Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

When it comes to finding the right PR and marketing agency, is bigger better?

It depends who you ask.

Early in my career as an agency leader, I was surprised that it was Amendola’s largest Fortune 500 clients who most clearly understood and could articulate the benefits of working with a smaller, boutique agency. As time passed and a few comparatively smaller clients switched to a bigger agency (often in response to reaching a major growth milestone) and subsequently came back, I realized that the larger, more well-established companies simply had the benefit of experience. They’d previously worked with one or more large corporate agencies, and already understood the advantages and drawbacks.

So why do many of the world’s largest, most successful healthcare and technology companies prefer to work with smaller, highly specialized agencies? It’s a fair question, and the answer can help healthcare/healthcare IT companies of every size find their ideal agency fit.

Depth of understanding is even more key in a complex industry

Many of Amendola’s largest clients voice frustration with the inconsistent levels expertise at big agencies, especially those that don’t focus exclusively on healthcare and healthcare IT.

As one Fortune 500 client said in our initial conversation, “We don’t feel like we’re getting any value from [large corporate agency]. They understand tech in general, but don’t really have a clue about healthcare IT. And they don’t seem to have any of the media relationships we need.”

Another prospective client put it more wryly: “We spend half our time explaining value-based care, and the other half reminding them to stop talking about it like it’s brand new.”

To be fair to larger agencies and the hardworking folks who make them hum, it’s all but impossible for anyone to be an expert on multiple complex industries. Especially if one of them is healthcare. In fact, that’s why Amendola serves only healthcare and healthcare IT clients, and has since the outset. There’s always something new to learn in healthcare, and always something on or just over the horizon that will impact the industry in unexpected ways. If you don’t eat, sleep, and breathe it, how could you possibly keep up?

Still, I can understand these clients’ frustration. If an agency needs constant coaching on what’s happening in healthcare, the best case is that the relationship becomes more time-consuming for the client.

The more realistic case? Missed opportunities, muddled messaging, and even missteps in the market.

It’s harder for large and multi-industry agencies to develop strong healthcare/healthcare IT media relationships

Clients also often mention that a larger agency they worked with was unable to secure high-quality (or even very many) media opportunities. I’m never surprised to hear it. After all, any junior PR professional can pitch journalists all day every day every…but how effective can they be if they don’t really understand the story they’re pitching?

Yet inconsistent expertise isn’t the only contributing factor. The fact is, large agencies have several things working against them when it comes to healthcare/healthcare IT media relations.

Imagine you’re a healthcare reporter. You’ve just been assigned a 1,200-word article about how healthcare organizations are screening for unmet social needs and addressing SDoH, especially within their high-risk/high-cost patient populations. Your editor would like to see you include perspectives from at least three different organizations. Either vendors or providers, but at least one of each. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow. End of day today would be better.

Now ask yourself who you’d reach out to:

  • The comparatively junior contact you have at a big corporate agency—you know, the one who keeps pitching you out of the blue about the same one or two clients.
  • The comparatively senior contact you have at a smaller, healthcare-specific PR agency—you know, the one with a diverse client portfolio who can probably be your one-stop shop for all three of the interviews you need to conduct.

Actually, any chance you could turn the article around sooner? It’d be great to get it out on social ASAP.

The hotter the topic and the busier the news cycle, the higher the demands on journalists’ time and attention. During the weeks preceding HIMSS, it’s not uncommon for a healthcare reporter at a top-tier publication to receive well over 200 pitches a day. From a purely practical standpoint, the only way they can wade through the noise is to focus on their most reliable agency contacts (who, by the way, have been regularly pitching and checking in on HIMSS opportunities for months, not weeks).

How much of a difference do strong media relationships make? Consider the Fortune 500 client I mentioned earlier.

In our first month working together, we secured more media opportunities for them than their most recent large corporate agency had secured over the course of three years.

Now, did our agency-wide expertise in healthcare and healthcare IT enable us to craft higher quality, more sophisticated pitches and thought-leadership content? Absolutely. Did we also do a better job targeting the right reporter/editor/publication with the right pitch at the right time? You bet your bylines.

But the wealth of opportunities we had to choose from were partly a function of a fundamental truth about healthcare/healthcare IT PR. As a boutique agency exclusively serving healthcare and healthcare IT clients, we hear about opportunities that larger and less focused agencies don’t—because healthcare journalists’ lives are already hard enough.

Another key difference: Who’s *really* doing the writing?

The complaint I hear most frequently from prospective clients is the amount of time they spend rewriting the content their current agency produces. The shared sentiment is, “in the time we spend rewriting everything, we could have just drafted it ourselves.” And that isn’t just an idle thought for many companies—when I spoke with a large publicly traded company last week, they explained they use their current agency for media pitching only, having brought all content creation back in-house after years of constant rewriting.

Obviously, any agency of any size can hire bad writers. And, at least conceivably, any agency with the resources to do so can hire good writers.

So where’s the breakdown?

First (and this is the last time I’ll mention it), lack of expertise plays a role. If the writers assigned to the account aren’t strong on healthcare/healthcare IT, there’s no covering it up. Especially if they’re writing based on input from deeply knowledgeable subject matter experts.

Second, depending on the agency, even a reasonably large healthcare or healthcare IT company might be comparatively low-priority when it comes to resource allocation. The bigger and less healthcare-focused the pond, the more likely that other accounts or client-types will be seen as the truly big fish. And the big fish gets the worm, which in this modified idiom represent the more senior writers.

It sure would be nice if there was a just a checklist of what to look for in an agency

Wouldn’t it? I’ve always thought so. So here are consolidated insider tips and key questions you can use to streamline your search for the perfect agency.

Expertise – Do they know your space? Do they understand the lingo? Have industry connections? Will they have senior level executives on the account, or will you be delegated to a junior team? Check references and make sure the agency is everything they actually say they are. If you’re making your decision partly based on writing samples, make sure you see the samples of the writers you’ll actually be working with.

Range of Services – Do you need a PR firm only, or are you looking for an integrated marketing communications firm that can handle all of your marketing needs? If the agency only handles one service line, do they have partner agencies for other areas?

Team – Make sure you ask to meet your team. Very often with a big agency, the high-level execs you met at the presentation aren’t the team who will be working on your account. That’s unfortunate, because experience and compatibility matter.

Ideally, at least one of the people who would be on your team will also be at the initial presentation. If they are, chat them up. Are they someone you would enjoy working with on a regular basis? Remember—this is going to be a close relationship, so comfort and rapport are key!

Budget/terms/scope of work – Be sure to compare apples to apples when assessing services and quantities/deliverables. Are you going to engage in an annual retainer program or project work? Will you be billed by the hour or by scope of deliverables? Based on my experience, the latter will get you more value. Teams won’t be clocking out the second your hours for the month are used up; instead, they’ll work tirelessly to successfully execute your campaigns with no limit to the time they put in. And don’t get caught in the trap of assuming a higher retainer equals better service, especially if you aren’t going to be one of the agency’s largest accounts or if they don’t specialize in healthcare or healthcare IT.

The fit matters

Once you’ve narrowed the field of potential agency partners to a fully vetted top five, you can reasonably assume that any of them are capable of handling the nuts and bolts of PR and marketing. That’s why I recommend focusing on the fit to help you make your final decision. Does it feel right? Is this the company and are these the people that you want to serve as an extension of your own team? And where do you fit in their agency world—or to put it another way, what’s the pond look like?

Ultimately, every organization has to decide what’s right for them based on a host of factors. Understanding how agencies differ beyond the simple metric of size will help ensure the strengths of the PR and marketing agency you do select align with the work you want them to do and the results you want them to deliver. In some cases, a bigger agency can be better—but as many of the largest healthcare and healthcare IT companies already know, it isn’t always best.

Trade SHows and Events: Four Ways to Improve Your ROI

Trade Shows and Events: Four Ways to Improve Your ROI

Whether you personally believe trade shows are the land of opportunity or merely a relic of a bygone era where primitive being skulked through the aisles without the benefit of a smartphone, there is no question that they are still a fact of life for many of us. In fact, some (such as, oh, I dunno, HIMSS?) are not merely a minor blip on our radars but a huge disruptor to the otherwise semi-orderly flow of our lives.

Trade shows can be a time-sink as well as a budget-sink, so if you’re going to make that type of investment, it’s critically important that you be sure the organization gets something out of it. Something more than “exposure” and free leftover pens, tote bags and the kind of hard candy your grandmother gives you when you come to visit, and that you only eat when there is absolutely no other choice. Love you, grandma!

Toward that end (getting something out of your trade show investment, not getting hard candy), Amendola Communications CEO Jodi Amendola has written a blog post in her role as a member of the Forbes Agency Council. “Trade Show ROI: Four Ways to Make the Most Out of Industry Events” offers some great suggestions for ensuring marketers get a pat on the back rather than a kick in the backside for the results of their organization’s trade show efforts. The four tips include:

  • Ensuring you have a well-honed elevator pitch that carefully walks the line between proper and over-the-top self-promotion
  • Making Twitter your go-to social media platform for engaging other attendees
  • Hosting a reception for clients and prospects
  • Being sure you do something with all those leads you capture

Obviously there’s more to it than just those four bullet points, so it’s well worth giving the post a full read. You can do that here:

Whatever your personal feelings about trade shows, however, they still loom large in many industries – especially healthcare. So if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Take the time to prepare properly, and then maximize your time on the floor – whether you’re in front of the counter or behind it. It will pay off in the end.

HIMSS19 Educational Session Recommendations from Amendola, Healthcare IT’s Top PR/Marketing Agency

Clients’ technologies to shine brightly at largest health IT event of the year

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Feb. 6, 2019 — Innovative technologies from Amendola health IT clients will be highlighted in a number of key educational sessions presented by the clients’ end users at HIMSS19, which takes place Feb. 11−15, 2019, in Orlando.

“This year marks Amendola’s 15th anniversary and the 15th consecutive year that our agency will have a presence at HIMSS,” said Jodi Amendola, CEO of the award-winning healthcare and health IT marketing and public relations agency. “It’s been amazing to see how much the conference has grown in the nearly 20 years I’ve been attending—and gratifying to see the tangible results that healthcare organizations are realizing from our clients’ technologies, which will be highlighted in these presentations.”

The speakers, who in a few of the sessions are joined by the technology vendors as co-presenters, will explain how they have overcome some of the biggest healthcare challenges of today by leveraging solutions from Amendola clients, including Alliance for Better Health,, Ayasdi, Bernoulli, Health Catalyst, Medicomp Systems, Recondo Technology, SAP, SCIO Health Analytics, VisitPay, Vivify Health and Vocera.

Accountable Care Organizations

Predictive Analytics for Data-Driven Care Management – Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization (BIDCO), a leading, value-based accountable care organization participating in five risk-based contracts, will discuss how to leverage predictive analytics to identify patients most likely to benefit from care coordination. Details: Presented by Sarika Aggarwal, MD, MHCM, Chief Medical Officer of BIDCO, and Bill Gillis, MS, Chief Information Officer; 2:30−3:30 pm Wed. Feb. 13, Room W208C. Highlights technology from

Building a Quality-Driven Narrow SNF Network – CareMount ACO, a physician-owned multispecialty medical group participating as a Medicare Next Generation ACO in the Hudson Valley, will explain how it leveraged a population health platform to aggregate data needed to develop a narrow Preferred Provider Network of skilled nursing facilities, home health and other ancillary providers. Details: Presented by Peter Kelly, MBA, Executive Director of CareMount ACO, and Richard Morel, MD, MMM, FCAP, Deputy Chief Medical Officer; 11:30 am−12:30 pm Wed. Feb. 13, Room W315A. Highlights technology from

AI and Machine Learning

Cloud Analytics: A Fast Lane to Enable Real-World Evidence – Mercy, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, is powering data-driven healthcare with artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics to benchmark best practices across its 44 acute care and specialty hospitals. As a result, Mercy is uncovering cost savings, improving patient outcomes, and creating new revenue streams to monetize data. Details: Presented by Curtis Dudley, VP of Performance Solutions, Mercy; 9:45−10:15 am Mon. Feb. 11, Rosen Centre Executive Ballroom I. Highlights technology from SAP.

Driving Physician Engagement and Patient Outcomes with Artificial Intelligence – Vituity, a multispecialty partnership of physicians, improved population health and enhanced patient experience by developing AI-driven real-time clinical decision support tools. Details: Presented by Dipti Patel-Misra, PhD, MBA, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Vituity, and Joshua H. Tamayo-Sarver, MD, PhD, FACEP, BCCI, CPHIMS, Vice President, Informatics; 10−11 am Thurs. Feb. 14, Room W207C. Highlights technology from Health Catalyst.

How AI Enabled a Community Hospital to Tackle Clinical Variation and Reduce Length-of-Stay – Flagler Hospital saved an average of $1,350 per case, reduced the average length of stay by two days, and decreased readmissions by seven times—eliminating nearly $850,000 in costs—by tapping into powerful, unsupervised AI technology. Details: Presented by Michael Sanders, FAAFP, MD, CMIO, Flagler Hospital; 11:40 am−12 pm Mon. Feb. 11, Rosen Centre Junior Ballroom F. Part of the HIMSS19 Machine Learning & AI for Healthcare pre-conference symposium. Highlights technology from Ayasdi.

Machine Learning to Predict Risk and Enhance Efficiency ­– A regional health system in New York applied machine learning to multiple data sources to create a risk model that identifies high- and low-risk patients to reduce 30-day readmissions. Details: Presented by Simer Sodhi, Director of Data Management and Analytics, Westchester Medical Center; 10:45−11:05 am Mon. Feb. 11, Rosen Centre Junior Ballroom F. Part of the HIMSS19 Machine Learning & AI for Healthcare pre-conference symposium. Highlights technology from Health Catalyst.

Inpatient Monitoring

A Business and Clinical Case for Continuous Surveillance – Virtua Memorial Hospital leveraged continuous capnography monitoring in a medical-surgical unit to detect adverse clinical events while also mitigating artifacts related to patient movement, suspect measurements and other medical device-generated alarm signals. Details: Presented by Leah Baron, MD, former Chief of the Department of Anesthesiology at Virtua Memorial Hospital, and John Zaleski, PhD, CPHIMS, CAP, Chief Analytics Officer, Bernoulli; 10−11 am Thurs. Feb. 14, Room W206A. Highlights technology from Bernoulli.

Improving Sepsis Care with Data Analytics – Allina Health developed and implemented a comprehensive, data-driven approach for early identification and reduced variation in sepsis care. Details: Presented by Mischa Adams, MSN, RN, CCRN, Clinical Standard Coordinator, Allina Health, and Sarah Jenson, MS, Analytics Director, Health Catalyst/Allina Health; 1−2 pm Thurs. Feb. 14, Room W206A. Highlights technology from Health Catalyst.

Patient Experience

Restore Human Connections with Collaboration and Technology – The University of Chicago Medicine designed effective approaches to improve the human experience, collaborating with clinical and information and technology leaders to drive positive human connections and transformative change in healthcare. Details: Presented by Sue Murphy, RN, Chief Experience Officer, University of Chicago Medicine, and Diane M. Rogers, CPXP, ACC President, Contagious Change, LLC; 11:30 am−12:30 pm Wed. Feb. 13, Room W204A. Highlights technology from Vocera.

Population Health and Chronic Condition Management

Enhancing Patient Care with Physician-Driven Documentation – Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s ongoing clinical documentation improvement initiative enables efficient, structured documentation, but also allows the organization to harness patient data to create real-time clinical dashboards for more effective care for patients with chronic disease. Details: Presented by Vinay Vaidya, MD, Vice President and Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Michael Shishov, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Rheumatology; 1:30−2:30 pm Tues. Feb. 12, Room W311A. Highlights technology from Medicomp Systems.

Cracking the Code to Better Quality and Financial Outcomes – Rush Health describes how it used advanced analytics to improve the way it manages risk, resulting in improved patient care and enhanced revenue. Details: Presented by James Grana, PhD, Chief Analytics Officer, Rush Health, and Bala Hota, MD, Chief Analytics Officer, Rush University Medical Center; 1:30−2:30 pm Tues. Feb. 12, Room W206A. Highlights technology from SCIO Health Analytics.

Remote Monitoring Shows Significant Pop Health Benefits – University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Ontario Telemedicine Network utilized remote patient monitoring to improve patient engagement and outcomes for chronic disease management. Details: Presented by Andrew Watson, Vice President, Clinical Information Technology Transformation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and Laurie Poole, Vice President, Clinical Innovation, Ontario Telemedicine Network; 10:30−11:30 am Tues. Feb. 12, Room W315B. Highlights technology from Vivify Health.

Patient-Centered Referral Workflow Automation – Steward Health Care Network automated referral workflows improve efficiency, care coordination and patient satisfaction. Details: Presented by Heather Trafton, PA-C, MBA, Senior Vice President of National MSO Operations, Steward Health Care Network, and Kristin Ottariano, MS, Director of Medicaid Operation; 2:30−3:30 pm Thurs. Feb. 14, Room W206A. Highlights technology from

Doing Well by Doing Good: Finding the ROI Social Care Programs – This invitation-only roundtable focuses on the outcomes and ROI of treating social needs. The session will focus on identifying disconnects in the current system, and the opportunities for innovations in technology and collaboration to play an important role in the solutions. Details: 3−4 pm Tues. Feb. 12, Hyatt Regency, Room Hyatt – Rock Springs II. Highlights key thought leaders from Alliance for Better Health.

Revenue Cycle Management

How Web Bots Freed $20 Million from a Billing Bottleneck – Avera Health improved cash flow by $20 million dollars in its first year, while reducing aged A/R accounts by almost half, after automating claim status follow-up with healthcare insurance companies using AI technology. Details: Mary Wickersham, MHA, Vice President, Central Business Office Services, Avera Health, and Ryan Ayres, Vice President, Product Management, Recondo Technology; 4:15−5:15 pm Tues. Feb. 12, Room W308A. Highlights technology from Recondo Technology.

The Patient Behind the Bill: Creating a More Satisfying Financial Journey – St. Luke’s Health System in Boise fundamentally re-imagined the patient financial journey, creating a personalized experience that offers patients transparency, choice and control over billing obligations while turning bad debt into consistent payments. Details: Presented by Michael Rawdan, Senior Director, Revenue Cycle & Patient Experience, St. Luke’s Health System; 11:00−11:35 am Mon. Feb. 11, Rosen Centre Grand Ballroom D. Part of the HIMSS19 pre-conference Revenue Cycle Solutions Summit. Highlights technology from VisitPay.

Media Contact:
Marcia Rhodes
Ph: 480.664.8412 ext. 15

6 Reasons Why You (and Your Company) Should Participate in National Healthcare IT Week

On this blog we often talk about how to use PR and marketing to help build the brand and drive sales for healthcare and healthcare IT (HIT) products. Most of the time the activities we discuss require some significant effort. But there’s an online event coming up next week that can actually pay big dividends with considerably less of an investment on your part: National Healthcare IT Week. Here’s the skinny…

Who: Thought leaders, Health IT companies and future Healthcare IT entrepreneurs

What: National Healthcare IT Week #NHITweek

When: October 8th – October 12th

Where: Online and locally

Why: It’s easy, relevant, it’s a great cause and great for building trust as a brand

Founded by HIMSS and the Institute for e-Policy, U.S. National Health IT Week (NHIT Week) is a nationwide awareness week focused on catalyzing actionable change within the U.S. health system through the application of information and technology. The week-long event is celebrated through partner-driven, national and local events along with online conversations through social media. It’s easy to get involved, so what’s the holdup?

Social media is often misunderstood as an unnecessary evil, especially in healthcare, but it is an amazing tool that allows you to reach your audience in a way that was never possible before. While developing and maintaining an online community does take time and resources, events like this allow users to reap some of the benefits quickly.

Even if you don’t have an internal social media coordinator or an amazing agency managing your online presence, you can still participate in National Healthcare IT Week and other similar events. Here are six reasons to jump on board if you haven’t already.

  1. Engage with like-minded people and companies. These types of events create a community around the cause. By finding like-minded people you may be able to make beneficial connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
  2. Gain a better understanding of the conversation. Conversations during these events come from a variety of perspectives. It’s common to get stuck viewing the world with tunnel vision by reviewing the same new sites, having favorite writers and viewpoints.
  3. Find new influencers. Participating in events like this including tweet chats are a great way to quickly find people with similar ideals with your company. You might find people experiencing problems you can solve.
  4. Gain trust with your target market. Trust is one of the most important aspects of the customer experience. These events offer a condensed time-frame that allows you to be a part of the conversation. It’s a great opportunity to show other users that your company actually wants to help.  Humanize your brand and spread awareness for the cause.
  5. Stay top of mind. Your competitors are likely participating in these events. Stay top of mind with your prospects and target market. Bonus: you will be top of mind with good sentiment.
  6. Take advantage of scalability. These events allow your organization to really adjust your involvement based on your resources. Participate in every aspect or do what you can with the time you and your team have available.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Become a partner
  • Share on social media
  • Share your story
  • Create or participate in an event locally

Be sure to let us know how you participate in the comments below too!

Rhodes’ Map to Turbocharged Presentations

Rhodes’ Map to Turbocharged Presentations

When it comes to HIMSS Global Conference speaker proposals, Amendola Communications enjoys a 75% win rate. That means that out of 12 speaking abstracts we write and submit on behalf of our clients, nine are accepted.

Quite impressive considering that HIMSS has a less than 30% acceptance rate. In fact, for HIMSS18, 742 proposals were received and only 224 were accepted, which means 518 were declined.

The process is not easy and takes anywhere from 12-16 hours per proposal. If only clients would invest the same time and energy in preparing their presentations! If clients were willing to carve out time for presentation training or coaching before they get up on the stage, here is what I would suggest.

Grab attention. High tech need not be dry tech. Instead of diving right into your presentation, open with a bang with one or more of the following:

  • Startling statistic or statement
  • Rhetorical question
  • Historical analogy or example
  • Quotation
  • Personal anecdote
  • Something specific to your audience
  • Something to make audience feel good about themselves
  • Promise
  • Meme
  • Short story (see example below)
  • Headline from today’s newspaper (show newspaper)

For this last one, I am quoted in the book Presentations for Dummies (as Marcia Lemmons, my former married name) sharing this very tip. I first saw it used by a business development director at Accenture where I worked in the 90’s. The biz dev director would begin his presentation by holding up a fresh copy of USA Today or the Wall Street Journal. He would point to a headline and find a clever way to tie it to his presentation. This had the effect of making his presentation more current, relevant and way more interesting.

Short stories can be impactful if you can deliver them in 30 seconds or less. I saw this technique used very effectively by a Six Sigma Master Black Belt who would tell “The Dolphin Story” to open a workshop on the Voice of the Customer. It went like this:

“During World War II a mythology developed that dolphins love people. It was a myth propagated by sailors who dolphins rescued from drowning by pushing them ashore. A crew decided to set up camp on a ship to observe this first hand. After a few weeks on the ship, they concluded: dolphins don’t love people…they like to push things…the problem is we never hear from the people they push back into sea.”

State the problem or need. Why should the audience care? Spend one to two minutes sharing evidence, data, news reports or personal experience to illustrate the problem or opportunity. Stating the challenge up-front makes the audience uncomfortable enough that they will want to stay to hear your solution. This is referred to as the “tension-relief” technique used by playwrights.

Establish a pattern. Tell the audience what to expect from you in the next hour. Provide a roadmap agenda so they can more easily follow along.

 Presentation patterns can be in the form of:

  • Lists
  • Chronological order
  • Physical location (ex: Europe, Asia, N. America)
  • Extended metaphor
  • Divide a word
  • Before/after
  • Theory/practice
  • Why/how/what
  • Provider/payer/pharma
  • Classic story (three acts)

Share the solution. This is the guts of your presentation; the knowledge or expertise you have been asked to share. Tip: When creating your presentation, you can get a jumpstart by working on this section first then working on your intro, extro and other slides later. You will find your creativity will kick in once you feel confident in what you have to say and can easily build on top of it.

Finish strong! Remind your audience of what they’ve just heard. In this section you can underscore the problem or remind them of what’s worth remembering. What are they supposed to do or change? Tie your closing statements to your opening grabber so the presentation feels whole and complete; you’ve come full circle. Give a clear signal that “We’re done.”

Rethink Q&A…

Many presenters make the mistake of ending their presentation with the audience Q&A. They take questions from the audience and provide answers that they may not have had a chance to prepare for. This is also the section where it is easy for a speaker to lose control of the room. We recommend taking no more than six questions before bringing your presentation to a proper close with a few choice statements. You might even ask and answer your own question at the very end. For example, “One question CIOs almost always ask me is….” Then provide your well thought-out answer.

Making it work

As a society, we don’t just want to be informed. We want to be entertained too. Just look at the news today compared to 30 years ago. As they say, “Educate the best, entertain the rest.”

The same holds true for presentations. The more lively and engaging you make it, the more your audience will be interested in what you have to say. Think through the structure, grab their interest from the beginning, and give them valuable insights they didn’t know before and you’ll keep your audience riveted. Then sit back and enjoy the applause.

And if you need a little help, give us a call!

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.


Time to turn your trade show booth from salesroom to learning lab

Time to turn your trade show booth from salesroom to learning lab

“Be sure to bring back lots of product literature from the trade show,” said…no one ever.

As my colleague Lisa Chernikoff pointed out in a recent blog, people simply don’t go to trade shows to buy your product. They go to learn. But when they approach your booth, what do they see to compel them to stay and learn something new? If you’re drawing a blank, it’s okay. That’s what this blog post is for: to show you some new ways to draw traffic in your booth and impart meaningful information that will “stick” with attendees well after they leave.

Strategy #1: Instead of a banner announcing your product or company, announce that “class is in”

Does your company address patient engagement, value-based care or some other hot concept in healthcare? Consider making your entire booth a class in this concept, with the appropriate banner, such as “Value-Based Care 101” or “Patient Engagement Pop-Up University.” And sure, by all means include “presented by (your company)” or your company logo. But make sure this is the secondary, less prominent message.

Strategy #2: Instead of a demo, offer a class or game

Once you’ve attracted the attendee’s interest with your signage, be sure to make good on its promise. Offer attendees an experience that imparts valuable knowledge to them. Here a customer champion can be recruited to give short 20-minute presentations about their success in addressing the theme of your booth, such as value-based care or patient engagement. To capture leads, have attendees register for the session. Make sure this isn’t a product pitch, though. While some mention of your product can be given, attendees want to hear a real world story from their peer—not an infomercial.

A quiz that asks provocative questions—paired with equally provocative answers—is another effective way to make knowledge (and by extension, your company) “stick” with an attendee.

Even a standard product demo can be upgraded to a more experiential event. In one example, Medicomp, an Amendola client, takes attendees through a virtual experience in the form of a game, which is essentially a 3-minute product preview. It highlights the key capabilities and product features, as well as the streamlined user experience, in the context of winning a prize rather than buying a product. The experience gets attendees interested in learning more and helps to weed out the wrong people so the Medicomp team knows when it’s appropriate to invest time in a full demo.

Strategy #3: Instead of brochures, put out case studies, guides and other learning material

It’s not that product literature doesn’t have its place, but on its own, a brochure is most valuable to pack rats who can’t stand to throw anything away. But as Chernikoff bluntly notes in her blog, even that fate is unlikely.

“Nobody wants your marketing brochure! It will end up in the next trash can even if they take it, and if it makes it back to their room, it will end up in the hotel trash can. They also really don’t want a folder with multiple product one-pagers and a recent press release about your new product,” she writes.

A better idea, Chernikoff continues, is to give attendees material such as case studies that illustrate real-world scenarios while highlighting your unique value proposition. I would add to that guides, how-to’s, checklists and other learning material that, collectively, will make the reader far more knowledgeable on a topic than he or she was before.

Of course, the material should be compellingly written so that it will actually be read—and if you are going to invest in producing this material, it’s wise to also invest in a professional writer to write it.

We’ve created a number of such pieces for various clients to use at their trade shows, including a compilation of “user tips and strategies” for Bayer to hand out at RSNA; a brief on new technology services and trends for the lab for 4medica to distribute at the Lab Confab; and case studies for our client HealthBI to pass out to attendees at a regional conference.

Strategy #4: Instead of cheap tchotchkes, raffle off a quality—and related—prize

In keeping with the educational theme of your booth, how about raffling off a mini-library of interesting books on the topic your booth addresses? (All the better if your company authored one of the books!) You could open up the raffle to anyone, or narrow it down to attendees of your various learning sessions. Be sure to offer to ship some or all of the books for free, as traveling with more than a few will be difficult for most attendees.

Another idea: give attendees a thumb drive titled “Teach Your Own Patient Engagement Class” or “Value-Based Care 102” or something similar that is stocked with educational content.

In conclusion, keep in mind that an educational trade show booth also aligns well with today’s information-hungry buyers. You’ve likely heard that when it comes to big ticket items, most people have made up their mind what they’re going to buy—and from whom–before they actually reach out to a vendor. This is why so many companies have an educational, content marketing strategy in place today, and why it makes sense to take a similar approach with your tradeshow booth. Make it a place of learning—and watch the traffic and good leads follow.

Jodi Amendola Healthcare Radio Now interview

A-Team CEO Jodi Amendola Interview on HealthcareNOW Radio

We’re always excited when one of our own steps out from behind the scenes to grab the spotlight. In this episode of “What’s My Tagline?” from HealthcareNOW Radio, host Carol Flagg interviews Amendola Communications CEO (and self-described HIT Connector) Jodi Amendola. Jodi, of course, was recently named one of PR News’ Top Women in PR for 2017.

Over the course of the 27 minute discussion, Jodi shares her personal story on how she got started in healthcare IT, how Amendola Communications came to be one of the top healthcare IT PR firms in the country, and how the industry has changed from the early days of print, when it could take three months for a story to appear, to the 24 x 7 news cycle of today.

She then goes into detail on how to be successful exhibiting and speaking at HIMSS – including the planning that goes into it and the follow-up needed to maximize the benefits afterward. Jodi also shares some specific examples of how AC clients have been successful in reaching their target audiences, whether those are prospects, journalists, or analysts. The interview ends with Jodi sharing her look ahead to what 2018 will bring. Definitely worth a listen!

Tradeshow Trauma: Why “booth traffic was slow” is a lame excuse and how to prepare for conference success

As a marketing and PR professional who has spent countless hours in tradeshow booths and walked more than 20,000 steps at the HIMSS conference while wearing heels, I’ve experienced both the glory and the defeat of being an exhibitor. And while there is no better feeling than packing up your boxes, tearing down the booth and heading home after a job well done, there is also no greater pain than realizing that your company’s precious time and resources were virtually wasted because your conference strategy fell short.

After every tradeshow, it’s common to speak with exhibitors who complain that “booth traffic was slow” and cite that reason as the root of their conference failure. But let’s be honest — that’s a lame excuse. It’s the easy way out to blame poor performance at the show on exhibit hall organizers rather than reflecting on how your team may be at fault, or at least largely contributed to the problem.

In fact, upon much-needed reflection, those complainers would see that they are likely committing the cardinal sin of tradeshow marketing. They’re only focused on the conference.  They’re not focused on the holistic strategy that enables the smartest, more successful companies to succeed at conferences again and again and again.

To avoid this tradeshow trauma and emerge triumphant in 2018, it’s critical for companies to have a three-pronged approach that includes not just a conference strategy where you show up and wait, but also and even more importantly a pre-conference strategy and a post-conference strategy.

Here are 4 insider secrets to help you get started:

#1 Never rely on booth traffic 

Sure, booth traffic is nice and we all want it but it’s even better to drive traffic to your booth in advance. As savvy marketing professionals know, the best tradeshow marketing strategies start early and establish a regular cadence of communication. Most companies find that implementing a targeted email campaign starting 6 weeks in advance of the show is ideal but some may find that 8 weeks or 4 weeks works best for their audience.

These emails should be geared to both sales prospects to schedule meetings or demos and current clients to have a face-to-face touchpoint and determine cross-sale opportunities. As always, the top-performing emails are brief and targeted to attendees by role and job setting. It’s also best to have a form where attendees can schedule time and then receive a confirmation with a calendar invite. Why is that so important? It gets you on attendees’ calendars before they arrive at the show and are overwhelmed. Also, then your team can send them reminders about the scheduled slot or reach out if they don’t arrive as planned.

#2 Winning is great but winning isn’t everything

Pre-conference email campaigns can also invite attendees to activities in the booth such as speaking events or games instead of just meetings and demos. They can also offer attendees “a chance to win” and highlight big prizes, but they must not rely on the allure of a gimmick alone. There are few too many promotions for your giveaway to break through the noise. A pre-conference strategy that shares quality content, in addition to touting “a trip for 100 around the world” is the safest, most effective way to not only illustrate thought leadership but also to create brand awareness of your company as leader and innovator that offers far more than just a chance to win – but rather real ROI.

#3 Think like an attendee

Spoiler alert for those many hours spent in the booth. Nobody wants your marketing brochure! It will end up in the next trash can even if they take it, and if it makes it back to their room, it will end up in the hotel trash can. They also really don’t want a folder with multiple product one-pagers and a recent press release about your new product. Please note that this realization also spares your marketing team and admin hours of folder stuffing. Yes, you’re welcome.

The big idea here is to remember why attendees are at the conference. Most attendees are there to learn, not to purchase your “ground-breaking, best in class, fully integrated solution.” So, give them what they want like client case studies with real-world insights and thought leadership that demonstrates your knowledge and unique perspective. That’s the true value proposition that won’t get throw in the trash.

#4 Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up 

It’s great to have a successful show, but it’s what companies do afterwards that matters most. It’s all about the follow-up communications, which should include a series of e-blasts, with the first prepared ahead of time and sent within 1-2 days of show close. The post-show e-blast should provide an opportunity to continue to engage with your company by downloading a new piece of content, registering for a webinar, or scheduling a full product demo for their broader team. However, the e-blast is not enough. To see results, it must be complimented by personalized follow-up from the sales team where there is even a small percentage chance of generating new pipeline. Without this timely and dedicated post-show communications, it’s impossible to reap the benefits of your hard work pre-show and at the show.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many people attend the tradeshow. Only that the right people make it to your booth.

Instead of leaving success to chance, put together a three-prong plan that will tip the odds in your favor. It sure beats coming up with lame excuses later.


Should You Bet It All on a Trade Show Launch?

When it comes to product launches, many companies hang their hat on making a big splash at the biggest trade show in their industry. And then they are disappointed.

For those targeting the healthcare IT market, that usually means HIMSS. For those targeting providers, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) show is often cited as a great launching pad.

For payers, it’s the Association of Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute & Expo. For a life science/pharma audience, eyeforpharma Barcelona is a perennial favorite due to the heavy pharma presence in Europe.

But as Caterina Lui of PR Newswire points out on the Beyond PR blog, launching during a big show is not always ideal. And in another Beyond PR post, she provides excellent insights on whether your solution is even truly ready to launch.

One of the biggest drawbacks to launching at such large industry trade shows and conferences is the sheer number of companies who are planning to do likewise. This becomes an even more pronounced challenge if your company is launching a minor upgrade to its platform or app, or if your company is a newcomer or relative unknown in the market.

In both cases, a launch as much as a month or even two months before a trade show can help build momentum going into the show, instead of being crowded out by all the PR noise generated during the show. It allows you a greater opportunity to secure quality time with reporters whose conference schedules (covering educational sessions, filing stories, doing social media posts, etc.) are pretty crammed during the conference. It also allows you to brief analysts at the top firms ahead of the launch.

Here are some other best practices for trade show launches from my Amendola colleagues:

Lisa Chernikoff, Account Director – In the best-case scenario for a product launch at a trade show, you can not only include results and ROI from a beta customer or pilot site in the press release, but also have that client available for an interview at the show (or before or after). Clients speaking about their experience with the product is much more beneficial than company execs talking about features and functionality.

Also, make sure that the new product info highlights not only what it is, but also why it really matters for the target audience. What are the larger implications for the market? How does it relate to industry trends and issues?

Chad Van Alstin, Content & Media Relations Manager – As a former editor, I always found it challenging to cover product launches at trade shows without some kind of prior knowledge. Simply telling me a company was going to announce a product pretty much melded together with all the other launches after a while.

There has to be some kind of teaser or hook – a spoiler that many companies are often hesitant to give away ahead of the show – that is released to the media a week or two in advance. Otherwise, it all just becomes noise after a while, especially with a huge show like HIMSS. I think too many companies rely on the fact that editors will simply want to cover whatever it is the company is doing – but in a market with so many new names added to a long list every year, that’s just never the case. You have to spoil things a little bit in order to drum up interest.

Amy Koehlmoos, Senior Account Director – Leverage the power of social media – create a Twitter campaign around the product launch and use the show’s #hashtag to reach attendees. As with any campaign, frequency is key, but be sure to follow best practices and include plenty of non-promotional tweets to maintain an optimal content mix.

Rich media (images, videos and graphics) will help your tweets stand out above the noise, and don’t be afraid to get creative. People are much more likely to share a clever meme than a picture of a widget.

Stephanie Janard, Senior Writer — If you’re launching a new software solution, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you have to actually demo it. In this era of value-based care, why not stage a demo that shows how life can be better as a result of using your newly launched software or app? Likewise, if you have a tangible, physical product to demo, make a real show of it – preferably with a real-life example. If you can get champion customers on the act, all the better.

So there you have it from the A-Team experts (and PR Newswire). Should you bet it all on a trade show launch or not? It may be a crapshoot, but make sure you evaluate all your options both at the show and in other timeframes before committing your entire marketing budget to the effort. And please share your thoughts below on what you have seen that works well for a product launch – either at, before or after a trade show.