Become Part of the Information Stream
Sink or swim. With what is now a 24/7 news cycle information streams along at a dizzying pace. Consider a story about a politician issuing a call for a new gas tax for those who drive SUVs: take any story at any given time and you will see not just two sides to it, but a multitude of angles attaching themselves to that story like barnacles on a boat. Well, scrape away enough of it and you will get to the meat of the information. But those barnacles, those myriad angles and opinions? Don’t forget about them. They offer varied views from every sector of society, every demographic. That information is important for politicians, but especially for businesses trying to stay afloat in the marketplace.
Post or… perish?
Businesses, large and small, must also keep a close eye on that fast-flowing stream of information – the meat of that information, and the barnacles I mentioned above. Many small businesses just starting out must use Social Media if they are ever going to get a foothold in their respective niches. They must use the fascinatingly integrated multimedia platforms available to them to inform potential consumers about their products and ideas. They must also keep a close eye on those platforms, Twitter and Facebook chief among them, to see what those rather fickle consumers have to say about those products and ideas. It takes time and energy… oooh, does it ever! But there are big payoffs to posting regularly on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. First among them is recognition. You know the old adage about the tree falling in a forest? You get the picture.
Another payoff is credibility. Machiavelli let us know what he thought about big numbers (psst… power). Well, you gain credibility when you gather a high number of people who “Like” your page or who follow you on Twitter. But you can only get those big numbers of admirers if you post, and post regularly. You must get into that stream of information and not only soak it in… but also share in it. Information is power… and the more you have of it the more you learn, the more you can grow and the better you can adapt to the ever-changing environment around you.
No one wants to sink… no business wants to perish. So, swim with the tide that Social Media delivers, and you have a fighting chance to build your business in meaningful ways.
Article first published as Online Video and Social Media: Help Consumers Make Better Decisions on Technorati.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,…”
As first lines of novels go, that one from “A Tale of Two Cities” is probably the finest in literature. That Charles Dickens gem also helps make my point about how effective video can be for companies trying to improve messaging about their products and services.
Indeed, lets start with the Two Cities as a metaphor for the primary types of material found on the Web – print and video. As I’ve previously written, the Internet was, and to a large extent, still is, a text-driven encyclopedia of information. Though companies were slow to adopt video as a tool for branding, for selling, for information – many now “get it.”
I am fortunate to be on the leading edge of the corporate use of video and interactive sites. I’ve traveled around the country producing videos for hospitals and medical device companies which sought to accomplish several goals.
For hospitals, I broadcast interactive live and on-demand leading-edge surgeries; heart, knee, hip, eye and back surgeries were among those we marketed to both consumers and doctors.
Those hospitals sought to increase the number of people who made use of its services. That was paramount, of course. However, we also helped client hospitals expand their foot-print to areas outside their traditional areas of influence. Non-profits also should pay particular attention to this model: it’s cost-effective and the ROI potential is high.
My clients now saw patients who had crossed county and state lines to have the surgery we presented so well online. The videos not only showed the surgery with fine, closeup images, but also gave viewers a sense of the institution itself – its professionalism, its continuum of care, its excellent doctors. At their core those videos helped people make better decisions about their healthcare.
While these hospitals rightly maintained their well laid out print-based marketing strategies, they accomplished quantifiable returns on investment with video tied to social media platforms that could not have been achieved through newspaper ads and billboards.
While the videos I have talked about were marketed over a 90-day timeline, then archived online, educational videos as marketing tools can be produced and posted quickly and cost effectively.
Unlike the printed word they can have a greater impact on decision-making, whether that decision-maker is a consumer or corporate client or company employee. As with the videos I mentioned above, these can be a multi-prong value… showcase the product, showcase your excellence, showcase your institution, and, finally, help people make better decisions. Hopefully, they decide to go with your product or service. You have a much better chance with video.
Article first published as Social Media: Go Wide, Go Long on Technorati.
Nothing Local About Social Media Trend Analysis
Social Media is trendy. It’s fashionable. It’s fascinating. Why else would so many people be so anxious to join the digital community that literally has no fences? There are just wide open highways of thought that ebb and flow without interruption. Certainly without any literary traffic cops.
It is for those reasons that businesses, large and small, are taking part in social media. Those highways of thought offer incredibly valuable bits of information about what people are thinking – all manner of topics!
Fashion, food, education, health – some mundane, such as Charlie Sheen’s self-immolation, others, provocative, like the Mideast uprisings. The information is valuable as businesses seek ways to improve message, brand and services. And they’re spending the money to find out!
I bring this up because of a conversation I had recently with the marketing and communications director of a large non-profit. He considered hiring a social media monitoring company so that he might get a better understanding of the “conversation” surrounding his industry.
After going through a presentation of the monitoring platform he had an objection: the company does not, currently, winnow down analysis to his specific region, a seven-county wide area in the Northeast. Instead, the company offers a read of how people are thinking about this non-profit’s services well beyond its area of influence – country-wide. I believe his objection holds no water.
Consider the following: Cost alone is not a factor as getting country-wide metrics is no less cost-effective than a narrow focus on a particular region. More importantly, such analysis only enhances the marketing director’s ability to understand thought-trends as they pertain to his industry. And, just as importantly, neither the people in his company’s area of influence, nor his organization lead the discussion about his industry, at least for now.
Thus, the reason to cast the net wide for a better understanding of how people think. In the end, such an understanding can truly enhance efforts to improve brand, and the bottom line, quickly and decisively. Narrowing down the focus of social media monitoring tools can only leave one with a narrow view of that wide-open digital highway.
South Glens Falls High School has ended its 34th annual dance marathon tonight with a record breaking fundraising effort. $326,213.58! Congratulations to the dancers! The money goes to needy individuals, families and organizations.
Article first published as Hospital Marketing: A Surgical Approach on Technorati.
A Way to Drive Surgical Volume to Key Service Lines
Hospitals are in trouble. In a recent posting on the American Hospital Association blog titled A fresh look an[sic] old problem: cutting costs, the author wrote, “with the pressures of an economic decline and changing reimbursement policies, hospital leaders have been increasingly challenged to find sustainable ways to cut costs.”
No doubt about it, hospitals are looking at decreased federal funding, rising costs and a smaller patient population. The poor economy has forced patients, with limited financial resources, to delay needed procedures until they can pay the rent or put food on the table. While it is necessary for hospital CEO’s to look long and hard at cutting costs, I believe they should look just as long and hard at cost effective ways to drive surgical volume to key service lines. There are smart, efficient ways to accomplish that goal.
Forest for the Trees
Generally, hospital marketing efforts are focused on the “big-picture:” best doctors, best nurses, best services, best safety records. Billboards, print ads, radio ads, television ads – they all do a good job in getting that message out to the masses.
Newspapers, at least until recently, got the biggest share of advertising revenue in the country. Almost 22% of all ad dollars go to newspapers. Over 85% of that money is spent by local advertisers. But, after a while, all the ads look alike. Let’s go another way – zero in on specific patient populations by using a coordinated, internet-based, video-driven marketing strategy designed to grab the attention of specific patients and lead them to your key service line. Here’s a brief look at how this can be accomplished:
- Pick a service that defines your hospital’s excellence, say robotic surgery. Generally, webcasts feature profitable service lines in which capacity exists and where a system for receiving orders is in place;
- Videotape the procedure – keep in mind the higher the quality, the better visuals – two cameras, and a feed of the endoscope, help. This video will later be edited as a cohesive program with moderator, surgeon and, perhaps, patients. Small bits of the video should also be used to produce a promotional piece;
- Interview patients who have undergone the surgery. Talk about the decision to have the surgery at your hospital, the risks, the benefits, etc.;
- Start a 90-day marketing timeline to promote the “event,” a live or on-demand presentation of a your leading-edge surgery, with emphasis on Internet-driven messaging, coupled, of course, with SEM strategy. The most successful webcasts, in terms of participation and ROI, have been those promoted through a carefully orchestrated marketing and promotions plan consisting of both online and offline vehicles;
- Create the platform for which the program will be viewed on the day of its premiere and, later, in archive.
The payoffs can be extraordinary. My clients were among the first to use the Internet to create buzz around a particular surgery. In one instance a medical device client saw a 500% increase in sales of a product which had flat-lined before the webcast. In another instance a doctor who had been doing a handful of a particular surgery a year saw his number of cases sky-rocket. These webcasts were also interactive - viewers could ask doctors questions and get answers in real time. And through the website’s call-to-action buttons people were able to make appointments and ask for information about the hospital and its doctors. In most cases, in promoting a single service, hospitals were able to get the big-picture message out there – we’re the place to go for all your medical needs.
Under a new law in New York, physicians and nurse practitioners may now counsel terminally-ill patients about end-of-life options available to them. Such doctor-patient discussions would include the patient’s prognosis and the risks and benefits of the available options, including measures to relieve pain.
Research shows that the majority of patients in the advanced stages of a terminal illness and their family members want a great deal of information about their prognosis and choices. Decisions should be revisited as life-altering illnesses progress.
The biggest mistake people make is waiting far too long before receiving hospice care. Many people realize its value, but they fail to recognize it may be appropriate right now, not sometime later. Susan Sisti, an Intake Coordinator for The Community Hospice, says maintaining a patient’s quality-of-life is a key part of hospice care. “We want people to be able to maintain as much of their lifestyle as they can and that’s why we really like to get people onto our program early so that we can maintain that quality. We can keep pain under control, we can keep the nausea under control so that they can go out and go to the track or they can go out to dinner with their family. We don’t want them just to be in bed.”
The Community Hospice offers medical equipment, nurses, home health aides, counseling, and much more, and all of it covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Because hospice services have proven so successful in helping both patients and families, Medicare and Medicaid cover all of the basic Hospice services so patients don’t have to pay any out-of-pocket costs.
The Community Hospice is able to provide services to patients and families for several months, not just for the final hours or days. Sadly, though, about half of our patients use its services for two weeks or less.
Quality of Life, Not End of Life
The Holyoke Enterprise, a Colorado paper, printed a wonderful piece about how hospice care gives patients more control of their lives. It is filled with good information about hospice care which I believe goes a long way toward reframing the discussion surrounding end-of-life issues. Here it is…
Hospice allows more control with less distress
When one is living with a fatal illness, often his/her fear or pain is increased by lack of control of the situation as one is re-examined, tested and treated as the end grows near. Hospice care, however, gives one much control over one’s final months through its aggressive pain and symptom management, as well as supporting both the dying person and his/her family to enable them to face what is to come.
It is little wonder that hospice has become increasingly popular as an option for people living with a terminal illness. Hospice does not attempt to prolong life, nor does it hasten death, but rather works with the individual and his/her family to improve the quality of one’s life.
Most people would rather die in their home or place or residence supported by loving family and other caregivers rather than in a sterile, high-tech hospital environment. Additionally, hospice is a more cost-effective way in which to care for one who is terminally ill. In 2008, nearly two of every five people who died in the United States were receiving hospice care at the time of their death. As the knowledge of hospice increases, so do the referrals and admissions.
Approximately 1.5 million people were served by hospice in 2010. Hospice care focuses on comfort rather than cure when one’s illness is not curable. It is often recommended for people who have fewer than six months to live. Care is provided wherever a person resides, including their home, an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, or in a nursing home.
On occasion, hospice is provided in a hospital. Hospice care benefits are available under Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance plans. One’s hospice team develops a plan of care to reduce pain and symptoms. The team also assists by:
—offering support to the individual and family to enable them to endure the emotional and spiritual aspects of dying.
—providing necessary medications, equipment and supplies.
—teaching family members how to care for their loved one.
—being available to answer a question or make a visit when pain or symptoms arise.
—supporting the grieving family for one year after their loss.
Hospice continues to attempt to overcome many myths and ill-conceived ideas, such as the myth that by choosing hospice, one is “giving up.” Rather, it is a choice to regain control over what one wants or needs with the knowledge that the Hospice of the Plains team will do everything possible to enhance the quality of one’s life as defined by him/her. Some individuals actually become medically stable to the point that they no longer meet the criteria of six months or less to live if the disease continues at its present course and are discharged or “graduate from hospice.”
Of course, individuals may also end their hospice services should they decide to pursue curative treatment. Unfortunately, Hospice of the Plains delays end-of-life discussions with the family because the subject is painful. Oncologists also delay the conversations with their patients, as shown by a recent survey that stated that 65 percent said they would discuss the fact that one had only four to six months to live even though he/she was still feeling well, but only 25 perent of oncologists would broach the subject of hospice with that patient.
Based upon the Hospice of the Plains Family Satisfaction Surveys received, a frequently made comment is the family regrets not seeking hospice’s services sooner. Don’t hesitate to call for information regarding the services Hospice of the Plains provides, including community bereavement groups and understanding advance directives.
The Role of Twitter and Facebook in Revolution
The sight of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in a square rising up against their autocratic leader is riveting. But the role Twitter and Facebook played in creating the throngs of protesters early on has been repeatedly overstated, as Frank Rich explains in his Sunday column. To summarize, the early reporting on the surprising revolt failed, to some degree, to frame the story within proper context – this was not a riotous mass of people spurred along by tweets and posts, but, rather, it is the result of years of oppressive rule, a poor economy and high unemployment (we have 9 percent unemployment here – In Egypt, it’s 30 percent). Here’s Rich’s column: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/opinion/06rich.html
First Ever Aerial Footage of Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Released
New film footage released today shows uncontacted Indians on the Brazil-Peru border in never-seen-before detail. It is the first-ever aerial footage of an uncontacted community.
Study Cannot Explain the Difference in Pay
Bias? Prejudice? Sexism? Female physicians just starting out make thousands of dollars less than their male counterparts. Not in just one field of medicine, but across the board. The study published in the February issue of the journal Health Affairs raises many concerns, but is there any viable explanation? Here are some details of the study: http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649591.html
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