Employee Ambassadors in Healthcare

The Key Considerations

In conjunction with last week’s blog, we are resharing our post about important things healthcare organizations should consider when creating an Employee Ambassador program.

Congratulations! Your organization agrees that leveraging key employees as brand ambassadors will lead to better reach, credibility and engagement than your own company channels can achieve.

Scenario planning, creating guidelines, training and selecting the right employees and best content to share are the key considerations in designing and launching an Employee Ambassador program.

Developing clear guidance: It goes without saying that you must get the buy-in of senior management – particularly because of its potential impact on corporate reputation. After their buy in, your next meeting will be with your legal/regulatory and medical team to create an issues preparedness plan and program guidelines.

The development process may take several months to a year. But when completed, it will serve as the working guidebook for employee ambassadors and the internal team that manages the program.

  • Issues preparedness: Working with your legal, medical, social media, communications and HR team, identify potentially negative scenarios and issues related to employees engaging in social media on your company’s behalf. Use these findings to develop a “Regulation Roadmap.” This roadmap will provide communications guidance and responses – including messages and social media copy aligned with Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations – for the most likely scenarios.
  • Employee guidelines: Your employees need to abide by clearly articulated rules. The purpose of these rules is to guide employees’ content without telling them exactly what to say. Their content is liked and shared by others because they inject their own character and personality into posts.

Guidelines should include background on the company and what it stands for, program goals, the brand voice, how to stay compliant with regulations, responsible social media strategies and how to handle questions on their posts. They should also include information about who to contact in case of a question or issue.

Choosing the right employees: Recruiting employees to become advocates isn’t as difficult as you may think. You can start with enthusiastic employees who already share your company’s message. Or just ask for volunteers and triage the employees who opt in. Prioritize those who have large online followings and an online voice consistent with that of your organization. No matter your method, you’ll need to audit their social media channels to identify any red flags or opportunities. The audit will also help inform your training program.

  • Training: The employees who volunteer as ambassadors will probably be social media savvy. Still, you need to ensure they are savvy about the rules and expectations of your program, so we always recommend conducting a formal training program for all participants.

Content: Employee ambassadors should be viewed by their followers as healthcare influencers, not as a mouthpiece for your company. Therefore, most of the content you provide should focus on general health and wellness; only a third to a half should be about your company.

Before making content available, seek your employee ambassadors’ input on the type of content they like to share. The more relevant the content, the more likely they are to use it.

Via the company intranet or another easily accessible online storage unit, curate a variety of approved articles, visuals and video they can easily share and continually encourage feedback. Health and wellness content may include tips, recipes, photos or infographics developed by your company for your own channels or by third parties. While expensive to produce, video and visuals are more frequently shared than articles, so try to include some in the mix.

Keep content fresh by ensuring that future corporate initiatives and marketing programs include development of ambassador materials as part of the plan. Communicate with your ambassadors first about updates and changes, new products and other company news.

Measurement and analytics: There are many ways to measure the success of your employee ambassador program and the metrics you choose will be based on your goals. At a minimum, you should be analyzing the following:

  • Program reach: How many people did your ambassadors reach with company related content? How many posts contained the company hashtag?
  • Traffic on company sites: Was there an increase in traffic on your owned and shared sites during the program?
  • Ambassador engagement: What percent of employee ambassadors participated in the program and how frequently did they participate? Who were the most and least active ambassadors? Which ambassador’s posts had the most engagement (likes, comments, shares)?

These metrics will help you understand how active your employees are and the type of content with the most engagement – information fundamental for continuing the program – and hopefully for the program’s continued success.

Employees are the Best Ambassadors

Enjoy Awareness, Credibility and Endorsement

This week, we are revisiting our previous blog post about why employees can be the best brand ambassadors for healthcare organizations.

The healthcare industry is governed by rules under a whole host of government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Health & Human Services (HHS). You’re already challenged with getting content approved for your brand or company’s own channels. Knowing the implications of a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation or FTC misstep, why would you consider asking your employees to advocate for your company?

The short answer? The right employees are the best brand ambassadors, providing the kind of awareness, credibility and endorsement for your company or brand that can’t be bought. Consider the following:

  • Increased reach: Employees can reach patients in their social graph who might not be considering your brand – and might never seek out your website or social channels. Employees’ social media posts reach 561 percent further and are re-shared 24 times more than the same posts shared by a company’s social and owned channels.
  • Authenticity and credibility: Today’s health consumers shop for healthcare services the way they shop for other expensive purchases. Regardless of how healthcare evolves under the new Presidential administration, consumers will continue to have a lot more choice in who provides their healthcare. They are researching healthcare the way they do other services – seeking information online and soliciting the opinions of others. Half of all consumer buying decisions are influenced by word of mouth and according to one study, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know.
  • Engagement: Across all industries, consumers are increasingly less interested in what companies have to say, favoring instead the opinions of influencers and the people behind the brand. A study released last year by Altimeter Group found that 21 percent of consumers said they “liked” employee posts about companies — an engagement rate comparable to or better than other social advertising campaigns at a much lower cost.
  • Addressing risks upfront and providing clear guidance to employees considerably mitigates risk: The biggest question is how to manage risk. And it should be. Once management buys into an employee ambassador plan, your first step will be partnering with your legal and medical team to anticipate possible negative scenarios and developing guidance on how to handle each one. You will need to make sure, for example, that programs comply with FTC regulations by having employees include a hashtag in all posts to make it clear that they are employees. You also will want to develop clear direction on adhering to HIPAA guidelines.

Getting your employee ambassador program up and running will take some work. But once you create guidelines and identify and train employees, our hope is that you will find the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Reflecting on Tennis Injuries, Urgent Care and Thought Leadership

How Brand Spokespeople can Inspire Confidence in Urgent Care Centers

My ladies’ doubles tennis team had its final match of the summer last week, and it turns out that my opponent was one of the same opponents I had three summers ago when I broke my wrist during my first match of the season.

Fortunately, we were able to play two sets this time. After the second set, she asked me if I once was injured at the beginning of a match a few years ago. I confirmed that was me who had an epic wipeout running for a ball that June in 2016.

I remembered I had blogged about the brand battle I had that day, driving around with one arm trying to figure out which urgent care center to go to.

Well, it’s been two years since that blog was posted. As I was re-reading it, I kept thinking about how much SPRYTE could contribute to a multi-location urgent care brand.

That’s because we’re hyperlocal healthcare PR experts. We’ve had a blast and done a great job building the reputation of Holy Redeemer Health System’s single Pediatric UrgiCare Center. And, we deploy a favorite consumer public relations strategy that other urgent care brands should consider: the Brand Spokesperson.

One example of this is our work to leverage Dr. Avi Gurwitz – a pediatrician at Holy Redeemer and medical director of its Pediatric UrgiCare Center – as an expert resource for local print and broadcast journalists. His extensive pediatric experience has made him a great go-to expert for a variety of health-related stories, including a Q&A segment on KYW-AM about spring sports and concussion prevention.

Additionally, Dr. Gurwitz has provided tips for families traveling during vacation season in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and discussed cases he has seen in the UrgiCare Center to warn against trending risks like Lyme disease and the dangers of heavy backpacks.

So, what type of impression is made on Holy Redeemer’s potential pediatric patients when they see and hear knowledgeable, articulate and warm Dr. Gurwitz interviewed by broadcast and print healthcare journalists? We think it’s a very positive one that can make kids and their parents feel confident about the pediatric care they’ll receive from Dr. Gurwitz and his team.

While many people aren’t naturally-gifted spokespeople like Dr. Gurwitz, urgent care organizations should utilize this consumer marketing tactic as part of their integrated marketing strategies whenever possible. Large, brightly-lit signs and billboards don’t always build this type of confidence in your patient care team.

Volunteers Want to Know Their Time is Valued

Don’t Overlook a Simple Thank You

April is National Volunteer Month and this year SPRYTE had the opportunity to interview amazing volunteers and spend hours writing blogs about them for our clients.

The majority of generous souls we talked to volunteered as companions to seniors.  Their dedication and compassion are humbling.  And, the amount of time they contribute and that they actually have to contribute, is substantial.

Unknowing organizations are too often shocked to know that many wonderful volunteers resign because of their interactions with professional staff and other volunteers.

Taking Advantage of a Volunteer’s Generosity

My own Mom abruptly quit her volunteer job a few months ago with no notice.

She was making an incredible weekly contribution to a respite program for spouses at her continuing care retirement community.  For two hours once a week, she led afternoon activities for a small group of elderly women suffering from dementia. Their husbands would drop them off for five hours total, which included lunch.

After lunch is when the fun began.  My Mom put a lot of creativity and planning time in to the sessions and the feedback all around was stellar.  The participants were fully engaged and the stretched-thin staff social worker was thrilled.  She got a lot of positive feedback.

But one day she accompanied the group to a musical program in a different location on the campus and a staffer ordered her to take one of the participants to the Ladies room.  That one simple, inappropriate request was a trigger.  It crossed the line.  Without belaboring it, my Mom resigned from the program.  What a loss to the participants. Instead of being engaged in well thought out group cognitive activities, their time will be more custodial until a new resource is found.

My Dad is quitting his volunteer job at the continuing care retirement community too.  A retired PhD think tank economist, he has volunteered for the IRS at tax time for nearly 20 years.  He helps seniors file their tax returns.

Apparently, the foreman at his volunteer location is a miserable bully.  He barks out people’s last names and requires the volunteer to trot up to his throne when called.  My Dad finds it demeaning and distracting when he’s trying to complete as many returns as possible for the helpless seniors.

Tax Day Was His Last Day

Anyway, the week before last my Dad was in the community bank branch as was the IRS volunteer foreman.  The gentleman ignored my Dad, he didn’t say hello, there wasn’t any gesture of recognition.  My Dad stuck it out through Tax Day but now he’s quitting because the volunteer environment is so toxic and besides a horrible volunteer boss, no one has ever thanked him.

SPRYTE’s Operations Manager Steve Ehrlich, a prolific volunteer photographer, said “Volunteers need to be thanked.  Volunteers do not work for money. They work because they believe in the cause.”

Steve shoots loads of community and charitable events.  He reminisced, “I just recently photographed a major event. I delivered the finished photos very quickly (event was Sunday night, photos delivered late Monday night.)  I did not get a thank you reply to my email.  I did get recognition in the program and my photos were posted on Facebook with a credit, I just did not get a personal thank you.”

Steve summed it up, “Most volunteers want to know that their work is appreciated after they have completed it.”

This is a good time to remember how the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations in 2019:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Non profit organizations and other industries like hospice that engage volunteers must remember that volunteers are an important public.  Their experience can contribute greatly to an organization’s reputation in the marketplace.  Many volunteers who contribute their time also contribute money to the causes they love.  Do you agree?  Volunteers’ experiences must be as positive as possible.  Anything less has potential to reflect poorly upon the organization.

-Lisa Simon.

 

There’s Still Time to Make Changes for 2019

Take Stock. Break Bad Habits & Do Better

In 8 Bad Habits to Avoid in Healthcare Marketing this week’s guest blogger, Rob Rosenberg of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, warns “Avoid defaulting to old habits that weaken your position, both personally and professionally.”

Do you agree that the poor practices Rob advocates you change are often present in today’s health system marcom operations?

They reminded me of my first position in provider healthcare. My title was Public Affairs Staff Associate and I worked in the market’s dominant three hospital health system. I was one of three in the department. We had all the health system service lines divided among us. Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever present at a business discussion. But I did perfect my newsletter skills. –Lisa Simon

Click here to read the Guest Blog

 

Partnering Makes Healthcare PR Less Lonely

Collaborate to Share Work and Celebrate Success

Public relations can be a lonely function, especially when we bear the weight of delivering earned media for healthcare provider clients in major markets.  It requires high doses of adrenalin and drive, assuming your material is newsworthy on its own merit.

Recently at SPRYTE we’ve been enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare communicators because the physicians we support are themselves collaborating with innovative partners.

Our portfolio includes work for both independent doctors in private practice and non-profit hospitalists.

Relievus and NeuroFlow Advancing Management of Pain Patients

Dr. Young Lee, founding partner of Relievus, a multi-location pain management specialty medical practice, collaborated with local Philadelphia start up NeuroFlow to test a mobile software platform that patients check in with daily.  NeuroFlow gives providers daily insight into patients’ mental health – a key indicator for care plan adherence.

In mHealthIntelligence,  a mental health and telehealth online publication targeted to healthcare practitioners, Dr Lee said, “We used to document (a patient’s mental status), but we didn’t do anything about it. Now we’re paying attention to mental health and we’re realizing that pain is not just a physical issue. This is a physical and mental issue.”

Our clients at Relievus asked SPRYTE to work with NeuroFlow to help their experienced public relations consultant deliver earned media about their platform.  NeuroFlow needed real life examples of doctors using NeuroFlow in the field and Dr. Lee was an early adopter and an enthusiastic partner to NeuroFlow.

As can be imagined, our biggest challenge was finding time in Dr. Lee’s schedule for media interviews.  The opportunities had already been sourced by NeuroFlow and they were good ones.  We just had to step in and deliver the doctor.  So, in addition to the placement in mHealthIntelligence, Dr. Lee and Relievus’ use of NeuroFlow were also featured in the Camden Courier Post the daily newspaper serving the practice’s flagship headquarters location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Of course, doctors in private practice aren’t the only ones pursuing collaborations that positively impact patient care.

AirXpander®  Revolutionizes Patients’ Preparation for Reconstructive Breast Surgery.

Our longtime clients at Holy Redeemer Heath System asked us to support Chief of Surgery Dr. William Scarlett and his use of an innovative approach to preparing a patient for reconstructive breast surgery, the use of a new medical device, AirXpander®


In this case, SPRYTE’s collaboration was directly with the manufacturer, AeroFlow  The marketing team was delighted by the potential for consumer earned media and available and helpful every step of the way.

First, they confirmed Dr. Scarlett was the first and only physician using AirXpander® in the greater Philadelphia market.  And we needed that confirmation to make the claim.

We were also supplied with great imagery and solid explanations of the product to expand what Dr. Scarlett shared with us.

But what Holy Redeemer delivered was key to the success of our consumer media outreach, a wonderful and satisfied patient spokesperson who was thrilled with Dr. Scarlett and her AirXpander experience.

Patient Miriam Dougherty’s willingness to be interviewed on camera with Dr. Scarlett was critical to SPRYTE’s delivery of a television feature segment on Philadelphia’s number one rated local network 6ABC 

So, in these two SPRYTE examples, public relations wasn’t so lonely.  In the case of Relievus, we saw another communications pro work his magic but he needed Dr. Lee to deliver a solid story to both consumer and trade media.  SPRYTE’s advocacy for Relievus and our expert coordination and facilitation skills led to two excellent earned media placements for both businesses.

With Holy Redeemer we secured the earned media opportunities and worked with the physician and patient spokespeople with the enthusiastic support of the device manufacturer.  

Most collaborators will tell you that communication among partners is critical to success and we agree.  Clearing up any blurred breakdowns of responsibility is job number one.  When they work, collaborations are truly a beautiful thing.  Pursuing client goals with other healthcare communicators and delivering results together is energizing and those earned media placements are a great way to stoke doctors’ continued interest in earned media, highlighting their successful approaches to patient care in the most credible way while building the brands of their healthcare provider organizations.

Creating a Winning Awards Strategy

Help Your Professionals Stand Out from the Crowd in Awards Competitions

With the 98th rendition of the Miss America Pageant, the country’s oldest and most renowned individual talent/interview competition squarely in the minds of fans across the nation, it would seem a fitting time to consider what lessons might be drawn to help position your healthcare organization’s candidates for success in regional business and community awards competitions.

Why Enter Awards Programs?

Business or community recognition programs are more than just beauty or popularity contests. They are an opportunity to showcase your best people or the most positive attributes of your organization.

The payoff should be obvious. The individuals chosen to represent your organization will be honored that they are held in such high esteem. And the positive contributions that they have made will reflect well on your organization as well as their own professional reputations.

Presented in the public eye, their nominations – and the positive stories that support those nominations (it’s all about story!) can help distinguish your organization in the eyes of consumers and the general public and burnish your brand as a friend of the local community.

Getting Started

One of the first things you will want to do is take an inventory of the potential “recognition awards” to consider shooting for. As noted, regional business media are frequent sponsors of such programs. (They help attract advertising dollars and interest in the stories that emanate from the programs, while also opening avenues for future sponsorships, story ideas and business contacts.)

Naturally, it will be necessary to review and assess how closely the individual recognition award opportunities correspond to your oroganization’s interests and strategic goals.

Some of the categories that we’ve helped clients pursue include:

And many more….

Doing Your Homework

After you’ve made your selections as to which awards programs to target, you will want to pay close attention to the specific requirements and information that the sponsor will be using to choose from among nominees.

For example, if you’re nominating an individual for a specific award, there may be an area requesting details about their participation in charitable or community activities. Even if your nominee is an outstanding professional in his or her line of work, a lack of a sufficient record of community involvement can doom the nomination.

(An old political saw holds true here – your candidate may look great from an existential perspective, but once they are up against an actual opponent, those original perspectives can be tossed out the window.)

Study the questions. Then look beyond them. Try to figure out why that specific information is being requested. Is there an apparent agenda underlying the questions that are being asked, or in the way they’re asked? Try to work out the puzzle, if it presents itself: This is what they’re asking, but what is it they’re really looking for?

What kind of story do they want to hear?

Research, Interview, Repeat

If you’re nominating an individual for a recognition award, you will want to take the time to interview them so that you can garner the information you need to fill out the nomination form. Get the facts. But not just the facts. Try to discover what motivates them to do what they do. See if you can create a personal story to supplement and animate the basic facts that are being requested. What drives them? What makes them unique? Why are they so good at what they do?

You might also interview people they work with, as well as patients, if appropriate (be careful about divulging inappropriate patient data, however). It’s not unlike writing a movie or TV script. The goal isn’t just to tell your audience why your nominee is a remarkable person. You should try to show them by showcasing the actions, motiviations and relationships that encourage them to excel.

The same idea holds true if you are describing, for example, why your organization should be considered among the “fastest growing” in your region. The numbers, of course, will be crucial. You will need to check with your accounting or financial experts in order verify quarterly or year-over-year results, for example. But again, the story of why the organization was able to grow so fast is likely to be key.

What is it about the CEO/President’s background and vision that made success possible? Is there something in their personal biography that set them on this path to success? What kind of goals have they set? What’s his or her secret sauce?

It’s All About the Story

It can be easy to look at business and community awards/recognition programs as being dry, data-driven, form-based efforts.

They can seem very mechanical. But in reality, they serve as opportunities to build your success stories – either that of the organization itself, or the stories of the gifted representatives who are part of your team.

Even if you don’t win, you’ll still have stories to share with your supporters in the community and in your healthcare organization – and, of course, in the larger world of social media.

If done well, in the long run, your organization and your nominees are sure to come out winners – no matter where they end up in the final award standings.

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.

Find out more about SPRYTE’s Public Affairs and Reputation Management services.