Oct
22

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“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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Oct
21

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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Oct
17

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How can you create new and greater value for customers by looking across complementary product and service offerings?

This post from Abe Sauer on brandchannel – The Smart Logic of Disney Products And Apple’s Retail Genius – led me to think about how health brand marketers can set themselves apart and change the game for customers by looking outside their traditional industry boundaries and seeing things from a fresh perspective.

As reported this past week, Disney is planning to spend $1 million per store over the next five years, with Apple’s help, to convert each existing Disney-branded outlet from a simple retail location to a complete “experience.”

Untapped value can often be found in complementary products and services. In this case, it’s the value that comes from providing a richer shopping experience (a Disney magic-like experience) to Disney customers.

The key to thinking more broadly about your role in customers’ lives is to consider the total solution they seek when they choose your product or service. One simple way to do so is to think about what happens before, during, and after your product is used. Map out the total “journey’ that customers take when using your (fill in the blank). When you look from their point-of-view, you’ll open up new possibilities to create new and greater value, e.g.

- why must a doctor appointment be limited to the “appointment itself” (consider that Virgin Atlantic has a limo take you to the airport)

- why do you need to call on the phone, and be put on hold for five minutes, to book a doctor appointment (when you can book everything else on line)

- why must patients wait in waiting rooms (do other professional service providers put their clients in “waiting rooms”; and why do you need to “wait”)

- why must a drugstore be a “drugstore” (isn’t their much more value, for the customer and the organization, in being a “healthstore”)

- why is a diabetes patient a “disease-specific” patient (aren’t they individuals with other important healthcare needs and desires)

How are you looking through your customers’ eyes to create new possibilities for them and for you?

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Oct
14

The Democratization of Online Social Networks.

This presentation is from Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist at Pew/Internet.
Important to health brand marketers, key findings include:
• 79% of American adults 18+ use the internet in 2009, up from 67% in ’05
• 46% use social networking sites, up from 8% in 2005
• 73% have a Facebook account
• 45% have a college or advanced degree
• 51% are between 25-44
• usage skews more female (56% vs. 46% male)
Key conclusion for health brand marketers:
These are your audiences participating in online social networks. Ignore how they choose to interact and share with others and seek information, don’t engage them on their terms, and you risk losing your relevancy.

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Oct
07

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Health brands are ideally suited to social media.

Across this broad category (from disease management; health care systems and hospitals; home health services and products; medical devices and equipment; nutritional and wellness products; pharma and OTC) there’s the common denominator of people really needing and wanting what these tools allow health brand marketers to provide:

- informative, even life-changing content
- talking back and forth, sharing stories and even emotionally supporting people who share common interests, ailments or illnesses
- learning from friends and providers (locally and from around the world)
- saving precious time and expense

Ultimately, social media allows you to help create healthier communities. Which leads to healthier co-creators. Which leads to a win-win for your customers, your company and society at-large.

For those brands interested in maintaining their relevancy and their value to their customers (meaning everyone), social media must be integrated into your mix. The extent of your social efforts is based on many organizational factors. But at a minimum, you need to get in the game.

Here are seven big opportunities (reasons why) for health brands to use social media:

1. Demonstrate that you practice what you preach. Social media allows you to demonstrate that you live up to the promises you make to audiences. As the traction around “engagement” continues to grow, actions will continue to speak much louder than words.

2. What benefits your audiences benefits your brand. The future of marketing is about doing things for and with audiences – on their terms. There’s simply too much opportunity for conversations, comments and collaboration for traditional one-way, tell and sell communications to work the way they did years ago.

3. Build loyalty through your brand. This is not the same as trying to build loyalty to your brand. Key is to help people achieve more than they can on their own. Helping them do this is how you gain their attention, loyalty and trust (as well as forgiveness if you ever find yourself needing it).

4. Help people live longer. Research has shown that greater social engagement helps people live longer, healthier lives. Pretty important benefit for a brand to be able to contribute to.

5. Your participation invitation is already extended. Whether you sent a formal invitation or not, participants are already gathering around the conversation (and your company).

6. Listen for rich category and brand insights. Social makes it easy to find out what people really want and need – from the category and from your brand. Which makes it easier to listen for ways to make your offering better. Covet the opportunity to collect and act on this information.

7. It’s all about establishing and earning trust. Which is one of the most important and sustainable advantages a company can build in this environment. The companies who understand this, and pay it off with the right “social” etiquette (doing for others), will see the most benefit.

Are there other reasons that should be added to this list? Please contribute your ideas.

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Sep
29

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This post refers back to Are You Really Satisfying Your Customers, written by Scott Monty, at his Social Media Marketing Blog. Scott is the head of social media for Ford Motor Company.

Scott’s point is that as it becomes harder for consumers to distinguish one company’s offerings from another, customer service is one (remaining) way to create greater value and gain competitive advantage. And social media channels, particularly Twitter, are well suited to help companies do this. He cites these three examples from Comcast, Best Buy and Zappos.

What do you think? Is the situation among health brands any different? What organizations are providing superior customer service experiences? And which are doing the best job of integrating social media into their efforts?

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Sep
26

This is the first of many “Insider Insights” posts. Once a month, I’ll be featuring the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Ed Bennett as our first participant. Ed is Director, Web Strategy at University of Maryland Medical System.

Each of these guests will address the same four questions, so that we’ll build a wealth of perspectives and knowledge around these four issues. Here’s what Ed 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
quickly adapt to new customer expectations. An entire generation is comfortable with Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Their expectation is to have direct, honest and rapid interactions with the brands they use. PR speak, and legalese will marginalize organizations, but authentic conversations will build customer loyalty and positive Word of Mouth.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business? Healthcare, and hospitals in particular are very conservative. So far, most of these tools are seen as an extension of current practices, not as a new way to do business. We are seeing these services used to post news and events information, educational resources, and to re-purpose content like video. There is also some brand monitoring and service recovery going on, but it is not yet integrated into the basic business process.

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

There are two major challenges:

A. Fear of HIPAA hold many healthcare organizations back. With no clear guidelines on what is allowed, hospitals in general are waiting on the sidelines. Out of the 5,000 US hospitals, only 360 are doing anything.

B. The other challenge is that IT departments in many hospitals block social media sites. Many times, work on them has to be done from home in the evening and weekends.

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

You should start small, and only begin what you can maintain. Look to your internal experts, the people who use these tools in their personal life. They can see the benefits, and can be a great resource for your organization.

Consult with your legal team & create policies. There are two areas that need to be addressed: External comments / participation and Employee guidelines.

Be able to respond quickly – this is no place for a four-day multi-person review process.

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Sep
09

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How do we align the customer experience with social media?

This was the main topic of discussion in our client meeting the other day. With so much emphasis being placed on integrating social media into the marketing mix, this was a conversation about its impact on the total customer experience.

Given this perspective, many conversations about social media start too far downstream. First, even those that begin with objectives, audiences and strategies often bypass the fact that effective brand management is an organization-wide endeavor.

What this means is that all internal stakeholders across business functions need to play together on the same team, as audiences who are tweeting, posting, updating and uploading don’t care much about individual silo practices. And this means that an effective social media program must be “socialized” across the organization, as all disciplines must work together to deliver the brand promise. And delivering this promise depends on having the processes and systems in place to enable this to happen.

So how will your organization align the real-world customer experience with social media:

• how should you/will you respond to customer’s real-time questions, comments or concerns?
• which conversations are more important to business and relationships, and how do you know?
• how will you empower your customers so that they become an extension of your marketing and your sales force, and add value back to your brand?

These are a few of the questions we discussed in our meeting the other day. If you have any thoughts about this subject, please share.

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Sep
03

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A lesson to be learned for all health + healthy lifestyle brand marketers…

It’s back-to-school time. Travel a highway and you see parents taking their kids to school, and kids with cars filled to the brim with everything that could possibly fit in them. You also see a lot of Thule cargo racks.

So I went to Thule’s website today. And was saddened when I was there. Because, for starters, this is a brand with a great story, started by a gentleman who sold direct to end users at windsurf competitions on the New England shoreline out of his “station wagon” office. It’s the kind of story that many brands only wish they could tell. But it’s not really being told here.

It’s also a brand that consumers engage with in really important ways, at some really important times of their lives. Memorable times that will be with them, and their kids, forever. This brand makes people’s lives a lot sweeter, in ways that competitors (at least perceptually) just can’t match. Which is the making for great stories to be told!

The site is rich with functional details about the different kinds of Thule racks available for Bike, Snow, Water, etc. But we don’t buy features, we buy benefits. We buy with our guts, based on decisions charged with emotion. And I imagine that there’s some incredibly powerful associations wrapped around Thule that can be leveraged and brought to the foreground. Yes, Thule is functionally a means to help you safely get your things from here to there. But much more importantly, Thule is freedom, enabler, partner, protector, trusted friend…

This is a brand that could be engaging audiences much more meaningfully around their brand. It is a brand that should be inviting (probably very willing) customers to become allies in adding value back to Thule. It is a brand ripe for rich conversations and shared stories, which actually lets Thule spread their commercial messages more effectively.

But Thule is just one example of brands under leveraging relationships, fans and evangelists. What’s important to remember is that you need to let the conversations take place, and let the stories be told and shared around you. In the end, both customers and company will grow stronger.

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Aug
30

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I’m using this blog post to recognize the significant accomplishments of a Trajectory client, and to share how this organization has radically challenged convention and expectation to re-energize both its audiences and the organization itself.

Alpha Chi Omega is a national women’s organization represented in 40 states, with more than 200,000 members who join during their undergraduate college years and hopefully, remain members for the rest of their lives.

This past week, following our rebranding of the organization, ACO launched its new website. This was the final step in bringing its Real. Strong. Women. brand promise to life. In so doing, it changed the game for its members. And for the organization itself.

The new site changes the paradigm of the online experience for this forward thinking sorority to strengthen interactions, connections and conversations among its members. Its design, content and functionality offers both an information portal and community hub, further delivering on its promise to change the conversation for all Alpha Chi Omega women.

Among its many features, the site can be personalized to each Alpha Chi Omega member’s needs and interests by implementing a customizable platform within a sub site, My Alpha Chi. This is a major step forward for the organization, as the site is now relevant to all members regardless of lifestage or lifestyle. Other features of My Alpha Chi include:

• Starting Conversations – Alpha Chi Omega’s Blog
• Real Strong Woman of the Month – Stories of Alpha Chi Omegas who are making a difference.
• AX! Message Boards – Discuss issues whether Alpha Chi Omega or not.
• The Lyre Online – Top stories from The Lyre magazine.
• Connect with Alpha Chi –Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube.

From the time that we had our first conversation with Alpha Chi Omega, they talked about two things. First, changing how women think and act about the idea of sorority. Second, changing the expectation of how a sorority will thrive, and be defined in the future. Their last major step in this journey is now complete. And for that, we congratulate this game-changing organization.

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