Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Honesty and Trust

I got a cheque in the mail last week from the Government of Canada. Or at least I thought I did. But closer inspection showed that it was a fake cheque from the Car Dealership of Canada. They had carefully mimicked the Government logo and style, but the content – or lack of content – was all their own.

There are two schools of marketing. One relies on sleight of hand and gimmicks (“You are guaranteed to win one of the prizes”), while the other relies on honesty, trust and relationship building. I endorse the second option.

Building a Tribe
Every week I buy soup or baked goods from Michelle (Wild Serendipity Foods) at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market. Her soups are consistently tasty with a bit of zing. So even when she introduces a new flavour – dill pickle, and I hate dill pickles! – I give it a try. And, surprise surprise, I’ve now added dill pickle soup to my list of favourites.

I just spent $80 on tea from Camellia Sinensis. That’s a lot of money for something I could buy much more cheaply at the supermarket. But they sell excellent tea, and their blog has introduced me to their farmers in India, China and Taiwan. They include a personal note of thanks with every purchase and are happy to answer email inquiries.

I’m a loyal customer. I provide regular repeat business, and I spread the word. That’s the value of honest marketing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Health Care Innovation Update

Here are some examples of health care innovation that I have read about in the last few days.

Hello Health helps you find and stay in touch with a doctor in person or by email, instant messaging or video chat. For example, you cut your finger preparing Sunday brunch. You text your doctor and describe the problem. She asks you a few questions to better assess the damage and then tells you to make an appointment. So you take a look at the calendar in her online profile and see there’s an appointment available first thing in the morning. When you get to the office, your doctor has a look at your thumb and decides that you do need a tetanus shot, but not stitches.

Cure Together helps you link up with people with similar problems to compare symptoms and treatments.

Guidesmith is a website that helps you make decisions during a family health crisis.

The Mayo Clinic has established a Centre for Innovation. They observe patient/provider experiences and can quickly adapt ideas as they are part of a clinical establishment.

The O’Reilly Open Source Convention will include a track on health care IT for the first time this year. They’ll be looking at topics such as how doctors can share electronic patient records, voice-to-text translation for doctors recording notes on the fly, and establishing secure, easy-to-use electronic patient records.

My thanks to Bruce Nussbaum for his ongoing coverage of this facet of design thinking.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vital Communication

“The future is here. It’s just not widely distributed.” (William Gibson)

The resident in Emergency is recording my blood pressure over and over again. And she is carefully recording the results – by writing on her hand. My medical history is recorded by at least seven different individuals as I move from Emergency to a holding unit to a ward. And each time I have to repeat the same information, and each time the nurse or doctor makes written notes on separate sheets of paper that are added to a big, fat binder.

The doctors must have fantastic memories because they listen to me talk about my symptoms but don’t write anything down until after we’ve finished talking. And they refer to scraps of paper when they pass along information about test results to make sure they've got the right patient.

The recordkeeping system belongs to the Dark Ages. And yet, the hospital has some amazing technology at its disposal – echocardiogram, 24-hour monitoring and video telemetry, portable x-ray machines, CAT scans.

Why can’t some of these technological advances be applied to recordkeeping? Wouldn’t it save doctors and nurses immense amounts of time if they could scan the bar code on my wrist band and immediately access my medical history and my test results? Imagine if they actually typed information on their portable notepad so that information was easy to read and integrated into one easy-to-access file.

We have the technology. But it’s unevenly distributed. And, unfortunately, organizations find it easier to apply technology to isolated situations than to integrate it into their routine ways of work.

It is happening. Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto has developed an in-house iPhone app that gives physicians secure, remote access to patient records, test results, vital statistics, and medical literature from its vast internal data network.

That’s wonderful news for patients who want to ensure that vitally-important information is accurately communicated.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Profiles with Zing

Profiles of board members or employees can be excruciatingly dull – they have two adorable children and they play golf. I’m already yawning.

So when I agreed to write an article about IABC Saskatoon’s board members, I thought long and hard about how to make it a compelling read. We had two goals – to encourage members to volunteer and to start a conversation about future directions for the organization.

I interviewed each board member and asked them two questions:

     1. If I offer you unlimited time or unlimited money, which would you choose? And why?

     2. If I gave IABC Saskatoon $100,000, how would you use it to grow the organization?

Michelle would take her entire extended family on holiday, while Leanne and her family want to camp in as many provincial parks as possible. Darby wants unlimited time so he can have serial careers – from a men’s clothing store to a restaurant to writing and producing a television show. And they have all sorts of ideas for how to grow IABC Saskatoon – from a week-long workshop on communications measurement to hiring staff to go door to door and talk to every communicator in Saskatoon to student scholarships.

I think the responses are interesting and thought-provoking. See what you think:

     Unlimited Time or Unlimited Money

     How members would spend $100,000 to grow the chapter

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Effective Presentation Techniques

I attended a talk by Kevin O’Leary, financial guru, last evening. It was a work assignment so I had to pay close attention, but I wasn’t particularly interested in the topic. As a result, I was able to observe O’Leary’s presentation techniques. He used three principal tactics.

Draw People In
O’Leary spent the first quarter of his presentation grabbing his audience’s attention and establishing his credibility. He did this by reminding the audience of all the television productions he is involved in and all the celebrities he has met. Well, first of all, people love hearing about stars and they want to feel a connection to them. Secondly, he emphasized that his contact with celebrities gave him insider knowledge that he used to drive his investment strategy.

The message came through loud and clear: “Invest in the O’Leary Funds, and you, like the celebrities, can take advantage of insider knowledge.

Storytelling
Once he’d established his credibility, O’Leary pulled back and showed he was just a regular guy like all the rest of us by telling a story about his mother. His mother worked in the garment industry and every week she and her co-workers would invest some of their earnings. And the lesson she taught her son was, “Never spend the principle, just the interest.”

This, he says, is the fundamental principle behind the O’Leary Funds. This reinforces O’Leary’s credibility by putting a personal spin on the story and making it really concrete. This wasn’t abstract theories; this was what he had learned from his mother.

Taglines
The third technique O’Leary used was to employ short, memorable taglines that embodied his message. They were easy to remember, easy to understand: “Trust cash.” “Get paid while you wait.” Way, way easier to understand than Capital Preservation or Yield Sustainability.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Communicate what you mean to get what you want"

The Truth About the New Rules of Business Writing by Natalie Canavor and Claire Meirowitz is a useful guide for people who do a lot of writing but don’t think of themselves as writers. Its focus on audience, purpose and content mapping provides a useful framework for planning a written communication.

Audience
The authors contend that “Business writing today often substitutes for conversation, so it works best when it’s close to spoken language. . . . Effective business writing in the twenty-first century has come to mean writing that is simple, direct, clear, easy to read and…conversational.”

Everything we write has a psychological impact. In addition, “cues from tone of voice, facial expression and body language are missing, so it’s critical to frame your message by anticipating response.” Try and see the news you are sharing from your audience’s perspective: How will it affect them? What’s in it for them? Will there be resistance?

Picture the actual reader in your mind as this will trigger the same reactions that guide you in face-to-face conversation and will assist in setting the right tone.

Purpose
The authors recommend identifying everything you are trying to accomplish in your writing. This includes both corporate and personal goals: for example, to ensure a client pays an invoice but also to establish an ongoing relationship. “Once you take your personal sub-agendas into account, you’ll begin to see writing not as a nuisance, but as a great opportunity to showcase your professionalism, credibility, competence, creativity, loyalty – whatever.”

Content
Once you have identified your audience and established your objectives, it’s much easier to map out the content: “What do you say to this audience to get what you want?”

The authors break the content down into beginning, middle and end. They emphasize that the lead must focus the audience’s attention and provide the key message. It must tell the audience how the subject relates to them, explain why it is important and suggest what you will be asking them to do.

Conclusion
My only criticism of The Truth About the New Rules of Business Writing is that the authors try and cover too many topics in a very short book. As a result, their overview of websites, social media, and grammar are hasty and incomplete. However, the book is an excellent resource for business people who want to write more effectively.

Note: The authors write a column for CW Bulletin, IABC’s international electronic newsletter.