Let’s Talk Healthcare

The best way to understand the impact of digital media is active, two-way participation. We welcome you to participate in our GCI Health blog and add to our conversation on the various trends and complex issues within healthcare communication.

Leading Thoughts

  • June 29, 2016
    • Comments Off on How to Ensure Your PR Team Is Engaged, Motivated and Appreciated

    How to Ensure Your PR Team Is Engaged, Motivated and Appreciated

    Blog post by Wendy Lund, CEO, featured on PRNews Online

    In most cases employees are, and will always be, a brand’s greatest asset. They drive in-house and agency success. Engaging them should be the highest priority.
    It’s the CEO’s responsibility to help achieve a singular, straightforward vision that propels the business and energizes employees to be best in class, renowned for unrivaled talent, forward-thinking capabilities and unrelenting client service.
    Achieving a vision like this requires building an incredible company spirit where every employee feels that “we are in this together” and maintaining an exceptional culture that embraces doing something different for clients, colleagues and the community. Central to the creation of this shared passion for success is a dedicated plan for actively engaging and motivating employees.
    Engagement Tied to Client Achievements
    It’s critical to motivate employees to avoid settling for the status quo and encourage them to think deeper, go the extra mile and do things differently and better. A lot of cliches, yes, but they are keys to better performance. To help staff live, breathe and celebrate great thinking and outcomes and to integrate this into a company’s culture, there needs to be an ongoing commitment to harnessing employees’ dedication to their work. Several of the following have proven successful:
    • An awards program that recognizes employees who epitomize the values of the company.
    • Monthly spotlights of great initiatives to highlight teams that execute new, different and effective programs. Timed to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament or some other sporting event, an annual competition among teams. The teams are awarded points for receiving accolades, growing revenue, orchestrating program milestones and sparking innovation.
    • Welcome lunches with the CEO for new employees. This allows the CEO to meet new staff and share the company’s vision.
    • “High fives” at monthly staff meetings to honor people who have done things differently and better.
    These are examples only. Options are limitless, of course. The point is to find what works best with your employees and have fun doing it.
    Training & Development & Distinct Needs
    To help foster a culture built on achieving greatness, it’s important to offer employees highly experiential and hands-on experiences that relate directly to the transforming and diverse work they do.
    For example, as we know, PR today is global. As boundaries disintegrate it’s essential that all employees and PR teammates have an understanding of the regional and local nuances that color effective communications around the world. To that end, companies have given staff the opportunity to spend time working in overseas offices to help expand their global mindset. Incidentally, the same holds true for overseas employees—having them work for a period in your U.S. office(s) can be beneficial. Beyond that, encourage employees to work in other offices throughout the U.S., should they have the desire to temporarily relocate to a new city.
    One area that always seems to be a challenge in engaging employees is new business. This is true particularly when it comes to balancing and prioritizing new business with existing (and paying!) work.
    On the agency side, to elevate employees’ comfort with—and love for—new business, consider staging a “new business boot camp,” where you introduce formal methodology and approaches to new business and provide resources to support these activities.
    In addition to formal programs, “lunch & learn” opportunities are an excellent way to train staff through highly interactive sessions. Outside experts should be considered to help facilitate discussions with senior managers on communications best practices, managing people and teams for success and mastering sound financial management.
    Maintain a Work-Life Balance
    Various efforts to engage employees are all fine and well, but how can you keep staff refreshed, at the top of its game and motivated? It’s critical to pay close attention to specific needs of each employee and ensure a good work-life balance. As previously mentioned, employees likely are your greatest asset, and everything we as managers do should be carried out with an eye toward creating a superior work experience.
    From encouraging team members to live a healthy lifestyle to allowing them to take the time they need with their families (and actually use their vacation time) to providing a liberal telecommuting policy to something as simple as a Summer Friday program. All of these can make employees feel good about themselves and their work. I find that the quality of the work and the team spirit is best when employees know that they and their work-life needs are being considered.
    By treating staff as your brand’s greatest asset and making sure that its every contribution is valued, you will be able to pull greatness out of every employee and achieve your company vision.
    CONTACT: wendy.lund@gcihealth.com

  • May 20, 2016
    • Comments Off on Don’t Sponsor “Content for Women,” Sponsor “Women”

    Don’t Sponsor “Content for Women,” Sponsor “Women”

    Blog post by Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health, featured on WorkingMother.com

    Companies and even industries need to support gender equality through clear career pathways and options for advancement.

    So many talented women are yearning for the next step.

    Lately, I’ve noticed that companies in my industry, communications and public relations (PR), are putting out a lot of “sponsored” content extolling the importance of gender equality in the workplace. In a sector made up of 70 percent women, but with only 30 percent of them holding top positions, our industry should be showing the way for other industries by sponsoring women, not content, to foster discernible change.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about this disparity and why it even exists. From surprising my family at my college graduation by holding up a sign highlighting the pay inequality between men and women (“58 cents to the dollar”), to earning a master’s in women’s history, to a successful 30-year career, I have seen so many positive changes for women, but I still feel we’re only occasionally getting to the true top of our game.

    One thing I’ve noticed is how hard it still is for women to come out and ask for what they want, or even conceive of what they want. If you ask a woman what she’s looking for, she’ll often respond with some variation of “What do you need?” (focusing only on the immediate ask) or “I have no idea—I’m too busy working and managing my family.” I remember the many times in my own career when I depended on the powers-that-be to just tell me what was next and where I was needed most, rather than a range of options I could pursue for advancement.

    A recent article in our industry press addressed this very issue with feedback from senior women about the main barriers women in PR face—with all of them citing lack of confidence, lack of flexibility and a need for work and family balance. While I’ve noticed that younger women do have a better sense of what they want and have limited qualms talking about it, companies still need to do more to help women envision what is possible, and to provide “guideposts” to help them see what their career pathway could look like. So many talented women are yearning for the next step, new responsibilities and opportunities to ascend to the top of their careers, but they seem to lack the confidence and words to ask. Both men and women leaders have the power and ability to create stronger companies and grow talent by looking for and creating these opportunities.

    So what can be done across all industries?

    – Companies should examine their gender pay gap. In 2015, female full-time workers made on average just 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a 21 percent wage gap. This is a far cry from the 58 cents more than 30 years ago, but clearly not where we should be. What is your company doing to close the pay gap?

    – Mentors and sponsors play a fundamental role in cultivating more female leaders. Women need to feel confident in their abilities and feel empowered to ask for what they want. An internal advocate can help them feel more comfortable addressing their goals, and internal advocates should be supported by top leadership.

    – Having a critical eye toward helping employees maintain a good work life balance is the real cornerstone to women feeling they have the opportunity to advance without sacrificing their mom role. If a company offers telecommuting options, an employee should not feel conflicted about using them. With all the technological advances of today’s world, true face-to-face interaction should not be a prerequisite for achieving a leadership role.

    I hope that a year from now, we will see real change in my industry and others. But it’s up to companies and their leadership to make it happen and for all women, and for us to speak up and ask for what we want even if we don’t know what that is. In other words, we need to get sponsored and create our own content—our own story.

  • March 13, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Rally for Rare Diseases

    SXSW: Rally for Rare Diseases

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Digital Strategist

    “An estimated 30 million Americans (that’s about 1 in 10) have a rare disease.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta presents this statistic in his appearance in Rare in Common, a user-generated short film that features the experiences of families dealing with a rare disease. While the specific diseases that afflict them are considered rare (defined in the US by a patient population numbering less than 200,000 people), what’s not rare at all is how common rare diseases overall are: today, there are over 7,000 rare diseases.

    While the film is being submitted to film festivals, we got a glimpse of the emotional journey and powerful rally of families to make progress in this arena and to inspire industry, regulators and the public to #careaboutrare.

    The panel featured leaders from Cambridge BioMarketing, Intercept Pharmaceuticals, and Lipodystrophy United (in particular, the organization’s founder, Angela Stratton, who has the rare disease herself and has devoted her energy to advocacy efforts). Through her moving personal stories and those of the families in the film, several key themes emerged:

    The diagnostic journey is long – it’s more like an odyssey. In a survey of people with rare diseases, the average number of years to get to diagnosis is 7-8 years, a taxing period that involves seeing multiple doctors and often facing misdiagnoses (a staggering 5-6 misdiagnoses, on average).

    The Internet is scary, but… One family remarked “stay away from the Internet and appreciate the moments, the little moments…” At the point of diagnosis, patients aren’t getting a lot of information from their providers. Going down the rabbit hole of Google searching for information about these rare diseases has presented patients with little hope. As such, there’s a powerful opportunity to create communities online (a concept that has seen success in addressing fears of having no one to talk to) and to reinforce knowledge sharing among the people that actually know the disease best: patients and their families.

    There is a large asymmetry of information. Throughout the film, the notion of patients often knowing more than their doctors echoes loud and clear. Parents are becoming medical brokers, and as Cambridge BioMarketing’s Lisa Hazen puts it, the rare disease community is seeing moms become “CMOs – Chief Medical Officers.” The knowledge gap is in large part due to the traditions of medical training. Sam Falsetti quoted the often-used rare disease analogy, “When you hear hoofbeats, you think of horses… not zebras,” to describe the state of mind doctors tend to have.

    The group of panelists presented that an astounding 30-40% of rare diseases have facial recognition patterns that can aid diagnosis. There is no lack of opportunity to improve the accessibility of information and education as it relates to rare diseases.

    For the patient and caregiver community, user-generated content (especially around milestones and events), has seen success through distribution on social media, but it doesn’t stop there. From an industry standpoint, what is the role that pharmaceutical companies can play in addressing this issue? Hazen, whose family is personally affected by a rare disease, closed the session, “With the right partners in a disease space, we can change the planet of a disease.

  • March 12, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: Health Gets Mobile, Communal

    SXSW: Health Gets Mobile, Communal

    Guest post by Emily Kittle, Digital Strategist

    In today’s world, all of the information and resources we could want and more seem to be at the tip of our fingertips. However, when it comes to healthcare, seeking the appropriate treatment is all too often deprioritized due to the daily demands of life and the ease of being able to search symptoms online and self-diagnose. Similarly, many patients feel that their existing support systems quite often don’t have the resources and time to help them in their healthcare journey following diagnosis, surgery or injury.

    Two of today’s sessions at SXSW – “Virtual Health: Is It Real or Just Fantasy” and “New Prescription: Mobilize Patients’ Communities” – highlighted local mobile health-focused initiatives in the state of Texas that are helping to improve patient access to care and support systems, resulting in improved quality of care and outcomes for patients.

    In 2014, the Dallas Children’s Health System of Texas implemented a school-based telemedicine program with remote patient monitoring. The reason behind this program? It’s inevitable that children will get sick at school, which can be disruptive to daily life – they have to miss class, parents have to leave work, last minute doctor’s appointments have to be scheduled. But through this telemedicine program, school nurses are provided with stethoscopes, ear, nose, throat and derma scopes, then connected with Children’s physicians for a virtual patient consultation.

    Because of the mobile technology, Children’s physicians are able to diagnose common illnesses for children in school and send their prescriptions to a preferred pharmacy, ultimately eliminating the need for the child to leave the school for treatment or for mom and dad to spend valuable time and money on a doctor’s appointment or emergency room visit. Today, Children’s Health’s telemedicine program is one of the largest school-based telemedicine programs for kids in the country, with more than 57 schools across Dallas implementing the technology.

    We were honored to participate in another session today that introduced us to Rallyhood, a collaborative platform that enables action-oriented communities. We heard from Rallyhood CEO Patti Rogers, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. While she had a tremendous support group throughout her cancer journey, she realized that there was a need for tools and resources to bring people together around a common purpose – and that’s why Rallyhood was born.

    Recognizing this need, Patti partnered with Seton Medical Center Austin to launch this platform. Now, people can use Rallyhood to stay connected through features such as calendars, file sharing, photo exchanges and message boards. The panelists reiterated that “You can’t do cancer alone” – support groups are vital, and technology is extremely important in connecting those dots.

    “If you are connected and uplifted by the people around you, you are more likely to have endorphins to help you get well. A community and support group can make the difference in whether you get well or return to the hospital.” – Patti Rogers, founder and CEO of Rallyhood

  • March 11, 2016
    • Comments Off on SXSW: The Business of Influencers

    SXSW: The Business of Influencers

    Guest post by Pauline Ma, Digital Strategist

    There are certain questions that should be easy for today’s influencers (and social media stars, content creators, or whatever other lingo you’d like to use to characterize them) to answer: How did you get your start? What do you look for when companies and brands reach out to you in hopes of a partnership? Other questions are not as clear-cut: How do you determine your pricing model? How do you maintain creative control and actually tell a story?

    At SXSW Interactive, many a panel focused on the topics of content creation, native advertising and social media engagement. These discussions tend to become pretty predictable in these types of settings: for example, a phrase like “be authentic, engaging and relevant” more than met its quota.

    So why are we still talking about them if the concepts are no longer new? Panelists shed light on the challenges that still exist, like navigating available budget for integrated campaigns, buy-in and understanding from higher ups on what collaborating with influencers to create content can do for brand stories, and how to strike that healthy balance between “yes, this content is sponsored” and “here’s the voice of the influencer you know and trust.”

    What we heard was that generally, the available budget for sponsored content campaigns still remains small in comparison to the larger pool of funds reserved for traditional marketing — and often the support for these campaigns is a blend of PR and social media budgets too. At the root of this often is the need to educate those in senior management (and those who hold the key to unlock more freedoms with budget) about expectations for what these kinds of collaborations can deliver and how they can be measured.

    One common remark from a panel of millennial content creators and video personalities particularly struck a chord with us: “when we receive pitches, we want to know upfront what we’re going to get out of it.” For those of us working in healthcare, this is something to keep in mind. How can we push ourselves to be creative with what we can offer our partners? If not (or in addition to) cutting them a check, what kinds of experiences can we offer? An understanding of an influencer’s following, personal brand, and strengths in content creation is crucial to ensuring a partnership is beneficial to both parties. More often than not, influencers feel that the cold pitches they’re getting are so laser-focused on supporting some business goal on the back-end and overlook focusing on the meaningful impact that can be created out of the partnership.

    Particularly within healthcare, we know finding the right influencers is not easy – and so we need to ensure we’re thinking about what we can do differently in order to create truly authentic partnerships that are about more than just click-throughs and engagements.

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