As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Lee Aase, manager of Syndication and Social Media for Mayo Clinic, as this month’s participant.

Here’s what Lee has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…

Are trustworthy and transparent with key stakeholders, whether they be employees or customers or patients. In this regard, social media will be a force for good because it enables open communication. When organizations don’t treat people well, word will get around even faster than in the past. In the broadcast era, companies could buy gross tonnage of advertising to try to buy a consumer perception, and if they managed media relations skillfully they could pitch positive stories about their organizations to journalists.

There’s still some place for that in the conversational era, but it will be decreasingly effective.

On the positive side, if organizations provide a fantastic, remarkable experience to most customers, social media will enable that word to spread more quickly, too.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?

Social media enable Mayo Clinic to provide in-depth information to patients and consumers, with little production cost and virtually no distribution cost. We can talk in depth about relatively obscure medical conditions, for example, without worrying about turning off the mass audience. The new market has now been called “a mass of niches” and through social media tools we can provide the specialized information people crave, particularly when they’re facing a major medical issue.

We also are much more able to listen, both internally to employees and externally to patients and consumers, and to have discussions with them. This gives us great opportunities to learn and improve.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?

We’re pretty well along the road to participation, so now we’re into the phase of seeing how we can incorporate social media into everything we do, and making all of our communications more conversational. It’s really an exciting time now. Early on, we had some understandable organizational trepidation about these tools, but as we understood that social media are just the way word of mouth happens in the 21st century, and that word of mouth has been the most important factor in building Mayo Clinic’s reputation for more than 100 years, we knew we needed to engage. And as we have had positive feedback we’ve been able to extend our social media presence even further.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?

Don’t let strategy become an excuse for inaction. Often organizations wait to become involved in social media until they have thought through every imaginable scenario, and that’s fine, to a point. But too frequently they go way beyond due diligence to a social media form of hypochondria or paranoia.

Realize that if your organization is worth talking about, people are already discussing you online, so it would behoove you to join the conversation. And if you’re not being discussed online, that’s actually worse: it means you’re irrelevant, not worth talking about. That’s all the more reason to get engaged.

Social media are just another way of communicating, and are cheaper and more cost-effective than traditional means. In a twist on the defense department supercomputer’s line in the Matthew Broderick movie, “War Games,” I would say the only way to lose is not to play. It’s great to think about strategy in using social media, just as it’s appropriate to have a strategy for use of the telephone. For example, you may ask whether you will have a voice mail system or whether every call will be answered by a real person, or whether you will have a toll-free number for incoming calls. But it would be extremely odd for a company to decide it wasn’t going to install phones until it had its complete strategy decided.

So by all means, give a little thought to creating a potential growth path for social media in your organization, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The sales trainer Zig Ziglar used to say that if you wait until all the lights are on green before you leave the house, you’ll never get out of the driveway. If you spend any money to communicate with employees or customers, why wouldn’t you take advantage of free tools that help you do it better?

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So you feel like the wind might finally be at your back (at least a few days out of the week). Your CFO is easing off the brake pedal. Competitors and customers are showing signs of life. The Board is once again focused on top-line growth rather than cost savings.

It’s time to restart your brand engines. Here are 10 tips for how to proceed:

1. Revisit your customer. Listen unbiasedly to understand their pain points, priorities, practices and unmet needs. Spend time walking in their shoes. Don’t be you being them. Become them.

2. Sharpen your story. Use these insights to help determine where and how you most meaningfully improve customers lives; and do it differently from others? What do you (ultimately) help them achieve that others can’t; or aren’t?

3. Be ambitious (this is actually part b of number 2 above). Beyond where you are today, what can you be in the future? If status quo wasn’t an option (it’s not for customers), what would you want to achieve?

4. Get the juices flowing inside. Brand-building really does start inside the company. If employees are educated, if they’re believers, if they’re inspired, can walk the talk, and do it consistently, customers will come along for the ride (and bring their friends).

5. Deeds versus words. Brands used to be built through imagery and messaging. But those days are just about over. Today’s power brands are involving and dynamic, deliver great customer experiences, are mechanisms for connections and community and for more meaningfully improving our lives.

6. Co-create value. Harness the collective intelligence of audiences to create greater and new value for your customers and company; along the way, creating stronger relationships, greater advocacy and deeper loyalty.

7. Tag team. An inspiring and brand-engaged CEO, coupled with a talented, imaginative and respected CMO is a tough team to beat.

8. Deliver happiness. Happy customers are happy to spread your word. And with multiple channels at their disposal, they certainly will.

9. Extend apologies. If you screw up, admit it. Trying to hide behind it doesn’t make much sense, because you can’t.

10. Execute brilliantly. Success is in the details. Which means your whole brand house needs to be in order. Every facet of your brand expression – from behaviors, to communications, environments and products – must reflect and extend your story.

Any other tips to add to this list?

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Are you leveraging your opportunity to become one community of practice?

This video highlights the benefits of using collaborative tools to share best practices and expertise across the Rio Tinto group. According to Mark Bennett, principal advisor, a community of practice is a group of people who share a passion for something they know how to do, and who want to interact regularly to learn how to do that thing better.

These collaborative forums are changing the way the company works. People aren’t scared to ask questions. A lot of people are willing to give answers. The end result is a significant shift to become more interdependent. To being one Rio Tinto.

Sounds a lot like the opportunity we have through social media. And isn’t this its ultimate benefit? To create a community of practice. Community collaboration that creates greater value for both customers and companies. Extracting the knowledge, insights and imagination that we each possess, and unlocking it through collaboration.

I just came back from the e-patient connections conference last week. The power of this concept of communities of practice was reinforced through many important and powerful examples. Just a few of these included:

• Mayo Clinic’s Patient Stories, told by those who are honored to share their stories and who understand the power they have to help others
• Kerry Sparling, from, who said that for diabetes patients, finding emotional support online is everything
• Lisa Tate (CEO Womenheart) and Robert Schumm (Marketing Director Bayer Healthcare) who talked about their Facebook Strong@Heart initiative

So, how are you helping to create, for your customer and for  your company, your “community of practice.” Please share your story.

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Are audiences falling into your gravity?

Though I’m paraphrasing the lyrics of a great song by Sarah Bareilles, they’re a wonderfully appropriate question to ask of your marketing.

Though we tend to be pretty careless with our absolutes, there really never has been a more opportune time to engage customers with your gravity. Technology facilitates it. Trust (or lack thereof) compels it. Customers crave it, feed off of it and spread it. It’s simply the law of gravity at work.

So, what are you doing to attract or bring your customers back to you? What are you doing to take advantage of this “natural occurance”?  Here are some suggestions:

• understand what your customers care about and what unmet needs they have – by listening in on their natural conversations
• find new and better ways to engage them in ways they value and want – by understanding their level of involvement in social media channels
• allow conversations to go on around you – empowering people to connect through your brand, with content as the enabler
• co-create solutions by treating customers as collaborators rather than followers – ultimately creating value for both customers and your company
• consider the most important benefits you can provide to customers – helping them to do more, achieve more and add more value to their lives

Are you making gravity work for you?

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Most leaders agree that great execution, actually getting things done, is the key to success.

Here’s some hindsight (“presight” for you) from the world’s best project managers, complements of Lindsay Blakely from BNET. Her article, Lessons From The World’s Best Project Managers, provides the most important lesson managers working on change initiatives at GM, Nokia, Facebook and Method learned from launching projects with maximum success. But don’t limit yourself to thinking that these lessons only apply to game-changing initiatives. Because for much of the work that you do day in and day out, these lessons still ring true.

Summarizing each of the contributors:

• From Bill Wallace, engineering group manager for GM’s Volt battery: perfect is the enemy of the deadline.

• From Lisa Waits, Nokia director of corporate business development: know whose problem you’re solving by knowing your customer.

• From Josh Handy, head of industrial design at Method: make sure the right people are talking to each other.

• From Peter Deng, product manager at Facebook: is this additional feature really necessary?

Are there other important lessons that you’d add to this list?

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Thought I’d recap the highlights (at least mine) from the 10/26-27 e-Patient Connections 2009 Conference.

While all speakers provided new insights and perspectives, I’m summarizing (paraphrasing) the highlights from the speakers and presentations that particularly resonated with me:

Jason Hwang, MD (Innosight Institute, co-author Innovators Prescription); The Innovators Prescription
– we suffer from malpractice, but a different type, i.e. “business model”
– must understand difference between sustaining innovation (performance improvements, historical value dimensions) and disruptive innovation (that lets companies appeal to new rings of customers)
– enabled by technology, we have an opportunity to disrupt/move healthcare out to non-experts to let them do things themselves, e.g. facilitated user networks (like Facebook), a currently underutilized model to serve chronic care patients

Thomas Goetz, Executive Editor, Wired Magazine; Decision Tree: Smarter Patients, Better Choices
– proposes a new strategy for thinking about health, applying cutting-edge technology and sound science to put us at the center of the equation
– today, unfortunately, most healthcare information comes to us in cascades of do’s and dont’s

Dr. Jay Berhnardt, CDC; Social Media & The H1N1 Flu Pandemic

– H1N1 as example of why CDC’s engaged in social media as part of their strategy
– Customer Centered Communication Strategy: how, when, where people want and need to inform about health and safe decisions, i.e.
• information that is accessible and relevant
• mix of high repetition with deep engagement
• combination of high-tech and high-touch
• traditional/vertical media (though harder to have impact given lack of trust) combined with social media (horizontal and spreadable; higher level of trust)

– some interesting stats across CDC social media channels:
• approaching almost 500 million web site page views since H1N1 outbreak
• 5.07 million H1N1 flu-related emails sent, once consumers opt-in
• 19 videos posted on Youtube; 2.33 million views since 4/22
• 25, 322 Facebook fans since CDC page launched 5/1; value is in comments from people
• 917,579 views of CDC H1N1-related podcasts since 4/22
• 928, 412 followers on 3 CDC Twitter profiles
• CDC Health-e-cards (15,433 since 4/22)
• just launched mobile-based text messaging (1,155 opt-in subscribers since 9/14); subscribers receive about 3 messages/week

Susannah Fox, Pew Internet & American Life Project; The Social Life of Health Information
– people just diagnosed are looking for just-in-time “someone like me”
– patient networks can be powerful, early warning system
– marketers should think of e-patients as colleagues, not as people being marketing to (if you’re ready to listen to them)

Mark Bard, Manhattan Research; The Rapid Growth of Health Consumerism
– pharma info seekers have increased from 45 million in ’04 to 100 million in ’09
– majority of e-health consumers now use the internet to confirm/learn after seeing doctor
– health 2.0 can’t happen on web 1.0 websites; need to be able to evaluate, exchange, connect, create community, participate
– mobility is huge trend, certainly on physician side
– key questions to consider: how balance content with community; is it more about initiating a conversation, or a lecture
it’s not a community unless you’re having a conversation; much of pharma is still one-way

Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic Manager of Syndication and Social Media; Marketing The Mayo Clinic
– consider social media “power tools” for doing what we were already doing as organization

– found that patients are “honored” if you ask them to share their stories
– great example of exponentially growing views of YouTube video by using multiple channels (Mayo Clinic Atrium Piano video)
– one of the keys to success is all about repurposing content

Robert Halper, J&J Director Video Communication; J&J on YouTube
– company is on YouTube because:
• reputation: caring, socially responsible, trusted source for health care information
• engagement: comments, listening, responding
• community: linking to other sites, including non-branded operating companies; subscribing to other related channels, videos embedded in external sites
– not easy getting started: cultural (control of message), legal & regulatory (environment, adverse events, medical advice, fair balance, comment mediation), business (ROI, resources, staff, commitment)
more risk not being part of the conversation; funny when CEO’s talk about not putting brand out on social media, when they’re already out there

Dave DeBronkart, e-Patient Dave; Cofounder Society for Participatory Medicine; Special Presentation
– very moving talk about his “free replay” after beating his cancer
– his treatment [cure] options were based, in part, on his incredible outreach, research, open sharing of his health records
– now evangelist for “participatory medicine”; first edition of Journal of Participatory Medicine (his new publication) forthcoming
– accessed tremendous amount of information on (which didn’t exist anywhere else)
– key message is authenticity; don’t pretend, impersonate; be real, contribute value
– best information is a smart patient community; and patients love to give back

Brian O’Donnell, Klick Pharma, Top 1o Trends
10.  social media is becoming more mainstream (about the power of one, not so much followers)
9. pervasive use of technology in solving marketing challenges (can be a multiplier)
8. From wait and see to try and learn (try pilot programs)
7. patients and HCP’s online usage is increasing (balance of marketing mix)
6. data and intelligence becoming underpinning of marketing programs (make data planning part of your kickoff)
5. shift to multidisciplinary solution teams (make effort to reach out early)
4. branded mobile apps are becoming next CRM (think beyond the keyboard)
3. technology can make reps more powerful (integration is key)
2. value add beyond the pill (solutions, not just products; broadly supporting patients)
1. regulatory bodies embracing 21st century, e.g. FDA

Kerri Sparling, author, Patient Opinion Leaders
– diabetes has been part of her life since age 6; but wouldn’t exactly call it her buddy

– she started sixuntilme in May, 2005; felt like she was only diabetes patient on the planet
– now more than 350 sites dedicated to diabetes lifestyle and management
POL’s (patient opinion leaders) don’t blog because they have to, but because it helps us heal
– finding emotional support online is everything
– don’t consider patients a “target market”, but a consumer base being marketed to
– until there’s a cure, there will be a blog

Tricia Geoghegan, Johnson & Johnson/Ortho-McNeil-Janssen; Facebook ADHD Allies
– what social media isn’t: the shiny new object
– what it is: consumer democracy, sharing/not selling, creating foundation for new kinds of relationships, reinforcing commitment to disease awareness
– people trust other people, e.g. Mom-bassadors™
– metrics will answer questions, the best ones will compel more questions
– users will tell you what’s relevant
– what’s unmet need for patients, what’s business case and risk/benefit analysis, how define ROI

Lisa Tate (CEO Womenheart) and Robert Schumm (Marketing Director Bayer Healthcare); Facebook Strong@Heart
– cardiovascular disease is #1 cause of death for women
– was each organization’s first foray into social media
– why social: target was online, patients wanting to speak about/share their own experiences
– c
ombination of traditional (eyeballs) and online (conversations) drove success (key theme reinforced by other speakers)

Dennis Urbaniak, VP Innovation & New Customer Channels Sanofi-Aventis; From Patients To People: What it Takes for  True Shift to a Customer-Centric Approach
– must challenge current mindset within organization; new ideas built on top of old models are doomed to failure
– stop thinking patient and start thinking people; most have their own values, belief systems, etc.; must understand their perspectives
– preference and choice doesn’t fit with one-way approach (typical pharma model; e.g. Model T)
– challenge mindset of patient vs. person
– how to move ahead: change approach
– choice (need to get perfectly comfortable with content, dialogue, listening opportunities)
– what’s the job: what are the hiring criteria and who are the candidates (framework for presenting sustaining and disruptive innovations); start to identify gaps and then pinpoint opportunities; actionable insights from customer pov (vs. brand and product pov)
need to get extremely comfortable living in glass house if you’re change agent inside company
– create the example (very powerful means to drive real change): step back and honestly answer each point:
• project description (elevator speech; not powerpoint deck)
• project objective (what’s the job to be done)
• project metrics (must be prospective; here’s how assess progress, learn and adjust)
• project status (build in points of adjustment as you go)
– sets dynamic that rewards failure; everyone was aligned
– Net:
• change the mindset, change the approach, create the example

Joe Shields, Pfizer: New Ideas For Patient Adherence
– e=empowerment
– process for developing programs:
• what’s your pov?
– Patient (me), Health care provider, Payer, Pharma
• what’s your process?
1. Gain insights (strategic advantage from this work; doc/patient interaction; motivations/barriers)
2. Set objectives
3. Audit current stuff
4. Align current stuff with 1 & 2
5. Identify gaps
6. Fill gaps
7. Measure programs
8. Improve and keep testing
– what does good look like? from different perspectives, as everyone has different agenda/incentives
– make up of strong adherence program:
1. Insightful (patient and doc; does it really solve a problem)
2. Systematic (things that talk to everyone else, things accountable to whole system)
3. Multi-channel
4. Scalable (how easy is it to get work done, get out to most people, return on hassle – is it worth it if you can’t scale it)
5. Social (with regard to adherence, it’s a team sport; some accountability beyond patient itself; service of better patient outcomes)

Marc Monseau, Director, Corporate Media Relations J&J: Connecting J&J To Twittersphere To Tweet or Not To Tweet
– How this came together; what he/J&J hoped to achieve, how it fits together
– Steps:
• Create business case
• Connect with other initiatives
• Establish a personality
• Set guides
• Gain legal/regulatory support
– What kind of Twitter account do you want to be?
• customer service
• expert source
• news gatherer
• suggestion box
• special offers
– establish a personality
– have to be yourself
– not just recitation of PR’s
– Multiple platforms (tie Twitter back to all else company is doing); so nothing is one-off
– setting controls:
• took social media biz plan to lawyers/regulatory  (one of the do’s/don’t’s)
• have to work with attorney’s to gain understanding
• how to manage adverse events/offlabel uses?
– Concept of “content guardrails” (gave credit to his associate for this concept):
• within predefined scope: self-management
• outside predefined scope: legal, regulatory, management
• both = publication for tweets

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“Before all else listen. The pathway to change is through relationships, and you can’t form a relationship if you’re not at eye level.”

These are the words of Tim Shriver, Chairman & Chief Executive, Special Olympics. He was featured today in “The Boss”, a regular column in Sunday’s NY Times Business section.  In talking about the start of his career he states: “I probably started my career on a big white horse, thinking that I was a social change agent. The kids (who he taught in an after school program) taught me a fundamental lesson: Get off the horse.

Interesting how things come around. His words from many years ago, you can’t forge a relationship if you’re not at eye level, describe perfectly the changing nature of the relationship between customers and companies.

Today, eye level translates to:

• understanding customers and their pain points
• letting go of control (actually, realizing your not in control)
• providing content and experiences that help them do more and achieve more
• responding with real time customer service and support
• being the conduit for customer conversations with others who have similar interests and needs
• actions that build transparency and trust

Are you at “eye level” with your customers?

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Picture 10

Crumpleitup is Humana’s consumer innovation team, a group within the company dedicated to building a healthier world with innovative thinking. As they say on their About Us page, we realize it’s not always easy to eat right and exercise regularly. So, we’re putting our heads together to come up with creative ways to help people be healthy while having fun.

I’m a big fan of this initiative for a number of reasons:

1. Changing the game. Humana’s changing the basis of competition, from a reactive payer to a proactive provider of products that create new and greater value for customers and company.

2. Differentiation. It helps the organization stand apart within a largely undifferentiated category of healthcare providers.

3. Deeds vs. words. Rather than campaigning about themselves or merely talking about the benefits of being healthy, the organization’s actually covering the backs of its members by helping them be healthier.

4. Promise. They [over] deliver on their promise of Guidance when you need it most.

5. Humanizing the Company. This group puts a human and approachable face on the organization.

6. Brand Engagement. They encourage participation from everyone who’d like to contribute to the initiative. In fact, anyone can join The Crumple It Up Innovation Network on Linkedin.

7. Constant Innovation. Rather than wait until transformation becomes necessary, they  integrate innovation into their everyday business.

8The real issue. They’ve uncovered (whether intentional or not) the problem behind the problem. Improving health takes a community of friends and supporters.

9. Passion and drive. These guys want to make the world healthier.

10. Belief in change. They know that change (better health) is necessary.

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Picture 8

“It has changed the culture of our company”

In a post on TechCrunch titled Comcast: Twitter Has Changed Our Company, this is how Comcast CEO Brian Roberts described Twitter’s impact on the company at the Web 2.o Summit on 10/20.

Comcast is a great example of a large company using Twitter to engage with customers as they tweet about their experiences (well frankly, complaints). Roberts goes on to say that their online engagement goes beyond Twitter, to Facebook and some other (not named) networks.

Lessons learned for health brand marketers include:

Embrace the negatives. Engaging customers in real-time as they tweet complaints should be embraced as an incredible opportunity. Consider how long it takes a complaint to be routed through a typical call center to someone who can actually handle your complaint. Sometimes, just letting them know you’re there can often represent a huge step forward.

Proactively tweet the negatives. Transparency and honesty are hugely important “trust-building” traits through social media. If customer tweets are gravitating around similar customer service themes, consider proactively addressing the issue(s) by starting your own conversation. There aren’t many companies who will openly admit their shortcomings.

Use the channel as an online research tool. Ask questions and ask for opinions, and you’re sure to get customer feedback.

• Use it as an early warning system. Monitoring the chatter can give you a sense of the issues surrounding your products and services.

• Don’t limit to departments. Twitter helps you get closer to your customers, on their terms – whether through their complaints, compliments, feedback, suggestions, etc.  Rarely are these limited to “marketing.”

Use TweetBeep. Similar to Google Alerts for Twitter, you can monitor conversations that mention your company, your brands and your competitors.

Are there other lessons learned to add to this list?

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As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Nancy Cawley Jean as this month’s participant. Nancy is a senior media relations officer for Lifespan, a health system in Rhode Island, splitting her time between social media for Lifespan and its affiliate hospitals.

Each guest addresses the same four questions, so that we build a wealth of perspectives and knowledge around these four issues. Here’s what Nancy has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that

realize that consumers now have a voice and expect to be heard. Brands must be aware of the conversations taking place all around them that could damage their brand. Hospitals and the healthcare industry are no exceptions.

With today’s technology, communication has changed rapidly, and not only do consumers expect to be heard, they also expect a response. Social media is a way to do that – it is a way to build brand awareness, expand customer service, provide vital public service information and engage on a personal level with people not only in our own community but around the globe. Unless brands are willing to recognize the power of social media, they will be left behind.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?

While healthcare is a business, it is unique in the service it delivers, and we are governed by strict rules surrounding the protection of patient information. While it has not changed the way we do “business” it does offer additional areas of concern for potential violations of HIPAA policies, and that is something hospitals in particular must be cognizant of when entering the world of social media.

In our business, the tools we are offered through social media do not offer new ways of conducting business, but they allow us to expand our efforts in the realm of marketing, customer relations and communication. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube now provide new avenues to engage with our community, and hear back from them. It is another avenue through which we can receive feedback as well. As a result of social media, we can listen more to consumers, and this certainly creates the potential for an impact upon policies and procedures that will enhance the patient experience based on suggestions we hear.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?

The sensitivities surrounding protected health information of our patients is always a top priority and a great concern. Our risk management and legal departments have expressed concerns over liabilities that exist in social media. As with any other new procedure, service or technology, communication to staff is vital to ensure that expectations are clear and that they are aware that even in this world of social media, HIPAA regulations and patient privacy must remain top of mind. In other words, if an employee has their own blog or is commenting on a Facebook fan page, there are certain things that are still off limits, even if it is on their own time.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?

Sometimes the best way to learn is to jump right in, but in social media, the best approach is to start by listening – listen to what people are saying about you and your brand, listen to what other brands are saying and doing, and look to those brands in the social media world who have emerged as “leaders” – those who have figured out this new world and have been able to truly experience an impact on their reputation and improve customer relations through this medium.

Management may be hesitant to implement a social media strategy because of what is viewed as the “loss of control” but the fact is that they have already lost control given the plethora of communication vehicles available to the consumer today. Important messages to senior management must focus on acceptance that there is no longer any “control” and social media is a way to be involved in the conversations surrounding the brand.

Even in a large organization, getting the right people around the table will go a long way in developing a social media strategy. By having discussions and getting buy-in from folks like legal, human resources, risk management, and medical directors, you will have the support you need to develop appropriate policies and guidelines to help you move through the ever-changing world of social media while maintaining the focus on your overall company mission.

Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share?

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