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

  • April 20, 2011

    Blogger Outreach, PR and Healthcare

    This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 20, 2011 (subscription required).

    With the emergence of today’s digital space, it is safe to say that bloggers are the new reporters and journalists. Their content reaches many at once and is easily accessible by a click of the finger. What bloggers choose to feature on and write about can go beyond just sharing light on a particular topic. Their opinions are well trusted by faithful readers, and their posts have the ability to persuade and most importantly, greatly influence perceptions. Blogging was one of the first Web2.0 technologies and it changed the dynamics of influence.

    What does this mean for PR?

    It is important to find bloggers who address the same audiences as your company.  Once you find them, research their dos and don’ts. There’s nothing more wasteful than spending a significant amount of time reaching out to a number of bloggers and pitching stories, services and/or products that turn out to be of no interest to them. Also, make sure that these bloggers are people who do want to be contacted and if indicated, make note to follow their particular guidelines on how they would like to be reached. These initial steps can make the difference in unanswered emails, one-time features, or a series of professional partnerships based on lasting, trusting relationships that successfully introduce many to your company and the work that you do.

    For Healthcare PR?

    Bloggers have become a frequently referenced source of healthcare information. So, finding and reaching out to influential bloggers in your category is a critical component of your outreach. Bloggers themselves are individuals, and should receive customized communications instead of mass mailed press releases – they should be targeted to their blog and their community. Blogs should be analyzed to determine relation to the disease state, influence, and on-label suitability.

    Special considerations may be necessary for healthcare. Some pharma companies are only comfortable reaching out to bloggers with journalistic credentials – those who have established a presence in traditional as well as online media, or are otherwise recognized as an authority in their area. Blog monitoring may need to be carried out to monitor the conversation and gauge response by the community. This, in itself, can lead to useful insights for companies. And understanding bloggers’ rights to make honest statements regarding products is a hard pill for healthcare companies to swallow.

    However, the reward is a more personal interpretation of your news, told in an engaging way to a very interested community. Sometimes, it is through these posts that a person might first hear about a new procedure or drug. Ultimately, your company will engage in impactful relationships with people who have very personal connections to the stories shared.

    When it comes to blogger outreach, make the effort. But do your homework first.

  • April 18, 2011

    Rx for Pharma Tweeting

    This story originally appeared in PRWeek Insider on April 18, 2011 (subscription required).

    Two weeks ago a Marc Jacobs intern publicly melted down on Twitter and then quit. Two weeks before that, Chrysler experienced some Twitter road rage, and an agency was fired. And two weeks before that, the Red Cross had to confiscate the keys from their tweeter for #gettngslizzerd.

    Imagine if these accidents had happened in a healthcare setting? We don’t need FDA guidelines to understand the hot water we’d be in.

    Pharma company Twitter feeds are heavily stage-managed. Posts are vetted by an army of regulatory and legal staff, and updates are timed like Obama’s inauguration. The few branded Twitter feeds are even more tightly controlled. But who tweets and how? It’s usually a junior staffer copying and pasting the approved post and frequently using their own choice of software. That’s the weak link. The examples at the beginning are a cautionary tale of people inadvertently mixing their personal and professional profiles, and of tweeters going off the rails.

    Software Rx
    : Twitter feeds are frequently handled using a dashboard like Hootsuite which can manage a number of feeds at once and offers analytic capabilities for tracking tweets and mentions. It can handle Facebook pages as well, enabling you to easily syndicate content selectively across the social platforms. Even multiple clients can be set up. The lure is strong to add your personal accounts, and create a mothership dashboard so you can be complete master of your domain. Resist it, it’s a bad idea. It’s all too easy to click the wrong icon and post to the wrong account – especially late at night or in a busy airport. One wrong click and you blast your personal tweet about that new band to your client’s followers. Or, you might post that handbag website to your client’s Facebook page. Amusing, yes, but it’s not as funny the next morning.

    The best practice is to create separate dashboards for work and personal accounts using different email addresses and logins. Then using themes, give them radically different colors and backgrounds so you can easily distinguish between them, no matter how flummoxed you might be. For added safety, consider using different browsers, like Chrome for work and Firefox for personal.

    Mobile Rx: The same goes for mobile devices. For tweeting on the go, use a different mobile app for your clients and personal tweets. Put them on different pages or folders. Don’t tweet and drive.

    Content Rx: If you’re tweeting for a pharma company or brand, your hands are already tied and the blinders are on, just carefully press ‘send,’ per the above. If you’re fortunate enough to be tweeting for a hospital or association in a less structured way, you need to have some guidelines for the voice of your feed. You are the spokesperson of the brand, and while you want personality and authenticity, behave as if your every tweet could be on the cover of USA Today, because if you screw up, it will be. Consider using a workflow where tweets are approved before they are issued.

    So take your medicine and tweet me in the morning @markhdavis.

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