The Brave New Media World – social media for hospitals

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Social Media  |  Public Relations  |  Marketing  |  Corporate blogging

This morning I had an opportunity to participate in a terrific event called The Brave New Media World sponsored by the Massachusetts Hospital Association. What I love about social media and marketing is that every time I have a chance to interact with people from a particular industry, I learn something new.

Hospitals have a terrific opportunity to use social media, but are jumping in slowly. People such as Deborah Chiaravalloti, Vice President, Public Relations & Marketing at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, MA, who I enjoyed speaking with prior to the event, are eager to learn and were paying close attention to the speakers.


First up was Larry Weber, Chairman, The W2 Group and author, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business published by Wiley the publisher of my book The New Rules of Marketing & PR. The W2 Group, "a next-generation marketing services ecosystem that helps CMOs in their new role as builders of communities" just received a $30 million investment from Monitor Clipper Partners, a Cambridge, MA-based private equity firm affiliated with the global consulting firm Monitor Group. Congratulations Larry. I'll be watching W2 as Larry embarks to "develop the company into the dominant player in the multi-billion dollar next-generation Web 2.0 market."

Here are a few things I captured from Larry.
"In the hospital world the social web is going to be huge."
"Emotion, a huge part of the social web is also part of health care, for example people living with diseases."
"Definition of branding is all about the dialog you have with constituencies. The stronger your dialog, the stronger your brand is."
"We haven’t seen the impact that the blogosphere has yet. It will be must more influential in the future."
"Next time you go to the Boston Public library, be careful because you may step on a homeless PR person."
"Leveraging Social Media in Marketing can help you to do all of these things: Brand building, lead generation, research and development, product or service launch, customer retention, partner & channel communications, thought leadership, internal communications, media relations, and crisis management."
"Every company has a right to build thought leadership and talk about the things that they know very well."
"Definition of Marketing = the influencing of opinion through content."
"Role of traditional media is to drive people to online communities."
"Marketing is a verb, not a noun."
"They should take the $50 billion that they spend on pharmaceutical advertisements and give half to charity and put the rest into social media. Why spend so much on TV, all the ads are the same anyway – it doesn’t matter if it is Viagra or an asthma dug – its good looking people running in a field."


I was thrilled to hear from Paul Levy, President and CEO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School); Blogger of Running a Hospital. I’ve been following Paul’s blog for some time. How cool is it for the CEO of a well-known hospital to blog.

Here are the interesting things I captured from Paul's discussions (these are paraphrased):

1. This all started as kind of a lark in the summer of 2006 when I read an article in the New York Times that said that only one of the Fortune 500 CEOs had a blog. So I thought this would be fun. Why don't I start a blog and learn about how to do this. So I started to blog. Traffic built slowly until The Boston Globe wrote about it and it took off.

2. I started to post about clinical data we were seeing in the hospital in virtually real time—things like quality and safety. I heard things from other people who run hospitals who questioned what I was doing. We as an academic medical center are high cost part of the medical system. The public has the right to know what they are getting for their money. What better way to make a case that we're adding value to our public, and the government agencies that regulate us. Why not show what we're doing as a public institution?

3. The other thing I found out by accident is that as a management tool in the hospital it is easier to get people to work better, People in hospitals are caring and they want to eradicate disease. For example Ventilator Associate Pneumonia. We created information about the VAP that helped to save more than 90 lives and posted it. This creates better work because we are not afraid to say what we're doing and how we're helping. We put ourselves under the microscope.

4. We are not doing this as a matter of competitive advantage. We don't think they find the hospital by reading the blog. This is an exceptionally useful tool as part of the public debate and to hold our own people accountable.

5. Paul showed us his stat counter page with traffic of about 10,000 per week. "You've got to be a little brave to do this. I don’t put anything on the blog that I wouldn’t say in another way."


Teresa Hanafin, Director of Community Publishing, boston.com (affiliated with The Boston Globe which is oened by The New York Times). Teresa talked about OhmyNews and other citizen journalism sites. All the speakers are Facebook members but only about 20% of the audience is. Teresa is working on ways to take the best parts of Facebook and putting it on Boston.com. There are more than 100,000 discussion topics on Boston.com. Users have updated over 50,000 photos to Boston.com. All companies can make use of people’s creativity. There are hundreds of restaurant reviews. People post videos of high school sporting events. Communities give people ownership and provide people with a way to take the community into different directions – for example, people who met on the wedding boards ended up a few years later starting a parenting board.

I showed several of my favorite examples of hospital viral marketing:
Johns Hopkins Health Newsfeed Podcast – a terrific weekly podcast with Elizabeth Tracey, director of electronic media for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Rick Lange M.D., chief of clinical cardiology at Johns Hopkins for people who want to become informed participants in their own health care.

Sharp HealthCare's Baby Gallery, a free online photo gallery and birth announcement service for parents, family and friends of babies born at Sharp. What’s cool is when people share their baby photos using the Sharp Baby Gallery, they sell Sharp’s service in the process.