AC thanks the media for its friendship and all it does

To the media – Thank you for being our friends

“The light which has been shed on mankind by the art of printing has eminently changed the condition of the world.”Thomas Jefferson, writing to John Adams, 1823

Thomas Jefferson, champion of a free and independent press

Thomas Jefferson, champion of a free and independent press

There has been a lot of attention paid lately to the rise of “fake” news, alternative facts, and the role a free and open press should play in a democracy. You can read about that ad nauseam on Facebook, Twitter, news portals and even – GASP – in your daily print newspaper! (Yes, they do still exist.)

I am not here to debate the merits of the respective positions on these political and cultural issues. What I am here to do is to say thank you to the healthcare IT press who cover our clients here at Amendola Communications (AKA, the A-Team).

We just finished #HIMSS17, by far the biggest conference of the year for our clients. We had more than 20 clients there and scheduled more than 130 meetings with the media and analyst firms at the conference. It was an unbelievably extensive and intensive effort by the A-Team over the past two months, and as the managing director for the agency I applaud their hard work over the past two months.

But I am also a former member of the press, a business writer, bureau chief, editor and yes, the worst of the worst, a sports columnist by training and trade. So I also want to applaud all my friends in the healthcare IT press – the folks who took countless calls, tweets and emails all day long for weeks on end from me and the rest of the A-Team, not to mention dozens of other PR agencies and departments around the country, prior to the show.

All I can say to my friends in the media is thank you, again.

What gets lost in the rush to stake out our positions and perspectives on whatever is published through the media – either in print, through the airwaves, or through digital channels – is the value that a free and open press does bring to our society.

Just in our little corner of the world – Healthcare IT – that value comes in the form of informing, educating and influencing technology buyers. It comes in the form of honoring industry innovators and staging thought leadership events around the country and world. It comes in the form of educating readers on best practices in healthcare. It comes in the form of driving interest in topics such as CRISPR gene-editing, persona-based behavioral analytics, and value-based care and reimbursement.

So again, thank you to all of the A-Team’s friends in the media.There are so many, many of you who met with us at HIMSS 17 and work with the A-Team every day throughout the year to inform and educate the healthcare IT industry.

You are making significant, worthwhile contributions to our industry that often go overlooked or underappreciated but shouldn’t – not in an industry as important as healthcare IT, not for an audience that has as significant an impact on the well-being of the entire American public every minute and hour of every day.

As Jefferson said to Adams, your work continues to shed light on mankind and eminently changes the condition of the world in which we live. And for that we here at the A-Team thank you all so very much.

In content marketing, there's always an "and then."

Content Marketing: Remember to Ask “And Then?”

One of the most important questions a content marketing team can ask when charged with developing a new press release/blog post/case study/white paper/video/etc. doesn’t come from a marketing textbook or TED talk. It actually comes from the lowbrow movie “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

At one point the two not-so-bright main characters (played to perfection by Ashton Kutcher and Sean William Scott) pull up to the drive-through speaker at a Chinese restaurant to place an order. Each time Ashton Kutcher says what they want, the voice on the other end asks a simple question: “And then?” Even after he tells her they’re done ordering, which leads to a very funny scene.

When you think about it, though, there’s a lot of beauty and wisdom in that simple question for marketers. Often when there’s a new development or new idea to convey we get caught up in thinking about what’s needed immediately.

We say “we need a press release on such-and-such a topic” and we spring into action. A message is developed, subject matter experts interviewed, the release is written and revised, the pitching plan is developed and so forth until finally the release sees the light of day – and maybe generates some interviews.

Yet considerably less time is spent answering the question “and then?” As in “what happens after the target audience reads the press release?”

Is there a landing page to refer them to? If so, what’s on it? If they’re really interested in the new product or service is there a way for them to gather more information about it, such as a data sheet, video, blog post, white paper or other piece of additional content to keep them interested and moving toward the narrower end of the sale funnel?

The thing to consider is that the period of active promotion around a press release, or any new piece of content for that matter, tends to last for just a few days. Then you’re on to something else. But the period after the initial release is infinite. If there isn’t somewhere else for your target audience to go, or something else for them to do after consuming the content, you’re losing opportunities.

Here are some of the content marketing best practices for ensuring you’re maximizing the value of everything you’ve worked so hard to produce.

Provide a destination
Think from the prospect’s point of view. I’ve consumed whatever content was produced. I’m intrigued by what you’re saying, although I still have questions. But I’m not quite ready to speak to a salesperson. How do I get my answers? This concept is particularly important given studies that show that 60 percent of the purchasing decision is already made before any conversations with a supplier take place.

For general topics you may just want to point prospects to the appropriate page on your website. You can do that through links embedded in the text, or with a more obvious call to action such as “For more details on…”

For more significant topics such as a new product/service, you may want to create a specific landing page that offers more detailed information.

And then?

Create content in different forms
Often landing pages offer up content in one form – usually more text, either on the page or offered as a download. If that’s what you’re doing you’re again limiting your own effectiveness.

Keep in mind that some people prefer to read more formal presentations of information while others like the easy accessibility of a blog post. Then there are those who like FAQs, or prefer video over any sort of reading. Having options that present the same information in different ways helps you avoid losing any part of your audience.

And then?

Use gated content
Most healthcare and health IT products/services aren’t purchased directly from a website like a retail transaction. They require interaction between the prospect and someone on your team. A good way to move that along a little faster is to use high-value, gated content such as a white paper or executive summary to entice the prospect to let you know they’re interested by giving you their contact information.

When you get to this point, of course, determining whether to provide the information is a big decision. The best thing you can do is keep the amount of information you’re asking for to a minimum. If you can limit it to the person’s name, job title, company and email address you’ll find you capture far more prospects than you will with a lengthy qualifying questionnaire.

As long as prospects believe what they’ll be getting from you is of greater value than what they’ll be giving to you, they’ll be willing to make the trade.

And then?

Incorporate lead nurturing
If you’re lucky, once they go through the gated content they’ll have a high level of interest and are ready to buy. More often than not in the real world, however, there’s still work to be done.

That’s where an email-based lead nurturing campaign comes in. (Also the reason you want to capture that email address in the first place.) Think through the sales process – what messages people need to see at which points in the sales cycle in order to nudge them forward. Then develop a series of emails to provide that nudge.

One thing to keep in mind is don’t automatically start the program at communication #1. Determine as best you can, either by their messages to you or their interactions with your content, where they are and pick up from there.

It’s kind of like calling plays in football. You don’t want to try to score the touchdown on the first play every time. Work the ball down the field in increments and you’ll find it’s easier to score more consistently.

And then?

Look for holes
You may think you’ve thought of everything. But if the program is consistently breaking down at some point (meaning you’re losing prospects or sales) it’s time to determine why and fill in any gaps that lead to disengagement. There’s always something to tweak.

And then?

There really isn’t much of an “and then?” after that. You will have done all you can do.

Clearly, not every announcement or piece of content will require all these steps. But use this as a guide to determine which steps it needs.

The most important thing is to cover all the bases that need it. Otherwise you may find yourself wandering around in daze, wondering “Dude, where’s my sales?”

Four HIT journalists and insiders share what they will be looking for at HIMSS17

Catching a Buzz: Trends to watch at HIMSS17

Health IT insiders, journalists share what topics they’ll be tracking at HIMSS17.

HIMSS17, the juggernaut of all healthcare technology conferences (a.k.a. #HIMSSanity) is just weeks away, and soon we’ll all be high on interoperability, blockchain, burnout and whatever other trending buzzwords permeate the convention center air this year.

In fact, I can’t wait. Next to reuniting with colleagues, my favorite thing about attending the annual HIMSS conference is gauging the mood of industry and tracking the key narratives of the show.

What will be top of mind for this year’s 45,000-plus attendees? What major themes will unfold among the parade of 1,200 show floor exhibitors? I asked four respected health IT insiders and journalists what plotlines and trends they’ll be following at HIMSS17.

Jeff Byers, Assistant Editor of Healthcare Dive, musician, pyrography artist, and craft beer enthusiast
Follow him @jeffpbyers @HealthcareDive

“Flying in from the swamps of D.C., I look forward to the humid Florida air welcoming me to HIMSS17. This year, I’m looking at the integration of technology into the clinical continuum and how it’s impacted care. Some of the main questions I will pose are, ‘Is this cost effective?’ and ‘Does this technology help push the needle toward value-based care, population health?’ I’m sure every vendor will respond with a resounding ‘Yes!’ to each, so I’m much more interested in hearing about the day-to-day struggles over technology in the industry and how such integration has changed care delivery – for better AND worse.

Being from D.C., most of my casual acquaintances assume I love talking about politics. While that couldn’t be farther from the truth, the new administration and potential changes to health policy and their impacts across the industry will be important to watch. In addition, I’m looking for ‘cool stuff’ to help me think about the changing landscape, however you define ‘cool.’”

Kate Gamble, Managing Editor of HealthSystemCIO.com, sports aficionado, die-hard NY Giants and Red Sox fan
Follow her @khgamble and @hsCIO

“At HIMSS17, my focus is on education and women who rock! I want to learn which organizations and vendors are leading the way with population health and interoperability. I want to hear from some of the top women in the industry who will be presenting sessions, including Judy Kirby, Deanna Wise, Carla Smith, and I definitely want to hear from Ginni Rometty, President & CEO of IBM. Inspiration is everywhere, and I can’t wait to soak it in!”

John Lynn, Founder of HealthcareScene.com and the Health IT Marketing & PR Conference, exceptional dancer, prolific blogger and social media savant
Follow him @techguy and @healthcarescene

“At HIMSS17, I’m most interested in technologies that work the magic of lowering costs while improving care. That’s a challenge, but it’s time we start expecting this from our technology solutions. I’m also still particularly intrigued by the challenge of changing health behaviors.

I love exploring the exhibit floor and I may even leave one day with no meetings so I can just casually explore the exhibit floor. Wish me luck on that ambitious goal!

Finally, I’m taking a bit of a different approach to HIMSS this time and I’m doing a bunch of meet-ups where anyone can attend and share their ideas. This kind of unplanned interaction and engagement has always been my favorite part of HIMSS, so I hope everyone will join me at these meet-ups so we can all learn from each other and hear the unexpected first-hand experiences and perspectives that make HIMSS special.”

Shaun Sutner, News and Features Writer for SearchHealthIT.com, avid skier, adventurer, and snow sports correspondent for Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Follow him @ssutner and @SearchHealthIT

“I’m definitely looking for vendors and users that are working closely around value-based care. That’s a big plotline because it’s where healthcare reimbursement is headed. You need advanced analytics, business intelligence, machine learning, cloud and just about all the technologies in health IT to make value-based care work.

I’m also really interested in care coordination and patient engagement, the personal side of population health.”

While often the most exhilarating moments of the conference are the unexpected, I’ll be on the look out for coverage related to the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase (#EmpowerHIT) and the promise of precision medicine. I’ll also be pursuing those “best in show” exhibitors that are experimenting with new marketing tactics and companies that are aggressively humanizing their tech story.

What trends and themes will you be following at HIMSS this year? Weigh in below and be sure follow the buzz at #HIMSS17 and via our contributors’ Twitter handles above. See you in Orlando!

Make sure PR becomes the sales team's best friends in 2017

Why PR Will Be Your Sales Team’s Best Friend in 2017

I always get excited about the first month of a new year. January is like back-to-school season for grown-ups. It’s the ideal time to rethink your current way of doing things—and to consider abandoning the status-quo for a fresh, new approach. Especially when it comes to the relationship between your PR, marketing and sales teams.

While we’re not advocating leaving behind what has made your team successful, we are advocating tossing out what’s keeping your team from achieving even more success. While we’re not advocating leaving behind your long-term strategy, we are advocating breaking down the silos that limit that strategy from being even more effective.

One of those limiting factors is managing your public relations, marketing and sales teams as separate entities. Whether you’re at a startup or a large corporation, you’re likely losing both dollars and deals by not harnessing the power of an integrated approach. In fact, we believe that PR can be your sales team’s biggest asset, to use on an ongoing basis or to leverage when times are tough.
But this is also a cautionary tale. When handled poorly, asking your sales team to use PR can be off-putting—to your colleagues in sales and to their prospects. If you’re not thoughtful and deliberate in your approach, it can go quickly go awry.

That’s why we’re sharing four tips to help you get started:

    1. Start slow and be smart: Bombarding your sales team with too much information is always a recipe for disaster. But that is especially true when it comes to press releases or articles – items they may be less familiar with than PowerPoint slides or marketing slicks. While it’s tempting to start off by sharing the highlights of your PR efforts from the last year, and then to start funneling the sales team every press release and article moving forward, it’s simply not the smartest approach. Similarly, just giving your sales team access to a shared folder of PR materials and saying, “use this stuff,” is ineffective. Most of the sales reps won’t do it, and others will likely do it very wrong, which is even more problematic.
    2. Remember your audience: You must choose your PR content wisely to get buy-in from the sales team. In addition to selecting items that are timely and relevant, it’s critical to think about their audience and end goals. The big idea is that communicating with prospects is vastly different than communicating with the media. For example, do sales prospects want to read a press release about an award that the company earned? Probably not. It’s better to share press coverage about that award from an industry publication because seeing an article in Healthcare IT News, rather than the “News” section of your website, increases the company’s credibility more than any self-issued release. Another great example is providing a client case study article for your sales team, and then letting them know that client quoted in the article is available for a reference call or to answer questions via email. Even though most prospects will not take you up on that offer, it creates instant credibility in their eyes, and puts sales reps one step closer to a signature on the dotted line.
    3. Provide guidance on the message: Keeping the audience top-of-mind helps you deliver the right message to your sales team, and helps them to deliver the right message to their prospects. Writing clear, concise emails to communicate with your sales team is vital. Many of them are traveling and skimming emails quickly on their phones. They may prefer to view articles as links, rather than by opening attachments. Understanding these preferences and adapting as needed is key to forging a partnership and facilitating their success.It’s equally important to help streamline their outreach for the PR materials you’re providing. Otherwise, your good intentions can be misconstrued as creating extra work. Having that message formulated and ready to go makes the outreach much more actionable for busy sales reps. We recommend providing an email template that enables them to easily copy and paste the information, and add a few personalized touches. Copy, paste, tweak, and send. Task completed!

      To take that idea further, some reps like when communication is sent on their behalf via a marketing automation tool like Pardot or Hubspot. If you have the time and resources to make this a reality for your team, it’s incredibly valuable. The only precaution here is making sure that the team is informed about the automated process so they don’t duplicate communications, or act confused when a prospect mentions the email that came from them.

    4. It should be a two-way street: Lastly, we recommend establishing a regular cadence for communication with the sales team so they know what to expect from you and when. There will always be unanticipated items that don’t fall within the neat confines of these rules but those can be the exception, not the rule. Combining that email communication with a recurring meeting increases your odds for success. While nobody wants to have more meetings, they are the most effective forum for two-way communication between teams, when they are well managed with a set agenda. The simple act of showing up and presenting yourself as a resource to the sales team, and then welcoming their feedback is greatly appreciated. Ideally, their feedback can provide new ideas and help inform your PR strategy moving forward. So, they’re winning deals and you’re winning too. And isn’t that what our work is all about?
Strategies to make the news when you're not well-known

How to Make the News, Even When You’re Not the Headline

Many companies hire PR agencies because they want to make the news, i.e., see their stories splashed on the front pages of USA Today or the Wall Street Journal or featured in a top-tier technology publication. Such a media hit rarely happens overnight, as the bar for a solo feature profile is incredibly high. To put this into perspective, even Steve Jobs had to patiently wait a few years before he became the story.

A PR colleague who used to work for Regis McKenna (Apple’s PR agency of record in the 80s) recalled a meeting in which Jobs asked when she would get him on the cover of Fortune. She answered with brutal honesty. Jobs in turn hurled a glass of water at her. He did call her the following morning to apologize and they continued to work together. And, as you know, in his lifetime, Jobs graced not just magazine covers but books, movies and documentaries.

So if you’re not Steve Jobs and you’re not the story, what’s the next best thing?

Pitch a bigger story

News outlets seek stories with broad appeal and meaning, which will discount most pitches about CEOs and company missions. Instead, craft your pitch around an interesting development in your field that’s happening and not enough people are talking about. A very effective strategy here is to conduct a survey and then report the results. Amendola client Health Catalyst did that last year, garnering considerable coverage. Or, pitch a story based on a larger societal trend or current news event, provided you can make a direct connection to it—and offer up one of your company’s thought leaders to weigh in.

Yes, your company and mission can be a facet of the above pitch types, but tread carefully. The goal at this point is to get the process going, become a part of the story and build your profile as a valued source. Think of your company’s media career as that of an actor who is steadily building up his or her credentials, in one increasingly larger role after another. Over time, more audiences become aware of the actor. If the roles are in quality, interesting productions, the audience’s interest and like of the actor will grow as well.

Let your client (the end-user) take center stage

Oftentimes editors are more interested in the end user, not the vendor. They don’t want to report about software, but actual use cases, as evidenced by this article in Network World. Originally, we pitched a broad story about private healthcare data being stored on public clouds. This was enough to pique the interest of a tech reporter at Network World, who then asked to speak to a hospital CIO about the risks and benefits of storing sensitive information on public clouds. The reporter immediately saw the need for a sidebar about a HIPAA-compliant cloud and ended up quoting our client extensively in it.

So you see, being a sidebar or a part of a bigger story are just a couple of ways to prime the pump on your way to being THE story. You just need the guidance of seasoned PR professionals to help make it happen. We stand ready to help…only non-water throwers, please.