Category Archives: Survey

Tapping into March Madness: Lessons from Garden and Gun Magazine

Southern lifestyle magazine Garden and Gun has absolutely nothing to do with college basketball. Its readership isn’t likely to have a particularly high level of interest in the sport, either.

But we’re all aware of the March Madness phenomenon – the anticipation that accompanies NCAA Tournament bracket selections and pools. Whether or not the games turn out to be as exciting as this year, the true appeal is seeing how the teams match up and guessing which teams will advance in the tournament.

And that’s where Garden and Gun comes into play. It was a couple years ago the magazine cleverly created a March Madness-inspired social media campaign, forming its own unique “brackets” and engaging followers to anticipate winners matched in a bracket format.

The first year, the “final matchup” was between grits and barbeque, with grits taking home the first place honors. Last year, face-off between Krispy Kreme and Coke, a choice few anticipated ever having to make. Which you consider to be better may be a “toss up,” but that’s the fun of it – you still want to know.

This year, in a move away from food match-ups, the magazine is asking followers to select their favorite southern town. There were 32 contenders at the start of the competition; now we are in the final days of the madness. Choosing the 32 qualifiers was surely no easy task, considering how many unique places there are in the south. Each town’s population had to be less than 150,000. This was the only qualifying criteria. 

Magazine Editor David DiBenedetto said, “We spent a lot of time going back and forth. Not too many college towns, not too many coastal towns, not too many in one state. It wasn’t scientific, but we tried to be fair.”

With the change from its food focus to towns, Garden and Gun ignited a rather surprising social media frenzy between the residents of the competing towns, the magazine providing a platform to show passion – and they’re doing so in great numbers via social media, promoting Garden and Gun in the process. With thousands of tweets containing the hashtag #SouthernTowns, it’s clear people have become obsessed with seeing their town win.

“We had no idea how passionate they would be,” Garden and Gun’s DiBenedetto said.

Garden and Gun not only conceived a clever social media campaign to help promote its magazine, it has in turn become the unofficial promoter for 32 small southern towns. That just goes to show that tweaking an already successful marketing strategy can take you from being just another team in the tournament to a respected player in the big game.

Close to home here in Tennessee, the town of Franklin may not be a Cinderella story but it has made the brackets final match-up against Savannah, Ga…and the people of Middle Tennessee couldn’t be more thrilled.

People may vote once a day at Click “view results” to see real-time vote percentages.

What’s your opinion of Garden and Gun’s social media strategy? Slam dunk?

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Smartphones: The Key to the Engaged Patient’s Heart

It’s official. I’ve joined the ranks of those device-addled people for whom one form of media is simply not enough. I came to this realization one evening as I toggled between email on my phone, shopping on my iPad and catching up on Netflix  – all while sitting next to my husband as he did the same thing. Though I may find this sudden inability to unplug troubling, new research shows I’m not alone. In today’s multi-screen world, our devices accompany us everywhere – acting as both companion and advisor. And while this brave new digital world may be eroding the art of conversation, new evidence suggests it’s making us better consumers – and patients.

For example, a recent Digitas Health survey found that patients who use smartphones in their doctor’s office are 80 percent more likely to switch medications and twice as likely to ask for a brand name. A separate study reveals that 38 percent of smartphone users say their device is “essential” for finding health and medical information.

Patients aren’t just getting their information from websites either. According to Digitas, nine out of 10 patients would use an app recommended by a physician. And “power users” – those with both a smartphone and a tablet – are 30 percent more likely to talk to a doctor about a mobile site or app and twice as likely to switch medications.

So what does all of this mean for health care marketers? Here are three key takeaways whether you’re selling prescription drugs or surgical services:

  • Go mobile. Now. Having a responsive websites and a strong social media presence is simply a must in today’s digital world. With the rise of HCAHPS, Meaningful Use 2 and readmission penalties, engaged patients are the holy grail for hospitals. The best way to reach those patients is to  meet them where they are already spending time: online.
  • Give them what they’re searching for. Patients are hungry for information and – increasingly – using their smartphones and mobile devices to access it. Make it easy for them by providing useful content through a website, blog, or social media channels – or better yet, all three. Be sure to search engine optimize your content to ensure it’s easy to find.
  • Build it and they will come. Don’t rule out building or buying consumer-friendly apps designed to engage and empower patients with information – before, during and after admission. InQuicker and iTriage are just two examples of apps many hospitals are using to allow patients to check symptoms, find the nearest ER or urgent care center and pre-register for care. Other apps provide patients with wayfinding maps, personal health records, medication trackers and even a way to record discharge instructions.
  • Let them connect to you – and to each other.  Patient communities, such as PatientsLikeMe or BensFriends, allow individuals with certain illnesses or conditions to connect with other patients experiencing the same condition.  Creating service-line-specific groups – for groups such as expectant mothers, bariatric patients or cancer patients – can help a provider promote specialists, increase awareness about services and build loyalty among affinity groups.

Today’s patient isn’t just searching for information – they’re searching for a reason to act. What are you doing to give them one?


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View from the Top: New Study Reveals CEO Perceptions on Communications

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.

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The Patient Experience: More Important Than Ever

When we launched our company blog in 2009 my first post was about customer service. I recounted a personal experience at a local hospital as an example of bad customer service. Since our firm specializes in healthcare, and I’ve helped execute customer service programs in hospitals throughout the country, I had a thorough understanding of the importance of a positive patient experience.

Now, fast forward to 2013; the patient experience is more critical because a bad hospital stay can directly affect a hospital’s reimbursement. 

This is why I was so intrigued by an email I recently received from Catalyst Healthcare Research that provided findings from a study they conducted in partnership with The Beryl Institute. The study was called The State of Patient Experience in American Hospitals. The purpose of the study was to determine “if hospitals are now being reimbursed for quality patient care and a positive patient experience, what are they doing to improve it?”

According to more than 1,000 executive leaders at hospitals throughout the country, roughly 70 percent said their number one priority in the next three years is patient experience/satisfaction, closely followed by patient safety.

When asked about the key elements of their patient experience efforts, the top responses were that they share patient satisfaction scores throughout the organization and they encourage regular rounding by clinical staff as well as the hospital leadership team. Since transparency is often key to helping employees feel engaged with the overall mission of the organization, it’s no wonder sharing satisfaction scores topped the list. If employees don’t understand how you’re performing and how that translates to the bottom line, it’s often difficult to build a “team” mentality.

To monitor patient satisfaction performance, respondents said they rely on various metrics, but the three most popular were HCAHPS scores (86%), patient survey findings (80%) and discharge follow up calls (70%). From a patient perspective, I think the most interesting question was how hospitals plan to further improve the patient experience. I was intrigued because the answers prove hospitals really understand customer service is important. Answers included reducing noise, more physician rounding, improved cleanliness, increased physician communication, better food service and more attention to pain management.

Approximately 70 percent of the respondents felt positive about their efforts to improve patient satisfaction, and we can only hope this is an accurate representation of hospitals across the country. Starting in 2014, the hospital Value-Based Purchasing program will tie at least 1.25 percent of hospital payments to their performance on various quality and patient experience indicators. So, what does this mean? According to a recent article in Becker’s Hospital Review, the financial impact will be significant on low performing hospitals. The article provided the example of a 300-bed hospital with poor quality metrics that would be penalized approximately $1.3 million a year, beginning in 2015.

This study proves hospitals are putting a great deal of importance on patient satisfaction. Fingers crossed it is enough.

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Federal Reserve Survey Indicates Some Concern Over Labor Costs

I appreciate the regular surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.  They are like quick sound bites that create an up-to-date picture about what business people
believe is going to happen in the next six months.

The latest survey is comforting as it relates to cost-of-goods inflation worries, but it looks
like businesses are anticipating some labor cost pressures…and I’d have to agree.

What are you thinking about the next six months for your business?  As it relates to sales, will you be better off?  Worse?  Or about the same?

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What’s Distracting You?

Survey Estimates Electronic Distractions Cost Thousands per Employee in Lost Productivity

Trends in communications and business practices continuously evolve; even bad ones. A survey conducted in March for, a provider of social email software, reveals modern trends in electronic distractions that diminish productivity.

One of the most interesting findings relates to an increasingly common addition that psychologists call “online compulsive disorder.” The survey found this addiction to web-based activity is pervasive in the workplace and is also impacting our personal lives. It found, for example, that two out of three people will tune out of a face-to-face meeting to communicate digitally with someone else. And 65 percent of those surveyed under age 40 said they stay digitally connected even in bed, at least sometimes.

Most workplace distractions today are electronic rather than traditional activities like phone calls or conversations with co-workers.  While the survey found processing emails and email alerts constituted 23 percent of the electronic distractions, toggling between multiple applications, windows and tabs, and using multiple devices at the same time contribute to the problem.

Another significant drain on productivity is “document chaos,” with users surveyed wasting on average 30 minutes a day searching for documents. The two leading locations people go to find lost documents do not include file servers; email and computer desktops are the first places people look, at 76 percent and 69 percent respectively.

Sadly, the survey indicates that 45 percent of today’s workers can’t work more than 15 minutes without being interrupted. What’s the cost of all this distraction? The survey results estimate an hour of wasted productivity at an average salary of $30 per hour translates to a loss of $10,375 per person per year, not to mention the impact on work quality and both personal and professional relationships.

Strategies respondents said they’re using to try and limit distractions include reading emails in batches, working outside the office, or disconnecting from electronic and phone distractions for a few hours a day. To combat distraction, some employers block access to public social and media networks. Others use corporate policies or track online usage patterns. Unfortunately, only a quarter said they provide training to their employees to address productivity issues.

As communicators, we know today’s online resources and social media platforms have created a new universe of opportunities to engage and influence stakeholders – both our own and those of our clients. In this like anything else, however, to maximize those opportunities without diminishing productivity requires balance.

What’s distracting you?  If you live in our home state of Tennessee, it might be the buzz of the cicada, but more likely, the source of your distraction is an electronic one.


Patients Connect with Peers, Find Support Online

More Reasons to Consider Digital Marketing in Healthcare

Patients increasingly use online connections to find healthcare information and to connect with peers who share a condition or disease, according to a new study “Peer-to-peer Healthcare” from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  The implications for marketers are clear: online advertising is going to be more and more effective.

Online peers substantially expand one’s network beyond just friends and family, to whom people traditionally turn for support and advice, to a broader base of information from individuals living with various rare or chronic conditions. The study finds that health professionals remain the central source of information for most Americans, but “peer-to-peer healthcare” has become a significant supplement.

Pew finds 18% of Internet users report they have gone online to find others who share their health concerns. Among American Internet users living with chronic conditions that include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or lung conditions, cancer and other chronic ailments, that number jumps to 23%.  Caregivers are also connecting with peers who share similar situations online.

Health professionals remain the most frequently consulted source of information, care and support when Internet users experience a health issue at 70% of those surveyed, but those conversations still occur primarily offline. Only 5% of adults said they received information, care or support from a health professional online.

The survey found that professional sources like doctors and nurses are considered more helpful in terms of information regarding a health condition itself, including diagnosis, information about prescription drug and alternative treatments and recommendations to a specialist or medical facility. But non-professionals hold more sway when people seek emotional support or practical advice for day-to-day living.

Read the results of “Peer-to-peer Healthcare” and other Pew surveys that explore the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world online at  The Pew Internet & American Life Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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Census 2010: Portrait of America

Census Data Helps Guide Marketing Decisions

On Dec. 21, 2010, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke delivered the 2010 U.S. Census resident population and apportionment counts to President Obama and unveiled the official results to the public. This marks the twenty-third time this once-a-decade ritual to count the nation’s population has been completed since 1790.

As of Apr. 1, 2010, the total U.S. resident population of the 50 states and the District of Columbia was 308,745,538, up 9.7 percent from 281,421,906 in 2000. Regionally, the areas of greatest growth were the South and the West. Nevada gained the most as a percentage of its 2000 count, up 35.1 percent, while Texas gained the most numerically up 4,293,741 residents. California remains the most populous state with 37,253,956 residents and the least populous state is Wyoming at 563,626.

The statistics assembled through the Census process provide the basis for decision-making regarding the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal funds for programs like education and health care. The results are also used to determine the redistribution of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives proportionate to the population of the states. In the 2010 Census, 10 states lost congressional seats while eight gained. Today, each member of the U.S. House of Representatives represents about 710,767 people, up from 34,000 people per district when the first U.S. Census was conducted.

In addition to the decennial count of the resident population mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the Census Bureau conducts other surveys to collect data about the nation’s people and economy. Marketers and business owners can also use economic data gathered by the Census to target households, gauge competition, calculate market share and evaluate potential new markets.

One ongoing Census survey of particular interest to marketers is the American Community Survey. The ACS is sent to about three million households in the U.S. and Puerto Rico every year to measure the changing social and economic characteristics of the U.S. population. For example, using ACS data, a marketer or business owner could determine how many high-income households with children live near a specific retail location. The Census Bureau also provides downloadable user guides written specifically for different audiences, including businesses.

To learn more about the Census and the portrait it paints of our changing nation, visit

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Surveys: An Effective Way to Gauge What An Audience Thinks

surveys-an-effective-way-to-gauge-what-your-audience-thinksBefore launching into a marketing or PR campaign it’s a good idea to “get your arms around” audience opinions and perceptions, and surveys can help you do this.

For instance, you may want to determine if customers like your product and are they pleased with your delivery method and customer service. Or, maybe it’s time for an internal employee campaign to help boost productivity. In this case, before you move forward with the campaign you might want to know if your employees have the appropriate tools to effectively do their job.

The goal of any survey is to capture valuable information, so putting careful thought into the survey questions is imperative. If a client asks us to develop a survey, we spend the majority of our time conducting research through focus groups and phone and onsite interviews to ensure we develop valuable questions that will produce meaningful results.

Online surveys are fast becoming the method of choice. They are easy to set up and easy to send…as long as you have an accurate email distribution list. We recently conducted an employee communications survey (which I must brag had a 95% response rate…compared to the average internal survey rates that range from 30-40%) and I spent several days researching numerous companies. Here’s what I found.

If you need a fairly basic survey and you don’t need to cross tab your results, then I suggest For the employee communications survey we just implemented, we needed a more sophisticated reporting system that could cross tabulate the roughly 50 questions and decided to use Based on the employee feedback, we will be able to provide the client with recommendations that will influence communication efforts in the long-term future.

Surveys are an effective way to determine what your customers are thinking, but choosing good questions and a reliable survey tool will help ensure it is successful.

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Economic Survey Results

Last week Lovell Communications Inc. conducted an email blast survey on opinions about the economy.  Approximately 88 percent of 194 respondents (mostly business people and professionals) indicated they think the economy will either remain the same or improve over the next six months.

Last May 2009, when we conducted a survey with the same question, 89 percent of the 174 respondents indicated they felt the economy would remain essentially the same or improve between mid-May 2009 and mid-November 2009. Not a significant difference there.

Likewise, in the recent survey about 12 percent think the economy will get worse in the next six months compared to 11 percent asked the same question back in May. Also, not significant.

However, last May, 55 percent thought the economy was going to improve over the following six months compared to 48 percent in this month’s survey.

Last May, 34 percent thought the economy would stay the same for the subsequent six months compared to 40 percent of this month’s respondents who think the economy will remain the same for the next six months.

Asking Twitters and Facebook Users

In a separate survey sent out through Twitter and Facebook to a broader audience (not necessarily business people and professionals), only 74 percent of the 168 respondents think the economy will remain the same or improve over the next six months.  Notably, 25 percent felt the economy would get worse. (compared to only 11 percent in the business and professionals survey.)

29 percent of the Tweeters and Facebook respondents feel the economy will remain about the same over the next six months.   That compares to 48 percent of the business person and professionals survey.

I am wondering if this indicates that the business community is slightly more optimistic than the “average guy on the street.”  Makes sense.  What do you think?

Economic Survey Results

Economic Survey Results

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