Posts Tagged ‘healthcare


5 Ways to Get the Media to Pick Up Your Story – Part 1 of 3

Please welcome guest blogger, healthcare communications professional Rachel Brand who will bring The Side Note a series of three blogs for the next three weeks on health care public relations.

Do you want to write more compelling press releases and earn more coverage?

You should. Health care is ripe with dramatic medical rescues, fascinating technology, unsung heroes and stirring ethical debates. But these stories often don’t get told. That’s because pr pros are writing leads like this:


The new health insurance plan, authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is designed to provide coverage to uninsured individuals who have been denied health insurance or been offered only unaffordable options.

Sure, it’s important. But is it interesting? And – will it drive coverage?

1. Lead with the impact

For your next lede, ask yourself out loud, “what does it mean to the man in the green pick-up truck?” You can see him, across the park under the tree, sitting in his rusty forest green truck.

In other words, how does your news benefit, effect or change the lives of real people?

How about:

Thousands of uninsured Americans, desperate for healthcare coverage because they are chronically ill, can now see a doctor thanks to a new federally funded health insurance plan.

But what if your program doesn’t have any direct impact on people, at least not yet? Then…

2. Lead with people

Whether you are promoting a walk to fight cancer, a rally for homelessness, or the appointment of new CEO of your hospital, find a person and tell his or her story. Better, yet, tell the story of an important person in an unusual way.

Typical CEO appointment releases have headlines/first paragraphs like this:


(Anytown, USA) Lawrence Leader, currently the COO of St. Elizabeth’s Regional Hospital, has been appointed CEO of the hospital. He takes over as current CEO Marcy Mercy retires after a long and distinguished career.

But what if you took a half hour to find out Larry’s story?

The results might be:


(Anytown, USA) Larry Leader’s mother, a first-grade schoolteacher in Moline, IL, used to count out coins from her wallet each Saturday morning before grocery shopping. Rarely was there extra to buy candy.

Poor but strong-willed Florence Leader pushed her children to go to college. Larry, the youngest of five, enrolled as an Army medic to pay for it. …

The moral of the story? Writing a compelling press release that leads with the impact or leads with people is a better way to get the media to notice your press release.

(Continued next week)

Rachel Brand is a healthcare communications professional who can teach writing over brown bag lunches at your company. Contact her at rachel (at)


Health Care Marketing: Taking the Social Media Hippocratic Oath

Three key tips for physician-based social media

All physicians have a stake in their public perception; overlooking or minimizing the impact of social media in maintaining that presence is a recipe for disaster. With HIPAA regulations to consider, physicians are in a unique situation regarding their online persona. Here are a few tips designed to help physicians maintain a professional online presence and preserve the integrity of their relationship with patients. These tips are consistent with the American Medical Association social media policy released in November that highlight some of the things physicians should consider when focusing on their online presence.

Regularly monitor privacy settingsFacebook recently came under extreme scrutiny for unleashing face recognition software that provides identity suggestions for tagging people in photographs. A Los Angeles Times story describes the concerns which are part privacy and part the decision of Facebook to release the facial-recognition feature as an ‘opt-out’ feature. Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey, co-chairman of the Congressional Privacy Caucus expressed his frustration, “Requiring users to disable this feature after they’ve already been included by Facebook is no substitute for an opt-in process.”  The only way to disable the feature is to update privacy settings.

Positioning information from a qualified source – The public needs information from the health care community. Providing information from a trusted, qualified health care professional will balance the misinformation gathered from outside sources including the Internet. The best way to do that is to be informative about medical conditions, research, and treatment options in general terms. It is much better to say ‘Adults with the ____ syndrome typically display ____ symptoms, ’ than it is to say, ‘I saw a patient today with _____ syndrome and he/she displayed ____symptoms.’ Even inadvertent disclosure of patient’s health information can be a violation of HIPAA.

Maintain separate personal and professional social media accounts – This tactic has the benefit of allowing for more candor in a personal account and information sharing that is more relevant to that specific account. The professional account will have more work-related messages, inquiries and information. One of the challenges is managing multiple accounts. The solution is to use a social media tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite. Just be sure you know which account you are using to send information at all times.

Most importantly, recognize that online actions and posted content can negatively affect physicians’ reputations and may have career consequences.

Tell us if you’ve implemented policies to guide physicians in their online reputation. Share your thoughts with us on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow us on Twitter at @Weise_Ideas.


Groupon Role in Health Care Marketing

Social media is a growing resource for health care information, in a story from Seattle’s NBC affiliate KING, the National Research Corporation claims 20 percent of Americans use social media as a health resource and 25 percent say the information obtained through social media will likely influence health care decisions.

It should come as no surprise that health care organizations are leveraging this trend by turning to Groupon. Organizations are intrigued by the opportunity to attract new patients with no or little insurance for specialty services. However, providing services at such a deep discount means that high levels of customer service and booking return visits are critical.

“Groupon has offered a growing number of deals for eye exams, teeth-cleaning and whitening, electrolysis and chiropractic services. Approximately 15 percent of Groupon deals nationwide are for health care services,” says Julie Anne Mossler, a company spokeswoman. A question that health care marketers must answer: If you attract new business, but end up reaching many uninsured people who appreciate affordable services, how many will end up being loyal full-paying customers?

Below is a selection of recent Groupon deals:

  • Washington, DC Deal: $59 for an Eyeglass Exam and $225 Worth of Prescription Eyeglasses with Lenses at MyEyeDr. ($310 Value)
  • Jacksonville, FL Deal: $99 for a Chemical Peel at Posh Plastic Surgery ($300 Value)
  • San Antonio, TX Deal: $150 for a Consultation, 20 Units of Botox, and a Follow-Up at San Antonio Plastic Surgery Center ($350 Value)
  • Vancouver, WA Deal: $2,100 for Lasik surgery provided by Clearly Lasik ($4,200 Value)

For health care marketers, it appears that elective services are the most popular Groupons. We have not seen Groupons for internal medicine, invasive procedures or more consultative medical issues. A possible gateway could be a Groupon for an array of health care screenings. In the current economic environment, people are looking for a deal and they are looking for that deal online.

Tell us if you think Groupons will become a successful health care marketing tactic or if it’s just for a small group of elective services. Share your ideas with us on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow @Weise_Ideas on Twitter.



Size Does Matter, it’s Not Just About Quality

It’s a recurring debate in health care social media: Which do you prefer quality or quantity?

There are two health care marketing blogs that I routinely enjoy reading, Health is Social and The Healthcare Marketer.  Both recently weighed in on the topic.

Your Hospital Doesn’t Have to Be Internet Famous

Community Engagement Tops Internet Popularity

Both make great points, Phil Baumann (Health is Social) states, “very few hospitals will hit it ‘big’ in social media.” His recommendation is to use social media for market research. Dan Dunlop (The Healthcare Marketer) agrees with Phil and adds, “don’t worry about how many individuals are checking out your site, be more concerned with how you are giving back to your community.”

While both points of view are valid, and speak to engagement, which is a crucial element to social media, both blogs tend to support quality being more important than quantity. I think the underlying assumption in favor of “quality over quantity” is that they are mutually exclusive – more followers/fans/likes means lower quality. I don’t believe quality and quantity are mutually exclusive. The focus for health care organizations should be to engage more people in a more meaningful way.

Assuming the quality of engagement is the same, the chance of success is improved by reaching as many people as possible within budget constraints. Understanding that “few hospitals will hit it ‘big’ in social media”, what health care marketer is willing to gamble limited resources on creating and executing the perfect plan without a safety net?

Also, there is an element of any social media campaign out of the health care marketers control and it is critical in order to demonstrate business goals were met by reaching a smaller audience. Conversion rates must be very high to justify abandoning a program that has 10 or 20 times the reach.

This is not an indictment of target marketing, for some organizations engaging five to seven influencers is more valuable than reaching thousands of prospective customers. It is a plea to adopt a balanced and aggressive approach – engage more people in a more meaningful way.

Let us know if you take a quality over quantity approach for your social media efforts. Share your thoughts with us on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow @Weise_Ideas on Twitter.



Making your health care practice social is all about being creative

There will always be a steady demand for health care. But for a number of hospitals, urgent care units and independent physicians, finding ways to make your facility stand apart from competitors’ practices is difficult. As with any business, finding avenues to make your establishment more appealing to its customer base will aid in growth, development and potential notoriety for services rendered.

Not every clinic or care facility is the same. Finding ways to emphasize your clinics advantages and spread the word, is an important step toward optimizing your patient base. Doing so by way of social networking may prove to be very successful.

The first step in doing this is to understand what your clients care about most. Are they interested in safety? Outcomes? Having a personal connection with their physician? Use of EMRs? Location? Reputation of facility? These are all things to take into consideration when maintaining and reaching new patients. Once there is a clear understanding of what your current and future patients are looking for, the next step is to successfully reach them.

Social networking is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to reach a target audience, brand your establishment and promote a healthy expansion. As noted by The Society for Healthcare Strategy & Marketing Development, there are a number of concepts that may improve marketing for your hospital, clinic or care facility. Take advantage of the “find –a-doctor directories” where you are able to post information pertaining to your facility and/or individual physicians. These portals such as WebMD are searched daily by potential clients in your area. Yet another effective method is through mobile marketing. Begin offering new services such as text message confirmation of appointments. Mobile devices offer highly direct and efficient messaging. Finding new ways to utilize these tools will set your practice apart.

Such networks as Facebook and Twitter allow your business to potentially reach millions of people. Facebook alone has more than 500 million active users. Imagine the impact it will have if you are able to reach even a fraction of these active users who are perfect prospective patients for your practice.

Social networks bridge people together and allow businesses to connect with and update their current and future customers. Take advantage of these social marketing tools and find how they can fit into your marketing strategy. Start a page that showcases awards, links to positive reports, discount services and community involvement to positively impact your practice.

Methodist University Hospital uses its YouTube page to promote the hospital to prospective patients, even posting a video webcast of an awake craniotomy. “The goal is to further our reputation as well as to educate the community, who will ask their physicians about our care,” said Jill Fazakerly, Methodist’s marketing director in a New York Times article.

Another example is the Children’s Hosiptal of Philadelphia whose Facebook page has 19,000 plus likes. Not too shabby.

What original ideas is your practice using to reach potential patients?

For more tips and information on utilizing social networking to benefit your health practice call Weise Communications at 303-996-9940, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.





Friending Patients: The Tight Rope of Social Media for Health Care Professionals

As social media continues to grow and be a key tool for business, it has become extremely important for health care professionals as well. What started as experimentation is now a strategy a to enhance brand loyalty, recruit new patients and share information. According to Healthcare Association of New York, there are more than 730 hospitals in the U.S. that have an active social media site. As health care companies are adopting these trends so are doctors. They are using social media to help benefit patients, which also helps their business.

More than 84 percent of physicians engage online as a part of their clinical workflow. A 2009 MD search survey found that 72 percent of physicians are members of at least one social networking site. Facebook was the big winner among physicians, with 67 percent of survey respondents reporting to have a Facebook profile.  As physicians join these sites, they may not understand all of the rules and general guidelines, which can cause a physician to friend inappropriate people, like patients, on their personal account. Social media can be a great tool for physicians but it can also cause issues. The main concern with social networking and patient-physician interactions boils down to confidentiality, security and boundaries.  Two huge issues are, controlling one’s own privacy and the use of the word “friend.” Here are some tips to keep social networking pages confidential and safe:

  1. Set up a separate profile, user account or page for your professional online presence.
  2. Pay attention to privacy settings on both personal and professional pages. Only friends who you accept should have access to your personal page to prevent patients from being privy to your personal life.
  3. Do not accept patients as friends on your personal profile unless you see them socially in the real world and consider them “real-world friends.”
  4. Use your practice social networking site to guide patients to reliable and accurate health information, not your own personal page.
  5. Display reminders to patients not to post personal health information or send urgent medical inquiries through the social networking site.

Currently there are no national guidelines for social media use by physicians and, as confidentiality and boundary issues are difficult, controlling one’s own privacy may not be easy for physicians. Most of these issues can be taken care of by following simple steps. Physicians should always keep a professional relationship with their patients and use their physician social networking sites only for physician purposes only.

If you’ve implemented social media guidelines at your health care organization, we’d love to hear about it. Send us a comment on The Side Note.


You Want to Put Your Mouth On My What? Communication Principles in Practice at Your Hospital.

At the Side Note Blog we can’t really let a nipple sucking doctor get by without comment, now can we?

The story is rather offensive. A 20-year-old woman went to the doctor for a breast exam because of fluid seeping from her breast. The male doctor decided to “diagnose” the fluid seepage by obtaining permission to suck  her breast. Yes, he sucked on her breast. Unfortunately the Finnish court let the doctor off of sexual solicitation charges brought by the patient because the doctor  asked and obtained permission from the patient to suck on her breast.

Are you kidding me?

What was the patient supposed to say?

I am sure her “permission” sounded something like “uh… uh huh?”

I never went to medical school, but even I can come up with numerous ways of extracting a bodily fluid for testing that does not include anything unhygienic or overtly sexual.

I think it’s time to send med students and physicians back to school for additional communication courses. We are taught from a very young age to trust physicians. To do what they tell us to do. When they prescribe a medicine, we take it. When they order a test, we get it. A 20-year-old women worried about her health, seeking the advice of a physician, probably didn’t know HOW to respond to the physician’s offensive request.

I have had the pleasure to work with many wonderful physicians over the years. They all know that they leverage power over their patients. The good ones don’t abuse that power. The good physicians embrace this power and use it to inspire hope, increase confidence and decrease fear.

What are your physicians saying to their patients? How does their power of persuasion impact the healthcare provided by your institution? And what communication training do you use to ensure there is no offensive behavior at your organization? Tell us your stories here.

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