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Halloween Thriller

October 31, 2013

Dave Anderson

This year’s AI Halloween movie is a real Thriller! Make sure to take 15 minutes out of your day to dance to the full-length classic from the King of Pop. I watched it with my two young boys the other day — they enjoyed their first exposure to zombies outside of Minecraft!

AI featured in CEO Blog Nation survey

May 24, 2013

Dave Anderson

In this week’s CEO Blog Nation survey, AI Founder Dave Anderson answers the Question: “Why Did You Start Your Business?”

5-24-2013 5-39-47 PM

The answer? To help healthcare stakeholders grow their business.

I suppose my story is not too different than most others: I saw a need in the marketplace so I filled it. For me, this means helping stakeholders in healthcare grow their business and contribute to a healthier nation. After nearly 20 years in public relations and advertising, I recognized that there were too many healthcare clients that wanted to increase their brand visibility and attract new sales leads, but they just didn’t fit into the traditional agency formula. Because of their tight margins and ambitious growth goals, agency retainer structures proved to be too restrictive by nature and as a result, many healthcare innovations couldn’t be effectively positioned nor receive the exposure they deserved.

When I started Anderson Interactive, I made a conscious effort to shape my business so it could to meet the budgets and individual needs of each client. But more important, I designed account structures to allow for a very fast turnaround of results, so each client quickly achieves the visibility they need to grow their business and do their part in contributing to a stronger healthcare system.

Visit CEO Blog Nation to learn more.

GUEST POST: Pros and Cons of Switching to Concierge Medical Practice

April 18, 2013

Dave Anderson

As part of Anderson Interactive’s ongoing effort to provide educational and networking resources to the healthcare industry, we invite subject matter experts across healthcare, IT and the revenue cycle to participate on the AI blog with their own article submissions. The following post is a guest blog submission by Software Advice, the medical review publisher:

Software Advice

Pros and Cons of Switching to Concierge Medical Practice

The most common medical practice size is 2,000 to 3,000 patients. With so many patients to see, a doctor has limited time to spend on each person, making it difficult to establish strong doctor-patient relationships. This is why concierge medicine is gaining popularity. With this model, doctors are able to provide more attentive care while maintaining the same revenue flow.

There are many factors to consider before a traditional medical practice can make the switch over to concierge medicine. The medical review publisher, Software Advice, recently wrote an article that weighed a few of the pros and cons of this approach. You can check out their suggestions below.

PROS…

1. A different model, less patients
Concierge practices require patients to pay a retainer fee. Therefore, the number of patients in a concierge practice drops significantly depending on what type of payment model the practice uses. This allows for concierge doctors to spend more time with patients and accommodate last minute appointments.

2. Equal pay, more satisfying work
Since patients in a concierge practices pay an annual, monthly or quarterly retainer fee, doctors are able to see less patients and still make the same amount of money. For instance, if each patient is charged $1,500 a year, then a concierge practice with 1,000 patients can bring in 1.5 million a year. Additionally, with a lower patient count, there is less staff needed which also lowers administrative costs.

CONS…

3. Not ideal for all practices
A major downside of this model is that it doesn’t work in all types of healthcare. According to Dan Behroozi, EVP of business development and operations at MDVIP, the physician needs to be a general practitioner for the model to be successful. Unless there is a primary care relationship, this model is not an ideal fit.

4. Requires more marketing
The single biggest challenge of concierge medicine is marketing. Since concierge medicine is still gaining popularity, doctors have to invest more time and money into attracting new patients and raising awareness about the business model. Some doctors have found success with ads in a country club newsletter while others seek speaking engagements with men’s group. The method is all dependent on the target patient audience. But anyone who wants to do well in the concierge medical field has to prepare for the marketing commitment.

You can check out the original post by Alan Horowitz on the Profitable Practice blog.

Behind the scenes!

March 12, 2013

Dave Anderson

030613-0199 Dave at HIMSS

An inside look at EHNAC’s video development project at #HIMSS13

Look for the extensive footage at a YouTube near you!

 

100 Healthcare Organizations to Watch in 2013

February 20, 2013

Dave Anderson

Congratulations to my client Post & Schell, whose Health IT Law blog was just named to a list of top healthcare sites!

health_care_organizations_to_watch_in_2013Associate Vadim Schick commented: “Our blog is proud to be featured in the Top 100 Health Care Organizations to Watch in 2013. The designation was published by MHAPrograms.org, a website that highlights the most prominent organizations and information resources across health care and health care administration.”

In addition to highlighting the blog’s authors, MHAPrograms.org specifically noted the diverse topics covered by the Health IT Law blog, including features on ARRA, HIPAA, HITECH Act and the related regulations, as well as privacy and security issues more broadly.

I read through the full list of 100 organizations/blogs, and it is actually a great collection of the must-reads in our industry. Take a look for yourself at the 100 Healthcare Organizations to Watch in 2013 and make sure you are keeping up with the latest news from those who are shaping healthcare!

 

How will you be marketing your company at #HIMSS13?

February 19, 2013

Dave Anderson

Please don’t tell me you’re employing the ol’ “build a booth and they will come” approach!

At this year’s HIMSS, AI will be representing four clients and use a balance of traditional public relations as well as interactive and dynamic social media methods to expand brand visibility. Sure, you’ll find us in the press room hosting onsite media interviews with print editors. And this month, you may have seen some of our clients’ bylined article coverage, used to drum up excitement before the show. But traditional PR can only get you so far.

In between our clients’ crucial business development meetings, AI will be working to develop dynamic video content for future placement on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and corporate websites. We’ll be scheduling radio interviews and securing guest blog relationships with some of the most influential members of healthcare 2.0. Also, we’ll be attending editorial networking events, Tweetups at the HIMSS Social Media Center, and pushing out real-time social media updates to help build those important relationships with social media influencers. It is safe to say that AI clients will be busy as bees at this year’s event!

How about you? Are you still looking for last minute ways to connect with the media and your social networks? You didn’t miss the boat – HIMSS has released the following list of Tweetups and meetups at #HIMSS13. I hope to see you there!

HIMSS SMC

HIMSS Social Media Center Tweetups

  Monday, March 4

March 4, 2013
2:30PM – 3:30PM
#SocialMedia and   #Influence Tweetup
Session ID: SMC1
March 4, 2013
4:00PM – 5:00PM
#HITchicks   Tweetup
Session ID: SMC2

Tuesday, March 5

March 5, 2013
11:00AM – 12:00PM
#HITsm TweetChat
Session ID: SMC3
March 5, 2013
3:30PM – 4:30PM
#PatientEngagement   Tweetup
Session ID: SMC4

Wednesday, March 6

March 6, 2013
11:00AM – 12:00PM
#ePatient Tweetup
Session ID: SMC5
March 6, 2013
2:30PM – 3:30PM
#GAhealthIT   Tweetup
Session ID: SMC6

Additional social media meetups

Monday, March 4

March 4, 2013
3:00PM – 4:00PM
@mHIMSS Tweetup
Session ID: Social5
March 4, 2013
3:00PM – 4:00PM
HP Healthcare   Mobility Tweet Up at HIMSS13
Session ID: Social3
March 4, 2013
4:00PM – 4:30PM
Interoperability   Showcase Tweetup – “Gimme my DaM data”
Session ID: Social1
March 4, 2013
5:00PM – 7:00PM
SearchHealthIT   and Health IT Exchange Tweet ‘n Meet
Session ID: Social2

Tuesday, March 5

March 5, 2013
4:30PM – 5:00PM
Siemens   Healthcare Tweetup: HIT the Pitch
Session ID: Social4
March 5, 2013
6:00PM – 8:00PM
New Media Meetup   at #HIMSS13
Session ID: Social6

GUEST POST: How to Manage Your Reputation Online

January 8, 2013

Dave Anderson

As part of Anderson Interactive’s ongoing effort to provide educational and networking resources to the healthcare industry, we invite subject matter experts across healthcare, IT and the revenue cycle to participate on the AI blog with their own article submissions. The following post is a guest blog submission by Kim Willington, a freelance writer and researcher for Helpdesksoftware.org:

Help Desk Software

How to Manage Your Reputation Online
The first encounter that many people will have with your business will be online. In many cases, the first encounter they have with your business will not be on your company website nor on any of your company’s social media profiles. They may learn about your company from an ad, a review, or even another blog talking about your company.
Unfortunately, not all of these encounters may be positive. While you can’t control everything that everyone says about your company online, you can take steps to manage your reputation online so that your customers have a positive experience with your brand more often than a negative one.
Here are a few tips for how you can manage your reputation online:
Be Careful about What You Post
The easiest way to control how your company is viewed online is to control what you put out there yourself. Every blog post, every status update, every comment, and every interaction you have with a reader, a subscriber, or a customer online can be seen by thousands of other people and can be preserved for posterity somewhere online. You must be sure that everything you write or say is part of a carefully crafted message that is designed to create a brand persona.
Of course, you should avoid discussing inappropriate or controversial topics, like politics or religion (unless your company is in the business of politics or religion). You should avoid engaging customers in public debates if they have complained about your product or service. You should avoid sharing overly personal information. There are many more guidelines that may be appropriate for your business; the key is to determine if what you are saying helps to create the brand persona you are trying to create.
Google Yourself Regularly
You can’t manage your online reputation if you don’t know what people are saying about you. You can monitor mentions of your brand by Googling yourself regularly. You can also set up Google alerts with your company name or the personal names of leaders in your company. There are also other monitoring services that can help you find mentions of your company, such as other search engines like Yahoo! and Bing.
While you may not find every last mention of your business this way, you will be able to find most mentions. You’ll also be sure to find any major stories that might develop involving your company. The sooner you learn about negative press, the sooner you can formulate an appropriate response to help mitigate the damage.
Remove Content that You Can
When you find negative or inappropriate information about your company, you can choose to ignore it, to respond to it, or to find ways to have it removed. If it is a post on social media that is inappropriate, you can report it to have it removed. However, in most cases, you will have to e-mail the owner of the blog or site where it is posted to ask to have it removed. This may be relatively simple if it’s just a matter of incorrect information being posted. If it is a negative review, asking to have the content removed can make your company look like it’s trying to evade responsibility. Instead, take that opportunity to respond to the review and to find a way to make the customer satisfied or to resolve the problem.
Register All User Names and Domains for Your Brand
Anyone can register a URL or user name including your brand name and then do anything with it. You can prevent anyone from using your name to slander your company or make it look silly by simply registering all the related URLs and user names for your company, your brand names, or the names of your company leaders. That way, when customers find your company online, they can know that it is an official website or social profile and that the information can be trusted.
Monitoring your brand online is important to the long-term success of your company. Reputation is everything, and if you develop a bad reputation online, it can cost you customers. Develop a proactive strategy for monitoring your reputation online, and you will protect your company’s good name and your good relationship with your customers.
How do you handle online reputation management? Share your tips for success in the comments!

Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Health IT Organizations in 2013

January 2, 2013

Dave Anderson

new-year-2013The dawn of a new year is the time of new dreams, fresh starts and unbridled optimism. Take charge of the health IT world this year by making New Year’s resolutions that will truly stick. I’ve compiled my top ten recommendations below:

1.       Get Organized. Health IT executives need to routinely take inventory of their professional life by getting a better grasp over their organization’s brand visibility and the corporate image conveyed to the marketplace. Ask yourself: Is your messaging on point? Are you telling an accurate, compelling story to your intended audience? Is it synergistic with current trends? Have you vetted your messaging with top tier media and industry analysts? Step back and ensure that your business model and voice still resonates with your intended audience.

2.       Start the Great American Novel. You have brilliant insights to share but it can be a challenge to set aside the precious hours needed for quality writing. Stop procrastinating and start that white paper, case study, bylined article or sales sheet you’ve been meaning to get down on paper. By partnering with a professional writer with intimate knowledge of your industry, you’ll be better equipped to clarify your points and match the specific writing style needed to reach the intended audience.

3.       Break Those Bad Habits. Does your company’s press releases overflow with marketing speak? Does the PR department turn off top-tier journalists by blasting out irrelevant media pitches? Are you neglecting your customers by not providing a dedicated forum in which they can share best practices with peers? Is your website homage to the last decade? Has it been a month since you’ve written your last blog post? Do you crack your knuckles? It’s time to break those bad habits and start anew in 2013.

4.       Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Quality content is king in health IT promotion, and you can never have enough to fuel your website, social media endeavors, media pitching and promotional materials. The good news is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Most likely, you are sitting on more great content than you’ve ever realized. It comes in the form of subject matter experts, customer stories and references, past article placements, promotional pieces, etc. – you just may not be using it effectively. Partner with an expert who can help you reduce the stale clutter of outdated materials, while leveraging your existing content to its fullest potential.

5.       Spend More Time with Loved Ones. Ninety percent of health IT organizations aren’t as active as they should be on social media and relationships are starting to suffer. In 2013, resolve to finally strengthen the connections you have with your customer and prospect friends by being more vocal and interactive on social media networks. Sure, you’ve laid the ground work by setting up corporate accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube – you may have even started a blog – but that’s just the start. Expand your circle by building an engaged, relevant following of happy customers and qualified leads, then tap into emerging social media trends and platforms where relevant to your business goals.

6.       Keep Learning. In the transformative healthcare environment of ICD-10, meaningful use, patient engagement, data analytics, payment reform and ACOs, you should never stop learning. Your customers are looking for your expertise in these and many other areas, so it is more important than ever to lean on the support of the membership associations, standards development organizations, publications, analysts, consultants and attorneys who can help you understand the promises and pitfalls of tomorrow’s trends inside and out.

7.       Volunteer More. Use your expertise in health IT and your knowledge of the trends in this space to give back to some of those less fortunate customer/member prospects. Volunteer your time in media interviews to secure editorial coverage by commenting on industry trends, regulatory mandates and legislative issues. Schedule and manage a slate of non-promotional, educational webinars. Also, evaluate the contributions of your organization against Don Berwick’s Triple Aim to determine how you might better support the overall improvment of the US healthcare system.

8.       Start Smoking… er, the competition that is. Light a fire under the competitors in your space by being the first to identify new customer/member prospects. Then ignite the conversation through a strategic schedule of compelling outreach including eBlasts, direct mail, sales calls, promotional materials, online content, etc. It takes constant communication to secure and build long-term relationships and remain competitive in the evolving healthcare IT marketplace.

9.       Get Out of Debt. Most health IT marketers want to avoid accepting responsibility for the correlation between actual revenue goals and PR, marketing and social media performance. But you should definitely be seeing a return for your promotional investment as it relates to bottom-line numbers. Reporting and analyzing the metrics of success – including media visibility, SEO, web traffic, booth traffic, customer retention and bottom-line sales – is a crucial step in ensuring you are achieving your business goals, month after month, year after year.

10.   Lose Weight. Large PR and advertising agencies have a lot of mouths to feed, and the unfortunate truth is that the majority of standard client retainers pay for a lot more (overhead, agency promotion, staff training, life-support for underperforming accounts, etc.) than what it takes to directly service your account. It’s time to take that hard look in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, maybe there are areas where you can trim the fat by leveraging internal resources or by evaluating leaner options.

GUEST POST: The Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Online Reviews About Your Practice

December 4, 2012

Dave Anderson

As part of Anderson Interactive’s ongoing effort to provide educational and networking resources to the healthcare industry, we invite subject matter experts across healthcare, IT and the revenue cycle to participate on the AI blog with their own article submissions. The following physician-focused post is a guest blog submission by David Fried of Software Advice:

Software Advice

Google your name. The first results will likely be physician finder sites like RateMDs.com, Health Grades or Vitals, or broad-based service finders like Yelp or InsiderPages. The reviews can be critical to your success as a doctor in today’s world, regardless of whether they are true or not.

Since visitors tend to focus on the bad reviews more than the good, it’s important to look at all the feedback and address it appropriately. These all play a part in your overall online reputation. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly how, or if you should respond. Make the wrong move and you risk causing more damage.

To get a handle on the dos and don’ts of managing negative reviews in the healthcare field, Software Advice contributor David Fried talked to Deborah C. Hiser, a specialist in HIPAA and Partner at law firm Brown McCarroll, and Joey McGirr, an online marketing expert with McGirr Interactive Communications.

The Absolute Can’ts

  1. Never publicly discuss patient specifics. A patient can post anything they want about their visit with you, but it is a major HIPAA violation for you to say anything about them in a response.
  2. Never email patients without their consent. In many states, doctors need a patient’s written consent to communicate with them electronically. Unless you’re certain you’re not in one of those states or have consent, use the telephone instead.

The Suggested Shouldn’ts

  1. Don’t respond when you’re upset. We get it. You take your business personally. It is natural to want to respond on the defensive. However, McGirr suggests that you should first follow a 24-hour rule. Respond a day so the wound is less fresh.
  2. Don’t get into drawn-out he-said/she-said discussions. No one wins a back and forth battle about who did what. Plus, search engines and review sites generally give more weight to newer content. This means that you draw more attention to a negative review every time you reply. Also, a response from the owner of the business validates the original comment in the eyes of the review site, making it much harder to have that review removed later.

The Cans and Shoulds

  1.  Pick your battles. First, determine whether the review is worth responding to. Figure out how valid the person’s concern is and take the appropriate action.
  2. Use the feedback to improve your practice. Most negative feedback has nothing to do with the doctor’s technical competence but rather the management of the practice itself. Criticism about the office staff, appointment access, and appointment wait times are very common. These comments can be used as a catalyst to improve your practice, coming from a sincere place of wanting to do better.
  3. Craft a response that demonstrates a commitment to improvement. As mentioned previously, doctors need to tread carefully to avoid violations. But one good reason to respond would be to update patients on changes you’ve made to the practice in response to their feedback.
    If you can identify the patient based on their comments, you can absolutely reach out to them by phone. And if you can’t identify the patient, feel free to post a public comment inviting the reviewer to contact you. Yelp reports “lots of success stories from business owners who were polite to their reviewers and were accordingly given a second chance.”
  4. Get libelous reviews removed. Libel is to defame through the use of false words or pictures. Sever defamation can impact your practice, so it’s worth your time to get it removed. Check the site’s Terms and Conditions section for the best method to do this. If that fails, contact a lawyer for more options.
  5. Encourage happy patients to post reviews. There’s no rule against asking patients to write an online review. To ensure a healthy mixture of positive reviews, contact patients (through their preferred, HIPAA-approved method) 48 hours after their visit and encourage them to let you know how you’re doing.

Research for this piece was conducted by David Fried of Software Advice. Previous to his work at Software Advice, Fried spent three years as a research specialist for a medical technology consulting company. You can reach him on LinkedIn for more information.

Be prodigious today.

November 16, 2012

Dave Anderson

Shakespeare’s eloquence is nigh impossible for any man to follow, which is why I get to comment first.

With days filled with seemingly insignificant minutiae rolling together, we rarely see the opportunities before us to be larger and more monumental than who we really are. I have no PR-related lectures for you today, but I thought the following quote could serve as some Friday morning inspiration.

Enjoy, then go be prodigious today!

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Brutus from Julius Caesar; Act 4, scene 3, 218-224

Getting sick of the competitive noise

November 12, 2012

Dave Anderson

I was deathly sick last week. OK, it was just a simple cold but I thought every day was to be my last – and I let my wife know about it every chance I got. Of course, she and our two kids had the very same thing the week before but I didn’t hear a peep from them.  Why was I so vocal about my ailment? I’m sure it was my subconscious telling me that in this world, it’s those who communicate the loudest who receive the most attention in return. Or maybe I’m just a big baby.

Right or wrong, success – attention, in this case – is often achieved not by merit, but by those who do the most proactive outreach, and who are most vocal about their cause (i.e. the squeaky wheel). Here’s where my loving wife will chime in to say that too much self-promotion for an overstated cause can be annoying, and lead to your audience just tuning you out. She’s exactly right. The marketplace can become oversaturated with “noise” in no time, so you have to determine the appropriate level of communication for your particular audience and identify what is worthy of telling the world and what is best kept to yourself. In healthcare and healthcare IT, one of the best ways to do that is to understand the amount of communication your prospects are receiving from other parties.

In other words, before your organization gets too vocal, evaluate the quality and level of public and direct outreach that your competitors are putting forth:

  • How often are they sending out press releases, and does that include announcements for every new customer win?
  • How many times a day/week do they post to social media sites?
  • What are the regulatory and legislative issues that their spokespeople are addressing in the marketplace?
  • How often are your top tier publications featuring these perspectives in editorial content?
  • Is this level of focus on par with other issues and trends in healthcare or healthcare IT?
  • Are competitors actively engaged in the production of their own webinars and the securing of speaker engagements?
  • What’s their level of participation in major industry events like AHIMA, AHIP, HBMA, HFMA, HIMSS and MGMA?
  • Is there an indication that they are employing direct outreach to prospects in the form of corporate newsletters, direct mail and eblasts?
  • What publications, websites and events are they sponsoring through advertising promotion?

The tendency for some marketers is to push you to speak before you listen, but it is crucial to take the time to determine the appropriate level of communication and promotional outreach before engaging your audience. By conducting a communication evaluation of your competitors and developing that greater understanding of the noise level within your marketplace, organizations are better able to plan the level of outreach they’ll need to expend without being excessive. Believe me, it can mean the difference between your number one prospect offering to drive to the pharmacy for you, or deciding you deserve a roll of her eyes instead!

The RETURN of the Zombie Apocalypse of Undead Marcom Programs!!!

October 31, 2012

Dave Anderson

Last year at Halloween, AI brought you The Zombie Apocalypse of Undead Marcom Programs!!! The video and blog post served as a dire warning against scary-bad press releases, half-dead media pitching, putrid ad copy and decomposing sales material. GROSS!

This year, we’re following up George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, with the second installment in his franchise, 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Take some time during All Hallow’s Eve to enjoy what was in my opinion, the best of the franchise. (It’s the one that takes place in a shopping mall.)

And remember: when surrounded on all sides by Undead Marcom Programs, you need to fight, scratch and claw your way to safety. Or just call AI and we’ll bring the chopper!

Preparing for the storm

October 29, 2012

Dave Anderson

Having grown up in New England, I’ve prepared for the wrath of hurricanes a number of times of my life. Hurricanes Gloria, Bob and Floyd all served to give my family and I a few good scares, but luckily, we always made it through together unscathed, save a few oak trees.

Back then, my father would preach to me on the importance of preparation, and that lesson has always stuck with me – even throughout my career. But in public relations and marketing, being fully prepared goes beyond the midnight scramble for milk and bread, taping up your windows and filling your bathtub with water. Today’s changing healthcare marketplace forces us to prepare for forces yet unseen – like the emerging marketshare of new competitors, acquisitions/mergers of your customers, unplanned staff turnover, the major legislative and regulatory changes that may result from next week’s election, etc.

Prepare for success

Preparation serves to do more than to mitigate crisis events. It also can set an organization up for new growth and success opportunities. Louis Pasteur was once quoted as saying: “Chance favors the prepared mind,” and the same holds true in healthcare marketing communications. Organizations can work to shore up their long-term viability through the use of sound, ongoing communications planning and action. Effective public relations and social media strategies:

  • Build strong, lasting-relationships with key healthcare journalists to secure your place in ongoing trend stories and feature articles
  • Provide a two-way forum for customers and prospects through social media platforms
  • Ensure your website and promotional sales materials have clear, consistent messaging for prospect evaluation
  • Maintain constant communication with customers and prospects to ensure you stay top of mind
  • Position your organization as an educational resource through regular webinars and customer events
  • Establish executive spokespeople as thought leaders and sources for speaking and award opportunities

Finally, if you are on the East Coast in and in the path of Hurricane Sandy, please visit the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center for action plans and emergency contact information.

Be prepared and stay safe.

 

Results measurement: full series

December 7, 2011

Dave Anderson

Achieving results. Of course it’s the driver of any business. And with the significant investment allocated to the practice, achieving success in a public relations program can be just as crucial as achieving success in sales, recruitment, accounting or any other business role. Unfortunately, measuring success can be one of the most difficult parts of a marketer’s job. In this blog post, I’ll outline five methods I’ve used in the past (often simultaneously) to measure the success of a communications program. While some are exclusive to the public relations field, all five should serve to provide insights into the function of results measurement.

The Thud Factor

The least sophisticated but most demonstrative method is what I call the Thud Factor.

I was taught the Thud Factor when I first kicked off my PR career at a boutique agency in Connecticut. Back then, most of the coverage my team was bringing in arrived in the form of national print placements from industry publications and daily newspapers. During our ongoing coverage searches, we would compile the placements in a voluminous results binder. For some clients, we did this quarterly, but for others, it was an annual project.

Next, we would meet with each client to discuss strategy for the upcoming period. That’s where we’d deliver our quarterly/annual results by dropping it with a jarring, unceremonious “thud” on their conference room table. They’d know how well we did based on the size of the thud and how far away the sound reached. We’d pat ourselves on the back at the extent of the coverage and describe how easily we were able to amass the great hits in a relatively short time period. The clients always walked away impressed by our showmanship and now had something tangible with which they could share with their board of directors. It also made a great coffee table book for the lobby of their corporate office. Of course, the timing of this facade always seemed to occur right before the clients’ invoices were mailed out!

Obviously this method has its drawbacks. For one, size doesn’t matter (at least that’s what we’ve been told.) Sure, that binder looks impressive, but dozens of placements seen by the wrong audience will get you nowhere in this business. Same goes for company mentions that are riddled with misquotes, off-message sound bites, or those where your company name is buried under a half-dozen competitors.

If your agency is relying on the Thud Factor to demonstrate their success, make sure there’s some strategy and intelligence behind all that flash. A single bylined article by your corporate “thought leader,” clearly communicating your organization’s main message to the right publication/audience is gold – and certainly worth more than pages and pages of near misses.

Return on Investment (ROI)

CEOs and CFOs love  measuring for ROI, but it sends chills up the backs of most marketing professionals. Sure, at first glance it makes sense: If you increased your public relations investment by $50,000 in 2011, you should certainly see a return on your investment by at least that much this year in widget sales, right? Or maybe you spent $20,000 to design and place a full-page ad or direct mail piece – the leads should be pouring in immediately, or else it hasn’t demonstrated equivalent value. Unfortunately, promotional campaigns rarely work that way. I see three major reasons for this:

  1. Life may be short, but promotional campaigns shouldn’t be. I can guarantee you that an ad that runs for one time in one magazine will definitely fail – I don’t care how creative the piece is. Same goes for a single press release or single blog post. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to sign your life away to an annual agency contract costing thousands of dollars. Some of my smallest budget campaigns were also the most successful. But these campaigns stayed on message, kept a focused eye on their objectives, and most importantly, trusted in a consistent, long-term effort.
  2. Too many factors are beyond a marketer’s control. Let’s say you’ve achieved your promotional objective to attract thousands of eyeballs to your website, bringing in hundreds of sales leads. The marketer assumes the job is done, but the story doesn’t end there. The rest of the organization has a role to play here too. Does it have a strong, diligent sales force? Is the product/service all it’s cracked up to be? How competent are the customer service and technical support teams? How’s the economic and competitive climate? Is the region and marketplace even right for this product/service? In most scenarios, it’s the marketer’s job to deliver the slow pitch, but it’s the organization that needs to knock it out of the park.
  3. Business success isn’t always about money. Sure, your sales team may have their eyes fixed on that next big contract or meeting this quarter’s sales goals, but businesses need to think in terms of success over the next five or ten years. The value of most marketing communications programs cannot be measured by one-to-one sales dollars, but in the program’s innate ability to increase visibility and enhance perceptions. How is your organization viewed in the marketplace? Is your organization positioned well enough to achieve its future objectives? They will certainly vary and evolve depending upon the organization and its current stage. Are you setting yourself up for acquisition, growth or going public? Do you have the structure in place to retain and grow business from your current customers? Focusing too much on a short-term bump may restrict sustained growth in the future.

I consider the craft of marketing communications to be a soft science. Now, I don’t want that to be misconstrued as a cop-out, or that I don’t stand behind the value of the craft. I’ll say this: I guarantee that any competent marketer can at least double the return of an organization’s marketing communications investment. But that marketer needs the flexibility to develop and use a balanced blend of efficient tactics, the commitment to drive a consistent campaign over an extended period of time, and active participation and support of the organization’s management team.

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)

I’m not going to spend too much time on AVE, because even though it certainly has its merits, it has fallen out of favor with much of the industry as an ongoing measurement practice because of a perceived lack of credibility.

Advertising Value Equivalency is the evaluation and measurement of media coverage by comparing it to the costs associated with purchasing the equivalent advertising space (or time in the case of broadcast media). Marketers using this method would measure the space – in column inches or time – of each editorial placement and determine what that placement would cost in terms of advertising dollars. Some practitioners would then add in a multiplier to the amount, with the parochial assumption that a “free” PR placement has more credibility and therefore more value than a “paid” advertisement. While I personally believe there is some validity to that point, it’s unfair to dismiss or diminish the value of advertising, as it has proven to create awareness in many ways that a public relations campaign cannot.

Overall, I have tried to stay away from the use of Advertising Value Equivalency for analyzing the results of a PR campaign. Measuring the value of public relations can already be a very subjective process depending on your level of experience and belief in the craft. Adding fuzzy math and widely-disputed multipliers to the mix is not a recipe for objective results measurement.

The Point System

I’ve seen several agencies employ The Point System, a method that combines The Thud Factor with a bit of the value comparison structure that AVE tries to provide.

Like The Thud Factor, The Point System entails the ongoing collection of media placements for future presentation, but this time, each placement is categorized and assigned a point value based on the quality of the coverage. Here’s a typical collection of point values:

Type of placement* Point value
Recurring column – print and online 20
Cover story – print and online 18
Bylined article – print and online 16
Customer case study – print and online 14
Recurring column – online only 12
Video or podcast interview – online only 10
Mention in feature – print and online 8
Bylined article – online only 6
News brief – print and online 3
News brief – online only 1

*For business-to-consumer or those campaigns targeting the broadcast media, you might also have values set for nationally syndicated or regional television and radio coverage.

It’s pretty simple from there: quarterly or annually, your agency/consultant will try to outdo the value (number) from the previous period. Some months may be press release heavy while others may be spent trying to land a couple solid feature article punches. But through this format, you can get a sense for level of effort / number of hours required to achieve success through the different placement types – there needs to be an appropriate balance.

Many organizations favor the use of such a structured and measurable process, because it’s very difficult for an agency to feign success by handing over a stack of news briefs. Sure, coverage from your press release will help you quickly gain broad visibility, but it won’t have the industry-changing impact that a well-written executive opinion piece could have. Not to mention the flexibility and longevity a solid print piece can have when used in conjunction with direct mail, eblasts and trade show promotion – but that’s a story for another day!

One thing to note, while some agencies may have these point values already set in stone based on their experience with your market, each organization will have their own priorities and ideas of what types of coverage are of the most value to them. Ideally, your agency will gain a solid understanding of your objectives and priorities from the initial meetings, and be able to tailor the coverage point values to your needs and preferences.

Website Statistical Analysis

I believe website statistical analysis to be the most accurate and efficient way to evaluate the ROI of an integrated marketing communications program because it treats all marketing tactics equally. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where your leads come from, as long as they are successfully finding their way to your site. Website statistical analysis is only concerned with the end result of your combined efforts including: public relations, social media, advertising, direct marketing, client retention, search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

Many hosting companies offer web analytics incorporated into their solutions, but an easy-to-use, more comprehensive and, most importantly – free – solution is Google Analytics. It is the most popular website statistics evaluation service on the market because it is designed specifically for marketers, not webmasters. After a quick set up, you will be able to monitor your site and evaluate exactly where your leads are coming from so you can determine the appropriate mix of marketing tactics that’s right for your business moving forward. For instance, after evaluating your referring sites, you can surmise:

  • Incoming traffic from media outlets can be traced back to public relations efforts and media placements;
  • Incoming traffic from specific banner ad links can be traced back to your advertising campaign;
  • Incoming traffic to a dedicated landing page can be traced back to your direct outreach campaign or related promotional efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from customer domains can be traced back to your customer retention programs;
  • Incoming traffic from search engines can come from a variety of sources, but will noticeably spike after a dedicated focus on search engine optimization;
  • Incoming traffic from Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, StumbleUpon and others can be traced back to your social media efforts;
  • Incoming traffic that spikes before, during and after a major industry tradeshow can be traced back to event promotional efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from affiliates and industry associations can be traced back to your partner relationship management efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from a certain part of the country can be traced back to regional promotional campaigns; and
  • Incoming traffic from Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter can be easily traced by reviewing the results of your search engine marketing (pay-per-click) campaign.

Of course, there will be a good percentage of traffic that cannot be identified including generic domains and random leads that do not appear to be tied to a specific campaign or ongoing effort. This is where you’ll need to review other areas of the website analytics data, including overall visitors per month, number of page views, which pages are the most popular, bounce rates, conversion rates, percentage of new visitors, average time on the site, and a host of other metrics. By monitoring and analyzing the report summaries of website analytics programs over time, you can get a better understanding of how your various campaigns are trending and which branding or visibility efforts deserve more of your time and resources.

Remember, marketing communications is a soft science. There is no one magic bullet that will measure the value of your efforts with 100% accuracy. But it is important to understand the various tracking tools and some of the methods used to measure marketing communications value including The Thud Factor, Return on Investment, Advertising Value Equivalency, The Point System and Website Statistical Analysis. Once you have a better feel for the parameters and types of campaigns you are looking to measure, you can select the method(s) that are the most appropriate to your needs, and tailor them from there.

How are you measuring the success of your marketing communications program? Have I missed an important one? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to discuss!

Results measurement, part five: Website Statistical Analysis

December 2, 2011

Dave Anderson

Today, I’ll wrap up my blog series on results measurement of a marketing communications program by evaluating my current favorite for business-to-business organizations: Website Statistical Analysis. If you’ve missed my previous posts of this series, you can review them here: The Thud Factor, Return on Investment, Advertising Value Equivalency and The Point System.

I believe website statistical analysis to be the most accurate and efficient way to evaluate the ROI of an integrated marketing communications program because it treats all marketing tactics equally. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where your leads come from, as long as they are successfully finding their way to your site. Website statistical analysis is only concerned with the end result of your combined efforts including: public relations, social media, advertising, direct marketing, client retention, search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

Many hosting companies offer web analytics incorporated into their solutions, but an easy-to-use, more comprehensive and, most importantly – free – solution is Google Analytics. It is the most popular website statistics evaluation service on the market because it is designed specifically for marketers, not webmasters. After a quick set up, you will be able to monitor your site and evaluate exactly where your leads are coming from so you can determine the appropriate mix of marketing tactics that’s right for your business moving forward. For instance, after evaluating your referring sites, you can surmise:

  • Incoming traffic from media outlets can be traced back to public relations efforts and media placements;
  • Incoming traffic from specific banner ad links can be traced back to your advertising campaign;
  • Incoming traffic to a dedicated landing page can be traced back to your direct outreach campaign or related promotional efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from customer domains can be traced back to your customer retention programs;
  • Incoming traffic from search engines can come from a variety of sources, but will noticeably spike after a dedicated focus on search engine optimization;
  • Incoming traffic from Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, StumbleUpon and others can be traced back to your social media efforts;
  • Incoming traffic that spikes before, during and after a major industry tradeshow can be traced back to event promotional efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from affiliates and industry associations can be traced back to your partner relationship management efforts;
  • Incoming traffic from a certain part of the country can be traced back to regional promotional campaigns; and
  • Incoming traffic from Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter can be easily traced by reviewing the results of your search engine marketing (pay-per-click) campaign.

Of course, there will be a good percentage of traffic that cannot be identified including generic domains and random leads that do not appear to be tied to a specific campaign or ongoing effort. This is where you’ll need to review other areas of the website analytics data, including overall visitors per month, number of page views, which pages are the most popular, bounce rates, conversion rates, percentage of new visitors, average time on the site, and a host of other metrics. By monitoring and analyzing the report summaries of website analytics programs over time, you can get a better understanding of how your various campaigns are trending and which branding or visibility efforts deserve more of your time and resources.

Remember, marketing communications is a soft science. There is no one magic bullet that will measure the value of your efforts with 100% accuracy. But it is important to understand the various tracking tools and some of the methods used to measure marketing communications value including The Thud Factor, Return on Investment, Advertising Value Equivalency, The Point System and Website Statistical Analysis. Once you have a better feel for the parameters and types of campaigns you are looking to measure, you can select the method(s) that are the most appropriate to your needs, and tailor them from there.

How are you measuring the success of your marketing communications program? Have I missed an important one? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to discuss!

Results measurement, part four: The Point System

November 28, 2011

Dave Anderson

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We’ve already reviewed three of the five methods I’ve used to measure the results of a communications program: The Thud Factor, Return on Investment, and Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). In today’s post, I’ll address The Point System. I’ve seen several agencies employ The Point System, a method that combines The Thud Factor with a bit of the value comparison structure that AVE tries to provide.

Like The Thud Factor, The Point System entails the ongoing collection of media placements for future presentation, but this time, each placement is categorized and assigned a point value based on the quality of the coverage. Here’s a typical collection of point values:

 Type of placement*

Point value

 Recurring column – print and online

20

 Cover story – print and online

18

 Bylined article – print and online

16

 Customer case study – print and online

14

 Recurring column – online only

12

 Video or podcast interview – online only

10

 Mention in feature – print and online

8

 Bylined article – online only

6

 News brief – print and online

3

 News brief – online only

1

*For business-to-consumer or those campaigns targeting the broadcast media, you might also have values set for nationally syndicated or regional television and radio coverage.

It’s pretty simple from there: quarterly or annually, your agency/consultant will try to outdo the value (number) from the previous period. Some months may be press release heavy while others may be spent trying to land a couple solid feature article punches. But through this format, you can get a sense for level of effort / number of hours required to achieve success through the different placement types – there needs to be an appropriate balance.

Many organizations favor the use of such a structured and measurable process, because it’s very difficult for an agency to feign success by handing over a stack of news briefs. Sure, coverage from your press release will help you quickly gain broad visibility, but it won’t have the industry-changing impact that a well-written executive opinion piece could have. Not to mention the flexibility and longevity a solid print piece can have when used in conjunction with direct mail, eblasts and trade show promotion – but that’s a story for another day!

One thing to note, while some agencies may have these point values already set in stone based on their experience with your market, each organization will have their own priorities and ideas of what types of coverage are of the most value to them. Ideally, your agency will gain a solid understanding of your objectives and priorities from the initial meetings, and be able to tailor the coverage point values to your needs and preferences.

Next time, I’ll wrap up my five-part, results measurement series with the method that’s my current favorite: website statistical analysis.

Results measurement, part three: Advertising Value Equivalency

November 22, 2011

Dave Anderson

In my past couple of blog posts, I’ve described two of the five methods I’ve used to measure the success of a communications program. I started with The Thud Factor, then moved on to Return on Investment, and now I’ll tackle Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE).

I’m not going to spend too much time on AVE, because even though it certainly has its merits, it has fallen out of favor with much of the industry as an ongoing measurement practice because of a perceived lack of credibility.

Advertising Value Equivalency is the evaluation and measurement of media coverage by comparing it to the costs associated with purchasing the equivalent advertising space (or time in the case of broadcast media). Marketers using this method would measure the space – in column inches or time – of each editorial placement and determine what that placement would cost in terms of advertising dollars. Some practitioners would then add in a multiplier to the amount, with the parochial assumption that a “free” PR placement has more credibility and therefore more value than a “paid” advertisement. While I personally believe there is some validity to that point, it’s unfair to dismiss or diminish the value of advertising, as it has proven to create awareness in many ways that a public relations campaign cannot.

Overall, I have tried to stay away from the use of Advertising Value Equivalency for analyzing the results of a PR campaign. Measuring the value of public relations can already be a very subjective process depending on your level of experience and belief in the craft. Adding fuzzy math and widely-disputed multipliers to the mix is not a recipe for objective results measurement.

After the holiday, I’ll explore a very intriguing method for measurement: The Point System.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you get to enjoy some much deserved time with family and friends!

Results measurement, part two: Return on Investment

November 18, 2011

Dave Anderson

In my last blog, I described the Thud Factor as a method for measuring the results of a marketing communications program. Now we turn away from the least accurate method to what some consider the most relevant: Return on Investment (ROI).

CEOs and CFOs love  measuring for ROI, but it sends chills up the backs of most marketing professionals. Sure, at first glance it makes sense: If you increased your public relations investment by $50,000 in 2011, you should certainly see a return on your investment by at least that much this year in widget sales, right? Or maybe you spent $20,000 to design and place a full-page ad or direct mail piece – the leads should be pouring in immediately, or else it hasn’t demonstrated equivalent value. Unfortunately, promotional campaigns rarely work that way. I see three major reasons for this:

  1. Life may be short, but promotional campaigns shouldn’t be. I can guarantee you that an ad that runs for one time in one magazine will definitely fail – I don’t care how creative the piece is. Same goes for a single press release or single blog post. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to sign your life away to an annual agency contract costing thousands of dollars. Some of my smallest budget campaigns were also the most successful. But these campaigns stayed on message, kept a focused eye on their objectives, and most importantly, trusted in a consistent, long-term effort.
  2. Too many factors are beyond a marketer’s control. Let’s say you’ve achieved your promotional objective to attract thousands of eyeballs to your website, bringing in hundreds of sales leads. The marketer assumes the job is done, but the story doesn’t end there. The rest of the organization has a role to play here too. Does it have a strong, diligent sales force? Is the product/service all it’s cracked up to be? How competent are the customer service and technical support teams? How’s the economic and competitive climate? Is the region and marketplace even right for this product/service? In most scenarios, it’s the marketer’s job to deliver the slow pitch, but it’s the organization that needs to knock it out of the park.
  3. Business success isn’t always about money. Sure, your sales team may have their eyes fixed on that next big contract or meeting this quarter’s sales goals, but businesses need to think in terms of success over the next five or ten years. The value of most marketing communications programs cannot be measured by one-to-one sales dollars, but in the program’s innate ability to increase visibility and enhance perceptions. How is your organization viewed in the marketplace? Is your organization positioned well enough to achieve its future objectives? They will certainly vary and evolve depending upon the organization and its current stage. Are you setting yourself up for acquisition, growth or going public? Do you have the structure in place to retain and grow business from your current customers? Focusing too much on a short-term bump may restrict sustained growth in the future.

I consider the craft of marketing communications to be a soft science. Now, I don’t want that to be misconstrued as a cop-out, or that I don’t stand behind the value of the craft. I’ll say this: I guarantee that any competent marketer can at least double the return of an organization’s marketing communications investment. But that marketer needs the flexibility to develop and use a balanced blend of efficient tactics, the commitment to drive a consistent campaign over an extended period of time, and active participation and support of the organization’s management team.

In my next blog, I’ll describe the Advertising Value Equivalency, its benefits, and its limitations.

Results measurement, part one: the Thud Factor

November 16, 2011

Dave Anderson

Achieving results. Of course it’s the driver of any business. And with the significant investment allocated to the practice, achieving success in a public relations program can be just as crucial as achieving success in sales, recruitment, accounting or any other business role. Unfortunately, measuring success can be one of the most difficult parts of a marketer’s job. Over the next few posts, I’ll outline five methods I’ve used in the past (often simultaneously) to measure the success of a communications program. While some are exclusive to the public relations field, all five should serve to provide insights into the function of results measurement.

In today’s installment, I’ll tackle the least sophisticated but most demonstrative method: the Thud Factor.

I was taught the Thud Factor when I first kicked off my PR career at a boutique agency in Connecticut. Back then, most of the coverage my team was bringing in arrived in the form of national print placements from industry publications and daily newspapers. During our ongoing coverage searches, we would compile the placements in a voluminous results binder. For some clients, we did this quarterly, but for others, it was an annual project.

Next, we would meet with each client to discuss strategy for the upcoming period. That’s where we’d deliver our quarterly/annual results by dropping it with a jarring, unceremonious “thud” on their conference room table. They’d know how well we did based on the size of the thud and how far away the sound reached. We’d pat ourselves on the back at the extent of the coverage and describe how easily we were able to amass the great hits in a relatively short time period. The clients always walked away impressed by our showmanship and now had something tangible with which they could share with their board of directors. It also made a great coffee table book for the lobby of their corporate office. Of course, the timing of this facade always seemed to occur right before the clients’ invoices were mailed out!

Obviously this method has its drawbacks. For one, size doesn’t matter (at least that’s what we’ve been told.) Sure, that binder looks impressive, but dozens of placements seen by the wrong audience will get you nowhere in this business. Same goes for company mentions that are riddled with misquotes, off-message sound bites, or those where your company name is buried under a half-dozen competitors.

If your agency is relying on the Thud Factor to demonstrate their success, make sure there’s some strategy and intelligence behind all that flash. A single bylined article by your corporate “thought leader,” clearly communicating your organization’s main message to the right publication/audience is gold – and certainly worth more than pages and pages of near misses.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the most requested measurement method: Return on Investment.

Can’t wait for the Carrier Classic!

November 11, 2011

Dave Anderson

While I don’t have a rooting interest, I’m looking forward to tonight’s Carrier Classic!

Tonight on ESPN, the top-ranked Tar Heels of North Carolina will face off against the Michigan State Spartans on an active aircraft carrier — the 1,092 ft. long USS Carl Vinson. What a great event for Veteran’s Day! Hopefully it’s a tradition that lasts for many years to come!

My wife and I will be watching with the kids tonight — giving us a chance to enjoy a little competitive fun while we talk to them about what’s truly important — the sacrifices these young men and women have been making.

Follow the link to the story on ESPN.

Thank you for your service, Veterans!