About Michelle LeCompte

Michelle has the ability to step back and see the big picture. And for someone who manages a team full of creative energy, this is an invaluable trait. As the director of our award-winning designers and expert content strategists, Michelle ensures that our work on behalf of clients is strategically focused on optimizing Web interactions to achieve business objectives. Her team helps clients reach key audiences, measure the success of Web initiatives, and stay on top of best practices and industry trends.

My Favorite Shatner

When I heard William Shatner was keynoting Content Marketing World in Cleveland this week, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. My knowledge of him was pretty limited; my impressions not altogether favorable. Before he got started, I posted this slightly snarky tweet.

I was clearly in the minority when I walked into the conference center. An interactive poll on the screens to either side of the stage asked:

 Who’s Your Favorite Shatner

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Reinventing a Website

Seven hospitals. 2,500 affiliated doctors. More than 70 additional locations representing physician practices, imaging centers, surgery centers and more. All under the umbrella of HCA Virginia. And all represented by dozens of disparate, unconnected websites.

Sound familiar?

Freestanding hospitals are increasingly joining forces as large healthcare systems, which results in expanded offerings — more providers, broader services, advanced technology — and new brand identities. If you’ve experienced this as a healthcare marketer, you can appreciate the thought and effort that goes into communicating these changes. If you haven’t, you can learn from those who’ve been there.

The sweeping changes that accompany large-scale restructuring demand strategic communication. You have a new opportunity to express who you are and what you do. You have a chance to reshape the perceptions of consumers, referring physicians and competitors.

To their credit, HCA Virginia used the transition from a collection of hospital sites to an integrated central site as an opportunity to transform their online presence. They built a new website from the ground up, eliminating four websites representing seven hospitals in the process.

New Brand

They invested in a new brand campaign – Life/You Only Get One – promoting the combined power of their network, expertise and technology.

our_hca_virginiaNew Content

They also created entirely new Web content, dedicating the time and resources to getting it right. In partnering with them on this project, one of our objectives was to express the breadth of services across the entire system. We started by identifying and learning about each hospital’s offerings, a process that yielded great insights about the mix of offerings across HCA Virginia.

As is typical of many hospitals, many services were under-represented on the Web or had no visibility at all. On the new site, all services are included, along with reasons to choose HCA Virginia for care:



New Structure

The new site was not without its challenges. Individual hospitals were accustomed to a separate, robust Web presence. With the new site, content on services focused more on the system brand and less on distinct facilities. Had we created robust content for the system and for each entity, we would have ended up with a lot of duplicate content (and risked a negative impact on organic search).

HCA Virginia was willing to make hard choices to meet their objectives. Consumers and community physicians learn about services at the system level and follow paths to accessing care at specific facilities. While content for each hospital has been significantly reduced, coverage of healthcare services has been expanded. As a result, the new website has less than 500 pages and a lot more impact.

Grant Sanborn, Director of Interactive Marketing for the HCA Capital Division summarizes it well: “Ultimately, the way we structured the content is logical and makes sense for consumers, which was our goal. The new site consolidates content around services, displays the breadth and depth of what we offer, raises the profile of physician practices, and, in the process, lifts all boats. “

Learn more about this initiative by watching our webinar: The Content Conundrum.

Hospital Voice and Tone

Ever overheard a conversation and immediately recognized a friend’s voice? Chances are you picked up on pitch, tone and phrasing – the style of speaking.

Everyone has a distinctive voice. Yours reflects how you relate to others, whether you’re formal or casual, intense or relaxed. The way you express yourself affects how others perceive and remember you.

The same is true for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Whether deliberate or not, hospitals have a unique voice and tone that creates a lasting impression of the organization.

Who and How

Voice is who’s doing the talking. Tone is how you talk to your audience. Think about the role your hospital assumes on the Web. Are you a clinical authority that promotes your expertise?

Or are you a trusted partner that focuses on the whole patient?

Find Your Voice

Your voice and tone are already out there – on your website, social media, and print materials. If you haven’t documented a specific style for your communications, now’s the time. Define the persona that best matches your organization’s brand identity. Look across what you’ve already created to find examples that hit the right note. Or, pull excerpts from other healthcare sites that model the tone you want to take.

Choose your point of view for your communications. You can write in the first person using “we” and “our,” in the second person focusing on “you” and “your,” or in the third person talking about “the heart center” or “patients.” Most styles combine points of view, but you want to make an intentional choice about which you’ll use. First person is more me-focused (we’re important); second person is more you-focused (you’re important).

And while you’re at it, think about whether you’ll use contractions (as I’ve done twice – make that three times – in this sentence). Saying, “you’re our first priority” sounds more conversational than “you are our first priority.

Consider your audience. You may want to take a more formal approach with content for clinicians and a less formal one for consumers. Or a light tone with social media and a more serious one on your website. Above all, be yourself. A casual tone of voice isn’t right for every hospital. You need to be true to your brand.

Create Standards

To create a consistent approach across your communication channels, develop a brand style guide that captures your voice and tone. Include the examples you identified as benchmarks to emulate. Document your writing style, including point of view, level of formality and editorial standards, such as AP Style or Chicago Manual of Style. Add any distinctive editorial treatments, for example, whether you use hyphens or periods in formatting phone numbers.

Then, communicate your brand style guide to anyone who contributes content. Hold a training session. Distribute brand guidelines to contributors. Build the guidelines into your content management system for ease of access.

If you’d like help defining your voice and tone, creating a brand style guide or writing content that communicates your identity, contact us. Our content team would love to help you strike the perfect pitch.

Snow Globes and Security Checkpoints

I was standing in a lengthy security line at LaGuardia Airport last month, when I came upon this sign.

My first response was, “Seriously?” My second response was, “And now you tell us?” Because a traveler needs to know about the sanction on snow globes before they get to the security checkpoint. In fact, wouldn’t the right time to share this rule come before you fork over cash for the snow globe at the airport gift shop?

Given this restriction, I’m not even sure why they sell snow globes at LaGuardia. My theory is that there are only six snow globes in the entire airport, which are sold at the gift shops, confiscated at security and resold again. But I digress.

My point is actually about the Web. It’s about the responsibility we have to our audience to give them what they need where and when they need it.

Take individuals experiencing chest pain. If they’re deciding where to go for help, they’re most likely looking at ER information – not searching through your cardiovascular content.

So meet them where they are. Include signs of a heart attack – and signs of a stroke – in your ER section. Anticipate what else they’ll need:

  • Wait times
  • Maps and directions
  • What to bring – lists of medication (or the medication itself), information about allergies, recent test results, an insurance card

And of course, if they have symptoms of heart attack, emphasize the need to call 911 immediately. Lifesaving care doesn’t begin at the hospital. It starts the moment the call is made – with instructions from the dispatcher and when EMS arrives on the scene.

Follow this thinking throughout your website. Identify some of the most common reasons people come to your site – such as scheduling a mammogram, paying a bill or signing up for a class – and give them what they need to complete that task.

Step into your users’ shoes. What do they need to know? What information should they have before they start? How can you avoid snow globe scenarios?

Make it as easy as possible for them to take action – and avoid surprises – and you’re well on your way to positive user experiences and patient satisfaction.

Show vs. Tell

As a leader of a team that cares a lot about words, I shudder when I read sentences like this:

At Three Platitudes Medical Center, we’re proud to offer world-class healthcare services, state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge treatments.

Of course, none of you would fill your Web pages with clichés as hackneyed and – in the case of “cutting-edge” – painful as these. And I’m okay with an occasional “state-of-the-art” as long as it’s used sparingly and accurately.

But I’m a lot better with content that shows, instead of tells, what it means to be the best.

Brand Proof Points

When we begin a content development engagement, we ask clients for their brand proof points, the specifics behind their best-in-class positioning. Increasingly, we find clients have already defined these as key support points for their healthcare marketing. For those who haven’t, we interview them and their subject matter experts to define what sets them apart from the competition.

Consumers are rightfully skeptical of clichés, but hungry for information that helps them make better healthcare choices. Information that avoids buzzwords, but clearly describes benefits. When we write Web content, that’s what we aim for.

A Few Examples

Don’t tell: We offer exceptional stroke services and are accredited as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission.

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Caring for Our Clients’ Clients

It’s no coincidence that many of us at Geonetric choose to work for a company that serves the healthcare market. Sure, we could do Web work in finance, energy, manufacturing or a number of other worthy industries. But the truth is, a lot of us are passionate not only about Geonetric’s mission, but also about the mission of our clients – bringing healing and hope to people of all ages.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this important work, most notably as the mother of a severely premature baby. Four months in the NICU provides perspective about what patients and their families need from hospitals. For me, it was information – anything that could help me understand procedures, find support and connect with specialists. Our clients’ websites are often the vital source of this information. When my team writes Web content, we never lose sight of the person on the other side of the screen and how helpful our words may be to each of them.

Our focus on our clients’ patients doesn’t stop there. At Geonetric, we’re committed to community service – and what better way to serve than to reach out to our hospital communities?

Several years ago, we launched GeoNeos, a group of employees who volunteer their time to create hats, booties and blankets for babies born at client hospitals. We’ve made everything from whisper-soft hats for the tiniest infants to camouflage caps for babies bound for adventure.

We’ve sent over 400 items to client hospitals around the country over the past three years. Our GeoNeos team likes to picture the reaction of parents presented with a striped beanie or cozy blanket for their new little one. In truth, our creations are more for the parents than the babies, a way of offering hope for a newborn who will come home, grow into a healthy child and live a full and happy life.  I still have the hats my daughter wore in the NICU. Although at 22, her taste runs more toward hipster berets.

Which is just what I hoped for.

Unclutter Your Site

Most of us start the new year full of energy, determined to clear the decks and tackle new projects. Some of us at Geonetric have spent the past week in “clearing” mode: recycling documents, archiving information, purging duplicate files. The result is a clean and uncluttered workspace – or at least a lot less cluttered than it was – one where we can readily find the information we need without tripping over outdated stuff or running into dead ends.

As we worked, it became easier to say “yes” to the perennial question – “Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?” – especially when the information was several years old or saved in multiple locations.

The whole process got me thinking about how the practice of clearing our workspaces needs to extend to our websites. Websites are workspaces for our online audiences as they seek to find directions and phone numbers, pre-register for a procedure, learn about a treatment, sign up for a class or complete any number of tasks that brought them to your site. The more content you have, however, the harder it may be for people to find what they need. That’s because more content often means more clutter in the form of duplicate, redundant, misplaced or outdated pages.

A content inventory is a good first step in identifying potential clutter. Running an inventory and organizing it by content type (such as HTML pages, images, videos and links), gives you a look at what you have and where it’s located. Further filtering can help you take concrete action – for example, sorting by page title or filtering by subject – to identify and eliminate duplicate content. And reviewing your content by subject area can reveal gaps you may not have known about, such as a women’s section full of information about childbirth, but with limited information on other women’s health services.

Just like a clean sweep of the office, a fresh inventory of your website gives you the opportunity to clear the decks and make your relevant content more findable. Our content team thrives on conquering clutter – and we’re happy to help you. If you’re inspired to get started, contact us.

Popularity: Who Needs It?

Although most of us figured out that popularity was overrated as soon as high school was over, now that we’re all hanging out on the social media campus, it may be time for a reminder.

A recent (paraphrased) Doonesbury cartoon made the point perfectly:

Teenage son: “Cool beans! I just hit 1,000 followers on Twitter!”

Dad: “Uh-huh. And which of these pals will help you move or loan you money?”

While the teenagers at my house share the son’s perspective, I tend to relate more to the dad’s perspective. Yes, a big group of friends and followers casts a great social glow, but would you invite any of these amigos to dinner, a movie, a study date? Heck, how many would even know where you live – let alone expend the energy to get there?

This view of relationships carries over to the business sphere. We’ve been talking a lot in this space about social media, and Ben Dillon recently posted about un-following hundreds of his Tweeps. Who, by the way, probably didn’t notice or care.

Why? Because they weren’t paying attention to begin with. They weren’t following Ben in the true sense of the word; they were simply along for the ride. It isn’t possible, even with the best intentions and latest tools, to actively follow and interact with hundreds of people.

My advice is to focus on the followers you can draw into your inner circle. If you’re a hospital, this means the people with whom you have the potential for a meaningful relationship. The folks who would trust you with their heart care or sick child, participate in your fundraisers, or choose to work for you.

I’m not recommending that you block followers, but that you focus on building authentic connections with people who can actually come over and do things with you. Building this core group starts with inviting them to do things that benefit you both.

Treat them to a free fitness assessment; tell them when the mobile mammogram van will be in their area; invite them to take a CPR class.

Make your invitation clear, concise and catchy. Here’s an example.

Pregnancy Questions?

You’re offering something free and not asking for a big commitment. And, with pregnancy, you may be starting a relationship that could last for decades and extend to an entire family.

Next, be sure to link to a page on your site with a direct and simple call to action, like the one below. Too many times, I’ve seen linked pages with tons of text, but no clear way to get what’s offered.

Thinking About Getting Pregnant?

Next, deliver. Make sure you follow-up quickly with something of value. Then, just like any friendship, keep it going. At this point, you’ve moved the conversation from Twitter to a more personal forum. There’s been a phone call or a mailing. You may want to invite them to attend a class or sign up for a newsletter.

These individuals have gone from being one of a cast of hundreds to potential BFFs – or “besties,” according to my daughter. Keep cultivating the relationship. Continue to use social media to develop new ones. Track the effectiveness of your invitations to learn which of them turned followers into lasting friends. Remember, popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s all about the friends who come over and keep coming back.