It finally happened. After years of helping hospitals communicate with patients about data breaches, I recently found myself on the receiving end of one of those letters. The language was factual, yet cold. I was advised to review my credit report and bank accounts carefully and given some oh-so-helpful tips to help keep my information safe (wait, wasn’t that their job?)
Frustrating? Yes. But I’m hardly alone. With more than 90 percent of hospitals reporting at least one data breach in the past two years, more patients are learning their personal information isn’t as safe as they thought. While data breaches at big box stores and restaurants may grab more headlines, healthcare breaches cut deeper. Fair or not, doctors and hospitals are held to a higher standard, which makes communication all the more important.
Here are a few simple – yet often overlooked –tips providers can use to minimize fallout when communicating a breach:
Act Fast – While providers have 60-days to notify patients and media of a breach, waiting until the last minute only invites questions. Make sure a communications representative has a seat at the table from the beginning – and begin sharing information as soon as you have all of the facts.
Transparency Is Key – Be upfront. Provide patients with as much information as you are able so they can make informed decisions. While it may feel counterintuitive to share the details of a negative event, transparency breeds trust and often reduces the amount of follow-up required. The same approach applies to media notification when necessary.
Be Human – Patient notices often feel sterile and devoid of emotion – not exactly what most people expect when communicating with their healthcare provider. While the breach notification rule requires the inclusion of specific information, the letter shouldn’t read like a legal document. Use plain English to let patients know that you value their trust and take the matter seriously.
Be Prepared – Designate a single point of contact to handle calls from concerned patients and make sure those calls are returned promptly. Frontline employees, physicians and leaders should be provided with general talking points and trained on where to refer patients with specific questions. Also consider developing a media statement to use if questions arise – even when external notice is not required.
While there’s no way to completely soften the blow of bad news, good communication can go a long way in preserving hard-won trust.
Hospital marketers – like all marketers – can be distracted by the latest whiz bang promotional tool. But new toys can often turn off older patients, who represent an important piece of the patient mix pie for most hospitals. Your new Instagram campaign or GoPro giveaway may leave 65+ set cold. Here’s a handful of tried-and-true seniors marketing ideas – along with a few new tips thrown in.
1) Newspapers. Older Americans are one of the few demographic groups who are holding onto the daily print edition. The Pew Research Journalism Project tracked newspaper readership by reader age and found that while readership continues to decline across all age groups, the trend is mildest among seniors, who remain the group most likely to have read a paper in the last day.
2) Senior focused publications. Many communities have a local (or syndicated with local content added) publication for seniors, and distribution racks are typically located in senior-centric locations like activity centers and physician offices.
3) Prescription bags. Prescribed medication use by seniors is significant – and in many cases, recurrent. When it’s available, Rx bags can provide an interesting unusual way of getting a message in front of this audience (and at a time when they likely have their glasses on).
4) Coupon mailers or weekly advertisers. Seniors are often accomplished deal finders and coupon clippers. Thrifty publications can be a great placement for a traditional ad – even better for bounce backs.Remember that the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) placed certain restrictions on marketing to Medicare beneficiaries, especially for managed care organizations and Medicare Advantage plan sponsors, so be careful about promotions or cross promotions that may trip the regs.
5) Social media. Gramma’s on Facebook! Forbes reported last year that the 74-plus demographic is the fastest growing demographic among social networks.
6) Online. Google ads can be targeted to senior-leaning opportunities, and websites like Lumosity.com and the many ‘senior mingle’ websites out there (including the AARP’s own dating site) are a direct line the older community.
7) Cable. Seniors watch TV. USNews in 2012 reported that American retirees engage in an average of 4.2 hours of TV-viewing each day, almost twice the all-age average, and people age 75 and older watch more TV than any other age group. Ever since Wilford Brimley began his fireside chats with Medicare beneficiaries about diabetes supplies, healthcare marketers have turned to TV to reach the senior market.
8) Sponsorships and events. Most seniors have more free time than younger demographic groups who are more likely to have full-time jobs or obligations to young children. In addition to health fairs and senior events, consider reaching seniors through arts and cultural events like concerts, plays, movie theatres, or at libraries.
9) Radio. Seniors still listen to broadcast (and many are listening online). Talk radio and “oldies” stations (which are starting to sound frighteningly like ‘70s stations, by my standards) turn out favorably in Nielsen and Arbitron measurements.
10) Church. ABC news reports that church attendance is highest among seniors, with 60% of the 65+ crowd reporting they attend every week. The numbers are even higher in the South and among republicans. Bulletin ads, picnic sponsorships and “coffee with a doc” events can help tap into this audience.
So the next time you allocate hospital marketing dollars for graffiti sidewalk ads or college sports events, remember who is most often in your facility and who helps pay the bills.
It was my biggest critique growing up. “Speak up, Jacq!” I heard it from my high school volleyball coach, my parents at the dinner table and my first boss. For years, I struggled to shout my name louder in sports practices and felt swallowed up during group gatherings. I was labeled the “quiet girl,” or worse, “stuck up.”
A few years ago, I found an accurate description for myself: introvert. I researched it extensively, had several ‘aha!’ moments, and I learned to embrace this trait. I gained significant confidence in who I was and better utilized my strengths. After successfully navigating through many interviews, and landing a great job at Lovell, I am here to attest that public relations can be an incredible industry for introverted professionals.
Maybe you’re wondering why I chose this profession. First, I love to write. Then in college, I stumbled upon a few marketing classes and was hooked. When I learned that public relations was roughly a combination of writing and marketing, I made an immediate decision. Additionally, working in public relations does not mean you “love people.” (And if you want to work at Lovell, you better make sure you don’t say that in your interview!)
While I’m fairly new to the profession, I am already well aware that introverts represent a minority in the public relations field. But, as my colleague Rebecca Kirkham proved in her blog “Introvert Power,” introverts are not a liability in the communications field, they are an asset.
Introverted does not mean antisocial, shy or insecure. We have as much leadership capability as our extrovert counterparts, we just tend to take more time for thoughtful responses. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts and TEDTalk lecturer, discusses how approximately four in 10 top executives are introverted, including some of history’s greatest leaders and icons: Mahatma Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates and Audrey Hepburn.
Although this profession pushes me out of my comfort zone, I embrace the challenges and am also happy to know I am surrounded by many successful, introverted PR pros. These are a few tips I have relied on to help me excel in the industry as an introvert:
- Form one-on-one relationships with coworkers and clients. As Catherine Fisher said, large group settings make it difficult for introverts to show off our personality and our opinions. Forming personal relationships helps us feel more confident in speaking out and ensures the other people know how much you have to offer.
- Focus on your strengths. For me, it’s writing. Coincidentally, the best feedback I have received thus far has been about a blog post.
- Have confidence in what you bring to the table. Know you are an asset and know why. This will help you feel secure in a company and in your role working with a client.
- Remember that participating in social tasks and speaking opportunities are blessings in disguise. These provide great opportunities for you to form better relationships with coworkers and clients, and they also allow you to rise to the occasion and prove yourself.
- Take time to close your door. If you do not have a door, take a solo lunch. Introverts require alone time to regain energy. Taking time each day to regroup will make you more productive. After you do, though, open the door (literally and metaphorically speaking) and welcome in the conversation.
Do you have any more tips for introverts? Do you have experience with introverted colleagues or clients? Share with us below!
Photo cred: Michael Yip
As a (semi) recent college grad who studied sports broadcast communications, I get a lot of people asking me why I chose to focus on healthcare marketing instead of diving into the sports world. I would love to give you my life story but I am going stick with why I love healthcare (and you should, too!)
The short of it is that I had an internship junior year at The Rehab Documentation Company (ReDoc) and worked under one of the co-creators of WebMD. That summer drew me to healthcare for good. Here are a few reasons why I’ve fallen in love with the field (and you could, too!):
You’re always on your toes: One of my favorite classes in college was crisis communication. At Lovell Communications we work on crises for clients, and in the healthcare field those types of situations come up often.
Learning and Growing: The opportunity to grow is around every corner, providing you the chance to become the best version of yourself. I have always thought all things health related were wildly interesting. I constantly watch documentaries, read books – anything to find out more about the new health trends. Working in the healthcare field — especially just starting out — I have learned an immense amount about health topics, but what I find the most interesting is watching my superiors learn and grow as new clients are added and new projects come along. We are always teaching and learning from each other, showing that even the most experienced expert can be better.
Endless Opportunities: When most people think healthcare they think physicians and hospitals. And while healthcare public relations deals a great amount with those areas, I have had the opportunity to work on vastly different projects. From announcing the oldest mother to have her own child through IVF to beginning to work on an educational healthcare TV series to throwing baby showers for corporations, I am never bored when it comes to the project work in this field.
In the end – you’re helping someone: There is nothing that I find more fulfilling than helping people. The healthcare field lends itself to always helping someone in need. Yes, I realize it might seem odd to considering the job of developing a marketing plan for a hospital or brainstorming a name for a new health App, as a way to help people. But I love playing a role in helping educate people about their healthcare and the choices they can make. It’s called healthcare marketing. .
Leslie Raney is an Assistant Account Executive at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Leslie’s blogs here. Connect with Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org, or @lesliedr.
Just as the New York Time’s Jayson Blair episode begins to fade from memory, this week we’re reminded that plagiarism is still very much alive and well. BuzzFeed writer and editor Benny Johnson was fired after a review determined he had committed plagiarism and incorrectly attributed information in more than 40 of his posts for the online news site, according to a written apology from the editor-in-chief.
Talking Points Memo (TPM) outlines the incident in a recent post, and while this occurrence may not rise to the level of Blair, who also fabricated sources and datelines, it still begs the question: Why do writers keep doing this?
A May 2014 PlagiarismToday post (yes, there’s a whole blog site devoted to bringing awareness to the epidemic of plagiarism) sites several reasons for an increase in plagiarism scandals, including a combination of decreased staff in newsrooms across the country, less oversight from equally overworked editors and “increased cross-pollination” or stories that appear in multiple publications through content sharing.
So what are some steps we can take in the public relations sector to avoid making these same mistakes?
- Site sources and attribute information. Duh. There are several examples of how to do this in this very blog post and it’s even easier these days, with a rise in the number of people consuming information digitally, to simply include a hyperlink to referenced material.
- Have confidence in your writing. Sometimes young PR professionals, and PR veterans too, can find themselves with a lack of confidence in their writing. PlagiarismToday says there are many different reasons smart people plagiarize, including struggling with their writing skills or not enjoying the task in general.
- Take a break. Don’t overtax your thinking muscles. Taking a break from intense, prolonged periods of focusing on a single task has been shown to increase productivity and performance.
- Ask for help. This goes hand-in-hand with having confidence in your writing abilities. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a senior level colleague or someone who is not closely associated with the project you’re working on. Often those are the individuals who can spot an error or suggest a new approach to your writing project.
- Pay attention to other people’s work. You may find yourself in the position of reviewing others work. Especially in the world of healthcare marketing where data is abundant, it’s important to pay attention when someone is listing statistics, stating facts or if what you’re reading just sounds familiar. Unless your colleague is the subject matter expert on what they’re writing, facts, figures and quotes need to be sited and attributed.
What do you think about the continuing trend of plagiarism and how we can avoid these mistakes?
Amanda Anderson is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Amanda’s blogs at http://lovell.com/author/amanda-anderson/. Connect with Amanda at email@example.com or @maynordanderson.
Neither journalism nor media relations are exact sciences. Both have a lot of room for human error, and errors do happen. Despite the best efforts of reporters and their sources, sometimes the final story contains mistakes.
I’ve been on both sides of this issue, as a reporter trying hard to achieve 100 percent accuracy and as a public relations professional poring over every detail of a story to ensure accuracy. Those experiences have taught me a few things about how to achieve a favorable resolution when you spot an error in a news story. Here are a few tips:
1. Answer honestly: Is there really an error? Does the story say your company had revenue of $10 million last year when the number was actually $100 million? Or are you unhappy with the tone of an article or the way something was characterized? This is an important distinction that should influence if and how you approach the reporter.
2. If there’s an error, don’t let it slide. If you’re looking at a factual error that doesn’t seem to have a big impact, you may be tempted to say, “Oh well,” and let it slide. Resist the urge. If you don’t speak up, that error could reappear the next time the reporter writes about you. In my reporter days, I once had a public relations professional call me about the fourth story in a series of articles I had been writing about her organization, furious that I was using a certain “incorrect” statistic—the same statistic I had been using since story No. 1 appeared months prior. That’s not an easy problem to fix, for either party.
3. Contact the reporter right away. Pick up the phone and give the reporter a call as soon as possible. Explain the mistake and ask politely ask if he or she can make a correction. Today, that often means a quick fix in an online news story—and the faster the better, so fewer readers are exposed to the wrong information. If there isn’t an error, but you’re unhappy with some aspect of the article, calmly make your case and see if the reporter would be willing to make a few tweaks to make the article more balanced/accurate/complete.
4. Pick your battles. Sometimes a reporter will be apologetic, easy to work with, and will happily edit a story. Sometimes the reporter will disagree with your argument and resist making changes. If the latter happens, it’s important to think carefully about whether it’s worthwhile to escalate your complaint to the reporter’s editor. On the one hand, you certainly don’t want incorrect or potentially negative information available to the public. On the other hand, if the issue is small, you may risk damaging your relationship with the reporter or media outlet by pushing too hard.
Despite our best efforts, nobody gets it right all thetime. With these tips, you should be better equipped to respond when you spot an error in a news story.
If you work in agency PR, then you know you are constantly pulled in a million directions as important client needs tend to pop up when you’re in the middle of working on something else. Being able to switch gears and get back on track is important to optimizing productivity and meeting client deadlines and requests.
Everyone has their personal tricks to help stay on track throughout the day, but here are a few ideas in case you find yourself struggling to be productive:
- Take a short break. In a 2008 University of Illinois study, they found that the brain’s attention span drops after a long period of focusing on a single task, which leads to decreased focus and stalled performance. Brief diversions actually are proven to significantly improve performance.
- Work as a team. More minds, more input, more ideas are generated. Teamwork instills a bond between your coworkers and allows you to expand on each other’s ideas to proactively reach the best solution. If you’re stuck on a project, or suffering from writers block, pick a coworkers brain to help generate some ideas you may not have thought about before.
- Exercise during your lunch break. Exercising is a great way to relieve stress, increase your energy and refresh your mind. Plus, numerous studies have linked exercise to mood elevation, increased collaboration and productivity enhancement. If you don’t have time for a full-blown workout, take a walk down the street. Take a breath of fresh air and get that blood circulating.
- Spend less time on meetings and more time executing. Meetings can easily be a time suck, leaving you little time to accomplish what you discussed in your meeting. Try to keep meetings to a minimum and discussions short, so you can use your time to achieve the results you were looking for.
- Turn off the distractions. In the digital age, it is so easy to get distracted. The ring of a cell phone, ping of an email, the light up on your phone begging you to peek at a tweet. Flip your phone over and check them periodically throughout the day. Or, when you’re working on a project make it a point to finish what you’re doing before you check your email inbox, even if you see two, three or 10 emails come in. Better yet, turn off the notifications on these devices.
These are just a few things that help increase my productivity. What are some things you do to help stay focused to make the most out of your workday?
There is constant debate throughout the industry regarding the future of press releases. Will social media eventually make traditional media unnecessary? Will fact-filled, well-constructed, informative releases be replaced by 140-character tweets?
According to a new study, communications professionals can rest easy. Out of 300 seasoned journalists surveyed by BusinessWire, approximately 70 percent said their job would be more difficult without access to the thousands of press releases distributed over the wire every day. When asked about the most frequently used resources for editorial research, 77 percent rely on a company’s online newsroom for information and, once there, 88 percent prefer to access media releases for additional fact finding. Approximately 90 percent of survey participants referenced a media release in an article within the last week and more than 60 percent referenced one in the last 24 hours, proving they do depend on media releases for valuable content.
So, what did this diverse mix of editors, freelance journalists, news directors, columnists, bloggers and reporters find to be the most interesting information in a media release? It’s not surprising breaking news was the leader at 77 percent, followed by supporting facts (70%), interesting story angles (66%) quotable sources (52%) and company background (50%), trending industry topics (49%) and supporting multimedia (29%). And, speaking of multimedia, it’s interesting that more than half of the respondents are more likely to review a press release that contains multimedia, but when asked what kind they favor, photographs were by far the most popular at 73 percent. Other options like graphics and videos were far less preferred.
Press releases continue to be a highly valued, relevant way to deliver news to reporters. And, with media releases written to optimize online audiences, they can also be easily found by millions of web users who can tweet, re-tweet, post and blog about your news. Long live the press release! I hope you are here to stay…at least for many more years.