An Interview with Advocate Health Care: Case Study #StoriesOfTheGirls


Breast cancer logoBreast cancer still impacts too many lives. Advocate Health Care launched a unique program to bring attention to breast cancer prevention, treatment and support.

Understanding that women gain strength and the comfort from the stories they share and are shared they used digital and social networks to tell the  #StoriesoftheGirls . Through the following interview Christine Piester, VP Marketing and Christine Bon, Manager Digital Marketing and Communication graciously provided us with a case study of the program.

This post is dedicated to my sister Susan who I know is dancing in the stars.  Susan atl

About Advocate Health Care. Advocate Health Care is the largest health system in Illinois and one of the largest health care providers in the Midwest.

Advocate operates more than 250 sites of care, including 12 hospitals that encompass 11 acute care hospitals, the state’s largest integrated children’s network, five Level I trauma centers (the state’s highest designation in trauma care), three Level II trauma centers, one of the area’s largest home health care companies and one of the region’s largest medical groups. As a not-for-profit, mission-based health system affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, Advocate contributed $661 million in charitable care and services to communities across Chicagoland and Central Illinois in 2013.

 Our Story Tellers

Advocate Healthcare_ Christine Priester, VP, MarketingChristine Priester, VP, Marketing





Advocate Healthcare _Christine Bon

Christine Bon, Manager Digital Marketing & Communication




 Diva Marketing/Toby: How did the idea of #StoriesoftheGirls evolve? Was it a difficult sell to management including the hospital administrator?

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine Bon: Obviously, the idea of #StoriesOfTheGirls remains a very edgy concept. Anytime you introduce a double entendre (“the girls”) as part of your campaign you take a risk. However, the Chicago health care market is noisy and we had to figure out a way to break through the clutter. Not only did we have to sell this concept to the health system leadership, we had to convince the 12 hospital presidents that this was the right idea, at the right time and with the right audience.

In order to gain the necessary buy-in, our CMO hosted numerous sessions where she outlined the campaign and addressed any questions and concerns. The vast majority of our internal leadership were overwhelmingly supportive, there were a few unsure outliers, but they soon became believers once they saw the results.

Diva Marketing/Toby: What was success for the campaign and how was it measured?

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine BonWhile we wanted women to join the conversation at, we really wanted women to take advantage of our patient added-value proposition.

We were the first in the market to offer same-day, no-referral mammograms.  This breaks down access barriers and allows women to schedule their mammogram on their terms, when they have some extra time as life might be too busy to schedule this test a few weeks out, months out, but there is no time like the present. 

  • So, that said we measured the growth in mammogram appointments (up over 10% across the system), web site visits, and engagement in the conversation (social media).

 Diva Marketing/Toby: The micro site is rich with content about breast healthcare. For many visitors to the site, I’m guessing the most compelling content is the video stories told by the breast cancer survivors and physicians.  How were these women indentified? What were their reasons to publically participate in #StoriesoftheGirls? 

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine BonAdvocate Health Care treats more breast cancer patients than anyone else in Illinois, and more of our patients become survivors than any other system.  Through our over 30 mammogram locations across the system, we were able to tap into our internal resources to identify patients with compelling stories that were willing to participate in the campaign.

And, we had, and continue to have no problems with patients wanting to tell their story. All of our survivors say if telling their story can just save one woman’s life it was worth it. They also appreciated the real tone and voice of the campaign.

  • They have all grown tired of the traditionally depressing look at this disease and wanted to show that women’s relationships with “the girls” is much more than a cancer diagnosis.

This year we have some wonderful new videos that include not only survivors, an update on one of last year’s featured patients, but patients currently going through treatment, Sue even shaved her head on the video as her hair was falling out – emotional stuff!

 Diva Marketing/Toby: I would love to be able to chat with these amazing people. Did you explore incorporating real-time conversations through social networks, perhaps a Tweet Chat or a G+ Hangout?

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine Bon: Glad you asked this question. New in the 2014 Stories of the Girls campaign is a message board prominently on the microsite. We knew that we had to take this campaign to the next level in terms of the conversation so this is an exciting element this year (just launched on 9-15-14). Here, you can chat with survivors, you can talk with other families and their friends going through this journey with a loved one, you can ask our doctors questions, and you can simply ask about other breast health issues from puberty and first bras, to breastfeeding, boob jobs, and changes during menopause. Anything goes! We’d be happy to put you in touch with any of our featured survivors, check out their amazing stories through these videos.

Advocate Health Care theta theta girls

theta theta girls video

 Diva Marketing/Toby: The most exciting social tactic I saw was a #StoriesoftheGirls Instragram contest. Would you explain the concept for the Diva community?

Advocate Health Care/Christine BonThe #StoriesOfTheGirls contest was another extender of the conversation. We wanted women to share their inspiring photos, but also just women in general living healthy lives. Women were encouraged to share their photos and in turn were entered to win a gift card to a specialty bra store in Chicago. Since we had just launched our Instagram account the month prior, this was a great way for us to gain some new followers and boost engagement.

Diva Marketing/Toby: What was the most surprising aspect of the Instagram contest?

Advocate Health Care/Christine BonThrough the contest, we uncovered some very inspiring stories and one that we are now featuring in this year’s campaign: Kia. We also saw a side of our own associates (employees) who shared their breast cancer journey through photos as well. We were excited to see how quickly we gained new followers who were interested in our content and still engage with us on the social platform.

 Diva Marketing/Toby: In addition to Instagram what other social media tactics were included? Which one was your favorite and why?

Advocate Health Care/Christine BonIn addition to Instagram, we also used Facebook as a social platform to drive awareness of breast cancer by creating a daily calendar of trivia questions about breast health. There was a new question posted each day. Once the daily question was answered you were automatically entered to win a handmade breast cancer awareness crystal bracelet. You were able to enter a total of 31 times for a chance to win the grand prize of gift card to a specialty bra store in Chicago.

We also used Facebook as a platform to share all of our patient’s incredible stories, and also to promote our Instagram contest. Both of our social promotions were well received and we got some great submissions and are continuing to engage through new social promotions with the campaign this year as well and we are seeing even greater results!

Diva Marketing/Toby: How are consumer generated stories/photos being used to extend awareness of #StoriesoftheGirls and  breast cancer health?

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine BonOur videos and patient stories have been picked up by many local media outlets as further promotion. Our patients also blog and are the subject of many stories on our brand journalism site  View some of them here.

We also have a partnership with the Chicago Cubs, Bulls, and Bears and we are able to leverage those relationships to have breast cancer awareness events where are patients are honorary captains, sing the 7th inning stretch, and more! It’s a year-long commitment to keep breast cancer awareness at the forefront, not just during October.

Diva Marketing/Toby: The #StoriesoftheGirls campaign kicked off October 2013 to support Breast Awareness Month and appears to be continuing into the summer of 2014 and beyond. As one might say in the theatre, what makes this a long-running show?

Advocate Health Care: Christine Priester/Christine Bon

  • This campaign is authentic and real and that’s what gives it staying power. 

Act 2 of the show is in market now and we couldn’t be more excited. An element of this campaign remains in market year-round, however.  We want to make sure we’re promoting early detection of breast cancer through mammography 365 days a year. And, we want to make it easy for women to get their mammogram and new this year they can find out their results in less than 24 hours – talk about reducing worry that often times accompanies the wait on this test.

Diva Marketing/Toby: What lessons did you learn and can pass along to others in healthcare that maybe considering creating digital/social campaigns?

Advocate Health Care/Christine BonTake a risk, it’s worth it!

Content is critical.

Don’t tell your consumers about new equipment, this or that accreditation, they don’t care. 

Make your campaign about them, not about you.

Speak to your audience how people have conversations in their real life and reach out to them how they like to receive the message (social media, email, direct mail), everyone has a preference, learn it!

  • And, amazingly, you do this, they will talk back to you, and then you have a two-way, engaged consumer conversation and you create brand loyalty.

Toss of a pink boa to Sarah Scroggins for her help in coordinating this interview.  Advocate Health Care _ Sara Scroggins

Diva Marketing Talks Pharma + FDA + Social Media With Fard Johnmar and Steve Woodruff


Diva Marketing Talks is a live, internet radio (BlogTalkRadio) show.  30 minutes. 2 maybe 3 guests. 1 topic about social media marketing. Why? To help you understand how to participate in the "new" conversation without getting blown-up. Miss the show? You can pick it up as a podcast or listen on your computer.

On today's Diva Marketing Talks Fard Johnmar, Envision Solutions and Steve Woodruff, Impactiviti, join me to explore how social media impacts healthcare, with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry. In November the FDA held two days of open hearings that began the process of their development of regulation guidelines for Pharma. For any enterprise stepping into the social web can be a challenge. However, for companies in highly regulated industries, especially healhcare, the stakes are high to get it "right."

The Details

December 17, 2009:
Time: 4:00p - 4:30p Eastern/ 3:p - 3:30p Central/ 2:00p -2:30p Mountain/ 1:00p -1:30p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924

Fardjohnmarphotoweb_002 Fard Johnmar, M.A., founder of Envision Solutions, has extensive experience in the healthcare marketing communications arena.  He has developed and implemented programs for numerous major global and domestic pharmaceutical companies, nonprofits, medical associations and government organizations.  Pfizer Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the International Society on Hypertension in Blacks are just a few of the organizations he has completed engagements with.

Mr. Johnmar has special expertise in cardiovascular disease, mental health,infectious disease, oncology, social media communications, public health and health policy. He holds a Master of Arts degree from New York University's well-regarded Gallatin School of Individualized Study in communications and health policy. He completed his undergraduate degree at Amherst College where he earned a B.A. in jazz ethnomusicology with additional concentrations in pre-medical studies and political science.

Mr. Johnmar writes regularly on healthcare marketing, policy and related subjects for Know More Media (KMM), a leading global business blogging network and other publications. His blog on KMM, HealthCareVox, was recognized as one of the world's top 50 English-language health blogs by Follow Fard on Twitter.

Steve woodruff Steve Woodruff is President of Impactiviti, a pharma network advocating new on-line solutions for communications, and "matchmaking" pharmaceutical clients with best-in-class vendor/providers. Steve has over 23 years of experiences in the life sciences arena, and is a well-respected thought leader in the social media field.

Steve has rich experience consulting with numerous pharmaceutical clients (such as Pfizer, Wyeth, Novartis, J&J, Abbott, Takeda, Sanofi-Aventis, Daiichi Sankyo, and many others) on training and marketing solutions, including technology platforms and global applications. Having consulted on the design and implementation of many types of learning initiatives (virtual universities, pre-launch training, printed modules, on-line tutorials, product portals, assessments, webcasts, etc.) for a wide variety of companies, Steve brings a broad perspective to clients as new training and marketing activities are planned.

Steve contributes to the Small Business Branding blog, Marketing Profs Daily Fix, and was recently featured in an article on Better Branding in Steve has also launched several on-line portals with aggregated content feeds from the blogging community; PharmaCentral, the Marketing Bloggers portal, and BrandingWire. He has contributed to two recently published “group-authored” books, Age of Conversation and Not Quite What I Was Planning. His branding/marketing/social media blog is called StickyFigure. Follow Steve on Twitter.

In The Diva Bag

Complement of Fard Johnsmar

1. Understand what you face: Pharma companies should understand how e-patients feel about them journeying into the social media space. According to a national survey we recently conducted, they aren't too happy about pharma communicating with them via social media. 

However, drug firms may be able to improve e-patient perceptions by providing them with  what they want: the straight facts about medicines and valuable information about the conditions they or their loved ones face. 

2. Remember, this is Washington:  A lot of the commentary I've seen focusing on the FDA hearings deals with the mechanics of Internet promotion and how pharmaceutical companies are being restrained from participating fully. 

However, people have to remember that the FDA is not just going to listen to industry insiders when developing policy. They have to deal with Congress and very active and vocal patient/consumer activists who will have a lot to say about the regulations the FDA releases.  Back in the 1990s when FDA decided to approve more robust DTC marketing, many said that the agency went too far. 

Now, we have the Internet, which is some ways, is a much more powerful and pervasive medium than television.  We have to remember that FDA is being pushed in many different directions.  We may get regulations, but we may not like what the FDA does. 

In addition, we have an article on our new knowledge community, Living the Path, summarizing the FDA's changing regulatory stance and how it impacts pharma and health companies. 

Read More: 

From Steve Woodruff: Social RX: A Resource Page

From Diva Marketing on the Power to the ePatient

A Conversation To .. Engage With Grace


It's not a revelation that social media occurs in the digital conversations of the Internet. However, some find it strange that conversations with people who might be more of an acquaintance than one we might call a "friend" often lead to important ideas.

It can be easier to open discussions in the world of blogs, tweets or Facebook where your thoughts fly into cyber space. Sitting across a table, where body language and facial experssions can immediate challenge your views, before words are even spoken can be a big risk.

On this day before Thanksgiving, when the smell of turkey roasting evokes memories of loved ones who broke the wish bone or split the last piece of pumpkin pie with you,  I'd like to suggest a topic of conversation for you to consider. It's the type of discussion that we often shy away from because it brings our vulnerability into play. But it's a conversation that shows how much you care. It's a conversation we need to engage in with grace and caring sooner than later.

Paul Levy, Running A Hospital, once again asked if I would join in the Engage with Care blog rally. This one hits home for me so it is with deep respect for the work of Alexandra Drane and Matt Holt who launched EWC to honor Za Vandenberg that I tell you the ..

Engage With Care Story

Last Thanksgiving weekend, many bloggers participated in the first “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.

Over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participated. The timing was purposeful since it coincided with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations – our closest friends and family. 

The original mission – to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes – hasn’t changed. At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. They’re not easy questions, but they are important

However, sometimes it's uncomfortable to start this type of discussion so it might be easier to begin with a bit of levity. To help ease into the tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, here are five parallel questions that ARE easy and fun to answer: 

  Engage with grace _2 jpg

Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like this – just five questions in plain, simple language – can deflate some of the complexity, formality, and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion. 

The five questions from Engage With Grace follow. I encourage you to think about them, document them, share them. 

Engage with grace

Some of the stories that the Engage With Grace people have heard are heartfelt. One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife’s preferences were not what he expected. You might have a similar story. At the very least you'll know what your loved ones want to do.

I'll end this post as I did last year ..

Toby -
Proud sister of Susan Ellen, proud daughter of Anne and Lou.
Believer in the Power of Conversation.

Max and I wish you and yours a most wonderful Thanksgiving.

Follow on Twitter #EWG

Power To The (e) Patient!


Patient Power blog Hundreds of thousands of digital voices are taking medicine to the virtual streets. There's a new cause being fought in social media communities. Not unlike the grass root movement of the '60's this will also influence change but this time in the world of healthcare.

As we've seen with consumer and business brands ePatients are using the Internet for research and social media for peer-to-peer support. On the other side of the street some healthcare providers (physicians, nurses, physician assistants, etc.) are doing much the same. Blogs, social networks, Twitter, along with gated communities like Sermo -an only for docs world- are finding their way into the process of daily communication.  

However, the healthcare eco system is complex and goes beyond those two populations to include government agencies like the FDA, Pharma and point of care providers (hospitals, medical centers, out patient facilities).

Simply put .. here lies their social media dilemma .. how to authentically (with no marketing spin) participate in the social discussions while maintaining public safety, patient privacy, transparency .. not to mention ensuring conversations are "people talk." From a lay person's perspective it sounds fairly simple; however, especially for pharma the social landscape can be a slippery slope. 

Last week the FDA held a Public Hearing on Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools. To their credit the FDA made the 2-day proceedings available to the pubic through live streams. The goal of the back-to-back 15-minute presentations from marketers, pharma companies, government agencies and media companies was to educate by responding to a series of predetermined questions from the FDA. 

While some people seemed a bit self-serving, others presented carefully researched conclusions; and others offered specific solutions from creating a task force to developing widgets for adverse events (AE) to designing online advertising. Running in the background were people tweeting the hearing.#FDASM  The commentary, often couched in humor (I learned a new buzz word from Mark Tosh : Data Smog), was as valuable to me as the formal proceedings.

From a marketer who has worked in healthcare, as well as, from a personal perspective here are my takeaways:

Some people felt pharmaceutical companies should be responsible for monitoring misinformation and AE comments .. according to pre determined guidelines. Others strongly felt that monitoring should not be mandated or as @rohitbhargava tweeted that brands should not be "cyber sleths." However, if Pharma does come across inaccurate data or patient concerns what should be the response protocol?

Customer Service and the ePatient
How to manage service relationship is an important issue that was addressed only slightly. Perhaps it was outside the scope. Consumer brands are setting expectations for fast, online responses to questions and concerns.  My instincts tell me that this will be the next big area for digital/social media healthcare. There are many issues to be explored from: What does digital healthcare service mean? to: How to address questions in public forums. How are AEs addressed and misinformation corrected?  Where to address those issues and when to participate in social networks.

To encourage patients to report AEs they must feel as though they are getting value back. How to encourage engagement and what constitutes "value" is critical to understand. All who are involved in caring for and serving ePatients must realize that it is not about the technology but developing a productive collaboration. Whatever means are used must be simple. Social media is about a new set of digital behaviors that begin and end with trust based on transparency.

The social media service relationships between ePatients and healthcare providers will grow in importance .. watch for it.

Physician/Patient Relationship
Most U.S. physicians like the idea of empowered patients who are knowledgeable about their conditions
Patients are utilizing digital resources, including social media, for pre treatment and post treatment
Docs remain the most trusted source of medical information

Docs want information when they want it. Consumers want customer service. The big challenge is to correct misinformation without a self serving spin. Seems sad that would be an issue. I can't help but wonder if/how the social media culture will influence the culture of pharma.

Step into the social media world. Open a page on Facebook so the public will have easy access to information. Don't expect people to search to find you .. go where they are online. A benchmark for success should be sharing experiences vs. filling out forms. The FDA should take the lead in creating a participatory culture.

Consumer education will be critical to the success of this undertaking. Pharma could help with the out reach as could other providers. If creating consumer awaremess and understanding is not an integrated aspect the best of plans will fail.

Keep in mind that regulations should not get in the way of expected interaction (between pharma and customers and pharma and physicians.

Healthcare in social media has certainly come a long way (with miles to go) since I facilitated sessions at the Healthcare Blogging and Social Media Summits 2006-7.

The post about a conversation I had with a doc I met on a flight about blogs seems almost surreal. It went something like this .. The doc said to me - I don't want to give them that information. There's too much on the internet already. Great opportunity to make sure they have correct information, I replied. The old school doc volleyed a last remark, "I don't practice medicine that way."

My response back, "Perhaps you need to change the way you practice medicine. If I were you I'd keep on eye on blogs." Wonder if he changed his mind.

Sidebar: Thanks to Jean-Ah Kang, PharmD, Special Assistant to the Director for her gracious eMail. - There will be transcripts posted approximately 30 days after the conclusion of the public hearing, and the docket will have copies of the presentations/oral testimonies that can be requested from FDA.  We would welcome any comments you would like to provide on these issues as our docket is open until February 28, 2010 - please consider submitting comments!


Spreadsheet of presentations

Story of Two ePatiens by Dr. Val Jones

hcsc - weeklytwitter chat on social media and healthcare

Marci Roth for the illustration

Update 11-18-09 Webcasts of the FDA hearing on the Internet and Social Media are available for next 30-days.

Engage With Grace


A few days ago I received an eMail from Paul Levy describing a unique outreach to help educate people about an important life issue that is often incredibly difficult to discuss. End of Life Experience. 

It may seem strange to some, but for me, on the day before Thanksgiving it seems right to join with the voices of many people in social media who are dedicating posts to this cause. Taking these words from Alexandra Drane's speech (video below) I invite you to .. Make a toast to those that you love and those that you miss and have this conversation with your family.

Engage with grace

We make choices throughout our lives - where we want to live, what types of activities will fill our days, with whom we spend our time. These choices are often a balance between our desires and our means, but at the end of the day, they are decisions made with intent. But when it comes to how we want to be treated at the end our lives, often we don't express our intent or tell our loved ones about it.

This has real consequences. 73% of Americans would prefer to die at home, but up to 50% die in hospital. More than 80% of Californians say their loved ones "know exactly" or have a "good idea" of what their wishes would be if they were in a persistent coma, but only 50% say they've talked to them about their preferences.But our end of life experiences are about a lot more than statistics. They're about all of us.

So the first thing we need to do is start talking. Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project was designed with one simple goal: to help get the conversation about end of life experience started. The idea is simple: Create a tool to help get people talking. One Slide, with just five questions on it. Five questions designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences.

And we're asking people to share this One Slide - wherever and whenever they a presentation, at dinner, at their book club. Just One Slide, just five questions. Lets start a global discussion that, until now, most of us haven't had.Here is what we are asking you: Download The One Slide and share it at any opportunity - with colleagues, family, friends. Think of the slide as currency and donate just two minutes whenever you can. Commit to being able to answer these five questions about end of life experience for yourself, and for your loved ones. Then commit to helping others do the same. Get this conversation started.

Let's start a viral movement driven by the change we as individuals can effect...and the incredibly positive impact we could have collectively. Help ensure that all of us - and the people we care for - can end our lives in the same purposeful way we live them. Just One Slide, just one goal. Think of the enormous difference we can make together. - Written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team

The story of Za, that began this innovative journey is told by her sister in-law Alexandra Drane.

Engage with Grace from Health 2.0 on Vimeo.

Toby -
Proud sister of Susan Ellen, proud daughter of Anne and Lou.
Believer in the Power of Conversation

Read more on Engage With Grace

Interview with David J. Neff - Nonprofit Tweet-up


David_j_neff In his role as Director of Web, Film and Interactive Strategies for the American Cancer Society's High Plains Division David J. Neff has worked with ACS in some exciting social media intitiaves. One of the most successful has been  the non profit world's first total user generated content site.

The other side of David J. Neff is .. he is an author, speaker and social media maven. He's also a guy with a big heart. Skipping along Twitter a couple of weeks ago I caught tweets about a Tweet-up. Following the teeny bread crumb trail I learned that David was part of the Tweet-up team. Sounded like a Diva Interview to me and David agreed.

Toby/Diva Marketing: So David, what is a Tweet-up?

David J. Neff:  A Tweet-up is the same thing as what used to be called a meet-up. From the days. It’s a bunch of people who know each other online meeting in real-life. Usually to enjoy some Tex-Mex and Adult Beverages if it’s an Austin tweet-up ; -)

Toby/Diva Marketing: What was the ACS Tweet-up about? How many people signed up?

David J. Neff:  Well Toby we didn’t have a ACS Tweet Up. We had a Blood Drive Tweetup to benefit the Central Texas Blood and Tissue Center. The American Cancer Society was not involved at all. We had 45 to 50 people sign up and we had 45 people show up.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s put a little traditional perspective around that number. In a typical Blood Drive out reach what would be your average response?

David J. Neff:  We doubled their traffic for that day!

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you have any expectations?  What did you “hope” would happen?

Austinblooddrivetweetupstickerbfw David J. Neff: I hope I would get to meet a lot of the Central Texas/Austin commuity and talk to them about giving blood and even our newest Web Community Luckily we did a lot more than that!

Toby/Diva Marketing: As with most social media initiatives the “oomph!” comes from relations build with a community .. with Twitter it's the “Followers.” This is sort of a chicken and egg question. Do you first have to build a base of Followers before you can have a successful Tweet-up?  How do you do that?

David J. Neff:  Good question. I don’t have a third of the followers you do Toby (add me at @daveiam) so that was not an option for us. But what did happen was people spread the word on twitter and email! Michelle Greer my awesome co-partner on this did the same thing and soon we had the whole Austin Twitter Community interested in the Blood Drive. It went viral since it was such a good cause.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Twitter has a unique challenge. As the tweets (or posts) continue to increase exponentially based on the number of people you follow you can easily miss a tweet. How did you compensate for that?

David J. Neff:  Michelle Greer and I talked the heck out of it. We also partnered with two local groups to get the message out. The 501 Tech Club of Austin and the Austin Social Media Club. They were a big help!

Toby/Diva Marketing: From a marketing view .. congrats! on integrating other social tactics such as the YouTube video and @Twitter  messages .. which is how I found out.  Please talk a little about that part of your strategy.

David J. Neff:  That was just the summary.

If you are going to have an event around your non-profit be sure to Blog about it, Video tape people and take photos. It’s all you can do to spread the word!

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are a few of the Lessons Learned? Would you do it again?

David J. Neff: Whew! We learned a lot. The most important thing is that people really do care nowdays. You just have to break through the clutter and get them to notice your event. In this case the community on twitter really helped us do that!  We do plan to do it again very soon for another non-profit here in town.

Toby/Diva Marketing
: What would you tell non profits and profits who are exploring micro blogging/Twitter as part of their communication out reach?

David J. Neff:

Make it happen. You need to experiment. Watch this video and follow some of my tips.

Follow David on Twitter! FI Space - blog about innovation for non profits.


Nick Jacobs - From Healthcare Blogs to Healthcare Books


Nick_jacobs_book_healthcare_2 Only my friend Nick Jacobs, CEO of Windber Medical Center,  would write a book titled Taking The Hell Out of Healthcare - a patient's guide to getting the best healthcare - and put a lovely bouquet of flowers on the cover. Nick Jacobs is no stranger to pushing the envelope. He is a pioneer in healthcare social media. Nick was first CEO of a general hospital/medical center to launch a blog sponsored by his hospital.

Taking The Hell Out of Healhcare is Nick's innovative approach to healthcare that treats the patient as a "person" while looking at a healthcare system that Nick calls broken.  The book is a guide " ... on how to get the same treatment as the CEO's family in any hospital, a book on patient advocacy."

More About Nick Jacobs from Diva Marketing

Where are the social media healthcare organizations?

Interview with Nick Jacobs on blogs

Podcast with Nick Jacobs on senior executives actively participating in social media

Where Are The "Social Media" Healthcare Organizations?


Doctors_bag Nice to see more companies embracing social media marketing .. social networking .. social computing .. influencer marketing .. participation marketing .. whatever buzz word you call it - along with the tactics that build the mosaic: blogs, widgets, social networks, vlogs, social bookmarks, micro blogging and who knows what will develop tomorrow - however, the reality is many consider it to be more of a revolutionary strategy than an evolutionary way to reach customers.

Although thousands of physicians are active in social media, it's not a big surprise when it comes to Web 2.0 and social media, healthcare organizations are in the caution-to-adopt category. With the restraints of HIPPA is it even worth a dive into the wild side? Should healthcare organizations go "social?"  For Nick Jacobs, President/CEO of Windber Medical Center the benefits from his blog far exceeded expectations. From Nick - his story -

In the Spring of 2005, I became the first Hospital CEO to do a weblog; Nick's Blog or Windberblog at Windbercare will get you there.  After that I began writing for; Hospital News, Blue H News, and Worldhealthcare Blog on a regular basis.

Because of this Media 2.0 involvement, I began receiving invitations all over the country to speak about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the form of growth, outreach, transparency, criticism, board reaction, etc.   Because of these presentations in Washington D.C., Chicago, Las Vegas etc. I was exposed to the magnitude of not only blog power, but also You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, and any number of other web

Would I blog again?  Yes.  It has resulted in me writing two books and four newspaper columns that have increased our business by double diget figures ..  It has put a human face on a very conservative, formal job, hospital CEO.  It has helped me to reach out to a region that only five years ago dismissed us as a non player.  It has introduced us to the new world order regarding viral marketing and reaching out through the web.

Let's take a look at defining "success." Enoch Choi, MD, another pioneer in this space, believes social media is a good business decision for healthcare organizations.

I''ve recommended healthcare institutions that are interested in getting into social media to go where their target audience is -- where Google searches on the terms they'd like to target are going to.  I'm involved with MedHelp, where these institutions have a chance to have their MDs answer questions, on the topics they'd like to recruit more patients in, to increase their referrals. in this way, blogging can improve their bottom line.

Here area some healthcare organizations that are exploring social media marketing.

Johnson and Johnson's corporate blog 
GlaxoSmithKline's Alli blog for their weight loss medication, Alli
Centocor - CNTO411
Greater New Bedford Community Health Center
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
Center for Disease Control 
Windber Medical Center 

ADHDMoms - Facebook - McNeil Pediatrics, a division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals


Mayo Clinic Blogs and Podcasts

Thanks to Fard Johnmar, Envision Solutions, for his help developing this list.

So where are the "social media" healthcare organizations? Certainly there have to be more than a handful. If you know of any please let me know.

Read More

Heard it from  Bob Coffield - The Wisdom of Patients" Health Care Meets Online Social Media, report by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist.

Update: January 8, 2009 : List of 107 hospitals and medical centers using Facebook, YouTube and/or Twitter.

Diva Marketing Talks About Sponsored Niche Communities (a la Sermo) with Dr. Daniel Palestrant & Dr. Richard Thrasher


Diva Marketing Talks is a live, internet radio show.  30-minutes. 2-guests. 1-topic about social media marketing. Why? To help you understand how to participate in the "new" conversation without getting blown-up. Miss today's show? You can pick it up as a podcast.

Today's Diva Marketing Talks explores an innovative, new model for a social media community. Dr. Daniel Palestrant, Founder CEO of Sermo, and Dr. Richard Thrasher, community member, join me to talk about Sermo, an online community open only to doctors (a niche) where for a fee sponsors can listen in, ask questions but not fully participate.

Big question: Would this model work for other verticals/market segments like moms or golfers or accountants or patients?

Topic for February 26, 2008: Where the Docs Are .. Someone Waits For Them. Paid Sponsors in a Social Networking Community.

Time: 6:30p - 7p Eastern/ 5:30p - 6p Central/ 4:30p -5p Mountain/ 3:30p - 4p Pacific
Call-in Guest Number: 718.508.9924


Drr_daniel_palestrant_2 Daniel Palestrant

Daniel Palestrant is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge-based Sermo, Inc. As CEO, Daniel is responsible for the overall vision of the Sermo community and business. His main tasks focus on ensuring that Sermo is a valuable resource to physicians while building a profitable and socially responsible enterprise.

Daniel's first experiences with Healthcare Informatics came when he conceived, designed, proposed and managed deployment of CIBUR (CIGNA Internet Based Universal Resource), one of the first commercial Web-based healthcare resources for physicians and allied health professionals. No stranger to the entrepreneurial side of medicine, Daniel founded his first company, Azygos, Inc., in 1998. During that time, he successfully raised $2.2MM in funding and deployed the company's first clinical application on schedule and on budget, before selling the company to BioNetrix in May of 2001.

After selling Azygos, Daniel joined BioNetrix (Now BNX Systems) as Director of Health Care. During his time at BNX Systems, Daniel helped numerous healthcare-focused businesses increase network security, improve patient privacy safeguards and comply with HIPAA. Daniel has done clinical and laboratory research in transplant immunology. He has a B.S. in biology from Johns Hopkins University, completed medical school at Duke University, and trained in General Surgery at Beth Israel-Deaconess Hospital, in Boston before leaving to launch Sermo.

Dr_thrasher Dr. Richard Thrasher

Dr. Richard Thrasher is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology. He established ENT practice - The Ear, Nose, & Throat Center at McKinney. He is also an active member of the Sermo community.

Dr. Thrasher received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his medical degree from the University of Connecticut. He completed a general surgery internship in Denver before going on to an Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery residency at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. While in residency, Dr. Thrasher spent significant time at Denver Children’s hospital (routinely rated in the top 10 children’s hospitals in the country) and has a particular interest in pediatric ENT.

Upon completing residency, Dr. Thrasher served on clinical faculty with the University of Nebraska Department of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery while he served as a Major in the USAF for 3 years at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. During this time he won three awards for best instructor as a clinical preceptor for family medicine residents and physician assistant students. He also served as medical director of the surgical service and chief of otolaryngology at his base hospital.

Dr. Thrasher was the first otolaryngologist in Nebraska, and first in the Air Force, to perform the new Balloon Sinuplasty® surgery. He was also the first otolaryngologist in Nebraska to perform an innovative base of tongue procedure for sleep apnea and is one of only 6-7 surgeons in the country currently doing this procedure. He has extensive experience performing the Pillar Palatal Implant® procedure for snoring. He has authored several publications and remains active in pursuing clinical research in sinusitis and sleep apnea.

Dr. Thrasher’s special interests include pediatric ENT, snoring/ obstructive sleep apnea, thyroid surgery, and sinus surgery. He is an active golfer and self-proclaimed technology geek. He lives in Plano with his wife and 2 children but hopes to move to McKinney in the next several months.

Tips From The Diva Bag

Complements of Dr. Richard Thrasher

  • Log on frequently and just observe how things work for a little while. Some may feel comfortable seeing the personality of the site within a couple of days, some may need some more time. But I would observe how the interaction works first before just jumping in with a post. There is an etiquette on-line that is not always readily apparent to novices.
  • When you do begin to interact, do so frequently. If you make a comment or post a topic, follow up on it frequently to see if there is any feedback regarding your input. This will definitely bring you into the community. Those who post and run will not feel like they develop a relationship with other users as well.
  • Avoid trying to make overt discriminatory comments—this is the surest way to be ostracized. Whether you have a bias toward something whether it’s race, gender, educational background, etc, if you make those types of comments known, you will be quickly attacked. I have seen this on many on-line communities. Most importantly be open-minded of the opinions of others and at least respectful even if they’re factually wrong. There are definitely better ways to handle differences of opinion than through attacks.
  • Disclose, disclose, disclose. If you market yourself or a product on Sermo and do not disclose a financial interest, but one is discovered, you will immediately be ostracized by the community at large. If you fully disclose your interest in the marketing, you stand a fighting chance of having a constructive discussion of your particular topic.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about patients who have a diagnosis that you can’t figure out or who has an adverse event that you want to discuss. Often these are the best discussions on Sermo.

Can't call in but have a question? Drop a comment and I'll ask it for you. Let me know what you'd like Diva Talks to chat about. Don't forget Diva Marketing Talks morphs into a podcast.

Update: Enoch Choi, MedHelp of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation joined the conversation. If you have any interest in healthcare in the U.S. or where physicians' interest are in changing the healthcare system do not miss the After Show. In Ophra style, the After Show continues on a free for all flow for as long as the conversation goes on.

An Interview With Paul Levy - President and CEO, Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center


Paul_levy Paul Levy, President and CEO of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and blogger of Running A Hospital Blog is no stranger when it comes to innovation and loving a good challenge. In 2002, when Paul took the helm of the BIDMC the hospital was on verge of being sold by the Commonwealth. In 2004, the medical center reported a $28 million dollar operating surplus.

With the hospital under control, I guess Paul found a few extra seconds. In August of 2006, Paul decided to add blogging to his To Do List and launched Running A Hospital Blog.  In keeping with the mantra of social media (transparency, authenticity, honesty and passion) posts run from patient's customer service concern to his views on social issues to health insurance to asking readers if he got paid too much and even the recipe of Beth Israel's famous chocolate chip cookies.

The healthcare business is fiercely competitive, especially in Boston, a city know for its hospitals and docs. In his post Opening Day Items Paul shows us an out-of-the-box marketing strategy that dovetails into the BIDMC's partnership with the Boston Red Sox. BI Babies are sent home in co-branded baby caps and a certificate for a tour of Fenway Park on birthday number five. 

Bloggy Discloure: I'm a BI bebe and I'm betting if the BI had that in strategy in-place, I would have had a few more siblings! Had to add this comment from Paul -  "And, by the way, all BID babies are above average . . .  Good to know that you are another example of that."

In an email chat Paul explained his views about about blogs and social media in healthcare. I think you'll agree that Paul has indeed taken a sip or two of the kool-aid and hit a home run with Running A Hospital Blog.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

One of the nation’s preeminent academic medical centers, providing state-of-the-art clinical care, research, and teaching in affiliation with Harvard Medical School.  Licensed for about 600 beds, BIDMC annual clinical and research revenues are in excess of $1 billion.  Overseen by a 20-member Board of Directors and with a staff of over 6,000 FTEs and a medical staff of over 700 physicians in thirteen clinical departments.

Toby/Diva Marketing: It seems as though Running A Hospital Blog is your personal blog versus a “company blog.”

Paul Levy: This a personal blog.  It is not published by the hospital.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why a personal blog and not a BI/Deaconess Medical Center blog a la Nick Jacobs?
Paul Levy: Dunno.  I'm not sure it matters that much, but if it were an official organ of the hospital, I would probably feel compelled to have all posts reviewed by our General Counsel, press office, and other people inside the hospital.  That would make it hard for me to write and post something at 5am or 10pm, when I do my writing. 

Also, I would probably self-censor much more, knowing that things were going to be reviewed by corporate folks. I think currency and immediacy and spontaneity are important in keeping things interesting.  Also, this way, my staff folks can honestly deny that they have any prior knowledge about what I have written!  By the way, I like Nick's blog a lot.  He seems like a wonderful guy, and they are lucky to have someone with his experience, wisdom, and good humor.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Do you think the hospital will adopt a social media strategy including blogs, blogger relations, etc? If so when? If not why not?

Paul Levy: I''m not sure what it means to have a social media strategy, at least with regard to blogs and blogger relations.  Anyone can start his or her own blog in about 30 seconds.  Why should the hospital be a repository?  If we were, then we would have to have blogging policies!  That seems inherently contradictory to the idea of social media. 

If we did post blogs on our company website, wouldn't we have to make the "space" available to all and then also have to insure that they met standards for honesty, accountability, grammar, spelling, HIPAA, good behavior, and the like?  If you permit all blogs to be posted on the company website without standards, then you are inviting lawsuits. So then I would have to have people enforce the standards. 

Why undemocratize the most democratic form of communication by imposing corporate standards on it when anybody in the company can already create their own site in the outside world?  If it is good enough and interesting enough to attract readers, the word will get around.

We are, however, looking at wikis for a variety of purposes.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why has blogging been worth your time, energy and resources? What has surprised you about your blogging experience?

Paul Levy: Totally worth it, especially in terms of getting feedback from a wide variety of people throughout the world.  It is like tapping into an incredibly extensive community.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Are ideas and suggestions from comments distributed and/or utilized internally?

Paul Levy: Oh, yes.  I pass along ideas to our folks, and we follow up.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How does your blog fit into Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Marketing/ Community Outreach Strategies.

Paul Levy: This is not the hospital's blog.  Strictly speaking, it is not tied into our business strategies, although I like to think that there is nothing in it that is inconsistent with our strategies.

Toby/Diva Marketing: I noticed that the blog is not linked from the Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center webstite.  Nor is there a direct link from the blog to the BI website. Any plans to do that?

Paul Levy: No, it is not a hospital publication.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Did you have to first gain permission from your board?

Paul Levy: No.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How are you handling HIPPA regulations?

Paul Levy: I follow them!

Toby/Diva Marketing: What were the reactions from your peers?

Paul Levy: Some are very supportive, some are disdainful. Our physicians and nurses and other staff are very, very supportive.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What are your feelings about Sermo? Particularly the inclusion of allowing investment firms to view postings and the possibility of inviting the pharma in?

Paul Levy: I have never read it. I don't look at sites where you have to register.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What will it take for social media to gain acceptance within the healthcare community, to the extent that blogs (and other tactics) are adopted?

Paul Levy: This will happen very slowly. It is not a field that encourages open expressions of feelings or positions.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What would you tell other healthcare organizations and physicians who are considering launching a blog?

Paul Levy: Be prepared for a great adventure.

Sidebar: Thanks to Nick Jacobs for the intro to Paul Levy. Another example of the blogger network.