Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Video and Social Media in Health Care Communications, A Conversation with @MarkRaganCEO

Social media is transforming the way companies communicate to its internal employees and to the public. Many organizations have changed their marketing and communications strategies and tactics by launching company Wikis and blogs, official Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, YouTube Channels, internal video contests, podcasts, and endless conversation channels. I spoke with Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications, at the Health Care Communicators Summit last month held June 8-9 at Kaiser Permanente's Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center, about how social media is revolutionizing corporate communications and PR. The event featured speakers from The Health Care Blog, Kaiser Permanente, and social media strategists from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other prominent health care communicators.

@MarkRaganCEO described how employee communications have dramatically changed over the last several decades. Since his father started the Chicago-based PR firm in 1968, employee communications consisted of an employee publication, press releases and C-suite communication cascading down from the top executives to the employees. Social media has changed the rules, and opened up avenues of engagement that never existed before. Now corporate communications sits in the very center of influence within their company, creating conversations and communicating directly to employees and consumers, shareholders and stakeholders, through social media.

According to @MarkRaganCEO, there are no intermediaries, you can go directly to the source:
"What social media does is create a conversation and ideas flowing back and forth from the C-suite to front line employees, middle managers and then back again. The whole idea of social media is to remove the middle man, and get everyone to connect in this one huge knowledge-base. Through conversation, through sharing, through searching, meta-tagging – it's a wonderful tool, and 5-6 years from now everyone is going to be doing it."
Video occupies an important aspect in social media as @MarkRaganCEO said:
"People just don't read as much anymore, we see this in statistics all the time. So if you're good at shooting tight videos, if you're good at making those videos both informative and entertaining – and I do believe there's an expectation of entertainment in social media – then those videos are going to be cherished by employees."
He calls it "information snacking' – videos and bits of information here and there, short messages that communicate training, missions, change management – that's the way people like to consume information today.

But what about the companies that say it's too hard to get into social media, don't know how to get started, or don't have the resources to produce a video?
@MarkRaganCEO suggested that companies pick one thing, take your time and do it well. For example, start a company blog around an event or topic, write compelling content and people will get involved and join the conversation.

Do you need a broadcast quality video production or will a $200 pocket video camera do the trick for you? 
Flip, Kodak or any other pocket video camera and cell phone cameras provide an immediacy of your subject matter. With the evolution of the UGC-generation we've accepted a lower quality threshold. Things that are little rough around the edges are seen as more authentic. (Shameless plug) I was a featured speaker on a webinar hosted by Ragan Communications on best practices for using Flip Video cameras. Check out this post: How to Produce Flip Videos that Inform, Engage and Entertain Your Employees - Update from Ragan Communications Webinar, May 14, 2010. Ironically, I recorded this interview with @MarkRaganCEO on Kodak Zi8 with an external lavaliere microphone.

What about social media in health care communications? 
@MarkRaganCEO noted:
"Good social media is about people and content, and storytelling. And there are a few industries that have more and better stories to tell than health care. Think about what you're doing, you're talking about saving lives – you're talking about heroes on your nursing staff, you're talking about people trying to overcome disabilities and challenges – all of that makes for good storytelling, and good storytelling makes for good social media."
About Ragan Communications
Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. publishes corporate communications, public relations, and leadership development newsletters. The company provides the professional communicator and executives with timely, practical, and relevant information. It offers targeted newsletters in the areas of employee communication, organizational writing and editing, sales and marketing, media relations, and motivational management. In addition, it also produces several communications conferences, workshops, and senior-level forums in the United States. The company was founded in 1970 and is based in Chicago, Illinois.

Follow @MarkRaganCEO on Twitter
Ragan Communications | Facebook
Ragan Communications - Company Profile | LinkedIn
Check out YouTube - ragancommunications's Channel

Kaiser Permanente and Ragan Communications present:Health Care Communicators Summit (Link to Event Recording)

Read more about the event on the KPNewscenter: Leading Health Communicators to Share Best Practices, Practical Tips at Kaiser Permanente/Ragan Communications Summit

See this related post by Ted Eytan, MD, Kaiser Permanente physician and blogger: Still about listening: Health 2.0 DC and Ragan Health Care Communicators Summit