Happy 36th (Wait, What?) Anniversary!

An Unexpected Pitch Can Pay Off

Conventional wisdom in public relations goes you should only bother promoting a company anniversary if the year ends in zero or five; nothing in between matters to anybody but employees (and even when it ends in zero or five it’s not necessarily newsworthy to outsiders).

So how did SPRYTE score a front-page-teased feature story in a local daily newspaper about their home care client’s 36th anniversary? Easy, we pitched it!

Earn Media by Doing the Unexpected

It’s a case study of how going against the grain can sometimes help with your reputation marketing campaign, and even generate earned media results. In this case, we benefited from the fact no one was expecting a story about an off-year celebration.

Griswold Home Care had neither a special logo nor a year-long marketing campaign to mark its 36th year, especially after celebrating its 35th in 2017. What it did have, however, was a big party for staff, caregivers and partners. Local politicians turned out too and delivered remarks. So why was this party special?

After more than three and a half decades, Griswold Home Care still embraces the vision and values of its founder and matriarch, Jean Griswold. The business wasn’t begun as a moneymaking enterprise; it was sparked by one woman who wanted to ensure no senior was left vulnerable in their home as they aged, even if they lived alone. This mission, company leadership believe, is worth celebrating annually.

That’s the story we strived to tell to the local media. This wasn’t so much an anniversary but an annual thank you to the caregivers and employees who fulfill Jean Griswold’s ideal every day. It was about boosting morale, not celebrating a number, and there’d be more such celebrations in the future, each year on April 26th, zeroes and fives be damned.

This unapologetic approach drew attention in a raised eyebrow kind of way, leading one reporter to seek an interview with Griswold’s CEO. The journalist was already familiar with the locally based home care franchise company, having written about it the prior year…on the occasion of its 35th anniversary.

Don’t Overlook Great Photos, People Stories

To add more human interest to the pitch, we highlighted one particular caregiver who’d been with the company since its first year, and who was saluted during the event.

It also didn’t hurt that we offered good photos of company leadership and caregivers with the county commissioner and Pennsylvania state legislators. As is often the case, good quality visuals can help sell the story.

The resulting article, titled “Griswold Home Care plans ‘morale booster’” topped the newspaper’s business section five days after the anniversary. The lead of the story noted that Griswold simply didn’t want to wait four more years for another occasion to honor its compassionate employees. The story also included a paragraph about the longtime caregiver, Allegra Chaney.

Clear Messages Help in Reputation Marketing

Anniversary stories in general are valuable as they convey that the organization is enduring. This article in particular added the messages that Griswold has long-term, caring employees and is a good place to work – traits that are appealing to prospective patients, clients and staff, and which healthcare organizations should always try to include in their reputation marketing campaigns.

This event and the result illustrate that when it comes to media relations, the number of years in business is less significant than the people you employ, and how your organization stands out from others. Don’t overlook opportunities to mine what you’re doing that’s different or contrarian for press attention.

Shine a Light on Your Docs

Social Media Can Help Humanize Your Front Line Physicians

According to the National Institutes of Health, patients only get to spend a median of 15.7 minutes in consultation with their doctor during an appointment. It’s hardly enough time to forge a relationship, or even get to know the doctor outside a purely clinical context.

But, hey, doctors are people too, and health organizations that spend a little time portraying them as such can create fans, inspire loyalty, generate valuable feedback and remove much of the intimidation in the doctor-patient relationship. And social media marketing is an easy way to do that.

Posts highlighting your physicians, and even nurses, nurse practitioners and other frontline clinical staff will put a face with a name, remove some of the mystery, and essentially humanize them among your followers. And they can give a morale boost to those you feature, particularly professionals who aren’t used to being in the spotlight.

George Clooney in a Lab Coat

Just ask Dr. Lorenz Iannarone, a surgeon whom SPRYTE highlighted for client Holy Redeemer Health System on Facebook in May…and who garnered 176 likes and 56 glowing comments from past and current patients. A largely unassuming man, Dr. Iannarone was praised for being compassionate, gentle and a good colleague, and one fan even called him “the George Clooney of medicine.”

Such testimonials don’t simply make a doctor feel good; recommendations from others (in person or online) are a key driver of medical decision making, so organic, heart-felt reviews can be powerful from a brand management point of view. They help deliver the implied message that your clinicians are kind, caring and patient-focused – whether or not they’re the second coming of Dr. Doug Ross.

It pays to schedule in recurring practitioner posts in your social media calendar. Holy Redeemer simply calls theirs “Practioner Spotlights” and they are posted weekly. Other organizations might call them “Featured Doctor,” “Featured Provider,” “Doctor Spotlight,” or something else. What you name it isn’t as important as the fact you’re doing it.

Inform, but Make it Personal

Practioner Spotlight, which appears Wednesdays, includes a summary of the doctor’s specialty, a sentence about where they earned their medical degree(s) or served their residency, and a sentence about their particular area of passion, if they have one. These posts often include a sentence on what the practitioner likes doing off the clock – a large ingredient toward humanizing them.

Of course, a good photo is mandatory. This should be a professional head shot or a good quality staged photo in a clinical setting. Be selective. A poor quality image or a shot of the doctor with a scowl or neutral expression won’t cut it. Make sure they’re flashing their pearly whites.

Here are some more tips for making your physicians part of your social content marketing program:

  • Brand your posts. You can frame your featured practitioner in your organization’s colors or other brand elements. Reserve this framing exclusively for your recurring spotlights. If the clinician is wearing a labcoat, make sure the logo is visible.
  • Highlight new docs. Welcome them publicly by putting them front and center in your social media, to introduce them to followers and patients.
  • Give shout outs when appropriate. Put the spotlight on a practitioner who has been recognized with an award or accreditation. You can use this tactic for personal accomplishments too, such as completing a marathon or being recognized for their off-hours charitable activities.
  • Make it easy for followers. Include the practioner’s office number or website and the name of their practice, if applicable, to facilitate appointments.
  • Be consistent. Whether you highlight someone weekly or bi-weekly, be sure to stick with it so it can build momentum, and followers expect to see it regularly. If you pick a day of the week, keep posting on that day.

Your doctors and other practitioners are the faces of your practice or system. Social media is a great way to part the curtain to let patients and other fans know who they are beyond the name on your website.

Declare Independence from the Mainstream Media

Owned Media Lets Health Organizations Talk Directly to Consumers, Brand Loyalists

As we celebrate Independence Day, it’s worth looking at a great way for healthcare organizations to declare their independence from earned media: owned media and citizen journalism.

While that “third-party endorsement” can be valuable, so too can controlling your own messages, and speaking directly to those who are already interested or invested in your organization, such as current and former patients and community partners. Social media is the most visible and most recent tool to reach these audiences, but others have existed for some time and are just as useful for engaging and strenghtening the relationship with those who’ve benefitted from your services or have expressed interest in them.

Owned media simply refers to forms of mass communication you produce, or can control. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their ilk, owned media includes other forms of content marketing such as your very website, electronic newsletters, blogs, podcasts and online or print magazines.

Content is the Key

These tools, produced weekly, monthly or, more likely in the case of a magazine, quarterly or semi-annually, can help your practice or health system tell your best stories, share lifestyle tips and get out word of health screenings, blood drives, fundraisers and other events without going through media “gatekeepers.”

But just because you can control the content and the messages doesn’t mean you can put out just anything. Self-promotion, in small doses, is expected, but to get readers coming back and to create true fans, your owned media needs mostly to deliver content that is useful or educational, entertaining, compelling, or inspirational. Generally, the same techniques for gaining earned media apply to owned media: tell great stories, or provide something readers can’t get anywhere else. This applies to both print and online publications.

The stories you share, whether they are profiles of physicians and other staff, expert advice from your physicians, healthy recipes or the launch of new equipment or a new service (and how a patient has benefitted), can humanize your organization, send the message that it’s on the cutting-edge, or validate it as a source of valuable information, three key components of building loyalty.

Once you’ve established your format and have a consistent flow of content to feed it, you can repurpose those stories for other platforms, primarily your social media channels. Each post should link back to the mother publication or website to gain more eyeballs and more subscribers.

Citizen Journalism

Then there’s citizen journalism, a happy development that has only become more prevalent in recent years. Effectively complementing earned media, citizen journalism provides an opportunity to place your news, event, or other story online at third-party websites, with little or no filtering by editors.

These can include hyper-local websites like Patch.com, which has several thousand editions sprinkled in towns and DMAs across the country, and Tapinto.net, which is developing franchises at a rapid pace in the Northeast. Once you’ve registered, both sites allow you to submit content in the form of news releases, articles and event listings. Typically anything that’s not obviously objectionable and doesn’t violate site rules will see sunshine. Some online news sources will even let you post in multiple neighboring editions, or do it automatically for you.

Online calendars, either stand-alone like Eventful.com, or on traditional media websites (e.g. “6ABC Community Calendar”) are also a valuable way to promote the healthcare events, fundraisers and expos your organization might host or sponsor. Most, of course, give you the option to promote your event for a fee.

Personnel announcements, a frequent occurrence for health systems and practices, may also be submitted via online form to some publications like city business magazines, but more of them are now charging for placement, including your write-up and submitted photograph. However these can also be submitted as articles at the above mentioned hyperlocal sites.

The concept of media has expanded significantly over the past decade or so, and consumers have come to trust news they find online or in their mailbox from a growing variety of sources. By taking advantage of these new avenues, we can truly declare independence from media gatekeepers. Happy Independence Day!

Showcase Earned Media to Demonstrate Your Prowess

Attractively Merchandised Results Can Enhance Client Relationships

As healthcare communicators, one of our primary goals is to deliver high quality deliverables for our clients (or employers) in terms of earned media results: print, broadcast, online and owned media. In addition to simply informing our clients about terrific results, showing the results in a clean, crisp format and as quickly as possible – ideally before they happen to see it themselves – is a powerful way to demonstrate our effectiveness and professionalism while enhancing the client’s brand reputation.

The fact that we are able to achieve noteworthy placements and are willing to make the extra effort to keep our clients informed are critical aspects of any client relationship, and our client’s reputation management. We are continuously reminded that healthcare (and healthcare communications) is a competitive business, so we need to appreciate the urgency of demonstrating proven results – for our own benefit, but also for that of our clients.

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when merchandising an earned media result.

In any merchandising effort, one needs to be cognizant of copyright restrictions. For a comprehensive discussion of what is allowed and not allowed, you can peruse the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index. Generally speaking, it is illegal to reproduce copyrighted material in its entirety for print, online or broadcast use without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

That said, there is also a doctrine of “fair use” that has developed over the years as a result of various court decisions (See section 107 of the copyright law). Even so, the distinction between fair use and infringement is not always clear and/or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may be used safely without permission. Citing the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Best bet – be selective in what you choose to reproduce. Try to provide a sense of how the story appears in the paper, on TV, or online, and what makes it significant. If the story appears online, provide a link to give the reader/client the opportunity to enjoy the full impact of the story.

Print

For print placements, scanning the article as a JPEG is a practical way to show what it looks like in “real life.” You can use Photoshop (or Word’s “Format Picture” option) to maximize the quality by lightening the background (newsprint generally appears grayish) and adjusting the contrast to minimize any “dirty” background when the article is presented. The photo can then be copied into a Word document for further editing.

Again, be aware of copyright restrictions. Rather than showing the entire article, strategically use enough of it so the reader can quickly get a taste of it. Provide a summary of the story that hits the highlights that are most important to your client. Then link to the full piece on the publication’s website. Make sure the media source and date are prominent, and if possible, provide information about the total circulation, audience, or other key demographics.

Online

Online earned media results can be handled in much the same way. The idea is to provide an overview of the story and its visual significance, along with a link to the story itself.  Whenever practical, we try to reflect the way the story appears online.

Broadcast

Broadcast stories can be tricky to merchandise. Again, the goal should be to give a sense of the story and what it’s about. Keep it to one page. If possible, perhaps insert a handful of screenshots from the broadcast video and laid in an attractive way that help to succinctly tell the story. Make sure to identify the station airing the story, the affiliate, the name/time of the show, the date, and, if possible, the audience reach.

Ideally, merchandising efforts will reflect the same high-quality attention and consideration that goes into achieving the earned media placement itself.  Merchandised placements should be powerfully presented, well laid-out, and legible so stories, dates and media sources are clearly discernible.

Make sure it’s legal. Make it interesting. And most importantly, make it attractive and enjoyable to read.

 

Managing Reputation with Bylines

Tap into Doctors’ Expertise to Build Thought Leadership Creds

When SPRYTE learned that a pediatrician at Holy Redeemer Hospital was seeing a spate of concussions relating to youth sports, we sprang into action to warn parents on signs they need to look for. The resulting article under Dr. Avi Gurwitz’s byline ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer “Expert Advice” column in the Sunday Health section, which is seen by 194,000 readers (not counting online). The twist? Concussions aren’t limited to football, but can be sustained in many spring sports too.

The first-person, “bylined” article by a healthcare professional can be a boon to your organization’s reputation. Whether it appears in a local newspaper or regional lifestyle magazine, getting your physicians’ skills and knowledge out to current and prospective patients should be a goal of any healthcare communicator, and creating thought-leadership articles is a great way to do it. The “third-party endorsement” you gain upon publication is invaluable, as it tells readers that your doctor truly is an expert, and what he or she has to say merits editorial space.

Where are Your Patients Coming From?

Start by determining where your organization’s or practice’s patients come from, and targeting the publications that reach them. Research them, and if you’re already reading them pay attention for opportunities that may be a good fit for your physicians. Daily and weekly newspapers, for example, might run regular health columns called “Expert Advice,” “The Doctor is In,” or “Things To Know,” sometimes in the Sunday health section or a recurring healthcare supplement. Notice whether they use doctor-contributed content, and in what format.

Finding topics is the easy part. Just about every physician has a few hot-button subjects they’re passionate about, or vital information they want patients to know, and are usually happy to share them if you ask. Some might be “evergreen,” but as a communications pro, you might also think seasonally, and offer ideas well ahead of time that fit in with subjects editors and readers will be thinking about. Sparing your back when doing spring gardening or landscaping can be an attractive topic in the first quarter, while minimizing risk of heart attack when shoveling snow is a natural for the winter months.

Once you’ve settled on an idea, you’ll need to flesh it out into an article query. Most editors won’t commit to running your doctor’s article until they actually see it, so you might be writing on-spec, but if you learn the publication’s editorial guidelines and adhere to them, particularly word count, you’ll increase your chances of publication.

Writing for Reputation

Schedule an interview with the doctor, so you can gather and assimilate their knowledge on the subject, determine the key points to make, and even get a sense of their “voice.” Additional background research might be required to write a fully formed article.

Once you’ve written the draft, you’ll have to send it back to the doctor for their review, along with any other internal eyes that might need to see it. But because the article is appearing under their name, the physician should have final say on the content. Be sure to add a one- or two-sentence biography of the author at the end, and offer a high-resolution head shot to the editor in case they run them.

Bylined articles can be a powerful form of reputation marketing, and as such an effective way to influence patients and prospective patients. And, like the Dr. Gurwitz column, they can deliver valuable information on any number of health topics, letting consumers know you’re a community-minded organization.

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.

Are Your Doctors Top Docs?

Follow this Process

Top Doctors rankings appear in many regional lifestyle magazines across the country. Here in the Philadelphia area, Philadelphia Magazine features the area’s best practitioners annually, in the May issue. But what’s behind the Top Doctors ratings, and should you be nominating your own physicians?

The short answer is yes. Having multiple Top Doctors from your organization populating the local list delivers cachet to your practice or health system. It says, “our doctors have excellent training and clinical skills, and give superior care and concern to their patients,” and that can be valuable from a reputation management standpoint. Publications that run them online frequently link to their full contact information, and their pictures often appear in print, sometimes on the cover. Some publications archive the best doctors on a searchable online database.

Of course, Top Doctors is also an advertising opportunity, as organizations can extend their honored doctors’ visibility with paid congratulatory notes, expanded doctor profiles or, in the case of Philadelphia Magazine, Q&As or first-person doctor essays. A news release highlighting the organization’s multitude of honorees is yet another option. And social media posts, e-newsletters, and magazine reprints highlighting the honored doctors can extend the life of the list even further.

A Straightforward Process

Unlike some other Best of Lists (e.g. Best Pizza Place, Best Spa) frequently found in these regional publications, Top Doctors are not voted for by readers. Rather, they are often supplied by a third party organization called Castle Connolly, whose only mission is to publish lists and books ranking healthcare professionals. Publications like Philadelphia Magazine subscribe to the service.

According to the Castle Connolly website:

“Physicians can nominate those other doctors whom they feel are the most outstanding in their medical specialties, in any area of medicine and in any part of the country, indicating also whether they believe that the physician is among the best in their region or among the very best in the nation. Also, already-selected Castle Connolly Top Doctors are actively encouraged through various communications to participate in this process as well.”

Doctors are peer-nominated, and cannot nominate themselves. Any licensed MD and DO can submit nominations, in several dozen categories based on specialty. The good news is nominations are free, as are resulting listings in the company’s guides.

The nomination form is exhaustive, requiring detailed biographical information of the doctor. The Castle Connolly team evaluates nomination based on “medical education, training, board certifications, hospital appointments, administrative posts, professional achievements and malpractice and disciplinary history.” Often, they will interview the nominated doctor too.

Castle Connolly’s nomination process is open year-round, and doctors can be selected and recognized on the company’s various websites throughout the year, but you will have to wait until the next Top Doctors issue of your local magazine to see your honored physicians in print. It pays to be mindful of deadlines and editorial calendars, to reduce the lag time between nomination and reaping the benefits of a recognized doctor.

Streamlining Your Top Doctors Nominations

It might also be worthwhile to designate one physician or administrator in your organization to spearhead the nomination process. That might entail polling each department for potential nominees, and choosing a peer or the department head to complete the form. Alternatively, your designated staffer might handle the entire process, from choosing nominees to interviewing the individual to filling out the form. In either case, it is best to have a central “clearing house” through which to submit nominations, and to serve as a single point of contact for Castle Connolly.

For healthcare consumers, Top Doctors has become a reliable way of finding the best practitioners in a given geographic area. The imprimateur lends credibility to a practice, and can alert prospective patients to the existence of a doctor they may not have known about. The annual list also provides another opportunity for a practice or health system to stand out from its competitors. So take a look at your organization’s high performing physicians and get nominating!

Beware the Pay-for-Play

Is that PR Gold in that E-mail, or Iron Pyrite?

No doubt you’ve received that pay-for-play e-mail: a breathless offer to feature your organization on television, or interview your CEO or a doctor on a major healthcare podcast or website.

One such offer recently came to us through our home care client, inviting their participation in a segment on solutions for seniors aging at home. This was for a familiar TV lifestyle program on a well-known basic cable channel, owned by an even bigger entertainment company. At first read, it sounded legitimate; we’ve all seen these types of programs, and they interview people and gin up the latest innovations all the time. There were multiple follow-up calls and e-mails. But closer inspection revealed this was nothing more than pay-for-play…with a hefty five-figure “pay” element attached.

 

Avoiding the Nefarious Quid-Pro-Quo

This quid-pro-quo is nothing new. As mentioned above, we’ve all found them in our inbox, or maybe the junk mail folder. And there’s nothing particularly insidious about a programmer seeking money to say good things about your organization (or allow you to say good things) in front of a large audience. The trouble comes in the level of transparency, or lack thereof.

Even reasonably intelligent people might not quickly discern the offer’s true nature right away, especially when it involves a recognizable or even a household name. We’ve even seen offers to interview a client’s CEO on a national news network, only to learn it’s a freelance former cable journalist who produces the video, then promises to place it – for a four-figure fee – on that network’s sub-site for citizen journalism.

At first glance, such offers are appealing. But then that “too good to be true” skepticism kicks in. Why us? Why now? How’d they get my name? Unfortunately, by the time you find out there’s payment involved, some staffer has wasted time vetting the opportunity, or making a phone call with a long-winded “producer” or “programming assistant.” The proliferation of online media outlets continues to blur the line for both healthcare communicators and consumers themselves as to whether what they’re seeing is earned media or paid-for content.

 

An Issue of Reputation

Worse yet, for all the short-term eyeballs, regularly engaging in pay-for-play opportunities could have a negative effect from a reputation management standpoint. Who among us bestows the same credibility on an advertorial as an earned media placement in a well-known media outlet?

Conversely, some offers are, in fact, legitimate PR opportunities, so turning a skeptic’s eye on all of them might result in a missed golden opportunity. So what’s a harried communications professional to do?

Read the e-mail closely. They might be a few paragraphs down, but you may find the words “symbolic payment,” “stipend,” or “small honorarium” involved. It may ask you to simply subsidize a production fee. But frequently, there will be no mention of remuneration anywhere in the initial outreach, as was the case with the cable lifestyle program.

Look for an “Unsubscribe” link. A true journalist request won’t have one at the bottom, because it’s not needed. Only mass e-mails have to include an opt-out option. This isn’t a sure sign, however, as some savvy companies will send a personal, hand-crafted e-mail, and others simply ignore the law.

See what others are saying. It won’t take much effort to find other professionals’ feedback on this company or that program. Those who’ve been misled or victimized are often quite vocal in online forums about their experience. When in doubt, solicit peers’ opinions on Linkedin or similar site.

Remember, some offers might be worthwhile. That major online interview isn’t necessarily a scam, as you’re paying a professional to conduct a television-quality piece, edit it, then do the legwork of placing it, where it potentially will be seen by many people. Happens all the time, and some organizations find value in this kind of arrangement, particularly since many viewers aren’t aware they’re watching advertorial content (e.g. an infomercial), especially when it’s running in a medical practice’s waiting room. But again, it comes down to the level of transparency, and at what point the fees are revealed.

Inform your front-line people. Make sure they aren’t dismissing true opportunities simply because they’re not familiar with the outlet, or the person making the request. You don’t want to throw out the golden wheat with the chaff.

In a perfect world, pay-for-play come-ons would show their true stripes from the outset…but that’s probably not effective for their marketers. As healthcare communications professionals, it’s on us to vet such opportunities and counsel our clients before a C-level executive or star doctor gets visions of instant fame and easy national exposure in their head.

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.

What’s Scarier than Being Unknown?

Your Facility Needs to Have a Voice!

Today is Halloween and a day for ghost stories and tales of things that go bump in the night. Scary stuff! But we are prepared to discuss something far darker and sinister. Politics? Well, scary for sure, but what we’re focused on today is anonymity. Eek!

It’s true. In healthcare there is nothing more haunting than being known for nothing or worse – not being known at all. That’s as woeful as a funeral dirge.

That brings us to external communication or, dare we say – marketing. For some, the word “marketing” elicits fear and/or visions of snake oil salesmen. We live in a world where it’s tough to escape. From the moment we wake until the moment we sleep we are bombarded with sponsored content. Truth is that some of us even see ads or hear that catchy jingle in our sleep, so that domain’s not even safe. In a perfect world we would not need marketing. In the days of old Transylvania, there may have been just one place to go for a transfusion (well, two if you “count” Dracula’s Castle). There was no need for marketing or differentiation. You had a “captive” patient base bereft of choices.

Today is altogether different. Choices abound. Hospitals, outpatient facilities, rehabilitation centers and urgent care centers can be found on almost every other block. There has never been a greater need to communicate through outlets such as earned media and your organization’s web site, blogs, podcasts, social media, etc.

Every Healthcare Organization is Unique

You may ask, “what do I say?” It’s a fair question. But it’s tough to imagine a facility without a story, one that only you can tell. It’s true that while there are similarities between facilities, there are also things that make you unique. Start there. There is an old marketing axiom that says “Promote the category you are No. 1 in. And if you don’t have one, create one.” You may have a piece of technology that no one else in the city/state/region/country has or you may have an affiliation that no one else can claim. Maybe it’s an independent survey that ranked you tops in patient satisfaction. In the advertising world that would be called your USP – or unique selling proposition. That thing only you can claim and the reason people will want your services.

Don’t Forget the Pictures!

Not to be lost in all of this is photography. While we can’t be sure the actual worth of a picture is 1,000 words, the appeal for visuals cannot be denied. But again, be unique. It’s blood-curdling to see a competitor using the same photo as you on a website, in an ad or social media posting. It’s enough to make you scream or want to die (or for you zombies, “die again”). It’s not cheap, but spend the money on a photo shoot. If planned and done right it will more than pay for itself.

Be True to Who You Are

Through all of this be sure to represent your brand. There’s that word again, about as well understood as the afterlife. It has taken on a life of its own and is often misconstrued. Branding is what people think or feel when they hear your name; it’s what your organization stands for and lives/breathes every day. It can be supported in your external communication efforts but never created there. Sound bites with the media, blog posts, podcasts, social media postings, news releases, etc. should all have messaging that is created with the brand in mind. A true test of this is how your message resonates with employees and stakeholders. If viewed positively by them, you have done your organization a service by supporting the brand.

Don’t be Just Another Clone

Again, dare to be different. Stand alone. Don’t try to be someone else. We have all seen movies about clones – they’re pretty creepy. Don’t be a clone. Be unique – set your organization apart.