Translating habits into PR best practices

In his book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg explores the neurology of habits, why habits form in human beings, and how we can change them through a systematic approach of identifying their cues, rewards and routines.

Establishing new habits can become automatic, so that we don’t even think about them.

Duhigg employs multiple case studies to convey how habits are teachable to individuals, organizations and businesses, and societies, illustrating their profound impact.  In one example, he takes us through the NFL coaching career of Tony Dungy and how he instilled certain habits in his players to help them react to cues in game situations without having to overthink their actions.  The ultimate result was a Super Bowl championship in Indianapolis.

Another one centers on Paul O’Neill, former treasury secretary in the second Bush administration and earlier, the President of Alcoa.  O’Neill’s emphasis on safety in his plants, much to the initial chagrin of fellow executives and board members, helped quadruple Alcoa revenues while instilling worker habits that empowered them to offer ideas for other improvements and best practices.  The results were a happier workforce, and crucial business alignment between rank-and-file workers and management.

Such demonstrated success informs my thinking around best practices.  While we have talented staff members who bring their own unique experiences and skillsets to Amendola Communications, it is important that we coalesce around certain “habits,” or best practices, to ensure consistent client service, delivery and results.

Best practices around account management/client service, content development, social and media relations help our agency be prodigious client stewards with the goals of fulfilling our PR program work and building long-term client relationships.  Equally important is a workforce that understands its role, feels empowered to do its best, and delivers great results.  In future blog posts, I’ll explore best practices around client planning and client communication.

What I learned at my first HIMSS

First and foremost, this is a BIG show. Okay, obviously this is a big show. But it’s important to understand this isn’t the type of trade show where the cool startup with hopes and dreams of changing the world can make a huge splash. At least, not without a plan.

As a first-time attendee, there were some confirmations and surprises that led to a few insights. Here are some tips to help kick-start your strategy for your first HIMSS.

Stop singing the same old song

Reporters are booked solid well before the conference begins and they are hearing “stories” all day. If it’s your first HIMSS, you may be surprised by the amount of similar ideas, products and solutions across the board. Let me tell you, the editors are not.

Whether it’s your first HIMSS or your 30th, make sure you have something to say. Passion plus results are rewarded in almost any industry and the same rings true in Healthcare IT. Don’t offer one without the other.

No one wants to hear about a product and all the technical aspects you have painstakingly perfected. They want to hear about what your solution is going to do for them (or their readers) now.

Don’t get it twisted. We are all very thankful for all the hard work, but the fact of the matter is there is too much going on to appreciate all of that hard work. Have something to say with weight.

Do your research before you go

Don’t waste time deciding what you’re going to do once you get to HIMSS. Everything moves too fast, and it takes too long to get from one place to the other. The conference may be several days long, but it goes by in a blink. Have a plan as an attendee or as an exhibitor.

Most of all, don’t make meetings with people that don’t make sense. Time, space and (good) coffee are precious luxuries at HIMSS. Don’t waste them.

Talk to people, and ask questions

Not just any questions – ask the one that you are hesitant about.

As a millennial, I think that we undervalue face-to-face interactions. There is something about being in front of people where you can get answers to questions you might not ask in a formal meeting setting or email. For one, they can’t just ignore your question.

Before all of my telehealth peeps give me a hard time – don’t worry, I still have no interest in physically stepping into my doctor’s office on a regular basis. Telemedicine rules!

A lot of flash doesn’t mean a lot of cash…flow

It was sad to see the booths with a premier spot just watch all the attendees walk by without giving their super cool mini golf game a try. Booth traffic success comes in layers, and although this conference was in Las Vegas, you can’t just take a shallow approach to entice the shrewd people of this trade show.

Take a note from the brilliant Lisa Chernikoff,  “As savvy marketing professionals know, the best trade show marketing strategies start early and establish a regular cadence of communication.” Emphasis on start early. Your booth traffic strategy should not rely solely on a game of putt-putt. Meetings with a purpose, strategies that give attendees something they can use to fix their problems and well thought-out strategies for making conversation are what seem to be the keys to success at mega trade shows such as HIMSS.

The thought of tackling this type of huge trade show without a specialized agency and expecting results brings to mind a few analogies…

  • Scuba diving without a tank
  • Planning a wedding for tomorrow
  • Teaching a fish to ride a bicycle
  • Baking a cake with cardboard appliances

And of course, the rumors are true – you will always be lost, hungry, searching for an outlet and totally amazed at what we are doing as an industry to improve healthcare. Now, I need to go buy some AirPods and avoid ever using or hearing the word leverage again.


Why Strategy Matters (but Action Matters More) When It Comes to PR

Why Strategy Matters (but Action Matters More) When It Comes to PR

We’ve all heard of analysis paralysis—the state of over-analyzing or over-thinking a situation so much that a decision is never made and the outcome is impacted. Recently I’ve been witnessing a curious yet similar phenomenon at healthcare IT companies across the country—and the analysis paralysis is all about “strategy.” As in overall corporate strategy and direction.

In short, these companies are all about strategic planning, but in the end they seem to come out of it having virtually no strategic plans. They’re all about all-day strategy meetings which result in no strategy but rather more questions that prompt more all-day meetings—and shockingly, yet still no strategy.

From the outside looking in, this cycle is an endless hamster wheel that leaves team members feeling tired rather than energized, frustrated rather than empowered, and most troublingly, so terrified that their actions won’t follow the still-to-be-approved (or never-to-be-approved) strategy that they simply don’t act. This inaction can be minor or major as it builds up over time but it’s always detrimental.

Back to basics to get results 

Their “strategic focus,” while well-intentioned, sets companies on the wrong path in the short and long-term, especially in regards to PR which should have a constant, ongoing cadence to create momentum and maximize results.

While company strategies can be complicated and have a profound impact on PR efforts, many aspects of PR strategy are quite uncomplicated. In fact, there are core tenets which are quite basic and fundamental to any sound PR plan. There are the pillars that cannot be disputed – so they need not be delayed regardless of executive indecision.

Whether your strategy is set or you’re one of many stuck on the endless hamster wheel, these four actions are key to success. They are mission-critical, and safely fit into any PR strategy for 2018 and beyond:

1. Write and distribute press releases

It sounds like a no-brainer but for many companies it’s not because they live in fear of being “off brand” or “misaligned.” They live in fear of putting out too many press releases yet not enough press releases. Those fears are unwarranted though since your company is doing good work. Why shouldn’t it be shared? Did you develop a new product? Let’s write a release. Did you sign a new customer? Let’s write a release. Is your CEO speaking at an industry event? Let’s write a release.

Writing a press release is one of the simplest ways to communicate what’s happening and why it matters. Distributing those press releases positions your company as a key player and thought leader in the ongoing industry dialogue. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated – and as long as you’re not regularly putting out more than 2-4 press releases per month, you’re not overdoing it. So, just do it.

2. Highlight your customer’s success stories

Once again, it sounds like a no-brainer. You have customers. They like your products. They like your team. They have achieved impressive results that they’re willing to share. Let them be your advocates. Capture their stories in writing. Put them in front of reporters who are eager to hear from both executives and end-users at provider organizations. It’s as simple as that. Just like with press releases, these customer success stories illustrate that your company is doing good work – and that’s what makes more customers want to work with you, which of course is one of the biggest end goals of any strategy. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated. As long as your customers are singing your praises, hand over the microphone and let them sing.

3. Emphasize your expertise

In addition to highlighting your clients, highlight your company’s thought leaders. After all, they are also doing good work (you may see a pattern here). They have knowledge to share. They have ideas to contribute. They are the faces of your company – and you need some faces even if you don’t have a final strategy. This action can mean authoring bylined articles or blogs on their behalf or pitching them as experts for media interviews. By positioning your executives and SMEs as thought leaders and joining the industry conversation, you’re helping to make your company a go-to source for future media opportunities. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated – and it would really be a shame for their knowledge to go to waste.

4. Educate your sales team about PR efforts

Regardless of strategy indecision, your sales team needs to close deals. There is nothing off-strategy about building your business. Media placements from your PR efforts are one of the most powerful but underutilized tools in your sales team toolkits. Obviously, sales prospects are not interested in the same information as the media. In fact, they may be turned off by being sent a press release about a new client that just signed on. However, they may be very interested in press coverage from well-regarded industry publications that profile your company news, thought leadership, and customer success stories. That is not only informative but also adds credibility – and implies that you want to keep them in the know.

Similarly, if one of your client case studies is featured in a third-party publication, that’s a prime opportunity to reach out, share the article and offer a reference call with the client quoted. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t need to be debated – and if you’re earning media placements it is certainly a shame not to use them to their fullest potential.

It’s time to get off the hamster wheel—and get on with the real work that makes a difference.