks easy, but the upfront work is hard. You have to nurture it, and this will take time and effort.
  • You don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are online communities like Connect, or Inspire, that you can partner with. If you’re thinking about creating a community, do the research first…you may find an existing community you can hitch your wagon to.

The Internet has created an ability for more people to gather more information about diseases than ever before. Patient-to-patient networking is emerging as a valuable resource. If your healthcare organization is poised to facilitate this, and create a community in which people want to connect and share experiences, wonderful things can happen.

11 Ways to Maximize Your Earned Media on Social

You Scored a Great Hit, Now Comes the Easy Part

Congratulations, you’ve earned a great TV story, newspaper article or bylined thought leader piece in a trade publication! Now what?

Share that success via social media marketing! By doing so you can:

  • Get more eyeballs on the story, thus expanding the audience for your organization’s messages;
  • Further enhance your physicians’ expert reputations in the eyes of patients, consumers and journalists following you on social media;
  • Keep internal audiences, including administrators, star doctors, partners and off-site staff, in the loop on the great work your public relations department is doing;
  • Improve SEO, as the online version of the article (frequently containing a link to your organization) gets shared;
  • Build relationships with reporters by sharing their work (something they’re often judged on);
  • Highlight your agency’s work for prospective new clients.

Social media marketing of client hits is part of SPRYTE’s DNA, and should be part of yours too. And it should go beyond just a link, or a canned “Share This” from the original website. This is your opportunity to hype the story with advance notice if possible, short accompanying text, and even behind-the-scenes photos from the event or interview.

Make the Most of Your Success through Social Media Marketing

Here are some more tips for marketing your results online:

Share the clip promptly, preferably within 24 hours of its appearance. Sometimes links go stale as articles are removed, and some publications put their content behind a paywall after a certain amount of time.

Don’t include the entire text of the story in your post; an introductory sentence or two, along with a link to the original site where the story appeared, is sufficient, will respect copyright, and is preferable for SEO purposes.

Break up the story into short snippets of information, to share in the days after it originally runs, especially if it contains useful tips. Be sure to include the link to the full article each time.

Use one or two relevant hashtags, along with handles for the organization, physician, reporter and any third parties involved in the story.

Highlight the story’s presentation if desired (for example, if it appeared front page, above the fold), by including a photograph or snip with the media outlet’s logo, along with the article link.

Encourage your staff to like and/or share the post on their personal social media channels (and do the same on yours).

Be mindful of paywalls. If the article isn’t free on the original website, you can still quote from it or include an image of the headline and first paragraph or two without stepping on toes, under the Fair Use Doctrine. Don’t include the entire article without written permission of the publisher.

Keep it professional. Linkedin isn’t the place for breathless excitement and exclamation points. Highlight a useful business or communications angle for your description if possible, to make it relevant for that audience.

Pay attention to photos. Facebook will grab a default image from the linked page, and you can no longer change this. If there’s no photo, or you don’t like the default, remove the link, add your own photo (you must do this step first), then paste the article URL in the text box after the blurb. The photo will appear under the post, and the URL will remain in the text box.

Punt if necessary. Not every story is available online, particularly TV or radio clips. If there’s no link, get creative. Use a screen grab or the outlet’s logo, or attach a photo you took at the interview to accompany your post.

Say thank you. It’s never a bad idea to enthusiastically thank the reporter or media outlet for doing the story in the text accompanying the link. This can strengthen the relationship. Just include handles, so they can find it – and hopefully share or re-tweet it.

You likely worked hard and put in significant time to secure that great earned media hit, but leveraging it with social media marketing is under your complete control. Making this part of your standard practice will extend the life of the clip and let others know about your great work!

Podcasting: Is it a Good Fit?

Practical Considerations for Healthcare Podcasters

A few months ago, we touched on the broad topic of Podcasting for Healthcare – and why it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of marketing.

As they say, it’s not rocket science. Getting involved is relatively inexpensive (compared to TV advertising, anyway). It’s a great way to reach a targeted audience. Furthermore, your targets probably are more open to listening to the message you’re presenting. After all, they’ve taken the positive action to sign on to your podcast, and they can listen to it at their leisure. Thus you’ll have a friendly, captive audience while your podcast is running.

But is it right for you? There’s no easy answer – especially for healthcare organizations who face any number of competing challenges within their annual budget considerations.

Why Podcasting?

As part of a recent webinar offered by New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO), Hartford HealthCare social media specialist Carol Vassar noted that the audience for podcast listeners – which continues to grow by 21% to 24% per year – is probably within health marketers’ sweet spot.

Most podcast listeners are within the 18 to 54 age range (the audience leans slightly male). In addition, the typical listener is affluent, well-educated and is increasingly likely to prefer ad-free or ad-light experiences.

Setting Goals

To determine if podcasting is a god fit, as in any marketing effort, it’s essential to establish clear goals. What is it you want to accomplish by developing a podcasting initiative? In addition, you need to have a clear vision of what success will look like.

There are a number of additional questions you need to ask yourself before embarking on a podcasting adventure. How well does the idea of podcasting mesh with your overall marketing strategy? If you’re heavy into content creation and digital marketing, podcasting could be a perfect fit.

Content is Still King

As earned media specialists, we at SPRYTE are very partial to content marketing. What is the story you are trying to tell? In any kind of communication designed to persuade – whether it’s to get a sale, get a vote, earn a positive opinion – the most effective communication will be that which tells the most convincing and relatable story. If you’re already creating great content for other pieces of your marketing effort, such as for newsletters (digital or print) and social media, you’ve already got a head start in creating an effective podcasting platform.

The more clearly you can delineate who your target audiences are, the better you will be able to adapt your content to best match their needs and interests. Who is it you are trying to reach?  Young or soon-to-be-mothers? Weekend warriors? People dealing with cancer or heart disease? Individuals experiencing issues related to behavioral health?

Depending on who you are trying to reach, you will want to craft your message so that it resonates. (For example, for a hospital, your planned podcast may feature an interview with a medical specialist discussing a new treatment or service offering, or a hot healthcare news topic.) Wonderful patient success stories (made suitably anonymous) almost always fill the bill when it comes to assuring a great audience response. (A dose of media training for on-air talent is also recommended.)

The Podcast Team

No doubt you will want to include an experienced writer who can help you outline or script out what will be said during the podcast. Keep in mind that writing for the ear is different from writing for the reader. It’s shorter. And sharper.

You should also make sure to have a host who has interviewing experience and is able to get your expert to discuss important information in a listener-friendly way. (Radio experience is usually a good fit.)

It’s also important to have a good graphic designer on your team to ensure that covers and advertising are professional-looking and attractive when they are presented on iTunes, Stitcher or another potential distributor.

Finally, you’ll need dependable experts to assist you in audio production and technical support. Taking raw audio and getting it into a format that’s presentable takes a special production talent. Technical aspects such as timing segments appropriately, selecting music (if desired) and getting the product ready for an RSS or XML Feed to the listener’s podcaster all take very specialized creative skills.

Getting Started – The Technical Basics

Generally speaking, creating a podcasting initiative is relatively inexpensive. (But not free.) In addition to a hosting service, which will likely run about $20 a month, the basic equipment you will need to produce your own podcast includes a microphone, headphones, and recording and editing equipment.

Both Carol Vassar (NESHCO webinar) and a recent Wall Street Journal review singled out Blue Yeti as a high quality microphone brand ideal for podcasting. It can plug directly into your computer’s USB. Cost-wise it runs around $130.

High quality headphones are essential so that you can monitor various levels while you’re recording. Sony’s studio-quality MDR-7506 headphones ($99-$130) are an option again recommended by both Vassar and the WSJ. Vassar also recommends the AKG K2450 ($70) and the Audio Technica ATHM20X ($50) as cost-efficient alternatives. Avoid buying headphones where the microphone is attached. It might work well for telephone call centers, but not for radio or podcasts.

As for editing software, there are several good options available. Apple’s GarageBand is one free option that is user-friendly and also compatible with iTunes. Audacity® is free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing. Audacity is available for Windows®, Mac®, GNU/Linux® and other operating systems. Finally, Hindenburg is another low-cost editing software made specifically for radio and podcast users that’s easy to use and provides a lot of powerful editing and mixing features.

Those are the basics you will need to get started. Naturally costs will increase if you opt for more creative services such as professional voiceovers, music licensing fees or professional editing services.

As we’ve seen from the recent spate of mergers, acquisitions, affiliations and IPOs, the healthcare marketplace is only getting more competitive.  For healthcare communicators trying to get an edge, podcasting may be a viable and affordable avenue to consider.

Don’t Let Facebook Trip up your Social Marketing

Solution: Keep Your Digital Content Relevant

Fake news isn’t just a Washington catch phrase. It can be a harbinger of doom for healthcare organizations’ social marketing efforts, especially in the case of Facebook.

With the world’s top social media site recently updating its algorithms to devalue fake, spammy content, click bait (“You won’t believe what happened next!”) and “engagement bait” that has little relevance to anything (“Vote for your favorite flavor ice cream!”) – thereby limiting its exposure on timelines – our friends at Chatterblast, a Philadelphia social media marketing company, broke it all down and offered tips for navigating the new landscape.

The good news for healthcare communicators, who are typically conscientious users of social media for their practices or health systems, is we have a wealth of valuable information from doctors and other highly credible sources we can share. So long as we remain relevant to our audience, and continue to eschew fake, suspiciously or ambiguously sourced content, we’ll continue to get Facebook loving for our social marketing activities.

Read Chatterblast’s full blog here. And remember, SPRYTE is always standing by to help with content optimization to keep you from running afoul of the new standards.

 

Winning Patients’ Hearts with E-marketing

SPRYTE Helps Heart House Show its Love, and Expertise

Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day, but for one SPRYTE client, matters of the heart are a year-long occupation.

Heart House may not be anyone’s destination for a romantic dinner, but the South Jersey cardiology group is striving to be an important part of its patients’ lifestyle year-round. Its 31 doctors at seven locations are authorities in the latest techniques in cardiac care and interventional procedures, so when it comes to healing broken hearts, there’s no one you’d rather talk to.

In 2017, Heart House, seeking to build its brand, create loyalty among patients, and inspire referrals, enlisted SPRYTE to for e-marketing support. Our centerpiece is a bi-monthly newsletter, The Heartbeat.

Wooing Patients beyond Valentine’s Day

Knowing that consumers always like validation that they’ve made the right health care choice, SPRYTE developed The Heartbeat to be a friendly, quick, easy-to-read piece to reinforce that Heart House is a patient-focused practice concerned with delivering care as conveniently as possible. It also conveys that Heart House is on top of current trends in cardiac care, and its physicians are knowledgeable and highly skilled. Specifically, the newsletter:

  • Creates a positive brand impression of Heart House among patients and staff;
  • Keeps the practice name top-of-mind among patients and prospects;
  • Gives patients peace of mind that they are well cared for, and Heart House is committed to helping them thrive.

To do all this, each edition is divided into three sections: a lead story highlighting news and practice initiatives benefitting patients; a cardiac “factoid” with a compelling, easy-to-digest illustration highlighting current trends and epidemiology; and an “Ask the Doctor” feature, shining a light on a new or innovative device or technique in cardiac treatment. Each piece is short and to the point.

For recipients, the first two editions of The Heartbeat were love at first sight. Each enjoyed a 30 percent open rate, nearly twice the 17 percent open rate for physicians, according to a study by Constant Contact.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Stupid)

If you’d like to show your love to your patients via e-marketing, here are some things to keep in mind:

Make it about them, not you. Newsletters full of boastful material about that award your doctor or practice won will get relegated to the delete folder quickly. Include useful information or advice that patients can take to heart and improve their health, lifestyle, or patient experience.

Keep it simple. Short blocks of text go a long way with busy readers. Make each item a 1-minute read or less, punctuated by eye-catching graphics. The less scrolling readers have to do, the better. You are striving for a quick, robust brand impression.

Put your brand front and center. Include your logo and tag line or value proposition in the banner, and repeat it at the bottom. Be sure to include contact information and office locations.

Link to your social media. Every e-marketing platform allows you to include links to your social media feeds, so use them. And make sure your newsletter has highly visible Share buttons, so readers can spread the love.

As SPRYTE and Heart House have learned with The Heartbeat, putting tender loving care into your e-marketing effort can pay off by ensuring your patients only have eyes for you.

Earned Media Fueled SPRYTE’s Launch

But we’ll Endure with Digital

Think about it: when a public relations agency has its own news, there’s inherent pressure to obtain earned media coverage.

Why? So, we can enjoy the credibility that comes with a third party agreeing that our corporate action is newsworthy, and so we can be our own example of the power of publicity.

That was the case a year ago, when after two years of planning and investment, Simon PR, a general PR firm of more than a quarter century, became SPRYTE Communications, a healthcare marketing specialist.

Tomorrow is SPRYTE’s one-year anniversary. In addition to our firm’s new web site, search engine optimization (SEO) investment, social media channels and automated marketing strategy, generating earned media was central to our launch.

And the resulting earned media campaign gave the news of our new brand credibility while creating buzz and spreading the word.

With an exclusive, the Philadelphia Business Journal broke our news on January 23rd. Because of the preparation we did for the interview, the feature length online story included our key launch messages. But it didn’t stop there. We were delighted that reporter Ken Hilario continued to reference SPRYTE’s launch in stories about other agencies throughout the year.

Our agency news was also placed in a variety of print and online media outlets including special interest and grassroots targets like the newsletters of the many associations we belong to and the hometown newspaper of the CEO. We attempted to leave no stone unturned even though, as with any earned media campaign, there were disappointments. Please check out the results from the SPRYTE Communications launch earned media campaign. How do you think we did?

The New Communications Marketplace

We’re the first to admit that we come from a conventional public relations tradition where the primary deliverable is earned media. We thrived in this world for nearly three decades and will continue to up our proficiency as we grow with our clients. But it was clear years before our launch of SPRYTE that we’d better embrace digital marketing, and pronto!

Actually, one of the drivers behind the rebranding was our opportunity to start with a fresh canvas and to offer services that we weren’t known for but were increasingly proficient in, including social media management and digital content marketing.

Most of all, we weren’t known for healthcare public relations even though more than 35 percent of our business has always been in healthcare and we’ve worked on many award winning campaigns with highly notable healthcare brands.

Our team also has experience working in-house in health systems, at big agencies on large healthcare accounts and in big pharma corporate communications bureaus. It makes sense! We are headquartered in Philadelphia, a healthcare capital, with a satellite office in New Jersey, along the life sciences corridor.

While we’ve continued to knock our clients’ socks off with enviable earned media results as SPRYTE, we’ve also:

  • Grown with healthcare automated marketing. We edit several e-newsletters for highly-regarded physician practices. We invested in learning about federal anti-spam laws and patient privacy. This work plays to our strengths as writers and project managers.

 

  • Also playing to our strengths as writers and project managers is our growing proficiency in managing and populating healthcare providers’ social media channels. We also invested in a social media management dashboard to better serve our business in this lane.

 

  • Writing blogs targeted to the healthcare practitioner as part of healthcare providers’ content marketing strategies is a skill we’ve been perfecting as SPRYTE with very seasoned pros on our team who also have life experience and sensitivity to the topics at hand.

As we reflect on a year as the new us, there’s a lot to celebrate at SPRYTE. There’s also a lot to be humble about as the marketplace increases in fragmentation and competition. We’ve been blessed with excellent opportunities in healthcare and we don’t take them for granted for a minute. With as much business experience as we have, we know we must continue to impress while showing passion for the healthcare industries we serve and embracing all the new tools we must deploy to achieve our clients’ business goals.

Here’s to another successful year as SPRYTE Communications!

No Online Presence? That’s Anti-Social!

Your Medical Practice Needs Social Media

It seems that just about everyone is on social media these days. Some cannot get enough of it while others detest it. Regardless of how you feel about it as a healthcare communicator, you can no longer deny its place in modern society and have to view it as a valuable tool. It’s like the old saying “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Current numbers suggest social media is used by more than 80 percent of the population. This percentage has been increasing by about 5 percent every year.

With this in mind, SPRYTE Communications recently partnered with South Jersey Holistic, the practice of Polina Karmazin, MD, a medical doctor and area expert in the field of homeopathic medicine. South Jersey Holistic had a loyal but somewhat small patient base and no real presence outside of its physical location. Through consultation, a plan was developed to build a social media presence. With Facebook still reigning as the most popular social media platform, this was our starting point. In addition to building out the profile and preparing content, a routine was created under which postings would go up daily and in support of the practice’s core treatment offerings.

In 90 days, the practice’s Facebook following grew from 0 to 138. The page currently has 156 followers. Boosted posts were also used with great success. One in particular reached nearly 25,000 Facebook users within 25 miles of South Jersey Holistic’s hometown of Voorhees, N.J., and resulted in 199 post clicks.

Face It: Social Media Influences Decisions

Social media has come a long way. No longer just for posting photos and thinking out loud, platforms such as Facebook influence decisions such as buying a car…or finding a new doctor. That is the real game changer. There has always been a social aspect to buying and, historically, word of mouth was the main means. The personal recommendation was, is and forever will be more powerful than any paid marketing.

There is a pervasive myth in which Nordstrom allowed a customer to return snow tires despite the fact they did not sell snow tires. Whether factual or not really doesn’t matter. That the story has been re-told thousands of times is meaningful and supports the Nordstrom “customer-first” brand. That anecdote took years to reach the ears of those thousands of people. Today, one post has the ability to reach more people in a matter of minutes. We have truly moved from word of mouth to word of click.

Testimonials can be Incredibly Valuable

While it’s up to the organization to ensure a positive patient experience, social media can be harnessed to encourage positive reviews…and be subject to critical ones too. With all channels offering the ability to tag others, re-post/retweet and share, testimonials, ideally factual ones, can go a long way on social media platforms. These can be valuable to stimulate conversation and create buzz.

But once you have a social media presence, it must be monitored and engaged with. Messages and comments should be addressed quickly. You never want less-than-complimentary commentary hanging out there without a response. Even positive comments should be acknowledged, with something as simple as a thumbs up. This will demonstrate that you are engaged with your followers.

Let’s Get Social in 2018!

Facebook offers ease of use and is still the most widely used. Twitter has recently expanded its character limit and is therefore more friendly (note: just because you can now use up to 280 characters doesn’t mean you have to). Instagram is the most photo-centric. If you have compelling visuals, Instagram is a great place to be but should be considered complementary to the others, not used in place of them.

Regardless of which combination of platforms your medical practice decides to use, make it a goal in 2018 to establish your social media voice. Like South Jersey Holistic, you’ll quickly learn how powerful it can be!

The “Afterlife” of Earned Media Hits

Extend Reach by Marketing the Marketing

If there’s one thing SPRYTE is good at, it’s generating great earned media results for our clients. But what becomes of those terrific stories after they appear?

In days gone by, an article would run in a paper or magazine, (hopefully) be seen by thousands or maybe millions of readers, then get relegated to the recycling bin or bottom of the proverbial birdcage. The agency or client might add the clip to a digital archive, to trot out when someone asked for it down the road. More savvy organizations might get reprints made and add them to their marketing materials.

With the advent of the internet, however, those once-fleeting media “hits” have found an extended afterlife. Those wonderful stories live online, potentially in perpetuity, to be found by consumers, prospective employees and journalists researching your organization. (Unfortunately, so do negative ones, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)

As those stories accumulate, your SEO results will likely increase too. If you’ve read our prior blog on getting backlinks, you’ll have had success in getting journalists to include links to your organization in the online version of stories. According to Google, a whopping 99.2% of sites that show up in the top 50 search results have at least one external link. The more earned media hits you receive, the more valuable links back to your site from legitimate news sources…and the more your credibility will rise in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

SPRYTE, like most agencies, has always merchandised our media results for clients, but our clients have become more and more interested in merchandising them to their own audiences, whether those are patients and prospective patients, employees/doctors, prospective partners and affiliates, franchises or the general public.

And we’re very happy to help, by providing new introductory copy, writing social media posts, or securing digital reprints.

 

Beyond the Birdcage

Here are some ways we recommend taking that glowing media story “beyond the birdcage”:

  • Post the article on your organization’s website, either on your dedicated “In the News Page” if you have one, or your home page if the story merits marquee treatment. You can include a thumbnail, a link to the original source, or a readable image.
  • E-mail a PDF of the article with a cover note to your marketing list, or consider snail-mailing hard copies with a cover letter or handwritten Post-It note (“I just wanted to make sure you saw this great article…”) to particularly hot prospects.
  • Include the article link or the entire article in your organization’s internal newsletter.
  • Share the article link on all your social media channels, and encourage your employees or employee-ambassadors to share or post it on their personal feeds as well.
  • If you’re a franchisor, like a home care company, provide your franchise owners with a ready-to-use blog or paragraph and link that they can use on their microsites, if available.
  • Prepare copy for each of the main social media channels, making posting a turn-key process for franchise owners or affiliates. (Remember, you now have 280 characters to boast on Twitter!)
  • Make hard copies of the article for hand out at trade shows or expos, or to include in leave-behinds. Enlarge and mount the article on foam board for display at your booth or table.
  • Broadcast stories can be edited together and added to the website, played on a loop in waiting rooms, or shown during expos.

One SPRYTE client was so thrilled with the breadth and quality of coverage we generated that they revamped their lobby wall to create a “Wall of Fame” featuring our greatest hits!

 

Run with it, but Play by the Rules

A word of caution: check with the article rights holder before mass distributing any story. Linking to the original source is acceptable in most cases, and the Fair Use Doctrine may apply in many others, but as some stories reside behind paywalls, written permission and/or a fee may be required. Many publications also provide official reprints, including the masthead, at a cost.

Even if you’re not redoing the décor to highlight media hits, positive articles about your organization should become another arrow in your marketing quiver. Fortunately, there are many avenues to prolong the afterlife of great publicity!

Running with Social Media at Philly Marathon

SPRYTE’s Online Storytelling Shines During Race Weekend

Like many communications consultants before us, “social media” was part of our Statement of Work on a very recent government engagement, and at the start of the contract earlier this year, it was relatively undefined.

As experienced healthcare communicators, SPRYTE has been the health system spokesperson and we’ve used earned media, not paid advertising, to deliver bodies to programs from scientific thought leadership panels to high profile entertainment fundraising.

Little did we know what joy we would personally experience and how well our public relations background had prepared us for taking the reigns as the voice of one of America’s top 10 marathons!

That’s right.  Beginning on the eve of the 2017 AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) Marathon Weekend, SPRYTE Communications became @philly_marathon on Twitter and the lead responder on the Philadelphia Marathon Facebook page.

We’re still sending love to triumphant runners by retweeting and liking their photos with words of encouragement and by answering their questions about times, medals and shirts.

But what we found so electrifying was the power of the message in the moment during Marathon Weekend.

SPRYTE was blown away by the reach and engagement of our messaging but we were also humbled by the giant responsibility we had as a guardian of the more than 25,000 registrants and an army of Philadelphia City personnel and volunteers.

And by the way, we didn’t delegate to juniors. Everything was handled on-site by pros with more than 25 years in the communications workforce. We may need our reading glasses while composing copy on a smart phone but rest assured, there are no typos and our extraordinary storytelling skills combined with our consumer brand-building expertise really delivered.

Here are three of our favorite posts on the 2017 AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend Facebook page:

We Caught the Moment:  Sarah Kiptoo is First Woman to Cross the Finish Line:  SPRYTE was at the Marathon finish line with dozens of media cameras and professional photographers. But the photo we shot one second before Sarah Kiptoo broke the tape was posted on Facebook while she was crossing it.  Everybody had great shots to relish later. Our shot was now! It was instant. (Stats as of noon 12.4.17: 9,242 people reached; 508 Likes; 15 Comments.)

Giving Prime Time Exposure to the Presenting Sponsor:  We gave continued exposure to 2017 Marathon Weekend presenting sponsor, the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation, throughout the weekend.  On behalf of the Philadelphia Marathon and the City of Philadelphia, we leveraged our social media channels to thank the AACR for their cancer research mission and their partnership for the Marathon. AACR Foundation Executive Director Mitch Stoller ran the Half Marathon on Saturday and presented the Marathon medals on Sunday. Check out all the great photos of him that are posted on the AACR Philadelphia Marathon Facebook page.

We Had to Tell a Story Without the Media:  After a heart attack at Mile 23 at age 38 in 2009, Ericka Emerson returned to the Philadelphia Marathon to conquer it. We worked with one of Ericka’s close friends on possible earned media opportunities for several months in advance of the 2017 Marathon. But when Marathon Weekend finally arrived, logistical challenges with all parties prevented a major print or broadcast story. So, SPRYTE stepped up and told the incredible story ourselves with an 11th hour reunion photo of Ericka and the four Philadelphia first responders who saved her life back in 2009.  The inspirational story, which reflects so well upon the City of Philadelphia, and the wonderful photo are still getting noticed.  It gives us chills every time we read it. (Stats as of noon 12.4.17: 13,296 people reached; 552 Likes; 32 Shares; 43 Comments.)

Thanks to our engagement for the 2017 AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend, SPRYTE experienced social media management in a new way for our firm.  We are smitten and we think we have a lot of potential. Let us know if you agree. We know “We Did It!” How do you think we did?

Is Your Website ADA Compliant?

Online Information Barriers Risk Litigation  

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in every area of public life, including employment, education, transportation, telecommunications and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

As professional communicators, we work closely with our clients to help them craft messages to reach their target audiences. With the continuing evolution of web-based communications, the need to adapt the message for each target audience is a growing challenge.  For healthcare communicators, making sure important information can be accessed and understood by as many people as possible is critical.

Many of us are familiar with some of the most common changes fostered by the ADA – door ramps, public restroom accommodations, and special wheelchair lifts on public buses, to name a few. But the ADA has also played a key role in the evolution of online commerce, by trying to ensure that the disabled have equal access to goods, services and digital content on websites operated by businesses and other organizations.

 

Technology Brings Change

As part of a recent webinar sponsored by the New England Society for Healthcare Communicators (@NESHCo), presenters from @SilverTech, a digital marketing firm, noted that the federal government often serves as a catalyst for changes that are adopted throughout industries.

Several prominent legal cases have helped further the cause of greater website accessibility for the disabled.

National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp. was a class action suit brought against the retailer because blind consumers could not navigate the Target website and make purchases as readily as a non-disabled consumer could. The result: The court found the ADA’s prohibition against discrimination in the “enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges” applied to public accommodations in cyberspace as well as a physical retail store.

In National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix, Netflix was found to have violated ADA protections because it failed to provide closed captioning for its “Watch Instantly” digital content. The case confirmed that businesses that sell services exclusively through the internet were also subject to ADA provisions that protect disabled citizens against discrimination.

In 2014, an agreement negotiated between the Justice Department and Peapod, an internet grocer, further solidified the scope of the ADA’s reach, by emphasizing the importance of ensuring websites are equally accessible via mobile devices.

 

The Future: Greater Accessibility

These recent cases may be the beginning of many more website accessibility cases. That means pressure on organizations to ensure that digital content on their websites and affiliated technology are independently accessible, regardless of whether the user is working from a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device.

Healthcare organizations and financial institutions – because they tend to be highly transactional – may be particularly vulnerable to potential ADA accessibility litigation. For example, for consumers who use a hospital website to find a physician, look up services, identify locations – any such type of direct engagement – the information should be as accessible as if the consumer were entering the facility itself.

 

Enhancing Accessibility Enhances SEO

Making sure one’s website is accessible to people with disabilities not only protects against ADA-related litigation, it also enhances the search optimization of your site.

The basic idea of the internet has always been to provide information in as accessible a fashion as possible. By limiting accessibility, you run the risk of cutting off customers and potential markets. Thus, it’s important for organizations to follow best practices to ensure their websites’ accessibility is constantly maintained.

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), the primary international standards organization for the internet, has published a series of web accessibility principles to help organizations keep their websites current.

 

P.O.U.R.

The thrust of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) can be remembered by using the acronym P.O.U.R.

P is for Perceivable. All digital content and user interface components should be presented to users in different ways to account for different means of perception.  For example, digital content should provide text alternatives to non-text content. Multimedia should have captions or other alternatives to explain the action that is taking place. Assistive technologies should be integrated where possible, so that meaning isn’t lost. Also, enabling users to see and hear – rather than just read – content is a plus. Consider offering transcripts of podcasts. If your website includes video, provide visual access to audio information through in-sync captioning. Also, don’t rely on color as a navigational tool or as the only way of distinguishing items.

O is for Operable. Websites should be designed so interface components and navigation is easily operable (e.g., via keyboard or mouse), and tagged to work with voice control systems. The interface should assist users in navigating and finding digital content, and also give users enough time to read and use it. Including a skip navigation feature can make it easier for automatic screenreaders to make sense of on-screen content.

U is for Understandable. Information about the user interface and its operation should be clear and understandable. For example, error messages should provide a clear explanation of the problem (Not just say “Error” or “Invalid field”). Digital content should also appear and operate in predictable ways. (In other words, try to make it as easy as possible for the user to find what s/he’s looking for.)

R is for Robust. Content should be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide range of user applications, including assistive technologies. Compatibility with current and future user tools should be an ongoing goal.

 

Conclusion

The internet’s continuing evolution as a primary source of commerce, entertainment, information and services has changed the way business, government and society operate. Those with disabilities may find that some websites don’t provide the level of access they need to partake of information, products or services that are presented on their websites.

Organizations, particularly those in healthcare, need to maximize their efforts to ensure that anyone, regardless of a disability, can easily navigate their websites and access the digital content they need. Doing so will help forestall ADA-related litigation. But it will also enhance the basic navigability and SEO compatibility of the website.