With trending topics, tread carefully


The need to show relevance – and restraint

Social marketing strategy is about staying relevant. We advise clients to add their voice and content to hot topics – when it’s appropriate. Sounds obvious, yes?

But look around and you can see big brands that comment on every trending topic out there. Sure, it’s nice to make it to the top of Twitter timelines and be seen by more potential followers, but it requires diligence and discretion – attributes that easily get lost in the chase to keep up with real time trends.

How DiGiorno pizza got burned

DiGiorno Pizza is one of the biggest players in the twittersphere, with a witty, responsive, and relevant presence (as a rule). They have a smart-alecky, wise-guy voice and they tweet non-stop and comment on trending topics. In addition to sports games and awards show commentary, they even live-tweeted the Sound of Music.

But the practice of diving into as many trending topics as possible recently backfired on the DiGiorno’s social team. They accidentally made a humorous tweet about pizza and attached the #WhyIStayed hashtag – which was referring to domestic violence in response to the Ray Rice scandal.


After a huge corporate social fail, there are different ways of handling the situation. Some companies choose to simply go dark. Others will delete a tweet/post and pretend it never happened. After they joked about the social upheaval in Egypt, Kenneth Cole made an apology and then waited for the next news cycle. DiGiorno also made a couple major apologies and tried to respond to each person who was offended by the post. They have not tweeted again since apologizing for the incident, which took place in early September.

While DiGiorno’s response was the most appropriate for them, most companies don’t have the manpower to devote to individual responses – especially if they have 82k followers.

How to sidestep disaster

Strategize on voice. While developing your social strategy, discuss what the voice of your company should be. Make sure it is in line with your corporate values and brand reputation. Are you going to be witty and funny about anything in pop culture or will you focus only on industry-specific topics?

Research the context. Even if it means your tweet will take 15 minutes longer to be sent, make sure that you research a topic before posting about it – especially trending topics on twitter.

Test it on teammates. A tweet that seems innocuous to you could be offensive to someone else. Take a few minutes to ask your co-workers what they think. Asking 3-5 different people should let you know if there are any potential landmines.

As always, we are here to help with your social strategy… contact us if you have any questions.

Paging Dr. Brand


Most doctors hate the idea of branding

It’s beneath them. It’s superficial. It’s unseemly. It’s “selling.” It’s for marketers who create false identities and promises around soda pop, potato chips, sneakers, and disposable razor blades.

You can’t tell physicians who think this way that they’re wrong, but they’re only partially right.

Branding is entering the health care arena faster than anyone might think, and doctors will not be immune to the market forces that influence consumer choice. So it’s a good idea for physicians to start managing their own brands like professionals.

Some building blocks of physician brand development

Define the source of new patients

Are you a referral-based practice, or will patients come from the general public? Knowing this will help shape the scope of your targeting, outreach, message, and content. A primary care physician will have a decidedly different brand identity than a specialist.

Identify your core value

Patients – like all consumers – want to believe that their choices are smart ones. So be clear about what you stand for, and try to pinpoint one central attribute. Maybe it’s speed. Or communication. The Mayo Clinic brand – although it’s an institution and not an individual – became powerful by a serious and relentless focus on the patient.

The value of NPR

NPR’s credibility among its listeners is pretty remarkable. That’s why it’s often a good place for doctors and physician group practices to begin marketing. The sponsorship announcement rules (no superlatives, no promotions, just information) suits doctors well, and the audience (upscale, educated, opinion-shapers) is valuable because they make educated buying decisions. And talk about them.

“Now accepting new patients”

It may sound like micro-copy, but this phrase can be very useful. It suggests that there may have been a waiting list before, but there are openings now. It keeps the prerogative in the doctor’s corner: He or she is doing the accepting, rather than the consumer making the choice.

The ratings game

A recent US News article said that 66% of Americans know about doctor-rating websites, such as Healthgrades.com and RateMDs.com, and act on the data they find there. Justly or unjustly, consumers rate doctors.

The issues for doctors: 1. A small number of patients contributing reviews will skew results. One or two bad reviews can look very bad – especially for doctors who practice in small communities. 2. Some doctors over-serve patients to earn positive ratings. 3. The inherent aversion to risk stops many doctors from putting content into online consumer channels.

How to play it

Regardless of these pitfalls, any physician serious about expanding their practice needs to participate in patient ratings.

A course of action: Have front-office staff encourage and enable patients to contribute reviews, so that there’s a healthy amount of opinion. Do it as part of the patient visit, so the experience is fresh. Direct patients away from Yelp and Angie’s List and steer them toward Healthgrades or, better yet, RateMDs.com, which has more than 1.3 million doctors reviewed. It’s a more credible environment than the consumer sites.

Yes, you need a website

It’s not enough to be on Linked In, Healthgrades, Yelp, and in the Yellow Pages. Get a site built. Keep it simple so it’s doable. Maybe it’s no more than a landing page with a well-crafted message, some basic information, and contact action. If your site is up, build it out with more patient-empowering content and functionality.

Get a quarterly marketing checkup

Don’t let marketing content grow old prematurely. Commit to refreshing profile information at least quarterly, more frequently if possible.

Stay tuned for more medical marketing advice from us. And if you need a consultation, contact us.

Back to school on social PR


Schools are brands

Educational institutions – from private schools to community colleges – have awakened to the power of brand development.

There is a growing recognition that schools offer branded experiences to a range of constituents – donors, faculty, alums, students past present and future, as well as employees, unions, and others among them – and that the equity of the brand needs protection.

Academic brands need to rethink PR

It used to be that a school’s brand reputation was largely driven by news headlines. “Fraternity house under investigation for hazing,” or “Women’s hockey team wins title” are the old school PR scenarios that schools had to combat or capitalize on.

Today, schools have a huge opportunity to use social media for PR purposes. If a consumer is upset with a brand, they will tweet about why. Consumers like academic brands on Facebook. They follow their favorite schools on LinkedIn university.

Trending: #[School]Problems

One trend in college and high school students is #[InsertNameOfYourSchoolHere]Problems. The hashtag and twitter handle is used across the US to put issues students have with schools front and center. The content ranges from the comical….


…to the controversial…


…to the awful.


How to combat negative PR in social media

To combat negative PR, schools need to act like a consumer brand. This means embracing 1 of 3 strategies;

  1. Take every response seriously. No matter how trivial, comical, or inconsequential the comment may seem, respond with concern. This can deter internet trolls while maintaining good relations with legitimate customers. The best practice: Offer an email address that the consumer can use for private resolution of the issue. And resolve the issue.
  2. Learn to take – and make – a joke. Sometimes brands respond to funny or mean social posts in a comical way. This can be risky, but very rewarding. Don’t forget how this facebook post about women’s menstrual conditions inspired the Bodyform video that went crazy viral.
  3. Ignore the everyday negativity. AKA the “go-dark” method. It is useful against trolls who crave attention and should not be rewarded with recognition, however it can hurt your brand when the complaint is legit. This will require a person within an educational institution to monitor, assess, and determine what’s worth answering and what is not.


School’s out: Get a social media policy in place.

It’s hard to know what to respond to (and how) without establishing some guidelines first. This requires that a social media policy be created, with a clear sense of the school’s philosophy about communications – and an equally clear grasp of resources, human and material. The challenge is to scale needs to capabilities – and it’s something we help clients with all the time.


Not sure how to create a social media policy that’s right for you? Join us for a beverage to discuss it.