Over this Thanksgiving weekend the Black Friday/CyberMonday news stories were drowned out by a minor story involving a visible and popular celebrity, Tiger Woods. There have already been more than 21,000 stories written on the topic as of this morning.
In today's celebrity and athlete driven news culture this incident was going to garner headlines no matter what, but in my opinion Tiger has made two key communications failures with regards to this incident.
Failure #1: He forgot crisis communication rule #1: Tell the truth, tell it completely and tell it quickly. Do any of us know if what he has said so far is true? No. Only Tiger and Elin do. But he has rescheduled interviews with the local police multiple times. Each time he cancels is another news hook that keeps this story and speculation alive. Have the meeting. Postponing the police interview three times is not putting an issue to bed. Get the unpleasant news out of the way and move on. If you know unpleasant news is going to get out - being proactive shortens the cycle and gives you a chance to shape the agenda instead of ceding the initiative to others.
Failure #2: Response speed: He issued a statement approximately 40+ hours after the crash. This is a long time to wait in today's news cycle and let the rumors he cautions against multiply and spread. Mike McDougall, VP of corporate communications and public affairs at Bausch & Lomb, recently commented to me that the 24 hour news cycle is now the 24 minute, or 24 second news cycle. Advil and other consumer companies have learned you need to respond quickly. Tiger (or his counsel) should have been out in front sooner. While a video podcast on YouTube (a la JetBlue) is probably not the way to go, a quicker response was essential.
To recap, all brands and organizations need to keep in mind key rules for crisis communications: Respond promptly, even if you do not want to. Respond quickly and accurately.
The Butterball Turkey hot line scene from "The West Wing" is one of my all-time favorites.
Talk about a promotion homerun. The President of the United States (albeit fictional) is calling your hotline.
I always thought that the Butterball Turkey hot line was a phenomenal marketing idea. Certainly Butterball is providing a service, but no doubt the return Butterball has received from a branding perspective far outweighs the cost.
I wondered, has Butterball expanded the Turkey hot line concept onto the Web?
With a few clicks, I found a special Turkey Talk-Line(R) website and a unique hotline email address. I also noticed that Butterball provides biographies on each of their hotline experts. That's a nice touch. The hot line seeks to make the Butterball brand more human, and putting faces and bios on the website only accentuates this quality. I do wonder, however, if the hotline experts actually wear their blue aprons when they stand at the ready to answer phones.
I was initially disappointed not to find a special Butterball Talk-Line Twitter account. Butterball has an account, but not the Talk-Line. On reflection, though, Twitter might not be the best channel for fielding Turkey cooking questions. Why would you go to Twitter if you can pick up the phone or write an email?
I also noticed that the Talk-Line does have a mobile strategy. You can text the word "Turkey" to 36888 and get weekly Turkey cooking tips. They even say on the site that there's a maximum of three text messages per week during the peak turkey-cooking period of the year, in case one is worried about their phones buzzing too many times.
Overall, and not surprisingly, Butterball has nicely enhanced its Talk-Line service with the web and emerging social media channels. Would today's "West Wing" episode have the President firing off an email instead of picking up the phone? While I love the option, the original West Wing scene is just too funny to change.
From all of us at Schwartz, we wish you and your family a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!
Xconomy.com, the online publication covering the innovation economy, is hosting a cloud computing forum on Thursday, December 10. Called "Cloud Cubed: Cloud Computing Goes Exponential," the event is at the Microsoft New England R&D Center at 1 Memorial Drive in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
For full disclosure, Schwartz Communications is an underwriter of the event, and with good reason. Schwartz has helped to raise the profiles of several of the most successful business software and data center software companies.
As a preview to December's event, I made a phone call to Wade Roush, chief correspondent at Xconomy.com. We chatted about the cloud computing "phenomenon" and the strong line up of speakers at the forum. A partial transcript is below, and you can listen to the entire interview by using the audio widget at the very end of this post.
Ross: Wade, I don’t know, obviously through your history in journalism you’ve seen a lot of phenomena in technology. Have you ever seen a phenomenon like cloud computing that has attracted so much attention over the last several months, you know at the same time it seems like no one really knows exactly what it is?
Wade: It is a lot like these other waves of jargon that periodically crash over the IT world, definitely. I mean I think it’s a legitimate question for people to say “Hey wait a minute, is there anything really new here or is this just sort of the latest version of what people were calling, you know ASP, Application Service Providers, in the past.” There have been other words around this idea of outsourcing your computing power and your computing needs to off premises equipment. You know the idea of having somebody else pay for or buy the actual equipment that you need and the storage that you need, rather than having to invest in those things yourself has been around throughout this whole decade. I think the term cloud computing is one that only kind of came together maybe two years ago, 2 and a half years ago, so I think it’s legitimate to ask how real it is and how much hype there is to it and how much substance there is to it. But when you get a bunch of people together all in the same room talking about it the way we’re going to doing in December and they all agree there’s something to this, that it’s more than just hype, that the term actually has some real meaning to it and cloud computing most importantly is really different in some ways from everything that’s gone before. You know I think that’s a sign that people really do need to pay attention and entrepreneurs need to know what cloud computing is really about in order to stay competitive and take advantage of the great capabilities that it does offer.
Ross: What I really like about cloud computing is it’s really a kind of level-headed or common sense approach to IT. What I mean by that is really it is fundamentally about doing more with what you have, maximizing IT resources. The concept is based, to some extent, on virtualization. Do we see this as an approach that is catching on a lot of extent because people are constantly looking to do more with less? Is that a fair assessment?
Wade: Absolutely, obviously in this economy to use those famous words “in this economy” everyone’s looking for ways to reduce their capital expenditures and get more work done with less and virtualization is wonderful because it lets you make full use of the hardware you did invest in rather than buying one server to run one program all day long. You know you’re actually soaking up the excess processing capacity by loading many different programs that might even be running on different operating systems onto the same server. Or you’re yoking servers together so they can act in concert. You really are using your resources to the fullest extent and cloud computing centers, where the actual processing is happening are definitely heavily virtualized, so that’s where the technology comes together with cloud computing.
But what I think what’s great about the cloud is that its not just making better use of you local resources, it’s really about being able to get jobs done without having any local resources at all. You really can off load, depending on what kind of business you’re running, you can off load practically everything you do, to Google or Amazon Web services or one of these other providers. And there are going to be panelists attending the Cubed event, talking about how they do exactly that. One that comes to mind is Pixily, for example, a local company that is in the business of digitizing people’s paper documents and putting them online so that you can basically get all of your tax records, or all of your receipts or all of your medical records together in one place online and throw away the paper versions so that you don’t have to have files and folders and boxes full of stuff anymore. And the only part they do locally is scanning the documents. Everything else happens on the cloud and as such they were able to scale up without having to buy a single space of big iron, which is just amazing if you think about it.
Ross: Right, let’s talk a little bit more about the actual panel itself because I know you were instrumental just in terms of the areas that you cover for Xconomy for identifying a lot of the panelists that comprise the event itself. It looks like there’s a nice mixture of the venture capital community in terms of folks that are monitoring some of the trends as well as some of the cloud services themselves, and also some other technologies that are important for cloud computing to happen in the right way. Maybe just walk us through some of the headliners that are at the event.
Wade: Sure, absolutely. So one of the cool things about, just to brag a little bit about Xconomy in the way that we do business. We are both a media company and an events company and the two things turned out to be very synergistic. As a personal side, I’m one of these people who loves to just report and write and be just heads down, and when I joined Xconomy I was a little bit skeptical about this hybrid model where we do events and write stories was really going to work, but it turns out that the two things are extremely complementary because the stories I’ve been writing about cloud computing or whatever the subject may be, are the stories that bring me in contact with some of the smartest people around town, and then I’m able to reach out and invite those same people to our events.
Every time we have an event I meet more people who I eventually end up writing about. So it’s a virtuous circle here and we are going to be featuring quite a few people at the Cloud Cubed event who have already turned up in the pages of Xconomy in one way or another, so there are folks from the sort of startup end of things, people who are building companies that either provide some variety of cloud service or cloud add-on or companies that are making use of the Web, sorry you said the cloud, like Pixily for the infrastructure of their business. And we’ve got people who represent the really big enterprise end of things. We’ve got companies like Akamai and Microsoft, and of course, given the strength of the Boston area and venture technology investing, we’ve definitely have some folks from that world as well and other parts of the ecosystem so its going to be a great day; a lot of different types of people on one hand debating what the cloud really is. And most importantly what are sort of the nuts and bolts, what’s the situation right now in this day and age with the options available to entrepreneurs who are thinking about how to get on the cloud, what market niches are open to entrepreneurs who are thinking about new cloud services.
Ross: This certainly should make for a great event. Wade Roush, the chief correspondent at Xconomy.com, thanks so much for joining us today.
Wade: My pleasure Ross, thanks so much.
Ross: And the event is called "Cloud Cubed: Cloud Computing Goes Exponential." It’s being hosted and managed by Xconomy.com and it will be at the Microsoft New England R&D Center, 1 Memorial Drive, in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday, December 10 starting at 8:30 in the morning and running till just after noon, 12:30. Thank you all for joining.
To listen to the audio interview, use the widget below:
The New York Times ran a short piece by Steve Lohr yesterday that highlighted a new study led by two doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital.
The study compared 3,000 hospitals at various stages of implementing and using electronic health records (EHRs). For those who see EHRs as a panacea for the healthcare system, the initial findings are disappointing. To quote from Lohr’s story: “In the heart failure category, for example, the hospitals with advanced electronic records met best-practice standards 87.8 percent of the time; those with basic computer records, 86.7 percent; and those without, 85.9 percent. The differences in other categories were similarly slender.
“Reducing the length of hospital stays, according to many experts, should be a big money-saving payoff from electronic health records — as better care aided by technology translates into less time spent in hospitals. For hospitals with full-featured digital records, the average length of stay was 5.5 days; for those with basic computer records, 5.7 days; and those without, 5.7 days. The differences, Dr. Jha said, were ‘really, really marginal.’”
So, at least by these two measures the return on the use of EHRs so far is pretty meager. But, as the study authors point out, the evidence for gains from EHRs so far has come from an “elite” group of high-performing providers that have spent years adapting to the technology. No surprise, with just 20 percent of U.S. physicians now using computerized health records (and less than 5 percent in very small practice groups) there’s a long way to go to meet the federal EHR usage goals, despite the financial incentives in the HITECH portion of the 2009 ARRA stimulus package.
That’s a macro view. But if you take a micro view, there are some stunning successes in the use of EHRs to improve physicians’ practice operations and patient care. Twice this year I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a presentation by Dr. Jim Morrow, formerly of the North Fulton Family Medicine Center. Dr. Morrow presented at HIMSS 2009 in Chicago, and a few weeks ago he presented at the HIMSS and Massachusetts Health Data Consortium Healthmart 09 conference in Worcester. Massachusetts. Morrow is a compelling presenter and he tells a detailed story about his small medical practice group implementing and using EHR technology, going back almost 10 years. Here are his slides.
To summarize some of the ROI from his four-physician practice:
Transcription costs dropped from $110,000/year to zero
Chart handling dropped from $30,000/year to zero
Chart searches dropped from $16,000/year to zero
Dictation dropped from $32,000/year to zero
Reduced cost per patient visit from $112 to $79
Full time employees per provider dropped from 4.7 to 2.8
Morrow estimates that EHR technology saved the practice 11,440 billable staff hours per year, which could go into serving more patients. His presentation has some compelling images of unreadable handwritten prescriptions next to clear, legible e-prescriptions – a key part of reducing medical errors.
Now, none of this is new. EHR vendors, HHS officials, Dr. David Blumenthal and many others have been pushing for widespread EHR adoption for years. And it’s not that surprising that a study would find that so far the measureable benefits are not compelling across the entire U.S. hospital system. But EHRs will help transform healthcare and it’s only a matter of time.
This study is like taking a snapshot of internet-enabled e-commerce in 1996. What looked like hype back then is now a critical underpinning of our economy. Many people have invoked the so-called Metcalfe’s Law (ie.: the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of users) first postulated about communications networks, as something that will come into play as EHR usage reaches critical mass. Let’s hope that’s the case, and the findings of this new Mass General study are simply a realistic progress check.
Last week analyst Sean Corcoran of Forrester Research led off a social media roundtable hosted by Schwartz Communications in our Boston office and moderated by agency vice president John Moran. The roundtable also included three marketers from high tech and healthcare companies who shared their real world experiences implementing social media techniques integrated with their PR programs.
Social media is very real and marketers need to pay attention to it. According to Corcoran, four out of five online Americans now participate in social media each month. While marketers are optimistic about social media, Forrester found that it’s still only a fraction of budgets, with three-quarters of marketers budgeting $100,000 or less to social media marketing annually.
Having said all this, Corcoran cautioned against “Shiny Object Syndrome” when thinking about social media. If you’ve told your agency, “We need a social media program,” without knowing exactly how social media will help you meet your marketing goals, you’ve been infected with Shiny Object Syndrome – the pursuit of social media because it’s the latest marketing buzzword.
Corcoran advised that marketers resist Shiny Object Syndrome and instead assess their needs so they can adopt social media approaches that make sense. He recommended an approach he calls POST:
People – Assess your customers’ social activities
Objectives – Decide what you want to accomplish
Strategy – Plan for how relationships with customers will change as you engage in social media
Technology – Decide which social technologies to use
He also advised that marketers start small with social media and get some successes under their belts before expanding into new areas. At the same time, recognize that social media is a long-term strategy, not a campaign that you can turn on and off.
Andrew Levitt, founder and CEO of HealthTalker, recommended that marketers start with a strategy, not a social media strategy. Set specific goals and objectives. If a community exists where you can join the conversation, then join in, but if not, create your own.
Mary Pietrowski, director of consumer & e-marketing for Hologic, another Schwartz client, showed a great example of building community. Hologic created Voices of Mammosite to educate women about the advantages of partial breast irradiation as a treatment for breast cancer. The videos on the site profile women who’ve survived breast cancer, speaking directly to other women about their experiences. It’s a fascinating site and an award-winning social media program.
Matt Hines, marketing communications manager at CoreSecurity, brought a B2B perspective to the round table. Blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn are all key technologies that have helped CoreSecurity engage with customers and prospects. For instance, he noted that blogs are a great medium when you want to comment about major news in your market, like the acquisition of a competitor, without formally issuing a release.
Click here to download a PDF file of the presentations given by our speakers. Browse through the Schwartz blogs for more ideas about how to use social media in your PR program at www.schwartz-pr.com/blogs.
Let me start out by saying there's no question that social media has a place in technology PR and any company should look to their tech PR agency for social media expertise. We advise all of our clients about social media. Depending on the audience they are trying to reach and the message they would like to promote, we incorporate appropriate social media tactics into our efforts.
A side project I have been working on is to determine how social media PR can stand on its own---What results can one expect from purely social media tactics?
One premise I can investigate fairly easily---but that is not immediately apparent in conversations I have with colleagues---is that social media is driven in a major way by coverage that is written by professional journalists. Consider the launch of Microsoft Windows 7. Not sure what day Microsoft actually made the announcement? One way to find out is to evaluate social media coverage of Microsoft over the past month.
I created the chart below using Radian6, a social media monitoring tool that Schwartz is now using quite regularly. The red line charts, on an ongoing basis, social media coverage of "Microsoft" and "7." Can you guess, based on this chart, when Microsoft issued the press release announcing Windows 7, and saw the corresponding wave of coverage about the new O/S?
The blue line represents social media coverage that included a link, meaning the coverage was inspired by something else that was written. I am making a big assumption that most of those links refer to media coverage. Don't worry, my research is just starting, and I plan to investigate this more thoroughly.
A few things strike me about this graph. The social media coverage that refers to something (presumably coverage by professional journalists) tracks nearly identical to the overall social media coverage for Microsoft. This would suggest a direct link between coverage by journalists and social media placements. Also, you will notice that there was no uptick in social media activity after the Windows 7 launch. Social media coverage continued to track to coverage by journalists. And, in fact, you will see that social media activity has recently significantly tailed off.
If social media is an animal to itself, why didn't social media coverage continue to rise after the news came out? Where's the viral effect?
Again, there's no question social media is important to tech PR. There are campaigns Schwartz has led where social media proved highly effective in creating visibility while contacting journalists proved futile. It depends on what a company is trying to promote and the audience they are trying to reach. At the same time, the process of contacting reporters and getting them to cover news is a fundamental element to any social media program.
Xconomy is hosting a forum this Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the state of the pharmaceuticals industry. Ahead of the event, I interviewed Luke Timmerman, national biotechnology editor at Xconomy. You can listen to the entire interview by scrolling to the bottom of this post and clicking on the embedded player. A partial transcript is below.
Full disclosure: Since Schwartz Communications has a track record in pharma pr, the Agency is an underwriter for the event. If you are planning to go, we look forward to seeing you there.
The event is scheduled for Wednesday, November 4, 2009 from 2:00 till 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Mass.
Ross: There’s a little bit of a synopsis on the Xconomy.com website about this event next week. What is the current state, in your estimation, of the big pharma industry in the United States?
Luke: Well the big story for big pharma for a number of years has been this patent cliff that their facing over the next few years. The latest estimate that I’ve seen is that something like $137 billion worth of drug revenue is going to be subject to generic competition. So that’s a big segment of the industry that’s going to go away, and so they need to come up with new drugs to fill up their pipeline. And the big companies through various mega mergers have had a hard time doing that and so they’ve been looking to do more partnerships, more venture investing, forming all kinds of relationships with smaller biotech companies that have a lot of innovative things that might be able to light a spark in their pipeline.
Ross: In terms of regions of the country, I know that you’re based on the west coast, but Boston has always been an area that has fostered a lot of innovation within the pharma industry. Is that a fair assessment?
Luke: Oh, absolutely. It’s got the kind of core academic strength with all the great institutions there: Harvard, MIT, MGH, etc. And a lot of the big pharma companies for probably the last 10 years have been setting up research centers in the Boston area to put their own scientists close to a lot of that academic activity, hoping that some of it might rub off, you know when they attend seminars and events. But we’re seeing even more, we’re seeing new trends actually, in terms of increased activity with pharma companies investing in biotech and doing more partnerships with a lot of the biotech companies that are there in Boston as well.
Ross: I know that you’re going to be actually in Cambridge, Massachusetts (right next to Boston) next week for this forum. As an attendee coming to the forum, what would be kind of your expectation of a good question to ask of the panelists? What do you expect to see next week at this forum?
Luke: I think people will want to know about what technologies actually can improve the success rate in drug development. This is one of the big problems, even despite all of the information that we have from the genome and various technologies that you read about. The fact remains that about only one out of every 10 drugs that enters clinical trials ever makes it all the way trough FDA approval. And a lot of effort is going into determining which patients are more likely to respond to certain therapies. So I think that a lot of people want to know what can pharma do to really increase its success rate in development, which in turn ought to bring down the cost of development and make them just a lot more efficient.
Ross: You know one of the things that I love about these events, you know I was at the XSITE event that happened back in June at Boston University, is the fact that there’s so much optimism at these events and certainly while there’s been a lot of talk about big pharma and it's going to lose a lot sales to generic drugs and generic pharmaceuticals. Certainly one of the themes to take away form this event, without question, is optimism in the market and innovation that is still happening.
Luke: Yeah, absolutely. If you just look at the quarterly earnings reports or the venture financing statistics, the overall trends aren’t that great, we are in a recession after all. But it doesn’t really change the fact that a lot of innovative, exciting things are still happening in the labs and coming out of them with commercial potential and we see that all the time. Companies like Aileron, a couple others that are going to present here are AVEO Pharmaceuticals and Enlight Biosciences, Hydra Biosciences. Hydra has a portfolio of drugs for pain that are supposed to have the power of morphine but without the narcotic side effects. So there’s just a lot of exciting ideas like that in the Boston area and we’re excited to be able to showcase them.
Ross: It should turn out to be a pretty good event. Well, Luke Timmerman, national Bio Technology editor at Xconomy thanks so much for joining us today and giving me a review of the industry and what to expect next week.
Luke: Great, Thanks a lot Ross, looking forward to it.
Ross: It’s the Xconomy forum, Pharma’s bet on Boston innovation. It’s scheduled for Wednesday November 4, 2009 from 2:00 till 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Massachusetts.