Good news, hospital marketing directors! The government shutdown message on the CMS Hospital Compare website has been updated and it looks like we’re back on track for a December 12 data refresh.
If the prospect of explaining your hospital’s quality performance (again) makes you feel like calling in sick, you’re not alone. From our earliest years in school we learn that talking about report cards is no fun – particularly if a sibling or neighbor down the street has something to crow about.
But the reality is that hospital quality, in general, continues to improve. According to The Joint Commission, their accredited hospitals in 2012 achieved 97.6 percent composite accountability on core measures – an improvement of 15.8 percentage points since 2002. So even if your hospital doesn’t score quite as well as a competitor in your market, you may be able to share a few positive sound bites with stakeholders and reporters to help bring balance their analysis.
- Be sure to review all of your hospital’s scores and understand how the organization has performed over time. If your hospital is following The Joint Commission’s trend, odds are good you’ve consistently improved year over year. So if your scores went up in 24 of 28 measures last year, for instance, you’ve got positive news – even if a nearby competitor outperformed you on individual comparisons.
- To bring context to the full data set, analyze your scores not only against your competitors, but against state and national averages as well. Telling an inquiring reporter that your hospital meets or exceeds state and national averages in 60% of measurement areas increases the likelihood they’ll look beyond the initial “who scored best” perspective.
- Don’t forget to consider your hospital’s readmission and mortality rates. Though many hospitals have gotten good at “taking the test” and performing well on core measures, mortality and readmission can pose a different kind of challenge. Some popular analysis efforts, including Leapfrog and Consumer Reports, place greater emphasis on these measurements and can seemingly contradict strong core measure results.
In addition to Hospital Compare, healthcare providers and consumers (as well as reporters) can access WhyNotTheBest.org, a transparency effort of the Commonwealth Fund that produces side-by-side comparisons of 4,500 hospitals nationwide, tracks performance over time and provides numerous benchmarks. Unlike the CMS site, which provides somewhat clunky, measure-by-measure graphs among up to three hospitals, WhyNotTheBest has a nimble, intuitive interface that provides a numbered ranking in a visual format. If your hospital performs well in their analysis (which includes core measure data, but also factors in information from the CDC, AHRQ and other sources), this website can be a real boon in your tool kit for educating stakeholders and the media.
If the data refresh still makes you feel like the flu is coming on, remember: transparency sites are useful tools, but they only tell a part of a hospital’s story, and even “refreshed” data is inherently dated. Patients making decisions about hospital care should speak with their physicians, talk to family members and friends about personal experiences, and arrange to visit their local hospitals to be truly informed consumers.
We love our phones and depend on them to talk, shop, navigate, connect, photograph and research. Most of us would be lost without our beloved technology sidekick.
It’s not shocking that findings from a recent survey reported 68 percent of people sleep by their phone and 66 percent would choose taking their phone to work over their lunch. Our phones are with us all day, every day which is why they are such effective marketing tools for businesses.
Have you considered a mobile marketing campaign? Is your company web site built appropriately for mobile use? If you answered no, here are three reasons why you should sharpen your mobile marketing skills.
1. Mobile Web Use May Surpass Desktops by 2015
According to Morgan Stanley analysts, there will be a dramatic shift towards mobile web use in the next few years. So much so that Google just launched a new algorithm called Hummingbird that, according to Forbes Magazine, will help Google better perform as it provides users with mobile web search results. What does that mean for companies? You must have a mobile friendly site that includes a strategy for providing users with easy to view content. As Forbes mentions, think large fonts, eye-catching images, responsive design, videos and concise, actionable content. Reaching your customers via their phone is going to increase in popularity, so get on board.
2. Mobile Marketing Budgets Have Increased by 142% since 2011
The Interactive Advertising Bureau conducted a mobile marketing study in 2011 and bench marked it against a similar study conducted this year and found that companies surveyed had significantly increased their mobile marketing spend over the last two years. In fact, the trend looks to continue as one in five marketing executives surveyed said they expect to increase their budget by another 50 percent by 2015. Companies understand the importance of mobile marketing and are making the investment.
3. 80 Percent of Smartphone Users Want Consumer Driven Text Messages
CMO.com reports that mobile messaging company mBlox conducted a study among smartphone users and found the majority surveyed were incredibly receptive to receiving text messages that pertained to coupons or deals…as long as they have opted in to receiving the messages. So, are the days of searching the newspaper for the weekly coupons nearing extinction? Stacy Adams, vice president of marketing for mBlox said, “We see SMS and push as a missed opportunity for marketers. So when you look at that, combined with the fact that 4 billion people in the world have mobile phones and thus have access to SMS and text messages, that means SMS has more users than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined.” Again, we basically sleep with our phones so notifying your customers of important information via texts is an effective approach.
So, put your phone down and give mobile marketing some thought.
Want to write something fresh for the CEO? Scratching your head over how to make the CFO seem more multi-dimensional? Tired of having legal eviscerate your press releases?
Communicating for the C-suite can be challenging. Corner offices tend to be populated by strong minded, fast thinking, hard driving professionals who don’t have a lot of time for rewrites or coming up with just the right word.
That’s our jobs as professional communicators. But it doesn’t take many emails from the C-suite to realize there is a big difference between writing well and writing well for a particular person.
First, it’s important to consider the person in the corner office – and the character as well. Typically, chief executives are the visionary of the organization: proactive thinkers and, often, charismatic entrepreneurs. Consider what your CEO is like as a person and a professional, and seek to understand his or her voice and priorities.
Next, think about their main audiences. This can be tricky, because chief executives are often the face of the organization and the lead spokesperson to many – if not most – stakeholders. Focusing on a CEO’s main external audiences, you’ll likely want to consider customers (not necessarily end users), investors, competitors and media on the list; for CEOs of publicly traded companies, add analysts, shareholders, regulators and the financial media.
Lastly, consider the primary concerns for a chief executive and you’ll have the topics about which he or she will most need to communicate. (And if a topic is not a primary concern, consider if the CEO should speak to it all: CEOs are strategists, so keep their communications well above mundane tactical matters). Company heads are generally focused on “big picture” matters like growth, strategic opportunity and performance. And more so than others in the executive suite, they are sensitive to reputation and perception issues, and often more attentive to the company’s relationships and strategic partners.
On the quirky side, that focus on relationships can sometimes make CEOs the more emotional members of the executive team. Unlike the uber-analytical CFO or legalistic general counsel, CEOs often approach their jobs more personally and can be sensitive to criticism. They are prone to middle of the night revelations (and emails) and are more likely to be hurt (or infuriated) by a headline they find disagreeable.
So if the phone rings at 5:30am with a last minute edit to a press release, just remember: writing for a chief executive is an honor. It provides the professional communicator an opportunity to see into the mastermind behind a company, and it allows you to contribute at a very high level. But never try to make them fit your style or voice. Approach your writing assignment for a CEO with his or her personality, concerns and audiences in mind, and you’ll find yourself on the way to a fantastic final piece.
Email campaigns are widely used for numerous reasons to communicate a message to a specific audience. They can be used to distribute newsletters to clients, target consumers in a certain geographic area, engage potential new clients, and more. The million dollar question in all of these campaigns is, “How do you increase open rates?”
According to Emma, a popular email marketing provider, the average open rate for the entire Emma community is 20 percent. Open rates actually vary by industry, with education having the highest rates (26.2 percent) and computer hardware, telecom and electronics having the lowest (13.4 percent), according to the 2013 Silverpop email marketing metrics benchmark study.
After a bit of online research, I have compiled some of the best tips for increasing your open rates:
- Use only clean, “opt-in” lists.
- Send email early in the week—Tuesday through Thursday morning is ideal.
- Segment your audience and send relevant information to the right people—i.e., CEOs get one email while Directors get another with targeted messaging appropriate to their respective positions.
- Keep the subject line short and make one point.
- Test different subject lines, messages and “from” addresses to see what performs better in different campaigns.
- Build a sense of urgency with your subject line and ensure there is an incentive for the recipient to open the email. (For example, offer a free service or analysis.)
- Include your company name in the subject line.
- Personalize the introduction line of your email.
- Use images to reinforce the message.
- Find the right frequency of communications. Separate recipients into groups that might warrant emails at varying frequencies. And keep track of the results so you can uncover patterns and refine your methods over time.
- Add social sharing buttons. Emails that have social sharing buttons have a 115 percent higher click-through rate than those that do not.
- Wait a few days, and then tweak the subject line and send your email again to those who didn’t open it the first time.
- Link your logo to your website.
To determine the best possible combination of these tactics to maximize your open rates, it is important to track your results and note what you do differently in each campaign. Every distribution is important in helping tailor your messages and distribution strategies for future campaigns.
What are some other tips for increasing open rates that have worked for you?
Just when you thought you knew all you needed to know about strategic planning, Tennessee Bank & Trust hosts a round-table discussion with experienced business leaders that will remind you how much you have forgotten and why you need to think about your strategic plan all year long.
There are great nuggets here. What is your top piece of advice about strategic planning?
I recently read a new survey published by the Arthur W. Page Society, The CEO View: The Impact of Communications on Corporate Character in a 24×7 Digital World, that shared insight from interviews with 20 leading CEOs of Fortune 50 companies on their opinions about strategic communications and the changing role of Chief Communications Officers (CCOs) in today’s companies.
The commissioned research is an update to the Society’s 2007 study The Authentic Enterprise assessing the strategic importance of communications to CEOs in building brands and corporate reputation.
There are a lot of great insights in the report. Here are just a few key findings from the study and implications for CCOs that I found particularly relevant in today’s global business climate:
Social media gains (more) respect. CEOs no longer view social media as “emerging” technologies but an imperative communications channel to engage with various stakeholders. They are looking for CCOs to understand, interpret and manage social media in a way that explains the impact on their business.
Character, reputation and values define corporations. Increased transparency has led CEOs to place a greater emphasis on understanding the diverse perspectives of internal and external stakeholders to help shape corporate identity and reputation. This is good news for CCOs, who have an opportunity to define and communicate company values that are authentic to the organization. For more insights from the Society on aligning corporate values, read here.
Hard-data rules. In this data-obsessed world, CEOs want better and more intricate measurement of their company’s reputation. The report calls this “high-resolution measurement” and CCOs need to have the right tools at hand, such as reputation scorecards or dashboards, to measure the impact of strategic communications in executing the business plan. The study indicates some CEOs “report measuring as many as 30 different brand attributes as experienced by as many as 15 discrete stakeholder groups.”
24/7 news cycle. The “always on” news cycle with the rise of social media and online news outlets is definitely here to stay. CEOs understand the urgency to respond to issues with the speed of information itself and the complexity of addressing many constituents with appropriate communication. CEOs value the role of CCOs in “proactively building relationships with all stakeholders via all available channels” to establish goodwill and help protect corporate reputation in the event of a crisis.
Do these findings resonate with your CEO? How do they impact your role as a communications executive? Share your thoughts and comments.