The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

The HIMSS Networking Advice I Wish I Would Have Had Two Decades Ago

With HIMSS19 right around the corner, my team and I are excited about networking with current and prospective clients, reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, and facilitating meetings with the best healthcare and health IT media and analysts in the business.

Even though HIMSS is a few days long, sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough hours in each day to accomplish everything you need and want to get done. With about 20 HIMSS annual meetings under my belt, I’ve learned a few networking strategies along the way to get the most marketing ROI possible from the time we all invest.

Whether you’re taking part in HIMSS19 as a vendor/exhibitor or individual attendee, here are some tips to make the most of your HIMSS networking opportunities:

Face time

Even if you’re tired after a long day of meetings, be sure to take advantage of the many face-to-face networking events at HIMSS. Meeting with other health IT execs in a more informal setting is a great way to make personal connections—which in turn can become strong business relationships.

Pro tip: Find common ground and talk about something interesting or fun related to the show.

Pitch perfect

Whether you’re meeting contacts on the exhibit hall floor, in your company’s booth, or at a networking event, remember that there’s a fine line between promoting yourself and being overly self-promotional.

One way to talk about your organization is to come prepared with a well-honed elevator pitch. This is a two- to three-sentence description of your company that’s simple, easy to understand, and memorable. Don’t get bogged down in jargon and technical specs. Explain your product or service in laymen’s terms.

At our agency, every elevator pitch must pass the “Connie’s mother’s test.” In other words, if you explained your story to your friend’s mother or neighbor would they understand it? If not, you probably need to modify it.

If you’re an executive who’s meeting with media and analysts, that’s good advice for those situations, too. Talk to them just as you would anyone else you meet at the show. Be friendly, be yourself, and don’t be overly self-promotional. You want to position yourself as an industry thought leader, which means that sometimes the conversation will turn toward wider industry trends rather than specific solutions.

Pro tip: If you serve multiple client bases that use your products and services in different ways, come armed with an elevator pitch for each. They need not be completely different, but should speak to the pain points of the person you’re talking to.

The social network

Although you shouldn’t ignore social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, you’ll likely get the most exposure by engaging with other attendees on Twitter. If you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, I suggest living tweeting from the show. A simple comment on what you learned about a session, or something interesting you saw or heard on the show floor makes for good fodder.

If you want to tweet but you’re on a tight schedule, one tactic is to retweet influencers such as the HIMSS Social Media Ambassadors and trade media with a heavy presence at the show. Also consider engaging with anyone who is effectively using the conference hashtag #HIMSS19, as well as any of the other official HIMSS19 hashtags such as #Aim2Innovate, #ChampionsOfHealth, #Connect2Health, #EmpowerHIT, #Engage4Health, #HITworks, #PopHealthIT and #WomenInHIT. (When you look at the conference hashtag feeds, be sure the list is sorted by “top” rather than “most recent” to filter out some of the noise.)

You should always be authentic, and it’s great to choose tweets that resonate with your own brand. But it’s okay to retweet something interesting or funny even if it isn’t 100 percent “on message.” In fact, many attendees scroll right by posts from vendors that only tweet their sales pitch and booth number. Of course, you should post links to your own blog posts, company announcements, events and promotions. But it’s always better to join a conversation rather than trying to dominate it.

You may want to also consider taking a team approach to your conference tweets. Platforms such as TweetDeck make it easy to post from multiple accounts at once, including your personal account and those of your team members as well as your official company account.  This is a great time to follow new influencers and to engage with them to get likes, retweets and (hopefully) new followers.

Pro tip: If you have a few extra moments, you can personalize a retweet by choosing “quote tweet” and adding a brief comment to make it stand out even more.

Go beyond the big show

Trade shows are a fantastic opportunity to connect with potential clients and business partners as well as analysts and the media, but if you fail to follow up, you’ve missed a key opportunity.

Too often, attendees collect business cards, only to toss them in a drawer once they get home. You can use an app that turns cell phone snaps of business cards into text files or make photocopies of them. Send those to your marketing team so they can add them into your prospect list, and don’t forget to connect on LinkedIn.

Pro tip: Write some details about the person you met on the back of their business cards as soon as you can, so you have context when you follow up.

Remember to have fun

Any large conference can be busy and overwhelming. Planning ahead will help, whether it’s deciding which network events to attend, having the official conference social hashtags at your fingertips, or making plans to meet long-distance contacts for a quick cup of coffee.

I’m looking forward to the show and hope to see many familiar and new faces in Orlando! Here’s to a great HIMSS!

Media Interview Preparation 101

Media Interview Preparation 101

Some executives dedicate ample time and effort to media interview preparation – studying the journalist’s previous coverage, developing carefully considered talking points – while others, not so much.

Guess which ones are typically more pleased with the outcomes of their interviews?

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep the significance of media interviews in perspective. Unlike a new product release gone awry or ethical misconduct by management, a bad interview is unlikely to cripple a company’s future. More likely, an interview gone off-the-rails results in some temporary embarrassment and heartburn for the company’s leadership – obviously something everyone would prefer to avoid. Still, there’s no need for an interview subject to work herself into a nervous state of sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach or stuttering speech.

While no one would suggest that executives need to prepare for a media interview with the time and diligence that they’d devote to a board meeting, for example, media interviews are indeed an important conduit to introducing a young company to potential investors, partners, employees and the market in general.

Confidence is key, and preparation breeds confidence. With that in mind, here are a few key preparation tips beyond the usual “Do your homework!” to turn any interview into a positive showcase for you company and your thought leadership.

Ask questions before the interview: What type of readers/viewers/listeners comprise the media outlet’s audience? Why is the reporter interested in talking to you? How did he/she find out about your company? What topics will the interview cover? Will the reporter share any questions ahead of time? Will you have the opportunity to review the article before it’s published (probably not), or any direct quotes from you that the reporter plans to use (quite possibly)? Don’t let any excitement or nervousness about the interview prevent you from asking a bunch of questions to the reporter – soon, he/she’ll be asking plenty of you.

Research the reporter and media outlet: Check out the reporter’s bio or LinkedIn page, and look for some clues from his/her background to build pre-interview rapport. Maybe the reporter attended the same college as you or has worked at a company with which you have some familiarity. This is great fodder for small talk before the interview begins, which will help to establish a friendly tone at the interview’s outset.

Aside from the reporter’s personal background, study the past few articles he/she’s written. They’ll provide clues for what interests him/her, what angles the reporter likes to take on stories and what types of questions might be asked.

Hammer key messages: I like to think of media interviews as a Venn diagram, featuring two circles – one representing the reporter’s interests and the other representing those of the interview subject. Rarely if ever will these two circles completely overlap. In fact, only about 10 percent of each may overlap, but that 10 percent is where you’ll live during the interview. That’s the space where you’ll be able to discuss your industry and your company’s accomplishments and capabilities without seeming too sales-y or self-promotional.

After you’ve asked the right questions and done your research, it’s time to prepare talking points that hammer home the key messages you’d like to convey in the interview. Make each of these points brief, conversational and punchy. Provide a little supporting evidence or an anecdote and move on to the next one. Don’t be afraid to re-emphasize points you’ve previously made; repetition helps reporters prioritize the importance of the information you’ve covered during the interview.

After the interview: Once the interview is over, breathe a sigh of relief and revel in a job well done — although the work isn’t done quite yet. Follow up with the reporter to see if any additional information or clarification is needed before the piece is published. Once the piece is published, promote it via all channels available to your company – social media, company blog, website, email campaigns and the like.

Does this seem like a lot of work? Sometimes it can be, but the positive is that a strong PR firm will do all the legwork for you – asking important questions of the reporter, researching the reporter and media outlet’s background and crafting talking points. Then it’s just up to the executive to think about and digest the information and proceed with confidence towards exceling in the interview.

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.

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Client Planning Should Resemble Meticulous Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition

In Stephen Ambrose’s book “Undaunted Courage,” readers learn about the courageous Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the advanced planning and preparation that went into such a grand, historic adventure.  It got me thinking just how important a fraction of such planning is for a client’s public relations program.

Depending on the nature of the agency/client relationship, PR plans can go many different ways.

But there are some key objectives necessary for every plan.  They include:

  • Setting the parameters of a PR program and the appropriate expectations of results with clients
  • Providing guidance on program priorities
  • Establishing a roadmap for tactical execution

Usually, the account executive spearheads the development of a plan in conjunction with other members of an account team, and certainly with the insights of the client’s PR and marketing leads.

From my perspective, each PR plan should be original to a client, given its circumstances, yet still draw upon the best practices of the agency.

Furthermore, the account executive should confirm the form-factor of such a plan.  Is a narrative proposal in Word, a PowerPoint presentation, or an Excel spreadsheet with tabs the best way to communicate the agency’s thought process?  Ask your client before embarking on one vs. another.

It should go without saying, but any plan should be built on sound research, outlining key issues and trends related to a client’s business and market space, and include target audiences, competitors, and influencers.  Brainstorming among client team members is one effective way to generate fresh ideas, and to develop strong communication goals, strategies and tactics in support of the client’s overall business objectives.

A detailed PR plan should consider the following program elements:

  • Situational analysis
  • Share of voice and social amplification
  • Influencing the influencers
  • Target verticals
  • Target audiences
  • Business goals
  • Communication goals
  • PR strategies and recommendations
  • PR tactics (may include such things as editorial calendars, and speaker, award and event research based on the program’s direction)
  • Target influencers (media and others)
  • Budget
  • Calendar of activities
  • PR metrics
  • Any optional program elements for client consideration, such as analyst relations

At its heart, a PR plan establishes the communication objectives, strategies and tactics toward reaching a client’s business goals.  Such materials are crucial to ensuring that all key constituencies – from executives to line-of-business and marketing leaders – are aligned with the direction of the program.  Such a plan serves as a beacon, and ensures that everyone agrees with the program’s elements, metrics, budget and results.

And much like Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery, achievements will be celebrated.

The 4 Essential Components of a Strong Case Study

The 4 Essential Components of a Strong Case Study

While every tool in the PR arsenal from press releases to bylines offer value in generating attention, a strong case study has the potential to stand above the rest as a real-world example of how a vendors’ product helped a customer solve a vexing business problem.

A strong case study can help a company begin to move beyond talk to illustrate action – specifically the positive outcomes, enhanced revenue or cost savings a prospect can achieve by taking the action of implementing your product. Customers want to know you have experience solving problems just like the ones their company is currently experiencing, and a case study provides the perfect opportunity to demonstrate exactly what your company and product accomplished to deliver value to a similar organization.

A well-executed case study must tell a story. In this story, the hero is the customer that boldly and courageously implemented your product to better serve her own patients or customers. The vendor plays the role of the humble servant, providing support and guidance to help the hero accomplish her goals and save the day.

In its most basic form, a case study’s story consists of “Problem -> Solution -> Results” but a strong case study requires more. Think of it as a job interview in which your primary challenge is to convince a prospect why your product is the one she should hire for the position.

When developing your next cast study, be sure to include these four essential elements:

  • Customer quotes: Don’t just tell us how the customer feels about your product, show us by using the customer’s own words. A customer’s own words always carry more weight and create a greater impact than what a vendor says about its own solution. The best way to obtain valuable quotes is to interview end-users of the product.
  • Quantified results: Nothing is more demoralizing for a case study consumer than to feel interest and curiosity while reading through the introduction, problem and solution sections, only to come to a disappointing results section that contains vague language of improvement and no key metrics. It’s a sure way to turn off a prospect who was beginning to consider your solution. After implementation, did your solution help the customer make money, save money, see more patients, or improve operations in some other quantifiable way? Let us know about it in as much detail as possible. While some customers are understandably reluctant to share specific dollar amounts, they’re more likely to approve of using percentages, such as “grew revenues 50 percent one year after adopting the solution.”
  • What’s next: It isn’t lost on most people that a case study must include detailed information on how a customer has already used a vendor’s solution, but it’s easy to forget to include details about future plans. Does the customer plan to expand use of the solution with a new patient population, offer it at a new location or purchase a complementary product? Including this information will help prospects conceive of a long-term strategy for their adoption of your product.
  • Call to action: Another easy-to-forget aspect of a case study is the call-to-action (CTA), which provides the vendor with an opportunity near the end of the piece to request a specific action from the reader. Whether you’re offering the reader more content to consume or a free giveaway, or asking them to fill out a form, be sure to make the experience as easy as possible for the user to complete.

Wherever your latest prospect is in the customer journey, a solid case study holds the possibility of providing that nudge to take the next step. When you sit down to plan out your next customer case study, don’t forget these four essential elements.