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This post is part one of my 2016 year in review series.

I have this habit of taking photos everywhere I go. Of course, many of those photos end up on Instagram and Facebook. I enjoy looking back at the images from the year and reflecting on all the people with whom I’ve had an opportunity to work (and play).

Pizza Photos

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Starting the year off with our friends from Silvertech in Manchester, NH

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Celebrating our first ever Western New England Healthcare Marketing Symposium

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Awesome Meals on the Road

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Presenting with Laura Pierce of Tufts Medical Center at the AAMC Professional Development Conference in Phoenix

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Handling social media at the Practical Playbook’s National Meeting in DC

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Participating in the NESHCo Annual Conference in Providence, RI

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More shots from the NESHCo Conference

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Video shoot at Signature Healthcare

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The terrace garden at Jennings’ North Carolina office

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Holy Donuts from Portland, ME

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Women’s Night Out Fundraiser for Lexington Medical Center

Scenes from SHSMD (Colin Hung, Jeff Steblea, Ann Compton, Joel Cessna, Dana Smith)

Speaking in Boston at the Annual Conference of the Association of Occupational Health Professionals

With the RecycleHealth Team at Partners Healthcare’s Connected Health Symposium (Selfie with Lisa Gualtieri)

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The Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) in Las Vegas

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The Jennings Team preparing and serving dinner at Family House

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The Jennings Team preparing and serving dinner at Family House

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The Annual Conference of the Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society in Charleston, SC

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Speaking at the CHPRMS Conference in Charleston, SC

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More shots from the CHPRMS Conference in December

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Random Selfies including one with ePatient Dave

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Over the last several weeks I’ve noticed that a large number of my clients and employees have come down with a bad cold. They have been dropping like flies.

We work in healthcare, so we should know how to deal with this kind of thing. If you are sick, stay home and rest. Recuperate. Above all, don’t try to be a hero and come to work when you’re sick; all you’ll do is pass on your germs to your co-workers. I get so annoyed when I see those cold medicine commercials on TV that promised to treat your symptoms so you’ll be able to go to work or continue with your routine. If you’re sick, you should rest and give yourself time to heal. Pushing through it is not a good solution.

Today I have a cold. A bad cold. Interestingly, last week I had three co-workers with bad colds who came to work and refused to stay home. They each eventually decided to take a sick day, but only after spending time in the office with a full blown illness. Believe me when I tell you that I encourage employees who are sick to go home and stay home! I was also in meetings with clients who clearly should have been at home but who claimed to no longer be contagious. I wasn’t convinced. If you need a good rationale for staying home from work when you’re under the weather, check out this article from Forbes, “Three Reasons to Stop Coming to Work Sick.”

In many ways, we have a warped perspective of health and healthcare in America. We need to start using common sense. When you’re not feeling well, is the best solution to rush to the urgent care and get a prescription for antibiotics, looking for the quick fix? Is it smart to dose yourself up with cold meds and then head to work? Or is it better to slow down for a couple of days and give your body a chance to recover? Drink fluids and get some rest. What’s so important that you can’t take care of yourself?

This phenomenon, where sick employees come to work, is known as “presenteeism.” Here’s an excerpt from an article about presenteeism from Harvard Business Review (October 2004):

“Presenteeism, as defined by researchers, isn’t about malingering (pretending to be ill to avoid work duties) or goofing off on the job (surfing the Internet, say, when you should be preparing that report). The term—which has gained currency despite some academics’ uneasiness with its somewhat catchy feel—refers to productivity loss resulting from real health problems. Underlying the research on presenteeism is the assumption that employees do not take their jobs lightly, that most of them need and want to continue working if they can.”

The same Harvard Business Review article cites a study that claims that presenteeism in the United States costs businesses more than $150 billion per year (Source: American Productivity Audit, Stewart). It’s worth noting that only some of that can be attributed to employees showing up for work with the flu, some bug or the common cold. But the point remains: people coming to work with a bad cold are not doing anyone a favor. Rather, they are most likely prolonging their illness and risking spreading that illness to their co-workers.

I’m done with my rant. Stay healthy. Wash your hands frequently. And if you’re sick, don’t come into the office! Do it for your co-workers.

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screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-2-04-22-pmIf you’re a fan of digital video content, you should be actively tracking video analytics. Without video analytics, you have no way of knowing what content is performing well and engaging your target audience. At my firm, we use Wistia as our video hosting platform. One of the reasons why we selected Wistia was because of the analytics it provides.

Wistia starts by providing high-level stats—account and project-level trends for our videos. Then it reports video-level trends and  gives data on total engagement, play rate, and action analytics. You can find detailed insights on how the video was viewed—both at the aggregate level through engagement graphs, and individually through heatmaps. You can also look at up-to-date views as they come into the view stream. Gain insights into all identified viewers on the Audience page, see the entire viewing history of a viewer on the viewer page, and manually identify viewers with identity tagging. Finally, Wistia allows you to export all these reports.

In the graphs below, you can check out analytics from a recent video I posted. This represents a day and a half of viewing. Please note that this is only a partial report.

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If there’s one point of learning I took away from the recent presidential election, it is that neither of the political parties really understood the depth of frustration, anger and alienation felt by a good portion of the American people. Both parties thought they knew their audiences, and both were wrong.

There is great danger in assuming you know and understand your target audience, as the Democratic Party learned earlier this week. As marketers, we live our lives, visit certain stores and restaurants, and travel a very specific path each day. That path is unique for each of us, but limits who and what we see. It alters our perspective. I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago when my wife and I went to the NC State Fair in Raleigh. Going to the State Fair is definitely a departure from my typical path. My new mantra is: if you want to know your audience, go to the State Fair! (A county fair will do.)

The truth is, there are entire parts of our communities that we never visit. Honestly, most of us don’t even spend much time speaking with and listening to patients of our institutions. When it comes to understanding the audiences we serve, that should represent the low hanging fruit. But we end up spending a lot of our time listening to stakeholders like physicians, clinical leaders, department heads, etc. We need to invest time observing and listening to key audiences that may be underserved or simply not present in the context of our daily lives. It takes an intentional effort on our part to travel new paths and expose ourselves to different communities of people.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-59-34-pmMany of the people at the State Fair are quite different from the people I interact with each day. From my perspective, going to the fair is equivalent to conducting ethnographic research. These are the people we serve or would like to serve, yet we rarely interact with a good percentage of them. At the NC State Fair I saw a ton of white, working-class people; family people, proudly wearing Trump T-shirts and anti-Hillary shirts. There were also Latino, African American and Asian families – multi-generational groups attending the fair together. We went on a Sunday, so it was interesting to see some families dressed up as if they had just come from church. One of the things I love about the State Fair is the diversity of people from all walks of life who attend. To me, it feels like a great snapshot of a cross-section of America.

Generally speaking, it would be a mistake for me to think I understand these people without first immersing myself in their lives. The disenfranchised white, working class people caught my attention. They wore their discontent on their T-shirts, literally. I have to believe that their daily lives, and perhaps values, are so different from mine (and yours). They probably aren’t shopping at Whole Foods or that fancy suburban grocery store that has a sushi bar and a Starbucks. From focus group research I’ve done I know that when they think about the Walmart brand it has a different meaning for them than it does for me. That’s something to know: brands are perceived differently by different audiences due to demographic, psychographic, cultural and geographic differences. For some, Walmart is great (inexpensive, large selection) while for others it is the last place on earth they’d want to shop. Here’s a link to an excellent article on understanding the white working class (WWC) from Harvard Business Review, “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class,” by Joan C. Williams, November 10, 2016. (Shout out to my friend, Chris Boyer, for first drawing this article to my attention.)

Where you live can make a big difference in how you see the world. For example, there are people who feel disenfranchised because of the region of the state or country where they live. Many people in North Carolina who live east of Interstate 95 feel they are the stepchildren of the state. They feel forgotten or overlooked. They live in the poorest and most rural section of the state. And it spans a relatively massive geographic area. This group of people feels as though they are defined and limited by their geography. For them, this is a very real condition of their lives.

Looking back at lessons learned from the recent election, my point is that we should always do more to immerse ourselves in the lives of those we seek to engage and motivate through marketing. What does a day in the life of this individual look like? Where do they shop? What is unique about them from social and cultural perspectives? The two best things we can do as marketers are listening and observing. We need to make an effort, an ongoing effort, to understand their world view, wants, motivations and needs. That understanding is foundational to good marketing.

So the next time you get the chance, go to the State Fair! It’s a responsibility of every good marketer.

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Sharing Halloween

Happy Halloween! This holiday brings out the kid in me. My family goes all out decorating for Halloween and we always carve pumpkins. It’s part of our tradition.

Given the role that digital communication plays in my life, I decided to carve a ghost emoji jack-o-lantern. An emoji jack-o-lantern? It just makes sense. Enjoy the photos.




Here are a few photos of my office decorated for the holiday.



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screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-6-07-03-pmIn preparation for attending the Connected Health Symposium in Boston later this week, I’ve been reading The Internet of Healthy Things by Joseph Kvedar, MD. To give you a sense of my reaction to the book, I plan to send all of my healthcare marketing friends and clients copies as holiday gifts. That’s how important I believe it is. Kvedar paints a picture of the way healthcare can be – and the way it should be.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-6-23-43-pmFor me, what is most impressive about this book and the thinking it contains, is the realism that Kvedar brings to the discussion of innovation. He seems to clearly understand that innovation is only helpful if it takes into account the realities of human behavior. His notion of “Connected Health” is on the money and a concept that more of us should embrace.

Kvedar started with a very basic understanding of the opportunity for technology to impact health and healthcare delivery.

I did, however, recognize the need for technologies that could deliver health in a manner independent of time and place. And I know that healthcare should be available to people in the context of their everyday lives and that implementation of care in this manner would improve both quality and efficiency. (p. 5, The Internet of Healthy Things)

Note the similarity in the ways successful marketing and successful healthcare are delivered! Both are at their best when they are delivered within the context of the individual’s everyday life. In the end, it is always about the people we’re trying to reach, not about what’s easiest for us! If we want people to engage in healthy activities, we need to make it easy and convenient for them. It needs to fit within their daily routine.

The Internet of Healthy Things shines a bright light on the promise of digital health. It’s interesting to read about Kvedar’s vision while realizing that we live in a healthcare environment where most people still cannot make an appointment with their physician online. The fact that we have a lot of ground to make up does not in any diminish the promise of Connected Health.

The truth is, as Kvedar points out (to his credit), healthcare organizations and providers have behaved using a “seller’s market” approach. (p. 77) You know the mindset: “You need us more than we need you.” Therefore, we have structured the delivery of care and your entire experience to accommodate our needs – not yours. (My words, not Kvedar’s.)  I’m less generous than Kvedar and look at this as an old narcissistic bent in medicine and healthcare. “You do it on our terms.” This approach does not fly with the new generations of healthcare consumers. They know better. They’ve experienced good customers service and know what it looks like. These are the people who are clamoring for virtual appointments, online appointment setting, and the ability to communicate with providers via email or text.

If you work in digital health or healthcare marketing, this book is a must read. I know that’s cliché to say, but it is absolutely how I feel. You should read this book, as should the other leaders in your organization. If you know me, don’t be surprised if you get a copy in the mail this December!

In closing, here’s a 10-minute video where Joe Kvedar, MD, speaks with Healthcare IT News about the advancements in digital health technology (2015 HIMSS Connected Health Conference).

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I invite you to join me on October 27th, 2016, for a morning of learning and sharing. The New England Society for Healthcare Communications is holding a half day virtual conference where we will take a fresh look at the role of social media in healthcare communications. I will lead a panel discussion on emerging media. Take a look below for information about the sessions, speakers and panelists. If you are interested in even more information or would like to register for the event, please click here.

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