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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.

Jodi Amendola, a PR News ‘Top Women in PR’ Honoree, Appointed to Board of Help In Healing Home Foundation

Award-winning Amendola Communications CEO will take a lead role in driving not-for-profit foundation’s marketing, public relations, and social media efforts

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., October 23, 2018 – Amendola Communications further cemented its reputation as one of the leading public relations, marketing communications, social media and content marketing agencies specializing in healthcare and healthcare IT (HIT) with a focus on giving back with today’s announcement that its CEO Jodi Amendola has been unanimously appointed to the Board of the Help In Healing Home Foundation.

In addition to her personal involvement with the Foundation, which offers low-cost lodging and care to patients (and their caregivers) recovering from major surgeries and transplants as well as those undergoing long-term cancer treatment, Jodi will leverage her team of PR and marketing experts to help execute programs for the Foundation.

Jodi Amendola

Jodi and her agency have won numerous awards, including PR News naming her to its ranking of Top Women in PR for 2017; Amendola Communications’ designation by PR Source Code as a “Best-of-the-Best” PR agency nationwide for several years; and the agency being named as a top Healthcare Agency in Ragan and PR Daily’s Ace Awards.

Jodi has delivered high-impact public relations and marketing campaigns for the healthcare and HIT industries for 30 years. She is an active member of the National Charity League and has served on numerous boards, including AzHIMSS, the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation and the X2 Health network, a non-profit executive women’s health network, DARE NJ, and the Community Resource Council.

“I can honestly say that I have never seen a potential appointee generate so much enthusiastic support,” said Ron L. Jones, president and CEO of the Help In Healing Home Foundation. “Jodi brings an expertise that we have largely lacked up until now, so we look forward to learning from her and taking advantage of her experience and advice. She is also a thoughtful, caring person who brings a tremendous amount of energy into the room. We look forward to working closely with Jodi and her team.”

The Help In Healing Home Foundation is located in long-term leased facilities at the Village at Mayo Clinic, adjacent to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. The complex accommodates up to 84 patients and caregivers in 4,900-square-foot Southwestern-style “casitas” that include amenities such as six private bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room, conversation pit, dining room, full kitchen, library, and laundry room. Despite the quality of its offerings, the Foundation only charges $45 per night—far less than even a budget-priced hotel would charge—while offering access to world-class facilities, clinicians and staff. Most of its residents come from the Southwestern United States, although the Foundation accepts patients from all across the world.

“The Help In Healing Home Foundation does tremendous work in treating not just the bodies, but the spirits, of patients who face long, difficult recoveries from life-altering procedures,” Jodi said. “Most are extra vulnerable to illnesses, so they need to stay in a protected environment. The Foundation helps take isolation and loneliness out of that situation by creating a community that lets patients share experiences and interact with others in similar circumstances while still protecting their health.”

Jodi became aware of the Foundation last year when she and her daughter volunteered there for a National Charity League event. “We had an amazing experience and I am proud to serve as a Board member for such a great organization,” Jodi said. “I look forward to helping them further their mission.”

As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, the Foundation depends on the generous support of private donors to continue its mission. Jodi and her team will develop a marketing plan to help make potential donors aware of the great work the Help In Healing Home Foundation is doing and to drive the communications to help the organization meet and exceed its fundraising goals.

As CEO of one of the largest PR agencies based in the Phoenix area, Jodi was asked to join the Board both as a result of her passion for developing award-winning marketing and publication relations programs for healthcare and HIT, and for her demonstrated commitment to giving back.

She recently served as a judge for the Healthcare Marketing IMPACT Awards sponsored by Advertising Age and Modern Healthcare. Locally in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, she participated in a PERCH panel on go-to-market strategy and sales for hospitals and health systems targeted at health tech start-ups. She also was the featured speaker at a National Charity League spring kick-off meeting, where she shared her entrepreneurial experiences with middle school and high school girls.

About the Help In Healing Home Foundation

The Help In Healing Home Foundation at the Village at Mayo Clinic enables patients recovering from life-altering procedures such as organ, bone marrow, and stem cell transplants as well as cancer patients to enhance their healing process in a secure, warm, and compassionate environment. Its series of 4,900-square-foot Southwestern-style “casitas” can house up to 84 patients and their caregivers while offering a home-like environment that includes individual bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, dining room, library, and conversation pit. As an independent, 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, the Help In Healing Home relies on private donors to continue its mission. For more information or to make a donation, visit: www.helpinghealinghome.org.

Media Contact:
Tara Stultz
Amendola Communications
440.225.9595
tstultz@acmarketingpr.com

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!

Embrace the Paywall Future – Because it’s Coming

For several years now we all have lived in luxury, enjoying free content on the Internet that’s paid for through ads and data mining, with no paywall to contend with. But, as many prominent media outlets have noted, things are beginning to change.

Back in the early days of the Internet (and in the print media era of old), we as consumers paid for the content we wanted to read and watch. With the advent of Adblock Plus – not to mention a reduction in advertising budgets – many news websites and online magazines are going back to subscription business models, unable to maintain profits with optional “premium” services and banner ads alone.

What does this mean for those of us in media relations? It means we’re going to have to set expectations for our clients, educating them on the state of the media. Because like it or not, it does seem more paywalls are popping up, which means public relations and marketing plans have no choice but to adapt.

On its face, things may appear dire – it’s hard to share content on social media and on a personal blog when a link appears behind a paywall. But, there are some positive takeaways to the coming “subscription era” of Internet journalism that could mean more meaningful placements, better quality leads, and superior content than what we’re getting now in the “free and open” era of Internet publication.

Subscribers Read – and Readers are Your Target Audience

I’m a bit of a hipster. So, I still subscribe to a few print magazines. Since I don’t like my money to go to waste, I actually read those magazines, sometimes even cover-to-cover. I also subscribe to a couple newspapers online, and I check them every day, reading the content that’s relevant to me and subscribing directly to the RSS feeds of columns and writers I like the most.

The takeaway here is this: Those who pay for content are more likely to actually read it. Studies have shown most people don’t read the content on their social media feed, often sharing links without even clicking on them. I’ll argue that this is a product of the free content era, wherein the overabundance of choice has rendered us all lost in a sea of noise. While it may be nice to get a social media share or a link click, ultimately what does that really mean in terms of educating the public on your business, thought leaders, and relevant news?

If you ask me, the answer might be “not much.” Too often our metrics for success are superficial, measured in total number of social media shares, clicks, and engagements, even if those engagements are largely the result of bots and humans users who act like bots. But, if someone subscribes to a publication, they are more likely to actually do some reading, because they have a financial stake in supporting that content. That means more meaningful social media shares and readers who actually do – you guessed it – some reading. This translates to real discussion and genuine interest, not just some generic comment and a quick share that’s aimed at strictly producing numbers.

If someone subscribes to an online (or print) magazine, that means they are genuinely interested in the topic. Ideally, when it comes to a media interview or byline that you want read, your target audience is interested. The subscription era means more quality readers, even if the quantity of superficial shares and clicks is reduced.

Building Meaningful Relationships

It’s an unspoken truth of media relations – backs need to be scratched, and sometimes your thoughtful expert source means less than the source from a company who bought an ad. It’s not fair and, quite frankly, it reduces the quality of the content journalists produce, but that’s the reality of for-profit media. Ads are how publications stay in business, at least for now.

As advertising budgets begin to dry up across the board, the “pay-for-play” approach to journalism is harder to navigate for companies looking to get coverage, particularly for smaller startups who are still working to expand and turn a profit.

A positive outcome to a subscription business model means ads will no longer determine who gets an interview, since the primary source of revenue would ideally be subscriptions. Further, “sponsored content” will no longer be a path to regular byline publication. Like in the days of old, sources will be judged based more on merits, and journalists will begin, once again, to seek the stories that are most interesting to them and their readers.

Much as how the subscription model means an increase in quality readers, the same holds true for the content journalists produce. For those in media relations, that means we can build meaningful relationships with journalists for the mutual benefit of providing sources, who in turn get their name and message into stories that are far more genuine than those produced under the guise of advertising.

While free content will likely persist long into the future, the trend seems to be that the best publications are going to put themselves behind a paywall before too long. This will bring challenges, particularly when it comes to sharing content on company blogs and in social media feeds. In time, content producers and social media users will undoubtedly adapt to these changes and find workarounds, since sharing is the key to more exposure. I think this problem will ultimately solve itself, though admittedly things won’t be as straightforward as they are presently.

Sure, it may seem strange now to imagine an Internet where all content isn’t free, but it’s coming. And there are positive aspects to this transformation that could benefit everyone involved in the media placement chain, from thought leaders to journalists and those of us in between.  One thing is for certain, it’s best to embrace this future instead of combatting it – because those who are prepared will be best equipped to navigate the changing landscape and find success. One thing is for certain: Subscription models do not signal the end of journalism, which means media relations will continue to play an important role in earning placements.

Hashtag Misuse

Only You Can Prevent Hashtag Misuse

Do your research. Or end up with #EGG on your face.

hash·tag: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it.

Communication has and will continue to evolve. It is a powerful tool when used correctly, and social media has taken communication to new heights. Now, we can reach beyond our own networks to communicate, discover and assemble instantly.  However, a tool is only as powerful as its operator.

Though each social network has its own way of displaying posts under a certain hashtag, and their own algorithms for specifying trending content, these rules tend to hold true in general across each social channel. Follow them and you too can prevent hashtag misuse.

Only you can prevent hashtag misuse

Amendola Communications Honored as a Top Healthcare Agency in Ragan and PR Daily’s Ace Awards

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., May 22, 2018Amendola Communications, a nationally recognized, award-winning healthcare and healthcare IT (HIT) public relations and marketing agency, announced today that it has added another accolade from the PR industry. The agency was recently recognized in the overall Healthcare Agency category in Ragan and PR Daily’s Ace Awards 2017.

The Honorable Mention award is just the latest national recognition for the agency, which provides a full range of PR and marketing services, including media and analyst relations, messaging, media training, content development and management, social media, digital and online marketing, collateral development, website design and content creation, crisis management, strategic counsel and other services.

“We have received many awards focused on specific campaigns, but we’re especially proud of this award from Ragan and PR Daily because it recognizes the agency as a whole – our work, how we operate, our development of a high-performance team and culture, and the results we generate for clients,” said Jodi Amendola, CEO of Amendola Communications. “We’ve lived and breathed healthcare technology for nearly two decades and, as a result, have developed a team of healthcare veterans with the experience, connections and creativity to drive meaningful business results for businesses of all sizes, whether they’re early-stage startups or established public companies.”

The Ace Awards honor individuals, in-house teams and agencies in communications and marketing. Entrants represent the most talented and innovative thinkers across a variety of industries.

Media Contact:
Marcia Rhodes
Amendola Communications
480.664.8412 ext. 15
mrhodes@acmarketingpr.com

When a social media crisis strikes, what do you do?

Imagine this: after weeks of planning then pouring time and resources into your social media efforts you are starting to see results. You are gaining new followers and engaging with potential customers. Your efforts are clearly working and just when everything seems like sunshine and rainbows, there it is, loud and proud hate mail plastered on your front page and quickly gaining likes, shares and similarly-frustrated commenters. What do you do?

Take a deep breath.

Let’s face it, no one is lining up for their chance to deal with negative comments on social media. But, with the right plan of action in hand, dealing with these problems doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a great opportunity to learn more about your customers and engage with them at a critical point in the buyer’s journey.

When something negative about your company starts gaining traction you need to determine if it is a crisis that needs attention from more people or if it is a small problem that can be solved. If there is something negative about your company that is well-known and commonly addressed, it’s probably not a crisis. There is likely already a protocol for how to deal with this type of regular negativity within your PR or sales department. However, if there is something new about your product or company stirring up serious attention on social media it might be time to dive in and handle the crisis!

Phone a friend

If you are managing the social account or if you are personally invested in the subject of the negativity it’s a good idea to ask a colleague or your agency for some advice. Being removed from the situation helps when looking for the right approach to take.

Not everyone has the same sense of humor. It’s good to run your response by someone else to make sure your response won’t be taken the wrong way. While sometimes taking the low road may work in your favor, such as the social media sass-master at Wendy’s, it’s usually best to take the high road and be polite.

Avoid sounding defensive

Whenever something negative happens on social media it is easy to take it personally. Your first reaction will be to react in a defensive manner. Let’s say someone commented on your company site saying that you never provide xyz, when in fact you do. Well, of course you want tell the commenter they are wrong! However, that’s not going to get you many brownie points from your audience. What goes online stays online and can spiral quickly.

It’s like sending a snarky email to a coworker and then seeing they forwarded the email to a large group. *Insert big gulp* Remember that whatever you put out there can be interpreted and then shared in a way you didn’t originally intend.

Never reply to online reviews defensively and two years later like the screenshots above. As cringe-worthy as these comments are, it’s easy to go into defensive mode without a plan in place.

Let’s say one customer leaves a nasty review about your company or product. Then customer 2 comes along and reads the review. If you respond to customer 1 with compassion and show a willingness to listen to their feedback or fix the problem, you can turn that review into something positive for customer 2 to see. Instead of winding up on a blog post about what not to do when responding to negative reviews. 

Take swift action

Negative comments and mentions on social media need to be handled in a timely manner and with care, just like a positive comment. Whenever possible, get ahead of the problem and address it before there is a chance for the comment to gain momentum.

When possible be proactive in avoiding potentially offensive or misinterpreted posts. When a national crisis or traumatic event happens hit pause on your social queue. Review posts before unfortunate timing can make your company seem obtuse.

Fix the problem

Do your best to fix the problem at hand when you have the opportunity. Don’t make any promises unless you know you can follow through. Show everyone that you are a company that listens to customers’ needs. After all they are the ones using your product or service. Most angry comments and reviews online stem from a need to be heard.

Fix the problem without escalating the frustration of the user when possible. Asking for more information and show a willingness to work through the problem if necessary. Offer to take the conversation to private message or offline. 

Admit when you’re wrong

Mistakes will happen. Own up to them and diffuse the situation quickly. It’s better to admit you are wrong compared to letting someone else point out your flaws. Addressing the problem immediately shows your company is actively searching for a solution and aware when things go wrong. You may even be rewarded for your honesty.

 

Has a social media crisis ever happened to you? Comment with your story or questions!

 

 

 

iN2L Returns to Amendola Communications and Expands Public Relations and Content Program

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Aug. 29, 2017 – Amendola Communications, an award-winning healthcare marketing and public relations agency, announced today that It’s Never 2 Late (iN2L), the leader in providing person-centered engagement, content and technology solutions for seniors, has selected Amendola Communications as its agency of record. Amendola will provide a range of public relations and content services that promote iN2L as a pioneer and innovator whose mission is to make life worth living for older adults by enabling them to connect, engage and enjoy life leveraging technology.

Previously, iN2L engaged Amendola to elevate its social media presence. The firm successfully executed a program that generated the following results for iN2L in the first six months: 28% new page likes on Facebook; 17% new Twitter followers and 30% new LinkedIn connections.

“I have always been impressed with the Amendola team’s in-depth knowledge of the healthcare IT, long-term care and resident/patient engagement space, as well as their strong commitment to results-oriented client service,” said Tom Bang, chief executive officer of iN2L. “They proactively hit the ground running with several earned article placements in tier one press, multiple media interviews, and strategic guidance from a team of six senior level executives. We’re delighted to be working with them again.”

iN2L works with over 2,000 senior living communities – including independent living, assisted living, nursing homes and adult day programs – in all 50 states and three countries. iN2L integrates the hardware, software and media with personalized educational and therapeutic content necessary to allow virtually any person with any interest in using a computer, regardless of background, physical or intellectual abilities, to do so pleasurably, engagingly and without frustration.

“A repeat client is a testament to the value we bring to our partnerships,” said Jodi Amendola, CEO of Amendola Communications. “We look forward to advancing iN2L’s mission in the marketplace and to working once again with industry leaders, Tom Bang and Jack York.”

Amendola Communications will provide public relations and marketing communications services, including social media programming, strategic counsel and media relations. The agency will also be responsible for delivering a range of content demonstrating the thought leadership and expertise of iN2L’s subject matter experts, including bylined articles, blog posts, press releases and other communication materials.

About It’s Never 2 Late
It’s Never 2 Late® (iN2L) develops digital engagement technology for senior living community residents, with over 2,500 installations in the United States and Canada. The company’s picture-based, touchscreen interface provides easy connectivity to the Internet, regardless of users’ physical and cognitive abilities. iN2L’s media library offers 4,000 social, educational, spiritual and gaming content options. For more information, visit www.in2l.com.

About Amendola Communications

Amendola Communications is an award-winning national public relations, marketing communications, social media and content marketing firm. Named one of the best information technology (IT) PR firms in the nation by PRSourceCode for four years running, Amendola represents some of the best-known brands and groundbreaking startups in the healthcare and healthcare IT industries. Amendola’s seasoned team of PR and marketing pros delivers strategic guidance and effective solutions to help organizations boost their reputation and drive market share. For more information about the PR industry’s “A Team”, visit www.acmarketingpr.com, and follow Amendola on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Media Contact:

Marcia Rhodes, Amendola Communications, 480.664.8412 ext. 15 / mrhodes@acmarketingpr.com

Your Brand: What Healthcare Can Learn from Disney and Keen Shoes

It takes years to build brand equity, and just an instant to tarnish it. The best brands know the brand must drive every interaction with stakeholders, including investors, the media and the public. Failing to “lead with the brand” may result in lost opportunities to create loyal ambassadors.

One crucial make-or-break moment for many brands is how they respond to customer complaints.

For retail companies, this should be Brand 101. Healthcare companies, meanwhile, are only now starting to consider patients as consumers, due in part to the greater share of the cost of care being borne by patients through higher deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance.

As patient/consumers have more “skin in the game”, demand is rising for a consumer experience that is more like what the best retail companies offer. Healthcare companies would do well to pay attention to best practices—and pitfalls–across the retail industry. So here is a “Tale of Two Brands”.

Recently, my friend Eric and I had wildly different experiences with two popular consumer brands.

First, my experience: I bought a set of pajamas from disneystore.com featuring the character Maui from the Moana film. When my toddler saw the pajamas, he squealed “You’re Welcome!” (Maui’s signature phrase) with delight. But the shorts and the top were two different sizes, and the bottom was too small. Here’s what happened next:

Great example of putting the brand first

Within an hour, Brandon had turned a customer with a complaint into a brand ambassador, offering to send another pair of pajamas, no questions asked. I did share my positive experience with friends and “Mom” networks. Also, Brandon suggested that I donate the mismatched pair of pajamas to “spread the Disney magic”, and since I have such a great feeling abut the company, I’m happy to do so. In fact, my opinion of the company is considerably higher than before I ever had this complaint.

Contrast this with my friend Eric’s experience with a popular shoe brand that was initially less than “keen” about replacing a pair of sandals that had ripped apart after a couple of months. This pair was a replacement for a first pair of sandals that broke after just a few weeks. The company has a one-year warranty in place, but they initially refused to honor it, saying it doesn’t cover replacement items. Here’s Keen’s initial response to Eric’s warranty claim:

Hello Eric,
Your warranty claim #WKUS0181563ES has been denied.

KEEN’s warranty program covers manufacturing and materials flaws for one year on original items purchased from KEEN authorized retailers. This warranty does not extend to items that were purchased from www.keenfootwear.com with promo codes awarded to satisfy previous warranty claims. 

We have included a discount code for www.keenfootwear.com below as an accommodation. Promo Code: WR-HP53-MZDP-L4Discount: 20%

Brad KEEN Warranty Specialist

Brad, Thank you for your response. I’m disappointed, frankly. What I’m seeing in your policy is that your company wants the benefit of SAYING you offer a warranty, without actually standing behind your products. Would it really cost you THAT much to make this right for someone (me) that really wants to be your customer?? I believe that your company can do better. Who can I talk to that has the power to make this right for me? Regards, Eric

Eric, You are certainly welcome to contact the KEEN Fan Services supervisor or manager at 866.676.5336 to plead your case. We stand by our inspector’s verdict on this claim and cannot offer any additional accommodation for this pair. Our warranty terms and conditions state quite clearly that items obtained with warranty promo codes from previous claims are not eligible for replacement consideration. The warranty department at KEEN considers this matter closed and we apologize for any inconvenience that this causes you. Best regards, Brad KEEN Warranty Specialist 

Eric then started posting on his own Facebook page about his experience, with photos of the broken shoes. Then he reached out to the Keen Facebook page. Finally, four days later, the head of customer service reached out to Eric, asking him to order a new pair of his choosing to replace the ripped sandals.

Assuming this next pair is good quality, Eric says he’ll remain a Keen customer. But his opinion of the company is damaged by the experience. It’s a tremendous missed opportunity because—though Keen doesn’t know it—Eric is an outdoor educator who interfaces with hundreds of kids (and their parents) each year.

He runs a Pioneer camp in Florida which couldn’t be more “on brand” for Keen, as both emphasize the joys of “unplugging” and enjoying nature. Moreover, Keen has a enlisted a number of brand ambassadors who each “represents a convergence of KEEN’s values and interests”. Eric would be a great addition to that group. But, initially, Keen’s customer service operation failed to lead with the brand, and didn’t take the time to understand its customer and his concerns. Instead, it stuck to a blanket rule, and referenced Eric as a warranty claim number, not as the brand fan he was before the incident.

So, what can healthcare companies learn from this Tale of Two Brands?

1. Speed matters

Resolving a problem quickly is a key to maintaining brand loyalty. Disney is known for their lightning quick responses to customer problems, and my experience was no exception. Brandon responded to my query within an hour, while Eric had to wait four days before getting a satisfactory response from Keen. Now, to be fair, Disney is a much, much larger company, with many more employees, so it’s understandable that Keen’s response would take longer. Unfortunately, Eric did receive an initial response quickly, but the response did not seek to understand or resolve his problem.

2. Personalize the response

Disney was able to mail me a new set of pajamas with nothing more than my Facebook name and town. They knew exactly who they were talking to, when I had bought the pajamas, what size, and my address. This kind of sophisticated contact center is rare. But smaller organizations can ask questions to get the personal information and understand the particular needs of the customer, rather than refer to a warranty claim number, which was off-putting in Eric’s case.

3. Empower employees

Disney’s approach to gaining and maintaining brand equity is to give employees the power to solve problems, not to just enforce the rules and say no. Once someone higher up the chain at Keen understood that Eric was not trying to game the warranty system, but in fact had TWO pairs of shoes fail in the space of weeks or months, the company agreed to replace the shoes. But if Brad—Eric’s first contact at the company–was empowered to ask the details of the story, and then respond based on the specific situation, it could have been resolved more quickly and positively

4. Ask your critics to be your fans

Since my Disney issue was resolved so quickly, I immediately offered to share my experience. But Brandon asked me to go one step further and share the replaced pajamas – which were good quality, but simply mismatched sizes. This may give the company the opportunity to earn another fan who becomes a customer in the future. It’s clear, at Disney, that the public relations and brand teams drive all interactions with the public. This creates a unified, top-to-bottom messaging experience, applied to anyone who interfaces with the company. Keen still has the opportunity to turn Eric into a brand ambassador. A great PR operation might seize this chance to engage Eric and his campers, since the camp and company missions are aligned. They could, for instance, give sandals to a small group of kids, then take photos of the campers for the Keen website or other marketing collateral.

The takeaway for healthcare

Healthcare organizations can become more like the best consumer brands by taking a proactive approach to patient complaints and concerns. By responding quickly to patient concerns, seeing patients as individuals, empowering staff to solve problems and asking newly-satisfied patients to refer their family and friends, healthcare organizations can help to create and retain brand equity. This, in turn, can help drive up patient satisfaction scores, which can have a positive impact on the bottom line, in new value-based care arrangements.