Getting to Your Happy Place at HIMSS19

Getting To Your Happy Place at HIMSS19

HIMSS19 is fast approaching and for a successful conference, you are likely already planning and preparing. The Amendola team is in full swing preparing clients for the big show in Orlando, from product announcements, media kit development and booth collateral to social media campaigns and on-site support for press interviews and analyst briefings.

We’ve written a number of blogs on the subject of HIMSS including Getting Noticed at HIMSS: 4 Insider Tips from Industry Journalists to Maximize Media & Analyst Interviews at HIMSS and also Tips for Staying Healthy at HIMSS. There is some valuable information here from my A-Team colleagues. I’d like to highlight the information I find most valuable and add a few tidbits of my own wisdom to the topic.

First a few facts. The 2019 HIMSS Conference in Orlando will be bringing together 45,000+ professionals from 90+ countries.  There will be 300+ education sessions, 1,300+ vendors, hundreds of special programs and endless networking events. The conference will be held at the Orange County Convention Center which boasts 7 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space.

Yes, that’s a lot of people and a lot of walking.  In addition to hand sanitizer, a supply of ibuprofen, tums, breath mints and good shoes, I also recommend the following:

  • Have a fresh supply of water and snacks with you each day. With the amount of people in attendance, getting a quick meal during a break in meetings or sessions may not always be an option.
  • You will be doing a lot of walking.  I think one HIMSS I walked over 10 miles in one day. Track your steps. You will be getting your exercise. All that walking will be tough on your feet, but also on your legs, hips and possibly your lower back. Perform leg and lower back stretches in the morning, at night before you go to bed, and even throughout the day if you can manage it.
  • The weather in Orlando in February is gorgeous, especially for those of us who have been dealing with a cold and wet winter.  Take a few minutes to get outside the convention center and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Sometimes that can be a better “pick-me-up” than another cup of coffee.
  • Do your homework prior to the show.  Read the briefing book, including article links, your PR agency provides you to prepare for your press and analyst meetings.  It’s an excellent way to spend time on your flight to Orlando.
  • Know your elevator pitch and the key messages you want to convey during the show. Be prepared to convey those messages on the fly with someone you chat with while waiting in line for coffee. You never know who may be standing around you – a journalist, an analyst, a potential customer – always represent your company well.
  • Finally, have fun! HIMSS is hectic and tiring, but also exciting and can set the stage for a year of success.  And when it’s over, enjoy some extra time in Orlando.  You are close to the most magical place in the world as well as beautiful beaches less than an hour away. And if you are like me, be sure to make a reservation for a massage after HIMSS is over.  Your body will thank you for it!

See you in Orlando!

 

Guidelines for a Darn Good Press Release Headline

Editors and journalists get a ridiculous number of press releases in their inbox every day. It isn’t just this week’s news that a press release completes with – it’s releases from prior weeks, being re-sent and re-packaged to find new coverage. It’s a tough, competitive world for each press release. Even if you have a newsworthy story, getting eyes on it isn’t always easy. For yours to win, you need a great press release headline that grabs attention, tells a complete story, and makes a reader want to know more.

What is seen first is of utmost importance. Here are some tips for crafting a headline for a press release that maximizes its chance to earn meaningful coverage.

Don’t Clickbait. Do What Newspapers Do.

Baiting people into clicking on terrible stories is a social media norm, popularized by scam websites, gossip rags, and less-than-reputable news sources. And, quite frankly, it isn’t a tactic that works well for educated readers – such as those in healthcare IT. While an interesting or fun headline is fine, a journalist isn’t going to be enticed to read a press release unless they know exactly what the press release is about.

Like newspapers and reputable online sources, the headline needs to be a summary of the story, whatever it is. The who, what, when, and where need to exist in the headline. The why is something that can be left for the reader to discover, but the entire “in a nutshell” version of a press release needs to exist in the headline. The selling point of your press release should be its inherent newsworthiness.

Support Your News with Data

If you can, give specifics on your news. If a product showed a 10 percent improvement of patient satisfaction scores in a pilot study, that should be in the headline. If specific numbers exist and they’re impressive, show them off. Burying specifics in the text of a press release is meaningless when the goal of a press release is to earn media coverage anyway.

If you don’t have data, avoid assertive claims. Unless you back them, they shouldn’t be in the headline, since that is just asking for a journalist to press the issue. But when you can, having specific data and numbers is always welcome, since that’s ultimately the meat of any story.

Take an Active Voice

Let me correct what I said above: Product X Shows 10 Percent Rise of Satisfaction in Study. Even if this news is in the past or it’s old news, stick to active voice. Always take the philosophy when writing a headline that this is happening right now. That sends a message that this story is ongoing, worth attention, and hasn’t been covered yet – all of which are necessary to earn media coverage.

Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun

Have you checked the President’s Twitter feed? This is the era of informal communication. The days of a stoic, professional headline for press releases is over. Don’t be afraid to have fun and show a little personality, especially if that’s consistent with your company branding. Even though press releases seem like a formal event blasted through professional channels, they can still be fun. There are no rules here, and creativity is definitely welcome. In fact, a creative, fun headline may help your release standout, especially when a hard news angle isn’t particularly applicable.

Write the Header Last

When I write a press release, I use an ALL CAPs, nonsensical placeholder title, until it’s time to write the real thing. Once the full press release body is written, it’s then that I am able to summarize the story content and get a sense of its tone – which is what a headline is supposed to do. It may seem counter-intuitive to work the header last, but it’s an almost necessary part of the press release writing process. A press release headline comes after the story, because if it’s written right, it contains a one-sentence summary of what’s to come.

 

Amendola Communications Top 10 Blog Posts of 2018

Amendola Communications’ blog is designed to share our knowledge of public relations and marketing communications, but also to help other marketing professionals gain an understanding of how PR can and should be integrated into their campaigns. Based on our blog’s most-viewed posts of 2018, it appears readers are interested in a much broader variety of related topics, including trade show best practices, writing style tips and crisis communications.

Several of our most popular blog posts from 2018 were also re-posted on the Daily Dog site from Bulldog Reporter, which indicates that other respected PR pros thought our insights and best practices were helpful enough to share with their readers. Our most-viewed posts, however, were not all written last year. In fact, most of them were posted in 2017 and 2016. Not to get too “meta,” but that result in itself is a content marketing lesson: Valuable, relevant information never gets old.

With that, the following are the top 10 most-viewed blog posts for 2018.

10. Champing at the Bit over the Correct Use of Idioms: Its Just Good PR. For all intents and purposes, this blog post from 2016 explains the correct usage of common English-language idioms (like the one that began this sentence). Apparently, the post “piqued” a lot of readers’ interest and helped them “home in” on their key messages and “flesh out” their content… you get the idea.

9. Video Blog: 5 Elements of a Successful Media Relations Program. In this vlog, also from 2016, our Media Relations Director Joy Dinaro explains how to create a successful media relations program in less than two minutes, including tips for knowing the audience and understanding vendor neutrality. Valuable insight in very little time, so it’s no wonder this post was so popular.

8. What Can We Learn From United Airlines Flight 3411. No one in PR or marketing will forget the 2017 crisis communications debacle resulting from a viral phone video of a bloodied passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. What’s worse is United’s CEO then publicly blamed the passenger, who did nothing but refuse to give up his paid seat so the airline could give it to its own employees. Clearly, it’s still a topic of interest because this post from 2017 – guest authored by James Foster, director of marketing at Amendola Communications’ client Vivify Health) – made the top 10 again.

7. The importance of feedback in PR – from media, to writing to client relationships. PR and marketing professionals are often so focused on daily tasks and client strategies that we often lack the time to request or contemplate feedback from the media, colleagues, or most importantly, clients. This most-viewed post from March describes different types of feedback in our profession and why it’s so important for improving service and results for our clients.

6. 6 Tips for Making Your Customer Success Stories More Compelling. Case studies are always effective B2B content because, in short, they’re real and they work. That’s why when a case study opportunity presents itself, some marketers don’t lay the groundwork to minimize the time and inconvenience for their customer while maximizing the amount relevant information captured during the research and interviewing. This post, written in 2017, gives readers a step-by-step guide to efficiently and effectively developing the perfect customer success story.

5. PR Pros: Beware of Busywork Masquerading as “Essential Skills”. Amendola Communications is a full-service integrated marketing communications and PR agency, which means our team members wear a lot of hats. However, as this blog post from May points out, PR and marketing professionals need to understand what their most valuable and creative skills are and apply them to serve clients. Other tasks can be delegated to another team member or outsourced. Trying to deliver too many services by yourself often just increases a PR professional’s stress and reduces quality, neither of which will help the bottom line.

4. Time to turn your trade show booth from salesroom to learning lab. We assume that HIMSS18 exhibitors were looking for last-minute booth tips due to the popularity of this post, which was posted just weeks before the health IT mega-conference. Although it may be a little too late for HIMSS19, the post lays out a great conference booth and content strategy that is sure to engage attendees and help your company stand out from others on the floor.

3. Simple Language and Communication Success. Healthcare IT can be complex, but the way we write about it doesn’t have to be. This post, written in 2017, reminds marketing and PR professionals the importance of concise writing and how we should use “fifty-cent words” even when the subject matter lends itself to a lot of “five-dollar words.”

2. Advice for Journalists Considering a Career in Public Relations. Because we tend to do a lot of writing, interviewing, editing, researching, Amendola Communications has a lot of former journalists on staff. Making the switch from reporter or editor to PR professional isn’t always seamless. It’s a different mindset and culture, which this blog post written by a former journalist deftly explains.

1. Going in AP Style. Most consumer and trade publications adhere to the rules of the Associated Press (AP) Style Manual. For a PR professional, using AP style demonstrates that you are a journalism insider, which is crucial when pitching a byline article, press release, or other content that needs to be reviewed and approved by an editor. The AP style guide has quirks that many business writers aren’t familiar with if they don’t have a journalism or PR background. The most-viewed Amendola Communications blog post from 2018 covers many of the most common AP-style errors – even the seemingly arbitrary way it abbreviates state names. What could be a very dry topic is actually a fun, lighthearted, engaging read, which is likely another reason why it’s the most viewed post of last year.

That’s our top 10 from 2018. In all, it’s a diverse collection of posts reflecting the broad range of integrated services offered by PR and marketing professionals today, including here at Amendola Communications. We expect to see some of these posts again on next year’s top 10 list, but we will nonetheless continue to supply new enlightening and engaging PR and marketing communications insight to this page every week. Stay tuned.

Have a great 2019!

 

Making HIMSS19 Count

This year’s HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition (aka HIMSS19) in Orlando will be my eleventh—seven as a HIMSS staffer and four as a public relations liaison for vendor clients. The HIMSS Annual Conference has become the NFL of health IT—there is no real offseason and it gets bigger every year.

For the past several years, HIMSS has regularly attracted more than 45,000 attendees and 1,500 health IT vendors from around the globe.

If it sounds massive and daunting—that’s because it is. If you were to visit every booth in the cavernous exhibit hall for only 10 minutes, it would take you 168 hours non-stop—seven full days—to complete your mission. Some attendees have complained that the show has suffered from the sprawl, while others view it as a cornucopia of selections that can be personalized to suit specific needs.

For vendor exhibitors, HIMSS represents one of the year’s most significant challenges for event planners, marketers and public relations professionals. Exhibiting companies invest an insane amount of money (and it’s a lot of money) and time (lots of that, too) in making the show a success.

There is certainly a lot of low-hanging fruit to increase your visibility at HIMSS19: Thoughtfully incorporate HIMSS19-branded social tags into your social strategy; develop a content calendar specifically for the show; and promote HIMSS19 tools—like the mobile app HIMSS Circles—that attendees can leverage to find your booth and education sessions.

That’s all great. However, the focus of this post is on a rather under-reported challenge most exhibitors will face—separating the “tourists” from quality business leads.

Tourists are those herds of non-decision makers, culled from the unending flow of foot traffic, who visit your booth largely to acquire food, drinks and/or a free keychain. They also absorb an inordinate amount of your sales staff’s time—the same sales staff who ate up a huge chunk of your budget in travel, lodging and registration fees to rope in new business prospects.

You are never going to completely eliminate tourists, but there are some useful strategies that can both slow the flow of the uninterested and attract the demographic population that is more seriously interested in your solutions.

Identify Your Targets Early. Generating quality business leads requires outreach well in advance of the show. One of the recommendations we pound into first-time attendees is the importance of creating and keeping a schedule to avoid mission creep. With all the exhibits, education and networking events—to say nothing of all the stop-in-chats with peers in the hallway, HIMSS can be very distracting. Schedules fill up quick, so it’s important to connect with your leads as soon as possible. Consider investing in the HIMSS attendee list (not cheap) or utilizing a native or other third-party list to get leads scheduled to visit your booth. This also allows your staff to prioritize interested parties over passers-by.

Schedule Education and Demos. Are you noticing a scheduling theme here? I’ve noticed a number of vendors running little demos on an endless loop. They don’t seem to ever attract much attention. Instead, consider hosting scheduled education sessions and demos at your booth. Why? Scheduled demos can be easily promoted both before and during the show, making it easy for attendees to schedule time for a full presentation. Incorporate show-time signage into your booth. Speakers should be equipped with an A/V system, so a large group of attendees can see and hear everything you say. You should also film your presentation for distribution in press releases and social channels after the show, to reach an even bigger audience.

Hire a Tourist Wrangler. Reserve your most knowledgeable staff to handle serious prospects. Use lower level staff to handle visitors who may only be interested in asking a few perfunctory questions in order to obtain your swag. If a tourist turns out to be a legitimate lead, escalate them to the sales staff.

You are never going to completely eliminate tourists, but these strategies that can both slow the flow of the uninterested and attract the demographic population that is more seriously invested in exploring your solutions.

Creating a Holistic Content Strategy

Creating a Holistic Content Strategy

I have a confession: I truly believe in the underlying meaning of clichés: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All that glitters isn’t gold. Read between the lines. But my favorite is that content is king. To me, the content and the strategy for leveraging it make or break a campaign in a heartbeat. You can have the best survey results in the world, but without a thought through and well-defined content strategy behind it, that survey will not help your business objectives.

For years, I have loved the challenge of determining how we can use the messages in a planned piece for email, visuals, paid placements, microsites, press releases, media interviews, roundtables and more. A good campaign is an integrated one where all of the pieces play off of each other. But how do you even start to plan such a campaign? In my experience, good content strategy that results in a truly integrated campaign follows the same process each time.

  • Establish a goal for the content – With any campaign, you need to know what you are trying to accomplish and how are you going to measure success. Are you trying to get new leads? Is your goal to gain share of voice in the media in a new vertical? Do you want potential investors to see how you are filling an industry gap so that they will consider being part of your next round of funding? Once you determine the marketing goals, you can determine what type of content to create.
  • Focus on addressing a concern for your target market – With a goal established, you should know better who you are targeting. Let’s assume that you are a revenue cycle management (RCM) vendor that has traditionally been in the hospital space but are now moving in physician practices – this is a fairly crowded market so you need to focus on cutting through the noise. To do that, you know that physicians want more information about time to collections and data on the increase in patient self-pay and how that is impacting their bottom line. This will be the central theme of your content.
  • Define the seminal piece of content that you will create – If we continue with the RCM idea above, you may create a survey about the impact patient self-pay has had on the bottom line for physician practices. Then you can create a report on the results that leverages visuals and analysis. It is critical to understand what the first piece of content you will create will be – you will need to focus on creating that so that other content can spin off it easily.
  • Let your imagination go wild with how you can use that content – Now that you know that you are creating a report based on survey results, take time to think through how it that will be further leveraged. In addition to the traditional press releases and byline articles about the results, some potential options include:
    • Media interviews with embargoed pre-pitching to key media so that you generate a buzz
    • Email campaigns to potential leads to show the data that you have collected
    • Sponsorships on industry websites – this could include “gating” a version of the content to get new leads (people interested in the content provide their name and contact information to qualify for access)
    • Paid digital ads that point back to your website for further leads – using Google ads, LinkedIn promotions and more, you can accurately target prospects who may be searching for your content
    • An interactive microsite that highlights the data that can drive retargeting efforts
  • Layout a timeline of when all the content can be created and disseminated – Once you confirm the exact content you will produce, it is time to create a development and dissemination timeline. At the launch of a campaign, you need to know exactly when content will launch – this would include the seminal piece and the initial promotional pieces such as a press release, social content, email blasts. You can then divide the paper into snackable visuals and create infographics, articles and sponsored content so that can continue to capture leads. The goal will be to continue to provide fresh insights or analysis of the data that will encourage people to download the paper and fodder for the digital team to use for paid marketing. But you must have a calendar of when each piece and each channel will be engaged to keep the campaign on track.
  • Measure, measure, measure – As you did in the beginning, you should have established how you will measure success. Whether that is new leads, greater share of voice or other metrics, you need to start measuring sooner than later so that you know what channels are or are not working. So set a standard process for reviewing metrics and making tweaks to the entire plan.

 

By following these steps, you will be well positioned for a strong integrated marketing campaign that leverages the value of your content and thought leadership.