Promote Your New Healthcare Facility Online and Offline

stvincent-clay-county-blogWhether you are opening a brand new hospital or medical office, it’s important to promote your new facility in creative, exciting ways so you can make that community connection – reaching from patients and visitors, to administrators, donors, media and local police, fire and EMTs.St. Vincent’s HealthCare (SVHC) in Jacksonville, FL, did an outstanding job promoting their new Clay County hospital, which opened its doors to the public on Tuesday, October 1. On opening day, they had media coverage from the Jacksonville Business Journal and three local television stations. However, most of their hard work promoting the facility started 18 months ago with their Clay County blog. This was SVHC’s way of sharing their new hospital with the community and inviting them to be a part of it from the beginning. It included a live Web cam of the construction progress, community events, information on clinical services, economic impact, and lots of photos and videos. Continue reading

What I Learned at Agile Boot Camp

Recently, the entire Geonetric team was treated to two days of agile methodology submersion.  We are really excited about this approach to our software and service offerings because it allows us to be more responsive to both our clients and the marketplace. So, having said that, we were excited to be under the tutelage of two seasoned gurus in the agile/lean methodology space, Richard Lawrence and Joe Justice of Wikispeed fame . The side effect of being in the presence of such awesomeness? 48 hours of brain-cramping problem solving.

Our goal here at Geonetric is to take what’s working fabulously for our development and professional services teams and fold in the rest of Geonetric operations. Why? Because we see how it allows us to work smarter and better.

A lot of great brain food but there was one light bulb moment for me:

Fast = Frequency.  Not speed.  And quality is the foundation for fast.

At the core of agility is speed, right? The ability to move quickly. At least that’s the practical definition. And that’s certainly been the case within our sprints (or work deadlines) in the search engine marketing team, in terms of how we feel we are moving. I’d liken it to a hamster wheel. We are accomplishing more for our clients, in less time, and our results are better because we respond to feedback instantaneously rather than waiting weeks or months to make adjustments. But now I know where we deviate from the practical definition of agile; it’s not about speed, but frequency. And frequency is achieved by reiterating; improving upon what we’ve already done so that it’s the best it can be. Quality.

And true to agile methodology, my light bulb moment has been translated into sticky notes and posted above my computer so that I have a continual reminder than frequency and quality allow agile to bring out the best we have to offer.

Photo of a room full of people learning from each other

The Power of a Good Internal Brand

The concept of building an internal brand was the topic of discussion at today’s Lakeland Healthcare breakout session at the SHSMD Annual Conference. Several members of their marketing team discussed “the power of employee ambassadors” and the recognition that “every little thing matters” when it comes to how an employer treats their associates.

Located in Michigan, Lakeland Healthcare is a four hospital system with more than 4,500 employees. As they grew, they recognized the power of their associates to spread the message of their facility to the community. Using tools such as a very personable CEO, quarterly town-hall style meetings, employee surveys, internal newsletter, and a comprehensive intranet; Lakeland Healthcare is able to continually monitor their internal brand and quickly take steps to address internal challenges as they arise.

As I listened to the presentation, I could not help but think of Geonetric. In the six months I have served as Director of Sales, I continue to be impressed with the culture the organization has created. We have monthly company meetings in which the financials are openly discussed and employees are singled out for their “above and beyond” contributions. Most employees take time to volunteer in the community – including the development of a website for a local non-profit organization. We have company-wide events such as the Geo-Olympics and tailgating.

Most of all, however, we have people who love their job and love taking care of our clients. Some of those people, like account managers Kevin Stejskal and Kristy Ryan, are at SHSMD (Booth 808) with me. Stop over and ask them what they love about Geonetric, and why they love coming to work each day.

The Lakeland Healthcare team is right – a strong internal brand is more powerful than any external message. If you have employees who really believe in the organization and who are willing to share their happiness to the world then the message to the outside community is much easier to manage.

Content, SEO and Closets

We ask a lot of questions here at Geonetric – especially at the onset of a new project. And we ask because in order to knock a redesign out of the park, maximize conversions, or even build you the best form, we need to understand the foundation we are building on. We ask questions like…

“How’s your content?”

“Do you know what content you have?”

“Are you ranking with the search engines for the keywords you are targeting?”

These aren’t easy questions to answer. I’ll be the first to admit that content – both understanding what you have and whether or not it’s optimized for organic search – is overwhelming. That’s because it’s not something you can touch once and then check off your list. Creating content, maintaining it, and the practice of optimizing it are living, breathing tasks that need periodic, if not constant attention in order to fully maximize your website’s effectiveness (that’s why we have an entire floor of people dedicated to all things content!)

And that’s where the audit comes in. Auditing your site is like cleaning out a closet. It’s an opportunity to take a look at what’s in there and determine what stays, what goes and what you’ve outgrown. It’s a good time to ask questions like: “Why is this in here?” “Why can’t I find anything?”

But you can’t just focus on content. It’s critical today that the audit you perform also looks at SEO. At Geonetric our audit process examines both disciplines as they relate to your business goals.

The content audit is the overall assessment of your website from both a quantitative (How much content is on the site?) and qualitative (Is the content good?) perspective.

The SEO audit then comes in to ensure that your site is receiving the full benefit of your link building strategy, and it also helps identify any potential issues your site may have in the search engines.

Both culminate in recommendations by our team of experts; we never rely on a boilerplate list and we don’t use generic software to spit out a report. Real people (real smart people!) analyze your site as a team and work together to identify your specific issues. Then we sit down with you and share actionable recommendations to grow and improve.

So what are you waiting for – contact us today to learn more about our audit process. Just like cleaning a closet, it can be a lot of work … but you’ll feel so much better when it’s done. And the good news? No one at Geonetric is going to make you try on your old coats or match mittens.

Why Healthcare Marketers Should Consider Nurturing a Relationship Via Social Media with Teens

Like most of you, I have a fat folder filled with articles to read ‘when I get time.’ It’s stocked with interesting tidbits of life and culture, trends and hot topics that I believe all play into the success of social media efforts. With a quick minute free in an otherwise busy day, I was able to turn my attention to a one New York Times article that had kept peeking out at me from the pile, almost taunting me to read it and think about its implications. It ran in the Fashion & Style section back in January and is all about how teens are using blogs as therapy.

Specifically, the article delves into the value and evolution of the traditional diary and journaling versus blogging. Research has long supported the therapeutic benefits of diary-keeping for both boys and girls, according to the article. But what surprised me is that, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychological Services by Meyran Boniel-Nissim and Azy Barak, the therapeutic value of blogging is even greater.

Why? Oddly enough, it was the social value of ‘sharing’ your so-called diary… or what today we would just call a blog. Turns out that the inherent nature of a blog and the engagement tied in with an online community is more effective than a good old fashioned diary at helping teens overcome social fears, anxieties, and other issues.

It got me thinking about who we usually default to when it comes to our social media efforts, our posts and our content. We tend to gravitate towards a certain demographic. But what about these teens? We know they are engaged and willing, but now there’s proof that using social media can actually serve as a resource for positive growth and living. This is an opportunity that doesn’t get discussed often. But I maintain that it’s time to start considering this group in what we do, not only for how we can help and connect with them now, but for the purposes of the future. If we start to nurture a relationship via social media with teens now, it will work towards ensuring that we are the ones they turn to when the time comes to have a baby, find a new doctor or get an elective procedure done.

So in your next spare moment of time, start thinking about what types of resources or support you can offer this demographic now that will build brand loyalty.

I know Geonetric will be keeping a close eye on this demographic and the opportunities to connect with them via social and search marketing efforts.

Defining Readability

As professional communicators, we understand the importance of writing for our audience. But as healthcare communicators, the topics we cover can get complex quite fast. We’ve got a tough job – attempting to strike the right balance for explaining the latest oncology treatment with the fact some of our readers might not even know what oncology means. How do we justify the terminology choices we make on the Web?

It all comes down to readability. Readability is the term used to describe how easy something is to read and understand. On the Web, readability relates closely with accessibility and usability.

Readability refers to health literacy in healthcare and plain language in government. Researchers have designed formulas to measure readability’s quantifiable characteristics: sentence length in words and vocabulary level. Content quality, style, design and organization play major roles, too, but are more difficult to measure.

If you’d like to learn more about readability and health literacy, check out the Health Literacy of America’s Adults report of 2003. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) set four levels for health literacy: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate and Proficient. 53% of American adults rated Intermediate, 22% Basic and 14% Below Basic.

Select health literacy tasks illustrate what the different levels require. The study demonstrates a variety of demographic variations to help identify audiences, including which audiences used which channels for health information, like the Internet, by proficiency level.

Test your own pages using online readability calculators like to get an idea of your writing level. You’ll get reports from a variety of formulas. If your text explains medical vocabulary terms using common health vocabulary, remove the technical terms and run the calculator a second time to see if you can achieve a 6-8th grade level on your pages.

Addressing health illiteracy is our job. Paying attention to readability is one way to make access to healthcare services and patient education materials as easy as possible.

What Pinterest Means for Healthcare Marketers

By now you’ve probably heard about Pinterest, the latest craze that has everyone in the social media world doing one of several things:

  • Oohing and aahing over all the cool and inspiring image boards.
  • Talking with an air of disbelief about how much time they’ve spent oohing and aahing over all the cool and inspiring image collages.
  • Gawking at its popularity.

Here at Geonetric, we’ve mostly been gawking at its popularity.

Consider these nuggets about Pinterest (a two year-old social bookmarking site that lets users collect and “pin” things they like on a virtual pinboard):

  • It’s driving more traffic than YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ … combined.
  • It’s one of the biggest website traffic referrers for retailers (check out this infographic by Monetate).
  • It recorded a fourfold increase in traffic between September 2011 and December 2011 and brought in 7.51 million unique visitors in December 2011 alone, according to Compete.
  • It has grown from 10 million to 17 million in total visits since the start of the new year, according to Hitwise.

Want does this mean to you, the busy healthcare marketer? You have yet another social media channel to consider when promoting your brand.

So let’s look at the answers to your most pressing Pinterest questions:

Is Pinterest built for healthcare?

Or even business for that matter? No, not specifically. But there are creative ways to take advantage of the channel if used thoughtfully and with purpose. After giving it lots of thought and playing around with it ourselves, we recommend using it to build brand awareness for specific services, your foundation, patient success stories, special events or deliberate campaigns that support those targets.

There has been some chatter in regard to data sharing and privacy, so do your homework.

Who is “putting a pin” in it?

Primarily women. Pinterest content is dominated by images featuring home decor, crafts, fashion and food, and it skews heavily female (58 percent according to Experian) between the ages of 25-44. This is important to know when determining whether this is an appropriate social media channel for your organization.

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Let’s Talk Google

SEO and social media are at the heart of our interactive marketing mission here at Geonetric, so our ears perked up when we saw last week’s blog post from Google announcing its latest ‘enhancement’: Search, Plus Your World. The big brains at the world’s largest search engine have decided to give your online social contributions more significance when it comes to search.

What does this mean? Basically, your everyday Google search queries will now incorporate social media content into results by pulling in the personal data of Google+ users; individual, brand, Google+ Circles and Picasa accounts. That is, unless you elect to utilize its opt-out feature.

In its announcement, Google states that search has ”always been about finding the best results” and that may often reside in one’s “personal content or things shared with you by people you care about.”

“These wonderful people and this rich personal content is currently missing from your search experience,” the blog post states, “Search is still limited to a universe of webpages created publicly, mostly by people you’ve never met. (We’re) changing that by bringing your world, rich with people and information, into search.”

Hmm. That makes us think about several areas of our practice. If social search is so relevant then why not fold all social media into results? Right now, this is exclusive to Google+. And what does this mean for the practice of SEO? Will we now be optimizing social media posts? What underhanded work-around tactics will start to surface as a way to manipulate search results? These same questions struck a chord with the masses because the debate is certainly churning… just do a Google search:

  • The folks at Twitter are none too happy. They claim that the integration of G+ data distorts natural search results and is “bad for people.
  • Slate’s Farhad Manjoo wants Google to keep his friends and family out of it. In his latest post, he maintains that ‘Google just broke its search engine’ by bringing social into the fold and more importantly, not considering the social networks that people actually use.
  • Mashable jumped on the indecision train and threw the debate out to the masses with a poll: “Would you prefer that Google, etc. go back to their old “natural” search methods or do you find that inclusion of this data makes it easier to find what you’re looking for?” Out of the nearly 2,000 responses, an overwhelming 65 percent say “No, it’s unnecessary and makes the searches worse.”

Now we’ve been watching Google closely since they rolled out Google+ last June. We are waiting to see how the feature plays out – weighing its marketing benefits for resourced-challenged marketing departments against ROI for our specific industry. Now we have this new twist. We are not unlike most marketers in that we are witnessing the birth of new electronic channels at break-neck speed, all the while wondering which ones can we pass on and which do we need to pay attention to?

There is a tendency to ignore the electronic channels that haven’t proven themselves. Google+, with its sketchy stats and fuzzy numbers around user base and growth (last verifiable report was from CEO Larry Page back in October 2011 and put Google+ members around 40 million), is a great example.

What we do know is this: Google is going to make increased integration of its ‘plus pages’ a priority so those brands that choose to enlist Google+ as a social media channel could see a positive uptick to their natural search results (assuming of course that there is a steady stream of relevant, up-to-date content).

But as with any social media endeavor, we stand behind the recommendation that channels should be chosen based on a social media strategy. One with clearly defined goals and objectives that serve as the push and foundation of your content and participation.

It’s still too new to determine the value and it will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the coming weeks. I think it’s appropriate to say “to be continued”.

Hall-Perrine Cancer Center: The Legacy Continues

Mercy Medical Center’s new Hall-Perrine Cancer Center (HPCC) is more than just another department in the hospital; it is a nationally recognized destination cancer center that needed its own microsite tailored to the unique needs of patients, families and providers. When they decided to create the patient-focused online hub for patients during their cancer journey, it was an easy decision to build on the existing VitalSite website features and functionality.

One of the first orders of business was to determine the design and information architecture in order to make it easy and intuitive for its users to find all the resources available to them. Because this site has information for all phases of the cancer journey from prevention to survivorship (and everything in between) it was critical to organize the site in a way that was intuitive for users to find what they needed easily. Mercy enlisted the expertise of Geonetric’s content strategy team to help determine the site navigation, content hierarchy and labels appropriate for their audiences.

Although the physical facility is still under construction (scheduled for spring of 2012), the people and many resources such as oncology nurse navigators and the multidisciplinary team, the latest in advanced technologies, and access to the Mayo Clinic’s clinical trials, are available now. Building public awareness of the HPCC services and providing a tool for users to interact with Mercy were key goals of the new site. From this site users can read about their doctors or how to get started in a search for a second option or contact HPCC directly.

When you think about connecting with people these days you often think about social media channels. Mercy didn’t stop with just the website; they created Facebook and Twitter pages dedicated specifically for cancer patients and families to connect with Mercy and each other.

If you are curious why Mercy says “The Hall-Perrine Cancer Center is everything you’d expect from a world-class cancer center”, watch their video to learn more.

Geonetric Supports Young Parents Network

Each holiday season Geonetric helps a local organization in need. This year we’re supporting the Young Parents Network (YPN) and the We Care Shop.

YPN is dedicated to preventing adolescent pregnancy and helping young families develop important life skills such as personal accountability, decision making, communication and goal setting. YPN helps these families by providing services like prenatal and parenting groups, youth development programs, fatherhood initiatives and the We Care Shop.

Geonetric team members are collecting a wide variety of supplies (e.g. clothing, toys, personal items and even a printer) for the We Care Shop. YPN participants ‘earn’ points to spend in the shop by participating in events such as the group night. They exchange the points for items that are typically difficult for them to purchase on their own.

I’ve been volunteering at YPN for almost a year. During that time I’ve met the terrific staff and volunteers responsible for the organization as well as many of the parents and children it serves. Having the opportunity to support YPN has been a very rewarding experience for me but has also made me aware of the tremendous need for continual support.

It is not uncommon for parents to tell me about the great things they found at the We Care Shop. Now the next time I compliment a parent on their baby’s cute outfit from the We Care Shop, I’ll know Geonetric’s support is one small part of what made that possible!

Close the Gap

There’s a terrific perk attached to my strategic services team membership – and that’s the strategic thinking part. I get to spend time mulling over all the pieces of the interactive marketing puzzle; pieces that if placed correctly, coalesce to create a message that supports measurable goals for clients and engaging experiences for users.

Strategic thinking has been top of mind this month because we are inching toward the end of the year. Clients are starting to look ahead to marketing plans and strategies for 2012 and we’re thankful to be part of those conversations.

Looking back on 2011, we can share in a lot of marketing victories: increased social media utilization, QR code campaigns, branded social media channels, mobile websites, integrated campaigns… the list goes on. And as those strategic marketing plans for 2012 unfold, I have no doubt innovation will continue to dominate tactics and approaches.

But for all that forward thinking, there’s something missing.

Something so critical that if the red flag isn’t raised, I’m afraid the strategic marketing plan you’re working on right now won’t give you the best outcomes.

In an effort to get 2012 off on the right foot I’d like to suggest a quick exercise. It won’t take long. It’s just an inventory. You can make it a mental exercise or a more actionable one. Either way, it’s focused on one simple question:

“Is there an online component to all of your upcoming marketing campaigns?”

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is often “no.”

I’ve listened to marketers outline goals, strategies, campaigns and tactics with no mention as to how it connects to their website, social media channels or even those microsites specifically created for the campaigns. There’s no talk about calls-to-action, conversion points or engagement. But there should be.

Integrating online and offline marketing is the key to making all of your efforts work. And it’s also one of the  greatest challenges.

As traditional marketers, we have a tendency to create our campaigns in an offline vacuum. There’s an obvious lack of communication between marketers and those executing the various components. But bridging that gap can be as simple as taking an inventory and asking everyone involved, “What is the online component to this campaign?”

Be the one to raise that question. Start the conversation. Chances are pretty good there’s a terrific opportunity to tie that offline promotion to your website, a services landing page or one of your social media channels.

If cohesion isn’t enough of a reason to start the conversation, then ROI certainly should be.

The recent 2011 IBM Global CMO survey found that 63 percent of CMOs said that by 2015, marketing spend will be the most important measure of their success and yet only 44 percent felt fully prepared to be held accountable for marketing ROI. Creating synergy between online and offline strategies and using the measurable opportunities that the Web offers is a great proving ground.

Old habits die hard and in this case, create gaps. Bridging these gaps should be your most important marketing objective for 2012. Put it on your list. Be aware of it. Close the gap.

Giving Thanks

This week marks the beginning of the holiday season and perhaps you’ll usher it in playing board games with family after feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Maybe you’ll pull out the T.V. trays, load up a plate with lasagna and watch the football game with your neighbors.  Or you may have no real plans except to chart out your path through the closest big box store for those Black Friday sales.  Regardless, the holidays are upon us.

At Geonetric, we’ve started our holiday celebrations. We recently had our much anticipated Thanksgiving feast.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, nothing is overlooked for our Geo family Thanksgiving.  It gives us the chance to sit with each other, talk with each other and laugh with each other.  It’s a time when we feel the unity we strive so hard to achieve.

Thanksgiving is something everyone looks forward to here and it’s certainly something we value. Family is a priority for us and as we enter into this holiday season our Thanksgiving feast becomes a way to draw our work family together.

Each of us has so much to be thankful for. Thanks for our great clients. Our successful year. The food on the table. Our coworkers, family and friends. As we begin our holiday season this Thanksgiving, we have much to celebrate.

We at Geonetric hope you have found much to be thankful for this year as you spend Thanksgiving in the way you enjoy most.

Happy Thanksgiving!