Transparency in Healthcare: Reality Not a Fad

While most Americans haven’t felt the effects of the Affordable Care Act that became law on March 23, 2010, the healthcare industry in the U.S. certainly has. 

You can already see dramatic changes taking place as a result of better public reporting of cost comparisons and quality measurement practices.  This is all under the premise of a higher level of “transparency” in reporting by healthcare professionals and hospitals alike.

While certain organizations have already begun to embrace the idea of sharing internal quality reporting data with the general public, it doesn’t take too many online searches to realize that this is not simply a passing fad but a growing reality. 

Bold, sweeping statements have become the norm.  On the Department of Health and Human Services website a standing quote by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt remains a fixed navigation piece.  He states “Every American should have access to a full range of information about the quality and cost of their health care options.”

As the site further explains, “Providing reliable cost and quality information empowers consumer choice.  Consumer choice creates incentives at all levels, and motivates the entire system to provide better care for less money.  Improvements will come as providers see how their practice compares to others.”

In speaking with leadership at a handful of hospitals who have launched online quality score initiatives, I’m finding that hearts are in the right place.  Some consistent findings have become clear:

- These efforts are being very well-received both within these hospitals and their local communities.

- Early adopters of this newfound transparency are not using it as a marketing tool.  The approach has been that “it’s simply the right thing to do.”

-With previously internal records becoming public, hospital quality and safe patient care are now even more of an institutional priority for these organizations.

-One common early effect that this program has created is positive competition within hospital medical staffs to have the very best scores… the ripple effect has reached nurses and physicians.

 Consumers are already seeing a huge increase in the amount of publicly shared data from hospitals about quality scores and programs that weren’t offered previously.  Importantly, thus far it has been all about doing the right thing and creating a culture of public safety.  Now, the debate can be made as to whether these are self-driven acts of altruism versus government forced practices but the benefit remains the same:  Consumers will be given the information necessary to make better informed decisions about their healthcare and the care of their loved ones.

That can’t be all bad, now can it?  Let us know what you think.

Posted in health, Healthcare Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Public Relations | 1 Comment

Facebook Page “Fans” as Good as Gold

Fifteen years ago the message went out: For your company to be competitive in its marketplace, you need to have a website. Like the mad rush to seek gold in the Klondike at the turn of the 19th century, corporations scurried to explore uncharted territory.  Repeatedly, this was done with little-to-no defined strategy or understanding about how to reap the benefits of their new online presence.

Many companies fell victim to the idea that just having a website was enough.  Today’s confused approach to leveraging social media is much the same.  Corporations think they need to get involved, but they’re making the same mistakes of 15 years ago all over again.

Last week, an IT Director was excited to tell me he had just launched their corporate Facebook page, followed by the statement that they didn’t really know what to do with it now.  Well, the first step is admitting you have a problem!

Does anyone have all the answers about the true value of social media?  Not yet.  But there are early indicators that even if you’re not able to directly monetize your page, you can at least engage your “fans” and cultivate a community of like-minded advocates for your company.

Recently, the Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm, did a comprehensive white paper titled Eight Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing.  In it they gathered input from 34 early adopters of corporate social media – specifically, Facebook.  Here are their eight “pillars” for success in this medium:

From my perspective, the most important elements to consider when launching a corporate Facebook page are taking a human, non-corporate approach to your communications.  Make your entries personal and transparent.  For example, post employee photos and comments about company involvement in the community – avoid simply providing a link to a press release about the same event.   Facebook pages need to be engaging, open invitations for your “fans” to participate in conversations with your company’s leadership and employees.  That’s the way to create the peer-to-peer interaction and fan advocacy to strike true gold in this space!

Does your company have a Facebook page?  If so, share some of your success stories and learnings from it.  Thanks!

Posted in Branding, Content, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Social Media | Leave a comment

Is Social Media Simply High School All Over Again?

For Fast Company, their attempt to answer this question began with another: Who are the most influential people online right now?

Thus the impetus behind The Influence Project. Launched in the first week of July, this seemingly harmless experiment into determining the biggest influencers on the Web has received a ton of coverage and controversy. Much of the uproar has focused on accusing Fast Company of simply feeding egos and rewarding narcissism while driving viral traffic to their site on a grand scale.

According to the program, here are Fast Company’s self-proscribed qualifiers as to how “influence” is determined online:

HOW WE MEASURE INFLUENCE

The scale of your influence, and therefore the size of your photo, is based on two measures.

1. The number of people who directly click on your unique URL link. This is the primary measure of your influence, pure and simple.

2. You will receive partial “credit” for subsequent clicks generated by those who register as a result of your URL. In other words, anyone who comes to the site through your link and registers for their own account will be spreading your influence while they spread theirs. That way, you get some benefit from influencing people who are influential themselves. We will give a diminishing, fractional credit (1/2, ¼, 1/8 etc. ) for clicks generated up to six degrees away from your original link.

OK. Got all that? Now, whether you agree with it or not is another thing. Also being called into question is the altruistic value of all this. Some parties, outraged by the lack of substance behind the project, have gone as far as to threaten to hijack it for more “worthy” results than just finding out who has the most friends on Facebook or the most followers on Twitter. Wouldn’t this platform be better served to help those in need rather than support an online popularity contest?

I have to admit I now feel a bit shallow for having registered. Thankfully, I can fall back on the premise that it’s all for the sake of a good story and not just to see how “influential” I am online. Then again, maybe I’d be singing a different tune if I wasn’t ranked just 26,375 out of 26,396 entries as of the writing of this post;)

What do you think?

Posted in Blogging, E-mail Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Public Relations, SEO, Social Media | Leave a comment

Ye olde social media ads

These picture-perfect vintage ads for Facebook, YouTube and Skype were created by Brazilian ad agency Moma as part of a campaign showing how everything ages fast. Remember Google Wave? Ah, those were the days. Via Urlesque.

Posted in Creativity, Design, Marketing, Print Design | Leave a comment

Optimizing your site? Don’t forget to back-link

As integrated marketers, we all understand how important Search Engine Optimization is for any company’s web success. Efficient use of this platform helps to build online traffic flow and can lead to enhanced brand awareness and even sales. There are many thoughts on how to best optimize your site. One tactic that has gained momentum is cross-linking or back-linking.

Link building is defined by internet marketing services provider Cemper.com as “the process of getting links to a website from other websites to build its popularity and ultimately improve the site’s rankings in the organic search results with the major search engines.” Sounds pretty basic, right?

Not so much. The concept is pretty straightforward, but execution is another beast entirely. Most commonly, techniques for link building include establishing contact and relationships with trusted industry partners to introduce reciprocal linking to and from each party’s respective website. This requires creating cross-links or back-links between the two websites to ensure mutual traffic. It’s the age-old premise of I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.

By doing this, the linking websites help to increase each other’s “link popularity.” This was introduced by the major search engines to provide a certain level of impartiality in organic search results. The premise is simple: The more links you have directed to your site from other respected industry sources, the better your search ranking should be. So, on today’s web, in order to gain the site traffic you need to succeed, effective link building is essential.

And the key to making that happen? Unique content. As Paul Leach of PGL Internet Services says, “The best and easiest way to encourage good quality links from top websites is to have interesting and informative content on your site that is going to help drive traffic to their site.” Other traffic-increasing tactics can include the creation of blogs, forums, content directories and archives. But the most important factor in getting partner sites to link to you is ensuring the content you publish provides value to your audience in a timely manner.

In the end, it’s right back to the basics. Content is still king!

Posted in Blogging, Content, Custom Publishing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Publishing, SEO | Leave a comment