Integrating Social Media in Your Hospital’s Communications

I’m presenting today at the Iowa Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations Spring Conference in Des Moines. I believe this is the third time I’ve been with this group, and so I’m looking forward to sharing some new material and perspectives. Here are my slides:

I welcome your questions and comments. And if you would like to pursue deeper exploration of this material, our Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Social Media Residency program provides a day-long immersion. The next session is May 12 in Rochester.


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RAQ: Would you do a video about why PR and marketing pros need an iPhone?

At the #mayoragan09 conference earlier this week I participated in a “30 ideas in 30 minutes” panel, which was intended to provide rapid-fire, practical applications and next steps to take for people interested in incorporating social media into their health care work.

My first tip (after the obligatory “Get a Flip”), was:

Get an iPhone.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been, but I was somewhat surprised at the murmur that comment created. And in the Q&A session, I got this request:

“Could you upload a Flip video about why I should get an iPhone, so I can use it to make the case with my boss?”

My other tips, two of which require some expenditure and others that are free:

  • Get a Flip video camera (or something similar.) Cost is $150-$230 MSRP, but you can get them cheaper.
  • Join, which is an audio “book of the month” club. Listen to any books you can find from Clayton Christensen, Malcolm Gladwell, or Patrick Lencioni. And of course get Chris Anderson’s book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, for free. Cost is about $15/month.
  • Get the “Bump” application for iPhone, which lets you exchange contact info with other iPhone users with a fist bump. Free.
  • Create a blog as a “dark site” for crisis communications. Use to create a private blog, which you can make public should a crisis arise. That could save you 15 minutes or so in setting up a way to communicate broadly via the Web, which in a crisis could be precious time savings. Free on

If you do anything at all in continuing education for your professional growth, you may spend $1,000 or more for conference registrations, plus travel expenses.

How sad would it be to pay for a conference registration to learn about social media tools, and then to not spend the relatively smaller amount it takes to get hands-on experience?

And of course, do take advantage of the free tools as well, including enrolling in SMUG (join the Facebook group, follow the Chancellor on Twitter, and subscribe to the RSS feed).

See Aaron Hughling’s take-aways from the conference, as well as Holly Potter’s.

I hope this helps you make the case for your smartphone, whether that’s with your employer, your spouse or to help you convince yourself.

Social Media Measurement Survey

I’m a member of the Institute for Public Relations’ Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation, and recently  was asked by some commission colleages to complete a survey about social media and to encourage others to participate. If you work in public relations, please take a few minutes to complete the survey by clicking here. Increases Free Storage 6,000 Percent

As TechCrunch notes, my free blogging platform of choice,, has increased the amount of free storage it provides its users from 50 Mb to 3 Gb. Here’s what I see when I upload graphics or other documents to my blog: free storage

Note that a few days ago that 3GB figure in the lower left was only 50 MB. I formerly used Flickr as a storage space for my photos and other graphics (since it offered 100 MB a month vs. 50 MB a year with and just pulled the graphics from Flickr into my blog posts, but now it seems I should be able to upload graphics indiscriminately without even coming close to exceeding my WordPress limits. Especially if I’m uploading mostly 72 dpi screen captures.

As Erick Schonfeld says, this is a huge advance that puts significant pressure on competing platforms. has had the advantage of Akismet protection against comment spam (which has saved me over 34,000 spam comments.) By offering triple the free storage of Blogger, takes another big leap.

When I started this blog, I made it my goal to never spend a penny on any of the services. My purpose was  more than miserliness; I wanted to encourage others (particularly those in the PR field) that they can have blogs without spending  any money and without support from their IT department. As I say in my “It’s All Free” section, if you see something on my blog that you like, you can rest assured that it was completely free.

Why is free such a big deal? Because it helps to drive home the ridiculousness of spending several hundred to a few thousand dollars to attend a communications conference in which you learn about social media if you fail to take the next step and actually get hands-on experience. And it’s why I developed my 12-step Social Media Program.

Barriers to entry in blogging and other social media aren’t just low. They are non-existent.  Zero. Get started with your blog today. When you do, please leave a comment below to let me know how it’s working for you. You also can subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog, which will provide you with regular updates and pointers on issues you may find interesting and helpful. (If you don’t know what RSS is, see steps 4 and 5 in my 12-step program.)

You really should check out Facebook, too. It’s also free. Friend me if you’d like to stay in touch and learn more about social media.

If your work involves any communications, or marketing, or sales, or management responsibilities you owe it to yourself to begin to understand social media. And if you paid anything for college, or attend any career enrichment seminars for which you or your company pay admission fees, you’re seriously missing out on a great educational value if you don’t take advantage of the free hands-on education you can get through, Facebook, Twitter (you can follow me here), Flickr, YouTube and related services.

What’s holding you back?

The PR Measurement Treadmill

PR measurement
I recently heard Shel Holtz on the Oct. 22 edition of his For Immediate Release podcast (with Neville Hobson) talking about the WPP communications conglomerate and its recent stronger-than-expected revenues for PR services. The explanation offered by WPP was that as social media have become more important, effectively placing stories in the mainstream media is more valuable, because that’s what helps seed the social media discussion.

I think that’s exactly backwards.

Some companies may be thinking in this way, but if so they are doing the right thing (increasing their PR focus) for the wrong reasons.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big an advocate of social media as you’re likely to meet. And it’s not just because I’m 6′ 6″.

But using mainstream media stories to generate blog buzz is like the Minnesota Vikings giving Adrian Peterson the football to set up their play-action passing game. Having a record-setting rusher does cause the defensive backs to creep closer to the line of scrimmage, which with a competent quarterback (always a question for the Vikings) will enable more long pass completions. But getting Adrian the ball is the strategy; Brooks Bollinger’s improved passing is a welcome byproduct.

Likewise, mainstream media stories are “the real deal.” They are not primarily a means to the end of getting social media buzz. Social media have their biggest punch when they break through to generate mainstream media coverage. Like the guy who tried to cancel AOL. He did a blog post which led to New York Times and NBC Today stories. He didn’t pitch the Times and NBC to get blog traffic.

When his story made the leap from the blogosphere to the mainstream media, it did generate huge traffic to his blog. So much that it crashed his server. But the blog buzz (aside from being an end in itself) was a measure of the attention generated through traditional media. It wasn’t a goal of the mass media stories.

One of the benefits of social media is that they can give a mass media buzz biopsy, as Kami Huyse said in an excerpt of an interview highlighted in the same Oct. 22 FIR podcast. It was part of a report from Eric Schwartzman from the PRSA International conference in Philadelphia. Kami said:

Blogs are wonderful for analytics. You get all kinds of great numbers from blogs. How long did somebody look at a particular article? What did they come search for? How did they come to your site? By what search word? Once they’re in your site…do they use your internal search engine, and what do they search for there? Do they find it, or not?

Then Eric said, “I totally agree with Kami. I believe that the true value of new media communications and online PR is the ability to measure buzz and to prove it with numbers as never before.” You can hear the full interview at Eric’s On the Record podcast.

I agree with both Kami and Eric to a point. If you have skeptical business leaders who don’t believe anything has value unless you can “prove it with numbers,” social media can provide a lot of data.

But blog buzz is only the most immediately measurable byproduct of news media stories. Most word-of-mouth happens away from the web. People used to say “Did you see that story on the news last night?” around the proverbial water cooler. Now it’s at Starbucks. Unfortunately, that buzz can’t be easily or economically measured.

Web traffic, whether to a blog or a traditional web site, is just one concrete way of measuring results. And because web sites give such plentiful data, including counts of “conversions” to the desired consumer action, they are over-valued and over-analyzed.

Social Media tools are like a thermostat. They measure word-of-mouth buzz (temperature) and help send signals to raise (heat) it. And they are particularly effective for niche content that can’t attract a mass audience.

Mass media are like a furnace, kicking out the buzz BTUs. You don’t buy a new furnace to improve your thermostat reading. And if blog traffic is the way you measure your mass media PR, you will seriously underestimate your effectiveness.
If you get mass media coverage through your PR efforts, that’s the big win. And social media engagement is worthwhile in its own right. But mass media stories shouldn’t be seen primarily as means to blog buzz; they are, if not an end in themselves, at least a good in themselves with many consequent benefits, one of which may be blog discussions.

I have two main options for my personal exercise during my winters here on the frozen tundra: playing pick-up basketball or running on a treadmill. With the latter I get “all kinds of great numbers,” such as total time, average miles per hour, something called METS and a seemingly precise measurement calories burned. When I play basketball, however, I don’t get any of those “wonderful analytics,” but I get a lot more whole-body benefit through running and jumping, starting and stopping quickly. And I guarantee that I burn more calories. But I can’t “prove it with numbers.” Precise measurement doesn’t necessarily correlate with greater benefit.

I’m feeling another metaphor coming, but I think I’ll just leave it for now.

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