Humanizing Your Brand, On Purpose

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Ragan Communications’ Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at Disney World. I was overwhelmed by the wealth of information I gathered, the caliber of the speakers, and of course… the magic of Disney.

Speaker after speaker addressed the need to humanize your brand – to put a face on your company and give outsiders a behind-the-scenes view of your organization in order to create connection. So, rather than give you a simple recap of the conference, I’m going to attempt to humanize my company’s brand. Inspired by the honesty and raw beauty of this post, I give you my story – the story of a girl whose own health struggle led her to a fulfilling career in healthcare communication.

In high school, after a run-in with a nasty case of mono that landed me in the ER twice, I noticed a change. Playing my favorite sports seemed harder than it used to, the comfort of my bed was more attractive than an evening with friends, and I started to get sick. All. The. Time. For three years I went from doctor to doctor searching for answers,…


5 tips for building a newsworthy opinion poll (a glass of Scotch might help)

keep calm homeworkMarketing and communications professionals love, LOVE having proprietary data to use.  For us, data is transformed into brand positioning, front page headlines, lead generation, thought leadership, engaging content and more.  A research project chocker-box full of cross-tab data and qualitative insights is a pot of gold at the end of magical rainbow for a creative communications team.  It is!

Before you write a research project, here are five tips to help ensure you get meaningful and useful insight. Your mom said it best, “do your homework!”

1. Determine what organizations are already doing research. It’s hard to find a research topic that no one has explored.  Conduct an environmental scan to determine who is engaging and sharing research: your competitor, an academic institution, a consulting group, a non-profit or a foundation.  Understanding what organizations are producing research will help you understand what voice is missing and how your organization fits into that landscape.

I love research

2. What are they researching? Simply put: avoid over saturated topics. In the case of healthcare, we have produced a library full of good research on…


Chocolate Cupcakes and Corporate Identity

Last week, Fox News published the Hungry Girl’s guide to outsmarting Valentine’s Day overeating. It’s dedicated to recipes options that won’t “ruin your budget, waistline, or the mood”.

Valentine’s Day aside, the majority of religious and civic holidays have become synonymous with overeating. The national Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders even describes over-eating around the holidays and on special occasions as a “normalized” part of American behavior.

All you have to do is google “holiday overeating” and you’ll find hundreds of articles describing tips to avoiding binge eating and over indulgence – as well as one that includes five ways to avoid a post-holiday heart attack. But this got me thinking – are the holidays the issue? Or, are we causing the problem?

Let’s talk about food-specific holidays. According to The Nibble, a magazine dedicated to specialty foods, there is a food dedicated to just about every day of the year.


Photo Credit: Flickr – Farrukh

Here’s a taste of your food holiday options:


5 Lessons Learned: Anthem Data Breach

cyber security

Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen one of the largest data breaches in our country’s history unfold. The second largest health insurer in the U.S., Anthem Inc., experienced a “very sophisticated cyber attack” on Jan. 29, which exposed the names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data, of as many as 80 million customers.

While this was not the first breach of health data – millions have been affected by previous health data breaches – the Anthem breach is by far the biggest and it will not be the last.

In the wake of this significant breach, we have been observing Anthem’s communications response. Here are some key learnings:

  •  Act quickly and walk toward the crisis: As our own crisis guru Bob McNaney says, “Always walk toward the crisis, not away.” With a healthcare data breach affecting more than 500 people, organizations are required by federal law to disclose the hack or breach within 60 days. Upon discovering the breach on Jan. 29, Anthem immediately took action to secure the vulnerability and contacted the FBI. The company also hired Mandiant, a…
Digital Marketing

The Return of Measles: Is the Internet to Blame?


Disclaimer: I believe in vaccinations, and my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate our two boys.

This post is not about whether vaccination is right or wrong. It’s about how the current anti-vaccination movement (post-1998) got its legs, and how the Internet may have contributed to it.

From smallpox in the 19th century to diptheria, tetanus and pertussis in the 1970’s to the current measles, mumps, and rubella controversy, opponents of vaccination (“anti-vaxxers”) have existed for as long as vaccines have existed. The current anti-vaccination movement arose in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published the findings of a 12-person study to examine whether there was a connection between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. The Lancet, which originally published the study, later retracted, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine.

Historically, the anti-vaccination movement has been rooted in specific communities, such as the town of Leicester, England in the mid-1800’s. Today, while there are specific communities with low vaccination rates, we’ve seen much broader reach due, in large part to the Internet.

Flashback to 1998 when the Wakefield study was released.  Just 26.2 percent of American households had Internet access. Two years later, that number grew exponentially to…


Oscar Winning Health

As I was sitting in the movie theater watching previews of the many Oscar-nominated flicks that came out this winter, I noticed a theme: health has again made its way into our movies.

Still AliceMovies like Cake, Still Alice and The Theory of Everything are offering glimpses into diseases and conditions which many of us have never seen. These powerful stories allow us to deeply understand things like chronic pain, Alzheimer’s and ALS from the patient’s perspective. And, these actors can’t help but get Oscar buzz when portraying such raw and honest emotion, often doing major research and even meeting patients in order to bring real authenticity to their performance.

In fact, a new series on cancer research set to release in March is deeply personal to those involved in the project. Ken Burns, the filmmaker, lost his mom to cancer. Sharon Rockefeller, the project’s initiator, is a colon cancer survivor. And, Edward Hermann, the narrator, died of brain cancer shortly after completing work on the film. I’m not sure you can get more personal or genuine.

Even more than a blog post or video that claims…


The State of Health Care: 5 Health Care Takeaways from the 2015 State of the Union Address


Health care played a starring role in the 2014 State of the Union address, with nine full paragraphs of attention.  In 2015, while taking a backseat to issues like the economy, there were some key takeaways for health care professionals.  Here are five things from the 2015 State of the Union address that may impact the world of health care in 2015 and beyond:

1)    Precision Medicine Initiative - “I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to deliver a new era of medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.”

What is precision medicine?  Likely to become a buzzword, it’s an already growing trend in medicine.  You may have heard it described as “individualized” or “personalized,” but the key is treating people based upon their genetic material to identify the most effective approach for that particular patient.

What can we expect from government in terms of supporting the growth of precision medicine?  New funding to subsidize new technology and the testing and approval of drugs.  In The Washington Post’s To Your Health blog, Lenny Bernstein suggests, “Government also might establish databases for all the information yielded by the millions upon millions…


The Going Price for Privacy

We are all familiar with the idiomatic expression, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”  In a piece earlier this week from “The Washington Post,” genetic-testing company, 23andMe, Inc., announced it will share data from 650,000 customers in a partnership deal with Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company.

In a healthcare system dominated by the acronym HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a logical first question may be: “Is that legal?” The simple answer is yes.

In a book published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCIB), the intent of HIPAA was to make health care delivery more efficient and to increase the number of Americans with health insurance coverage. Yet, study after study, details how HIPAA has actually had a negative impact on medical research.  HIPAA has created a selection bias, reduced patient participation, delayed medical advancements and caused large administrative burdens for covered entities/organizations that are required to enforce HIPAA.

Consumers, anxious to find out if they are related to Genghis Kahn, have signed consent (knowingly or not) and that data will now be shared. Yet in medical clinics around the country, some mom who is…


If Martin Luther King Had a Dream for Healthcare

MLKAs I reflected on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, I wondered what he would think about the U.S. health system in 2015. Being a healthcare communications professional, I imagined what Dr. King might say, and what advice he might offer, knowing that despite significant advances in civil rights, race remains a significant factor in determining access to care, quality of care, and health outcomes. Knowing that disparities are particularly acute in the south, where he was raised and where a third of the country lives. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Southerners are more likely than those in other regions to be uninsured, less likely to have access to needed health services, and more likely to experience chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

And while I don’t want to simplify what is a complex issue impacted by a number of factors, how can we allow race to dictate health? And why does the vast majority of published research indicate that minorities are less likely than whites to receive needed services, including clinically necessary procedures, even after correcting for access-related factors, such as…


5 Ways To Stay On Track With Your Healthy 2015 Resolution

Making-Resolutions1-300x195If you made a New Year’s resolution this year, chances are it has something to do with improving your health. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, losing weight was the number one New Year’s resolution of 2014. It was closely followed by other healthy habits, like quitting smoking, and staying fit and healthy.

The study also reports that only 8% of Americans were successful in achieving their resolution. So, what are the other 92% of us doing wrong? Here are a few tips to help you stay on track this year:

1. Set SMART goals.

The key to staying on track with your healthy resolution is to set SMART goals. SMART goals hold you accountable because they are:

  • Specific: The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be to achie ve. Instead of saying I want to get in shape this year you should strive to work out at least three times a week.
  • Measurable: Decide how you want to measure your progress. How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?
  • Attainable: Ask yourself if this goal is reasonable for you. Is going to the gym every…