The importance of feedback in PR – from media, to writing to client relationships

Like many around the world, I enjoyed watching the Winter Olympic Games. I love the fanfare of the competition, tracking medal counts and seeing well-known athletes winning gold again. Shaun White is my hero!

One of the other things that I love to see is the camaraderie among the athletes and how they relate to their coaches. I can’t help but wonder about the feedback they receive from their coaches in between each competition. You can do it! Don’t think about the last score, focus on what you do best. Next time go higher, faster, longer. Remember everything we practiced and most importantly have fun. I can only imagine the observations, evaluations, words of wisdom and encouragement that the athletes receive.

It makes me think of the importance of feedback in public relations – from the media, regarding writing and most importantly with clients. So what, exactly, is it? The term ‘feedback’ is used to describe the helpful information or criticism about prior action or behavior from an individual, communicated to another individual (or a group) who can use that information to adjust and improve current and future actions and behaviors.

With the media

When a public relations person pitches a story to our editorial contacts, best practices dictate that we have done our research. We know who the audience is for the publication, what topics the editor or reporter likes to cover, and we structure our pitch in a way that should be compelling enough for the editor to want to write the story. But that is not always the case.

Sometimes there is a piece missing to our pitch or an angle that would be more interesting to the editor. Sometimes their focus has changed or it’s just bad timing. Without specific feedback from the editor, we might not know how providing a customer or fresh data to support our pitch would be what is necessary for a compelling article.

PR people like to please and we are aggressively working to get coverage for our clients. We will jump through hoops to get the additional information for an editor to meet the deadline and to get the coverage. Knowing is the key.

Getting the writing right

The same is true with writing. It is such a subjective form of expression. Haven’t you had an experience where you really like someone’s writing style and other experiences where you didn’t? It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an effective form of communication.

Feedback in writing for public relations is so very important from basic editing and proofreading to ensuring accuracy. When you’ve worked on an article for hours, sometimes a fresh set of eyes is needed to see obvious mistakes that you overlook.

We rely on our clients as experts in their field to make sure what we are communicating about their company, solution and industry segment is correct, especially if it is a new area to us. Feedback in writing will always produce better content.

Building client relationships

The most important feedback of all quite often comes from the relationship with our clients. We are here to work with you as your partner and to provide a service.

For us to be effective, we need ongoing, regular feedback and information. And quite often, it goes both ways. We regularly provide our clients feedback on positioning, making the best use of your marketing communications budgets, and what is newsworthy and what isn’t. Treating us as part of your team makes for the best client relationships and leads to outstanding results.

Toward better feedback

What makes feedback important?

  • It is effective listening. It’s important that the person providing the feedback know that they are being understood and that it provides some value.
  • It can motivate. By asking for feedback, it allows the receiver to perform better.
  • It can improve performance. Feedback should be constructive criticism and is the best at helping to formulate better decisions to improve and increase performance.
  • It is a tool for continued learning. Feedback is important across an entire organization to remain aligned to goals, create strategies, develop service improvements, improve relationships and to continue learning.
  • Feedback should not be uncomfortable. Regular, positive or constructive feedback motivates everyone to perform better from award-winning PR teams to medal-winning athletes.

So, when working with your Amendola PR team, remember the importance of feedback. It makes us all more effective and like our Olympic athletes, we all want to win the gold. Go Team USA!

When Worlds Collide: Is the Merging of PR and Marketing a Good Thing?

Before social media, cross-platform campaigns and general business trends toward greater economy and efficiency of services, public relations and marketing—though often collaborators—were two distinct disciplines. Despite a kind of “kissing cousins” relationship, each had its own mission and purpose.

In today’s world, however, public relations and marketing are connected in ways that are both complex and granular. How effectively these well-blended professions work together is key to positively and creatively positioning your business for success.

Two Faces or a Vase?

It used to be that marketing handled advertising and PR handled earned media. Both jobs required that they make the business look good. That’s still true today… kind of. It depends on how you look at it, and even then it can be hard to explain.

Let’s start with a visual—the Rubin’s vase. This is a rather famous optical illusion that is usually depicted as a simple black-and-white image that can be interpreted differently depending on who is looking at it. One person looking at the image may see the shape of a vase, while another might glimpse two faces in profile facing each other. The person who sees the face can eventually see the vase, and the person who sees the face can see the two profiles, but neither person can they maintain both images concurrently.

This is what PR and marketing used to look like. Marketing helped move the company’s product (two faces), while PR sold the “vase”—in the form of the company’s brand and reputation.

Today, those distinctions are not as stark. Businesses are expecting their PR and marketing teams to find a way to see two faces and a vase at the same time. Like never before, PR and marketing need each other to help a business succeed.

A Distinction without a Difference?

OK, so the average business executive may not really care about whether PR and marketing represent a single entity or distinct areas (after all, they care about results, which as we know, always fall freely from the magical Results Tree). It’s OK—we’re used to it.

But you should care. More than anyone else in the company, the PR and marketing teams orbit in close and consistent proximity to your customers. Understanding how they best work together can make or break a business. If they are not on the same page, your company will not be on the same page with the customer.

You do the math.

The Content Example

One of the reasons why PR and marketing are “colliding” is that in today’s environment content is king. Byline articles, blog posts, tweets, status updates, e-mail blasts. It seems that every new piece of content is “old” by the time the final stamp of approval is given.

Campaigns—highly customized to the business or even a specific initiative within the enterprise—maximize your business’s core messages. But they also act in a way to bring a measure of control, discipline and meaning to the tsunami of content most businesses need to produce to stay relevant in hyper-competitive industries.

The success of these campaigns often hinges on how well marketing and PR work together.

With any initiative, the Golden Rule is “early and often.” This means that your PR and marketing pros need to engage early and often in order for the client to enjoy the end result (capitalizing on the success of a campaign or initiative).

PR and marketing teams feed on data—both internal (from sales, product developers, c-suite executives) and external (customers and market shifts within the industry). That data will ultimately define the functional aspects of a campaign (the best vehicles and channels to reach prospective customers) and the emotional resonance (how the precise positioning of a message impacts a customer and their willingness to buy from and stay loyal to the business).

Final Thoughts

When I start with a new client, one of my first goals is to get to know the marketing team and what they are working on. I also ask to engage with the sales team. What are customers connecting with? How do they interact with the company? And I don’t accept stock answers. I drill down. Sometimes, a turn of phrase or just the right word can be the different between a lost sale and a signature on the dotted line.

Years ago, I might not have thought to do this. Today, I understand that the data I acquire from them will inform the shape of my PR campaign. I also understand that my PR campaign will affect everything on their side—from sales presentations and the keywords and phrases used in a brochure to social media campaigns and the priorities on the content calendar.

Marketing and PR, while still very much distinct, are travelling toward the same goal and often taking the exact same road. There are the occasional places where the two diverge, but understanding those subtle differences is where true collaboration—and the success of your business—lies.

Networking Lessons

You Just Never Know – the Networking Lesson My Parents Taught Me

Some people network the traditional way. They attend networking events, dinners, and happy hours. Or they join membership organizations, serve on boards, etc.

The planned socials are not really my thing, though. Rather, I have built much of our public relations agency’s success on being open to engaging others, at just about any time, place or event. That’s a lesson I learned from my mom and dad!

They always pushed me to talk to everyone. I can still hear my Dad say: “Go talk to him. You never know where it will lead!” and “Go say ‘hi’ to her. You never know who she knows.”

Not surprisingly, my parents were right and today it’s a philosophy I live by: network with everyone. You just never know! I have built my business on the unintentional events and truly believe that one experience leads to the next.

Here’s a great example. I recently received a LinkedIn note from someone looking for a national healthcare/pharma PR agency; her CEO had suggested she meet with me. Of course, it felt great hearing that the CEO remembered me and our high quality work—especially since it had to be at least 12 years ago that he engaged us.

A meeting was scheduled. We barely got into the office when the lady said, “I can’t believe how you and Michael met. What a funny story!” To be honest, I had totally forgotten but when she gave me some details, it jogged my memory and wow, it was a good story!

Michael and I met at a car wash. Yes, a car wash!! It was a Friday afternoon and we were both waiting for our cars to be done. My mom, who was with me, engaged Michael in conversation. When she learned he was in healthcare—she proceeded to sell him on my services!

There are not too many people in the healthcare/healthcare IT/pharma public relations space in Arizona, and Michael was impressed that I knew the lingo. We exchanged cards and met the following week at Starbuck’s. We did some project work for them and then lost touch … until now.

Here’s another example. Jim R. was a neighbor of mine. We were chatting at a pool party and became family friends. He was an entrepreneur and encouraged me to start my own business. I had been thinking about doing just that, and Jim’s encouragement gave me the extra push I needed. He also became a client and remains a good friend today.

And one more example—one of my favorites–about how I met Gregg C. in the taxi line at the Dallas airport. In town for the HIMSS convention, along with tens of thousands of others, the line stretched on forever. Finally, the man managing it all yelled out, “Anyone else going to the convention center?”

Gregg and I got into the same taxi (pre-Uber days, of course!), and soon fell into conversation all the way into the city. It turned out Gregg was a top exec at Intel, and also from Arizona. At the time, I worked for a different healthcare IT PR agency, and Gregg said that Intel might need some specialized healthcare PR. He introduced me to a colleague, Chris, and the rest is history – Intel’s Internet healthcare division became one of the agency’s clients.

But it gets better. I invited Chris to an event. She brought her colleague, Kate. I remained friends with Kate long after the engagement with Intel ended. In fact, years later when I launched my own PR agency, I reached out to Kate, and hired her to start our marketing department. Now, 14 years later, Kate is a vital part of Amendola, still leading our marketing efforts and so much more!

Networking has continued to build Amendola Communications. It was about eight years ago that I got a call from Jim G. He looked me up because I led his company’s PR efforts decades before. We not only re-connected but became great friends, attending HIT meetings and network events together, and cross-referring business leads.

Jim referred me to so many great HIT influencers that today, I rarely participate in RFPs. I don’t need to. Between my many years in the business, networking with editors, clients, and others, business leads just come in.

Of course, it is also a testament to my team and the agency that we have so many repeat clients: Doug, a four- time Amendola client; Jay, a three- time Amendola client; Brett, a three-time Amendola client; Steve, a two-time Amendola client; Michele, a two-time Amendola client; Laura, a two-time Amendola client. And the list goes on and on.

Mom and Dad were right. You just never know what that one connection will lead to! Why not connect with us today? At the very least, you’ll have a free, no-obligation consultation with the healthcare IT industry’s leading public relations agency. Shoot me an email at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Where is Interoperability Going?

When health IT professionals head to HIMSS, interoperability will be a major issue, as it has been for many years. Various interoperability solutions are always on the horizon, but never quite come to fruition. The reasons go beyond technological capabilities; healthcare organizations and IT vendors have simply not been able to think outside the box of their preconceived notions.

A classic example is the recent announcement by a very large EHR vendor of new enhancements to its interoperability solution that allow providers who use that EHR to collaborate across organizational boundaries. Now, it’s all to the good that a clinician in one healthcare system will be able to not only view patient data in a different system’s EHR, but will also be able to schedule appointments more efficiently and message providers in the other healthcare system about a particular patient.

However, a user of that EHR will still not know that a patient got a flu shot at CVS or was admitted to a hospital ED that doesn’t have that EHR. In fact, except for the exchange of hard-to-parse clinical summary documents, the provider won’t know about anything that happened to the patient in care settings with disparate EHRs.

The central problem here is that the major health IT vendors would like their customers to use only their products and no one else’s. They’ve managed to convince some organizations that “rip and replace” is the solution to their interoperability ills. It is, however, no panacea. Aside from being a very expensive approach that disrupts the organization for a year or more, a unity system cannot provide all the functionality that healthcare organizations need, and the big vendors are not very amenable to connecting with third party app vendors.

The advent of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) promises to allow EHR users to expand their functionality through third party apps without having to pay for special interfaces. To their credit, the big vendors have shown some flexibility by letting outside vendors play in their digital sandboxes and develop FHIR-based apps. However, the majority of these apps are being used mainly for viewing EHR data. Moreover, FHIR has still not solved the problem of EHR-to-EHR interoperability.

So what is to be done? I’d suggest that, for starters, ONC and the private consortia working on interoperability consider a different role for EHRs that was suggested by Mandl and Kohane in a New England Journal of Medicine article. In that piece, the authors predict that with the spread of open standard software APIs, EHRs might become commodity components in a larger platform that includes other transactional systems and data warehouses running myriad apps. These apps could have access to many sources of shared data beyond a single health system’s records.

To visualize what this means, think about all the apps you have on your smartphone. Many of these apps work together. For example, Uber uses your GPS to figure out your location, as do shopping and movie apps. Your calendar app knows what time it is in your time zone.

If an EHR could contextualize all of the data coming into it from different apps, and combine them in ways that support medical decision making, it would be a much more useful program. It would maintain its role as the center of clinical workflow and documentation, but outside apps could also improve those functions, making the EHR more usable for clinicians.

That’s all very fine, and the same system might be used to expose EHR data to apps that consumers could use to monitor and maintain their health. But how do we achieve interoperability between EHRs?

I don’t presume to have the answer, but I have a couple of suggestions. First, health information exchanges need to step up their efforts to link together healthcare providers that use different EHRs. Some HIEs have focused on providing more analytic support to customers, which is certainly important but doesn’t meet the need to make a broad range of outside data available within the EHR workflow. To the extent that HIEs expand the types of data they can exchange, they will become more valuable. And if they adopt the emerging FHIR-based APIs, they will eventually find ways to exchange relevant data at the granular data level.

Interoperability at a granular, discrete data level must move beyond interfaces between disparate systems, which are too expensive to set up and maintain. The holy grail would be to develop the ability for EHRs to generate some kind of standard data set—far more extensive than today’s CCDAs—that would be both machine readable and understandable to clinicians using any other system. Perhaps FHIR could do that someday, but it would still require some kind of universal network to distribute the data. Maybe blockchain or some other secure peer-to-peer system will meet this challenge.

That’s all my crystal ball shows me today. But if the past is any indication, something totally unknown lies outside the box of the future.