Here’s a Twitter etiquette tip: Don’t set up an automated response to go out to people who follow you. If you feel you must, just make it short and sweet. By following you, these people haven’t professed their love. Following someone on Twitter requires minimal investment. Therefore, any response that asks them to engage you further by following you on other platforms is inappropriate. Given them a chance to get to know you before you propose!

Think of this as a first date. Don’t ask them to go steady or make some further commitment; just thank them for the follow and move on.

Here’s how you should do it (even though this response is automated):

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Here’s another good example (not canned):

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Here are examples of how it should not be done (they go too far):

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Several months ago the gym I belong to started a team competition to help members lose weight and body fat. My wife and I joined the promotion thinking that we could both benefit from a concerted effort to get fit. At the first meeting of our team, I was surprise when the trainer (Josh) told us that we were expected to log/post our workouts on Instagram. In fact, our first homework assignment was to take photographs of the contents of our refrigerators and pantries and post them to Instagram using the promotion hashtag #FitWorldFitChallenge.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 2.32.43 PMNow, I love Instagram and I’m an avid user of the platform. So this was good news to me. What I quickly discovered was that no one else on our team used Instagram and there was a great deal of apprehension about posting photos to this platform. Despite that, my wife signed up for Instagram and that evening we took photos of our refrigerator and she posted them to Instagram. At the same time, I posted an image of the display from my Elliptical machine and added the appropriate hashtag.

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After posting the first images to Instagram using the #FitWorldFitChallenge hashtag I noticed that my wife and I were the only individuals who had used it. Of all the people taking part in this promotion, we were it. Perhaps we were just moving faster than others.

Curious, I checked out our trainer’s Instagram account. After all, he was the one who had required us to use Instagram. When I checked out Josh’s account, he had only posted to Instagram once. His account was barren. Even today, three months after the start of the promotion, his account is slim.

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Today, he has only posted 8 times. And this has a lot to do with the failure of the social media promotion designed to support the Fitness Challenge. (There were only 49 posts using the hashtag over the three months of the promotion. The vast majoirty of those posts were from two members.) We had people asking us to use a platform that they don’t use and don’t understand. That is failure #1. This social media promotion was a good idea: Give people an opportunity to showcase their efforts and support one another via an online platform. There was every opportunity for online community building. But the coach/trainer who should have been supporting everyone and modeling supportive behavior, was nowhere to be found. The trainer should have been following the hashtag daily, liking our posts and providing supportive comments. That didn’t happen. When one of the members did finally make an effort to post on Instagram, nothing happened. They didn’t received any positive feedback, pat on the back or encouragement. So there was no reason to keep posting. I posted 14 times using the hashtag, sharing my workout results, and Josh commented on/liked only one of them. That’s it.

The second reason the promotion failed was that the gym selected the wrong platform for the audience. This is a really common mistake! The members taking part in the promotion didn’t use Instagram and were apprehensive about using it. The gym would have been smarter to use a platform like Facebook. A dedicated Facebook Group would have been terrific. The members are familiar and comfortable with Facebook and it’s already part of their daily routine. A successful social media promotion starts with a thorough understanding of the audience’s use of social media. What platforms work for them? Where can you find them day-in and day-out on social media?  That understand has to be where you begin.

Finally, if you ask people to take part in a social media promotion or online community, you’ve got to support and nurture them. It is not enough to launch a promotion and let it happen organically. Encouraging online sharing and community building is hard work. If you’re not willing, prepared or staffed properly to do the hard work, then your promotion is destined for failure. You need to start a promotion with a firm protocol for your daily engagement activity and monitoring. There needs to be a plan for success.

One positive outcome from this experience was that my wife and I struck up a friendship with one of the female trainers at the gym (Ellen). Even though Ellen doesn’t post a lot on Instagram, she monitors it regularly and to this day still leaves supportive comments on my posts – long after the promotion has come to an end. I even tag my workout posts with Ellen’s Instagram handle, so that she’s sure to see them. (I used to do the same using trainer Josh’s handle, but that wasn’t enough to provoke any action. It became a negative.) Another positive outcome of posting workout results to Instagram has been the support that has come from my existing friends on the platform. Two or three friends have been incredibly supportive and I thrive on their comments and workout advice.

My advice: When you design your next social media promotion, begin with the habits and proclivities of your target audience, and go from there. It’s not about what platforms you like, it’s about what platforms your audience incorporates into their daily life. As marketers we have to be sensitive to the fact that our social media preferences may not be representative of the audience we’re seeking to engage.


To me, this is an interesting question (and perhaps to no one else): Do I work in healthcare or marketing? You might say both, but this is fundamentally about the way I see myself? Am I another person working in marketing who just happens to have expertise in healthcare? I don’t think so. Even though I work for a marketing firm, I see myself as someone working in healthcare. Is that a fallacy? (Feel free to tell me so.) I’d like to think that I’m on the team with clinicians, hospital employees, administrators, communicators and patients. Everyday I am immersed in this world of healthcare. Yes, some people may see me as a vendor, but I’m not going to let that limit my reach and worldview.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 4.31.48 PMI was at an event Monday evening that reminded me why I’ve chosen to work in healthcare. My wife and I attended a gathering of donors and board members at SECU Family House – a home away from home for seriously ill adult patients and family members visiting UNC Hospitals. It is one of our favorite causes and one we proudly support. I was an early board member before the house was built, and my firm did pro bono public relations and marketing to support the effort.

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At the event, Scotti and I met people who share our commitment to providing the best possible experience for the patient and family members. In the audience were clinical leaders from UNC Health Care, retired physicians, health system administrators, and community volunteers. We all share the same passion. In this particular case, we don’t want the limited availability and the high cost of hotel rooms to be an impediment to care. The going rate for a room at Family House is $35 per night and the accommodations are spectacular. The house has incredible amenities including a communal kitchen with several ovens and refrigerator space for each guest, beautifully designed common areas, and a wonderful home-like atmosphere. This truly is a healing environment.

My involvement with Family House takes me into the world of patient experience and access to care – two things of great importance. I think and care about the role of design in the creation of healing spaces; the role of sustainability in the development of new hospitals; and the impact all of that has on the employees of the health system and the care they deliver. As more and more seriously ill people receive sophisticated treatment on an outpatient basis, the need for facilities like Family House will only increase. A place like Family House takes so much stress off of the family and allows them to connect with other families facing similar challenges.

My father spent his entire career working in public television. Late in life he told me that he considered himself an educator first, and then a broadcaster. That provided important insight into his values and motivations. He could not have been the educator that he imagined himself to be without first becoming a broadcaster. I would say the same is true for me: My expertise in marketing has afforded me this opportunity to enjoy a career in healthcare at this incredible time of transformation. It is a pleasure to participate in that transformation – even if my part if limited to healthcare marketing reform!

In all my travels, I often see ads for major medical centers in airline magazines. These are usually organizations with national reputations or those seeking to elevate the stature of their brands. Here’s a collection of print ads from United Airlines’ magazine. The organizations advertising in this particular issue included Memorial Hermann’s Mischer Neuroscience Institute, Houston Methodist Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and UCLA Health.

One note: I scanned these ads so they do not look as sharp as they did in the publications. Any quality issues are most likely due to the scanning process.

Methodist Cancer Center

Memorial Hermann


Johns Hopkins

IMG_0200Last week one of my firm’s production crews spent three days shooting video at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut. Rob Frasketi, our associate creative director, supervised the shoot and I conducted the physician interviews on camera. It was a remarkable three days. Rarely have we met a more welcoming of group of healthcare professionals and hospital employees – from the security officers who signed us in each morning at the crack of dawn to the nurses, techs and physicians we each day.

We spent roughly 32 hours on the job over those three days (the first day was actually a half day, starting at 1pm and running until 7pm or so). We shot enough footage to produce 45 videos, including 18 physician interviews and b-roll footage throughout the hospital (cath lab, mammography, bariatric floor, day surgery, outpatient surgery center, robotic surgery suites, cardiology floor). I had the pleasure of interviewing breast surgeons, gastrenterologists, cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, interventional cardiologists, primary care physicians, bariatric surgeons, general surgeons adept at using the da Vinci Surgical Robot, and more. Below are some still photos that I took with my iPhone during the shoot. In a month or two I’ll share some of the finished videos.



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Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 2.54.38 PMThe 2015 Conference of the New England Society for Healthcare Communications was a big success. My thanks to Kelly Woodsum (executive director), the conference co-chairs, and the board members who worked so hard to make this a successful event. The speakers were incredible (better than most national conferences) and the networking opportunities were abundant.Special thanks to my two co-presenters, Brooke Hynes and Laura Pierce, who both did amazing presentations. (Yes, I presented twice.) It was the first time Laura and I presented together and I thought it went incredibly well. Brooke and I have been presenting together for at least 7 years and, to quote one of the attendees, “she’s a rock star.” The actual quote was: “Dan, you did a great job, but that Brooke, she’s a rock star.” Sometimes you’ve got to play a supporting role and be okay with that. I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by powerful, talented and intelligent women. I have no problem with that. Actually, I keep seeking out those talented individuals to collaborate with!

Below are the final Twitter Stats from the conference, courtesy of Symplur. If you’re interested in the Twitter Transcript, I maintained a Storify of the event and curated many of the Tweets. You can access the Storify at https://storify.com/dandunlop/neshco2015-curated. (Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.)

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I’ve been using Storify to curate Tweets and posts from the 2015 Spring Conference of the New England Society of Healthcare Communications. The Story begins with pre-conference Tweets and then is broken up into chapters covering various events. The Storify will grow as we travel through the rest of this conference. For now, I thought I’d share with you the content that I’ve aggregated to date. Enjoy! Here’s the link: https://storify.com/dandunlop/neshco2015-curated


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