FullSizeRender-11Last week I was having a conversation with Paige, my business partner. I mentioned that I received a new suitcase for Christmas (a gift from my wife) and that one thing I planned to do that weekend was transfer the contents of my old suitcase into my new one. She was surprised to learn that I keep certain stuff (other than my shaving kit) in my suitcase at all times, packed and ready to go. Keep in mind, I travel a lot. (Notice from the photo on the left that I don’t use the traditional black or navy blue suitcase. They are too difficult to identify coming off the baggage carousel. I always go with off colors like olive green or khaki.)

Here’s an inventory of some of the things I keep stashed in my suitcase to make travel a little easier for me.

  1. An extension cord! Yes, not every hotel has those convenient outlets next to the bed or built into the bedside table. At a minimum I’m going to need to charge my iPhone and my laptop – and I like to have them both within reach. This little extension cord has saved the day on many occasions.


2. Emergen-C – This should be obvious. After a long day of travel, I’m definitely a fan of a sudden boost of vitamins and electrolytes. I’m always working to stay healthy on the road.

3. The paper plate! This one might surprise you. Yes, I travel with a stash of paper plates. They come in very handy when Thai takeout is the only viable options and the restaurant doesn’t supply such things.


4. To go with the paper plates, I have a set of heavy duty plastic utensils that go everywhere I go. I think these are meant to go in a kid’s lunchbox but they work perfectly for this business traveler.


5. Very tiny bottles of Tabasco. Sometimes a meal on the road needs to be spiced up. These little bottles of Tabasco do the trick.


6. You may recognize this as a paint can opener. It is also one heck of a bottle opener. Occasionally, while living out of a hotel room, I have the need to open a bottle. This works really well.


7. Of course, once you open the bottle, you may need to put a stopper in it to preserve the bubbles. That’s where these come in handy. These work well for soda, beer, Champagne and other assorted fizzy drinks.


8. A spare thumb drive. This is self explanatory. People give them out like candy so why not stash one in your suitcase. This has saved me on more than one occasion.


9. l love this little old school digital alarm clock. I usually set it for the next morning immediately when I check into my hotel room. That way, if I forget to set the alarm on my iPhone, this little gem will keep me on schedule in the morning. Truthfully, I can never figure out how to work the hotel alarm clocks. Whether I am too tired when I tackle them or they are too complex, it is something I would rather not deal with.


10. Earbuds. Another no brainer. I always find it helpful to have a spare set stashed away.


11. A trusty baseball cap. This one is from Tufts Medical Center in Boston and it goes everywhere with me. Have you ever been in a hotel in the middle of the night when the fire alarm goes off. I have. Several times. I just throw on the Tufts MC ball cap and make my way to the appropriate exit. This happened at the NESHCo conference in 2015, two nights in a row, and I met several people in the lobby who wished they had a hat like mine!


12. Ziploc Bags. These leak-proof multi-purpose bags come in extremely handy. I always like to have a few hidden in my suitcase. They are perfect for storing that leftover piece of pizza – or a leaky bottle of shampoo. I have friends who store their travel receipts in a Ziploc bag. They are also good for storing loose change.


13. Kind Bars – These bars travel well and taste good. When I don’t have time for breakfast or lunch, a Kind Bar will save the day.


14. Kleenex Tissues. Another no brainer. I like these wallet packs.


15. Wipes. Hotels can be nasty places – even big name hotels. It is good to have wipes on hand for dealing with sticky surfaces, remote controls, etc. Trust me. This is an essential.


When I pack for a trip, I want it to be as simple as possible. Beyond figuring out what clothing to pack, I don’t want to have to engage my brain. Having these few “essentials” stashed in my suitcase keeps me prepared for life in a hotel and the normal eventualities that occur on the road. For me, that’s piece of mind.

My Year In Review

At the end of each year, I take some time to reflect on what has been accomplished over the last 12 months – by me and by my firm (Jennings). I find without taking stock of the prior year, the years simply fly by. It’s important to me to know that I am making progress – rather than simply churning through the months and years.

My Year In Review

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.50.11 AMI started the year with a goal of cutting back on many of my extracurricular activities (speaking at conferences, writing articles for publications, blogging, etc) in favor of putting greater focus on the ongoing evolution of my firm and work/life balance.

For my firm, my efforts were going to be focused on the development of strategic partnerships/friendships/alliances, the opening of regional offices (one at a time), and the continuing evolution of our team. In the end, I’m only as good as the team of people around me.

Did I achieve my goals?

  • In August we successfully recruited Tim Brennan to join the Jennings Team. Tim would head up our New England operation. He was a great hire with big time experience at Tufts Medical Center and Mass General, to name a couple. Tim’s first assignment was to work with us to identify office space in Boston.
  • The big news: In September we opened our Boston office, located on Atlantic Avenue, adjacent to South Station. This step was long overdue!

Was I able to re-prioritize? Yes.

  • I went from having roughly 18 speaking engagements in 2014 to limiting myself to 7 or 8 engagements in 2015.
  • Another goal was to accept speaking engagements that put me in front of new audiences. That was accomplished by speaking at the Annual Conference of the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals and the National Conference on Next Generation Breast Center Excellence.
  • Dan Hinmon of Hive Strategies and I continued our webinar series in 2015. Dan is one of those strategic partners I mentioned earlier. I’m extremely proud of our relationship and the work we’ve done together.
  • In 2015, I contributed my usual 4 or 5 articles to industry publications (eHealthcare Strategy & Trends, Healthcare Marketing Report, Healthcare Strategy Alert). Most of my articles challenge the status quo in healthcare marketing and recommend an alternative course. I’m grateful to the editors who made me sound much smarter and more succinct than I really am.
  • This year I managed to produce around 120 blog posts – nearly one every three days. That is about half my usual production. My wife can no longer claim to be a “blog widow.”

Some odds and ends:

What I love about the information below is the variety of healthcare organizations we’ve worked with over the last year. And this is just a sampling of the organizations we worked with. This does not include our long time clients such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Signature Healthcare, Tufts Medical Center, Lawrence General Hospital, Vidant Health, Outer Banks Hospital, Lowell General Hospital, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Copley Hospital, and more.

  • January marked our first full month working with The Practical Playbook – an organization that facilitates collaboration between partners in public health and primary care with the goal of improving population health. This is an important initiative as we move into the world of population health management, and obviously an exciting one for my team to support and market. The Practical Playbook was founded through a collaboration of the de Beaumont Foundation, Duke Community and Family Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our work for the Practical Playbook focused on developing a strategic marketing plan, social media and digital marketing. All of this happened in collaboration with our partners at PR Collaborative in Washington, DC.
  • In February we launched a new visual brand identity and website for WorldCare International. With its U.S. headquarters in Boston, WorldCare operates in more than 45 countries and covers millions of patients worldwide.
  • In February we began working with Adventist Health System in Portland, Oregon.
  • We recruited Angela Mascenik to join our team in March of 2015. Angela is a talented account executive who now works on variety of healthcare accounts including Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Vidant Health.
  • In April we were retained by ParamountRx, a Pharamacy Benefits Manager (PBM), to develop a strategic marketing plan, along with a new visual brand identity and website.
  • The American Hospital Association released their Hospital Leadership Guide to Digital & Social Media Engagement in May. They notified us that my blog would be listed among their list of top social and digital media resources.
  • The winners of the national Aster Awards for healthcare marketing were announced in May. We learned that Jennings’ clients won a total of 24 awards; 10 Gold; 9 Silver; 5 Bronze – and our pediatric affiliation campaign for Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital won a Judges Choice Award! The winning campaign is called “Just What Moms Ordered.” Ten healthcare organizations were represented by these 24 awards!
  • In May, our New England clients won a total of 31 Lamplighter Awards from the New England Society for Healthcare Communications.
  • My business partner, Paige Zinn, graduated from MIT’s Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP) in June – after three years of hard work!
  • In June, a HubSpot Article, “8 Brilliant Examples of Healthcare Marketing” – featured Floating Hospital for Children & Lowell General Hospital’s “Our Circle of Moms Online Community.” We are extremely proud of our work on this project.
  • We began working with Holy Redeemer Health System (Pennsylvania) in July. That month we also launched our brand elevation campaign for Lawrence General Hospital (Massachusetts).
  • In August we learned that Jennings’ clients won a total of 12 national Videographer Awards. Five different healthcare clients were award winners! That same month my blog was recognized with a Digital Health Award.
  • We launched a new website for Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular in September. NWRHV is part of Adventist Health. We went on to launch a second site in November, this one for their orthopedics institute.
  • In October we launched Reply Ob/Gyn‘s first clinic – a new model of Ob/Gyn care that we hope to see spread across the country.
  • We started out the month of October by launching an amazing new patient safety initiative at Signature Healthcare in southeastern Massachusetts.
  • Also in October, Jason Stepanek joined Jennings to head up our award winning video content division. He hit the ground running and is looking forward to a busy 2016.
  • And then we had the busiest November and December that I can remember. We had photo and video shoots for several clients. Our staff was spread out across the country.

I’m sure I left out all kinds of important details, but it was fun for me to look back at the year and put this summary together. By the end of the year I find that it is all a blur. Putting together this kind of summary certainly helps one appreciate all that actually happened in the prior year. For me, that’s a motivator as I push forward into 2016.

Happy New Year.

More Hospital Print Ads

Here’s another group of hospital and healthcare print ads that I clipped last week from Southwest Airlines’ in-flight magazine. These advertisers have decided to target the adult traveler – most likely the business traveler. As I’ve noted in the past, this is an attractive target market because they are willing to get on an airplane to do business and may, therefore, be willing to travel for exceptional care. They are also likely to have disposable income and commercial insurance.

One thing you’ll notice is that a couple of these ads are copy intensive (UTMB, Sarah Cannon and Cancer Treatment Centers). They are working under the assumption that people reading airline magazine (a captive audience) will spend more time with an ad.

One caveat: Please note that I scanned each of these ads and their quality has been diminished in the process. Enjoy.

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Healthcare Marketing Joy

MiddleburyAbout once a week something happens to remind me just how much I enjoy my professional life as a healthcare marketer. It’s actually more than that; it’s a reminder about how much I love working for this company that allows me to do what I love a daily basis. The most recent reminder came on a visit to Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, Vermont. (I’m originally from Vermont and love any excuse to travel there. If you’re going to travel on business, why not go somewhere you enjoy?) If you’ve never been to Middlebury, it’s a picturesque community located on Route 7. The downtown area is full of interesting shops and artist studios – the kind of place that’s great to visit during the holiday season.

Porter1A couple weeks ago I spent a day visiting with a couple members of the leadership team at Porter Medical Center. They are one of our newest clients and we are in the “getting-to-know-you” phase of our relationship. Porter is a 45-bed critical access hospital with a nursing home and a network of physician practices. I tell you that because it is important to me that, as our firm grows and evolves, we can continue to work with both small organizations and large health systems. That is one of our values as a company. In our current healthcare environment, no one needs strong strategic marketing support more than small, independent hospitals!

From my perspective, talking marketing strategy with a new client is a wonderful way to spend a day. For me, that is pure joy! I thrive on meeting new people (particularly sharp marketers and administrators) and learning about the vision, business objectives and marketing challenges of an organization. I find that I learn as much from each new opportunity as my clients do. Frankly, that helps to keep it interesting. Each opportunity and set of challenges is unique. For me, addressing those challenges is like putting together an incredibly complex puzzle, built on multiple dimensions. The more complex the challenge, the more excited I become. I leave these meetings completely energized.

Fortunately, this kind of thing happens to me about once a week. Sometimes it is a strategy meeting with a new client, but it can also be a creative presentation with a long-time client where we roll out a new marketing program (that happened yesterday). I also take delight in seeing my co-workers grow as healthcare marketers – something I see happening every day.

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hassles that goes with any business; and there certainly is plenty of that to go around. But it is the love for the work that makes it all tolerable.

Finding joy in my work is what keeps me doing this! Happy Holidays.

As I prepare for 2016, things keep happening that serve to remind me that I’m not as young as I used to be. It’s just a fact of life, but I do find humor in these little reminders. Here are a few of that come to mind:

You know you’re getting older when you….

  1. … meet young professionals at a conference and they consistently call you “sir.”
  2. … still buy a paper daytimer/calendar each year to keep track of appointments. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I also keep an electronic calendar.)
  3. … buy the “large print” edition of the daytimer.
  4. … use the flashlight app on your iPhone to read menus in dimly lit restaurants.
  5. … find that your favorite blog is called Boomer Haiku.
  6. … find that your employees’ parents are younger than you are.
  7. … look in the mirror and see an image of your father staring back at you.
  8. … call it a night at 10pm, leaving your friends and colleagues at the bar to carry on without you. (This happens to me now frequently at conferences.)
  9. … need a day to recover after taking a red eye flight home from the west coast.
  10. … no longer prefer those quaint and charming boutique hotels or B&Bs for business travel and opt for modern comforts of a Marriott or Hilton property. Another related sign of aging is the amount of stuff I now cram into my shaving kit when I travel: Vitamins, Emergen-C, Advil, Antihistamines and Antacids, along with assorted lotions and potions to keep me going strong!

What signs of aging have you noticed? I know I’m not alone in this experience.

This year I’ve seen more marketing around open enrollment season than ever before. If you’re a health system, and you’re only an option on certain plans with certain payors, then you want consumers to know that. In these spots by Duke Medicine, they let consumers know that they won’t find Duke on all Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina plans.

I love the creativity that went into concepting and creating these spots (my company did not do these). By graphically mimicking a pop-up book, they’ve created visually engaging advertising that hopefully allows their message to be heard. They’ve also done a nice job of not over-complicating the subject matter. Watch the commercials below and let me know what you think.


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I received notification today of SHSMD’s call for speakers/proposals for its 2016 Connections Conference in Chicago, September 11–14, 2016. Proposals are due January 4, 2016. Here’s the link to submit a proposal online.

SHSMD is seeking speakers to present the following:

Workshops 2.5 hours
Concurrent Sessions 1 hour

Under the following tracks:

Digital Engagement
Analytics & Research
Public Relations/Communications
Strategic Planning/Business Development
Physician Strategies
Customer Experience
Leadership Development

Before submitting your proposal, SHSMD encourages you to review the track definitions and key hot topics.



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