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Grow Your Integrative Medicine Business By Telling Bigger Stories


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Integrative medicine expert and media and marketing veteran Glenn Sabin explains why inbound content marketing and storytelling is the most pragmatic approach to building patient volume and sales for integrative healthcare clinics, centers and brands.

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Grow Your Integrative Medicine Business By Telling Bigger Stories

  1. 1. Grow Your Integrative Medicine Business by Telling Bigger Stories by Glenn Sabin
  2. 2. 2© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Content is the fuel that launches thought leadership, the glue that binds social media and the only path to meaningful, sustainable health consumer engagement. While a well-balanced mix of traditional advertising, marketing, media relations, referrals, and reputation management remains vitally important and necessary to increasing and retaining integrative medicine patient volume, it is now imperative for your clinic or center to become a content creator. Yes, that’s right, a publisher. Like Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinic—all of whom are leading trusted medical publishers. But how is this possible? How does this scale for a small boutique clinic, medium size center, hospital system or academic integrative medicine center? How exactly does one go about creating a content strategy? Read on to learn more…. The Art of Storytelling
  3. 3. 3© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Contents It Starts With Understanding Your Brand 4 More on Brand Identity 5 Content is King for Growing Patient Volume 9 Integrative Medicine is a Story, Not an Advertisement 12 Why Your Blog Strategy is Important 15 Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy 17 Maximizing Readership of your Blog Content 21 Community Outreach: Using Experiential Content Marketing to Influence, Engage and Grow 23 Social Media: Inform. Engage. Listen. 26
  4. 4. It Starts With Understanding Your Brand 4© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• You may be wondering why I have opened this e-book about content, engagement and storytelling with a discussion on branding. Frankly, it’s because your center’s unique brand identity tells health consumers who you are and what you do. Branding is the foundation from which your specific content creation and thought leadership efforts will emanate. Over the past 25 years, practitioners integrating the best of Western and Eastern medicine have endured a series of catch-all titles describing their model of care.  Until recently, all medicine not tacking closely to Western conventional allopathic care was termed “alternative”.  The term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) began to seep into mainstream medical vernacular about 1998 when NIH’s National Center for Cancer and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) became a full-fledged center. Although most of the major hospitals and cancer centers did not introduce their integrative centers until a few years later, NCCAM’s “CAM” acronym stuck, influencing the names of new private clinics and centers across the country. NCCAM supports research on complementary and alternative therapies—products, agents and interventions—regardless of the current level of evidence supporting its safety and efficacy.  Therefore, the acronym CAM adequately describes what NCCAM is all about.  On the other hand, practitioners incorporating evidence-based integrative services into their conventional care are not practicing CAM. They’re e practicing evidence- based integrative medicine, not “alternative medicine”. Alternative medicine is used in lieu of proven conventional care.  Alternative medicine lacks an adequate evidence base and is not practiced within academic clinical settings.   Conversely, integrative medicine incorporates safe and efficacious therapies into conventional medicine.  It’s true that not all stress reduction techniques, say, Reiki, boast a solid evidence base. But many clinicians who offer services like Reiki do so because they’ve observed it helping many of their patients to relax, thus lessening their need for certain medications.  They rationalize that since the intervention is not potentially harmful and their patient is more relaxed and reporting beneficial value, then what difference does it really make if we don’t yet know exactly how it works?  So I posit that CAM is dead, while evidence-based, personalized integrative medicine continues its ascent—made possible by a growing literature base and clinical outcomes that support the safety, efficacy and primary tenets of an integrative approach to health. If you want to grow your integrative health business, this is the story that needs telling.
  5. 5. 5© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• More on Brand Identity (Note: You should still read this even if you have already developed your brand identity—name and logo—and have been operating for years and have no interest in changing it.) Your brand name and logo are the first things a prospective customer (patient) typically encounters when searching for an integrative healthcare provider. Significant consumer confusion already exists around the terms and descriptors surrounding integrative health- care. Consequently, you must clearly distinguish your brand identity from your local competitor’s, regardless if you are a small private clinic, hospital system or academic center. Position your center for success by communicating your brand’s value proposition with concision and a high quality graphical aesthetic. Tell your target audience who you are and why you matter by following these guiding principles: CHOOSE YOUR BRAND NAME CAREFULLY Today, CAM is dead and the term “alternative medicine” is mostly associated with marijuana dispensaries and certain interventions used in lieu of effective, evidence-based or clinical outcomes informed, standard of care therapies. Don’t believe me? Try a quick Google search. I’ll wait. If nothing else, the words “alternative” and “medicine” sitting next to each other are relics from the ‘70s—providing fodder to the skeptics still unable to differentiate it from the inexorable march that is evidence-based integra- tive healthcare. ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE DOES NOT PROVE FAILURE OF EFFECTIVENESS Credentialed and licensed naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists do not comprise “alternative medicine”. These modali- ties and whole systems are often alternative options to pharmaceutical and surgical approaches. However, there is only one “medicine”—that which is safe and efficacious, even if not fully proven under the gold standard and reductive, double-blind random- ized controlled trial paradigm, which was largely designed to investigate phar- maceuticals or one active agent in isolation. It’s also important to note that the literature supporting several of these interventions continues to grow. For the patient, it’s a whole person, “holistic” approach we’re aiming for. But for your center’s name, let’s not harken back to 1960s vernacular. Dig? Using “holistic” in your collateral, communications, and, if you must, your tagline, is perfectly fine. But leave it out of your brand name. “Integrative medicine” and “integrative health” are the contemporary,
  6. 6. 6© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• appropriate terms for most integrative-directed providers. However, there are certainly exceptions to this general rule, and the breadth and scope of integrative clinic brand names abound. If you don’t like the word “integrative” attached to your brand, and insist on using words like “prevention” or “wellness” or “lifestyle”, or a number of other similar treatments, I encourage you to look closely at the current meanings of these words. See if this accurately describes what your clinic offers. Feel free to run them by me and I’ll share my, um, unbiased opinion! Take Ownership The use of a generic name for your entity is not helpful. A nonspecific entity name fails to distinguish your brand (center) from your competitor’s. More- over, it’s difficult to trademark generic names to keep others from using. This happens in the business world and can lead to consumer confusion and potential legal problems. Nevertheless, if you look at FON’s national di- rectory of integrative healthcare centers, here, you will see an abundance of generic names. It’s always better to use a noun rather than an adjective in your organiza- tion’s name. “Quality Integrative Medicine” is neither easily trademarked nor protected. However, “Apple Integrative Medicine” is. That is, unless someone else has secured it since I wrote this! My original thought was to grab a bunch of these existing names, i.e. “Center for Integrative Medicine” or “Holistic Healing Wellness”, capture them along with a dozen or so logos (brand marks) and critique them in this e-book. But instead of calling folks out here, I am happy to have a conversation if you are launching a new program or simply want to update your name or brand identity. When creating your name and tagline (optional) for your enterprise, keep it short and concise. Remember, less says more. Plan Ahead If you are developing a private clinic and your exit plan—how you will eventually exit your practice—is to launch the center; build it up over five years and then move to Tahiti to perfect your golf game, do not put your own name on the door. This can understandably be tempting for some folks, but you need to consider what your eventual exit may look like even when launching your business! Simply put, the name of your center, as well as the name of your corporate entity, can impact your eventual exit plan. It’s your good name; would you want it attached to a new operator’s less than stellar reputation? Choose Taglines Carefully A tagline can help but is not always required. Leave it out if your brand name can be adequately communicated in just a few words. But if you do More on Brand Identity cont’d
  7. 7. 7© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• include a tagline, make sure it works. It needs to reinforce who you are and speak to your unique delivery of integrative healthcare. AVOID POOR LOGO DESIGN Maybe you feel that now is the chance to express your long suppressed creativity and burning desire to craft the ideal logo (aka brand mark) that will stand the test of time. Everyone seems to have a second cousin whose kid is a terrific graphic designer. Trust me when I tell you—it’s best to leave this important process to an actual brand identity professional! Never pinch pennies when it comes to designing your logo. Don’t be tempted by the myriad websites offering unlimited logo design for $49. Even using name-your-price auction sites like 99 Designs can be a frustrating process, especially if you don’t offer a respectable sum with which to motivate the better designers to participate on spec. There’s no guarantee even then you’ll come away with a quality brand mark. If your standards are high, I categori- cally recommend that you stay away from creative auctions. Avoid Design by Committee Don’t ask your entire staff, your kids, or their friends, for opinions regard- ing your brand mark. Keep your circle of advisers small, or you may end up going in big circles! Don’t Be Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish Time is money. And your time is probably better spent in clinic or engaged in business aspects other than managing your own brand identity project with cut-rate and generally less effective service providers. The Creative Brief A quality brand identity firm will provide what’s called a creative brief. Therein, a lot of important questions will be asked about the nature of your clinic, the message you want to convey to the public, your preference for color, shape, typography and more. Take the time to carefully answer these questions to help inform the design process and ensure the best possible result. This iterative process requires your participation and ongoing feed- back. Measure Twice, Cut Once The actual logo development itself is one of the least expensive compo- nents of brand identity creation. Once in place, you will create signage, myriad collateral and even products proudly displaying your logo—your new brand identity. Moreover, the logo design —shape, color, look and feel—informs the general design (or redesign) of your website and all other designed components, electronic and physical, connected to your integrative brand. The cost of all this other stuff tends to very quickly dwarf the logo investment itself. Before making this consequential commitment More on Brand Identity cont’d
  8. 8. 8© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• and incurring all this expense, make sure you have the most effective logo (brand mark) that will withstand the test of time. A Serious Contender—By Design Though the average health consumer may not be able to articulate what makes for good design, most folks know it and can feel it when they see it. They can differentiate an amateur versus clean, professional aesthetic. You may not (yet) be as large as the well-established integrative medicine center a few miles away, but your professionally designed new logo should create an identity that’s perceived to be as strong as, or better than, your largest competitor’s. In effect, announcing that you have arrived! APPLY YOUR BRAND IDENTITY CONSISTENTLY I visit a lot of integrative medicine facilities both large and small, across types and disciplines. I see lots of logos, brochures, signage and websites. Yet I always find it amazing when an entity uses multiple iterations of their brand mark across applications. Often, there’s variation in typography and color palette usage; or logos skewed to fit a particular space. It’s often messy and confusing, especially to prospective clients. With respect to clearly branding your company, this matters greatly. For various applications it’s usually best to have both a vertical and horizontal iteration of your logo in both black and white and color. Your logo needs to be scalable—easily readable and sharp in both small and large sizes. After approving but BEFORE using your new, well-designed logo, it is wise to invest in a style guide. An example of a logo style guide can be found here.  Will your logo be featured on a partner website, t-shirt for the local 5K marathon charity or at a sponsored event? A logo style guide helps ensure that anyone who touches your logo—your core brand identity— follows your established rules for its application. If you would like to see FON’s logo style guide, contact me and I’ll email it to you. Your brand identity is a smart investment that should endure for years. Working with a brand identity expert, and carefully following these core guiding principles, will result in the creation of a strong identity that your center will proudly display and leverage for many years to come. More on Brand Identity cont’d
  9. 9. 9© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Does your center have a content creation and distribution strategy? Start planning now! Consumers interested in a patient- centered approach to their healthcare spend a lot of time learning about preventive medicine and general wellness.  When they or a family member face a health challenge, they are quick to consult the web for their health information needs.  So when it comes to evidence-based integrative medicine, your center or clinic has a valuable opportunity to become that trusted source of information. Here are five reasons why: 1. Original Web content creation drives significant search engine optimization. If your Website features static pages created long ago and you have no blog program, news features or other fresh content, search engines such as Google will not place your site high on their search pages, thus organic traffic driven by SEO (search engine optimization) will be miniscule at best.  Search engine algorithms recognize new, original content and track how many sites are linked to yours.  2. Providing live “experiential content” in the community shows leadership. Offering hands-on experiential “sample” services in the form of community education outreach in the areas of prevention, wellness and evidence-based integrative health, is a great way to inform current and prospective custom- ers (consumers) while positioning your center and its providers as thought leaders. There are myriad topics around which to create quality programming.  This is an excellent way to build relationships, develop trust and drive word-of- mouth patronage. If your center is hospital-based and relies on referrals, make sure to offer relevant and, hopefully, compelling content, that appeals to both the practi- tioners and administrators within your organization.  This will surely increase your internal referrals. The Marino Center for Integrative Health offers a num- ber of paid group educational/experiential classes, including their Women’s Health Series.  Duke Integrative Medicine at Durham offers complimentary classes on mindfulness-based stress reduction, nutrition and more. Get the community—consumers and medical professionals alike— involved with experiential acupuncture, mind-body exercises, yoga and Pilates sessions. Each one provides a fantastic opportunity to explain the research base, demonstrate the various interventions and to build trust and patient volume for your integrative services.  Consider starting with no-fee programming leading up to paid group classes in the future! 3. Content is the foundation and glue for all meaningful, sustainable social media strategy. Has your center worked through the HIPAA privacy issues and nuances Content is King for Growing Patient Volume
  10. 10. 10© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• related to social media?  If so, perhaps you now have  a presence on several networks and have smartly tasked one person as the social media man- ager—someone who is checking in a couple times a day, posting tweets, making status updates and interacting with folks.  But if your center is not creating original content surrounding the bevy of integrative services you provide, you are missing the benefits of social media.  Creating online promotions and discounts are important. So is posting relevant news items pertaining to your center as well as retweeting and reposting inter- esting content and information created by sources outside of your business. An effective and original content strategy creates true engagement and engenders trust around your brand. Over time, the consistent growth of your social media program will greatly contribute to your center’s overall success. 4.  A newsletter chock-full of relevant, informative content, delivered with consistency, reminds both current and prospective customers that your organization cares. Topic examples include: New advances in personalized allopathic medicine; The discovery of another vegetable showing anticancer properties;   An update on the dangers of diet soda; A botanical study at Mayo reducing white blood cells in leukemia patients; A phase II study on acupuncture showing positive outcomes for lower back pain; News around the center; Recent TV or radio interviews with your dietician.  Remember, if your center doesn’t write about this stuff, another center will. That’s a fact.   Why not take ownership of this space by creating the content and driving the conversation?  Create a newsletter subscription sign-up form and place it prominently on your site.  Start collecting interesting news and information—some of which can be repurposed from content you’ve already created for your site or other efforts detailed above. Get folks to sign up for your newsletter when signing in for clinic appointments.  Consider delivering a print version in addition to an e-version. 5. Create and deliver great content to build trust around your center’s brand. Your center has a unique ethos made possible by interesting, accomplished practitioners and a dedicated support team.   What makes your clinic different?  What’s your organization’s story?! What are your patients’ stories?  Perhaps they can discuss their experiences working with your center—or, newfound health outcomes made possible by your center’s lifestyle modification recommendations. From textual and video testimonials to QA features to “before and after” stories and more, patient-driven content is a terrific way to humanize your organization. The same approach to content creation and storytelling can be applied to highlighting/showcasing your various practitioners and staff. Content is King for Growing Patient Volume cont’d
  11. 11. 11© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• You will be surprised by how engaging carefully crafted, meaningful content can be. Imagine short QAs attached to your practitioner’s bios. Or even a two-minute video with the practitioner explaining her integrative health philosophy and passion. This approach is more dynamic than the important however dry traditional emphasis placed on a practitioner’s education and CV. By all means highlight their resume and link to their CV, just spice it up with more creative engagement. The consistent creation and delivery of informative content not only drives recognition of your organization and builds traffic—both physically and virtually—it also engenders trust around your brand.  Consumers will come to know and expect that when they receive your emails, reference your site or review your newsletter, you have interesting, relevant and often compel- ling information to share—you aren’t simply pitching your center’s products or services. This is the power of compelling content! Content is King for Growing Patient Volume cont’d
  12. 12. 12© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• My longtime professional background in media and market- ing started during the still-heady days of television, radio and magazines. Cable was just making its way into the world. There was no Internet— at least not a public one—nor digital social networks. Profession- als created content while producers, program directors and editors were the arbiters of what the public saw and consumed. Integrative healthcare was not as widely available back in those days. While “alternative” health interventions were usually disparaged by the conventional medicine community, “promotion” of its beneficial value grew through a single effective channel: word-of-mouth. In other words: through very personal stories. ADVERTISEMENTS INTERRUPT When I was running my media company, if you wanted to reach customers consuming information from these channels, you had two choices: editorial or what’s called “earned media” coverage based on merit (specifically, on what editorial gatekeepers deemed worthy or interesting to their audience) or “rent” time: air or space in the form of an advertisement. Television, radio and magazine ads are “interruptive.” Companies and organizations buy ads to sell their products, their services and to influence their markets. Traditional ads interrupt and disrupt. Their objective is to essentially say, “Stop, look at me, look at me!” Notably, these ads are surrounded by content—content that is largely conceived, developed, owned and controlled by media companies. NOW WE ARE ALL THE MEDIA The Internet and plethora of television channels and social media have all combined to create a sea change in how people consume and share media. More profoundly, blogging, micro-blogging (think Twitter) and other aspects of digital information sharing have transformed consumers into content creators, tastemakers and influencers. Large numbers of celebrities and non-celeb- rities alike have significant followers, fans and subscribers of their social media-expressed brands. Many individuals now directly control their own media relations activities, announcements and general public messaging. During the decision-making process, consumers are starting to rely more and more on peer reviews and feedback via social media than on ads and other sources of traditional, “professional” media. STORYTELLING ENGAGES In contrast to interruptive forms of advertising, content development allows integrative healthcare providers the opportunity to create thoughtfully crafted stories. Targeted and done correctly, storytelling engages. It has the profound power to connect on an emotional level. Regardless of the media channel, including experiential, nothing quite connects like a good story. And your clinic or center can control the storytelling process. Wondering what stories I am talking about? Well, the topics are endless, and, when presented Integrative Medicine is a Story, Not an Advertisement
  13. 13. 13© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• in an appealing fashion, incredibly valuable to health consumers. Topics can address wellness, prevention, diet, supplementation, contraindications, exercise, the impact of integrative modalities on various conditions, the latest science across the spectrum of integrative healthcare delivery and so much more. THE DECLINING IMPACT OF TRADITIONAL MEDIA Traditional advertising and marketing have proven marginally beneficial, at best, to growing integrative medicine services. Targeted local print media and radio have helped practitioners connect with the growing but still small number of people interested in holistic and alternative therapeutic approach- es. Unfortunately, the full value of integrative healthcare is simply too difficult to promote through conventional media alone. Advertising campaigns are ex- pensive and often hard to track in terms of overall effectiveness. An advertis- ing “campaign”, by nature, is just that, a campaign that includes both a start and end date. Simply put, using traditional media alone is not an economi- cally sustainable marketing approach to building meaningful growth. THOSE DELIVERING INTEGRATIVE HEALTHCARE NEED TO BECOME THE “STORY-TELLING” MEDIA There’s no getting around the fact that businesses of all types and shapes have become publishers. Companies are developing useful, relevant content and delivering it with continuity directly to consumers. They are effectively surrounding their “brand” with trusted information. Regardless of the size or type of your integrative medicine enterprise, storytelling via content creation has never been more important for build- ing patient volume. Unfortunately, the healthcare delivery industry has fallen way behind here, and it has negatively impacted the growth of integrative medicine programs, especially those operating within academic centers and large hospital systems. Surprisingly, the larger centers and health systems rarely publish anything on their sites other than the occasional news item, community program update or press release. Over time you’ll see more and more health systems and private centers become “content marketers”. Health institutions pioneering the area of content creation currently include: Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. All of whom are bona fide publishers directly and consistently engaging patients and prospects across media and communications channels. DIGITAL MARKETING IS TRANSFORMATIONAL, BUT OLD MEDIA STILL HAS ITS PLACE If you are using specific print, broadcast, radio, or cable media outlets in your market to get your message out, and consistently, cost-effectively driving Integrative Medicine is a Story, Not an Advertisement cont’d
  14. 14. 14© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• new patient volume, by all means continue. Are you creating promotional print collateral material for direct mail campaigns, your waiting room patients, your community education program attendees, or local practitioners from whom you would like patient referrals? If so, that’s wonderful! Traditional media and marketing approaches can still be very effective. These viable core staples can help round out your comprehensive marketing mix. The point is that you must enter and test the digital waters. Start by creating original content to achieve to augment and greatly strengthen your marketing prowess. Integrative Medicine is a Story, Not an Advertisement cont’d
  15. 15. 15© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• A blog provides your center with a platform to outwardly communicate with consum- ers, giving you the ability to establish trust and thought leadership with current and prospective patient clients. No Longer Static All websites contain a portion of core static content that rarely changes. This messaging is vitally important and must be very SEO (search engine optimization) friendly. You may have added your Twitter or Facebook feed, but these features and your core static content alone do not drive SEO or raise organic page rankings on search engines like Google or Yahoo! Once you commit to a properly implemented blog program, creating fresh content, you begin to distinguish your brand (center) from others in your competitive set. Marketer or Publisher? You may think of yourself as a marketer, but effective marketing today must include content creation and delivery. You are now a publisher. Remember, the consistent delivery of informative blog content builds a valuable editorial archive that over time, drives more and more organic traffic to your site through SEO. A Content-Driven World The well-informed health consumer absorbs tons of media when they or a loved one is diagnosed with a condi- tion or illness. Depending on specific needs and interests, these consumers will look for information and help through web searches. Content is king—and your center needs to own its media. This is how you will be found. A Smart Content Strategy Starts with Your Blog A quality blog program is fundamental to good overall content strategy. Much of the content used in Why Your Blog Strategy is Important
  16. 16. 16© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• blog posts can conveniently be re-purposed for other uses, i.e., monthly e- newsletters, print newsletters, videos, mini-magazines, social media efforts and more. Ease of Use Blogs are easy to author, edit and upload (images, sound and video). If I can do it, anyone can. Built-in content management systems (CMS) like WordPress make it simple. Your center should be able to upload blog posts and make simple edits in other areas of your site at will. If you are still relying on an outside vendor to make web updates, it’s time to re-think your internal process. Your site is your most important communication vehicle, thus you need to be in full control of the content and authoring process. Snapshot of the Integrative Medicine Blog Landscape Here are several integrative medicine centers that do a pretty good job with their blogs: • Dr. Frank Lipman • The UltraWellness Center • Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment • Integrative Health Institute • Flatiron Functional Medicine These centers are consistently delivering useful, relevant content around their brand, engendering trust and building their own media. Pay attention to the frequency of posts by Dr. Lipman, and Dr. Hyman at The UltraWellness Center. Consistency is crucial. Assuming proper keywords are used and simple optimization techniques followed, over time, the branding investment these centers are making will steadily pay dividends, by building organic SEO, raising page rankings on the major search sites and pulling in new prospective customers. Why Your Blog Strategy is Important cont’d
  17. 17. 17© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Surprisingly, the majority of integrative centers today do not maintain a blog. And those who do rarely have a proper, long term plan to maintain and develop a body of useful, privately “owned” content.   Or they once had a blog—the idea sounded good at the time, posts were written and published, but then after fits and starts it just kind of fizzled. The most recent post for many centers date back months—even years! Does any of this sound familiar? Under which category do you fall? It’s time to either remove your blog altogether or re-engineer your approach.  I’m pushing for the latter. “Maintaining a Blog Seemed Easy and Exciting at the Time, But…” The process of consistently creating quality, informative content around your brand (center or clinic) is not easy. However, maintaining a quality long-term program doesn’t need to be difficult if you follow these basic guidelines: One Manager Only You need to assign one person to take lead of your blog program. This person will ultimately be responsible for assignments, deadlines, internal communications, editing, image collection and post uploads. If you have more than one leader heading the initiative, it will quickly become unwieldy and unsustainable. Getting Buy-In From Your Team Whether you previously had a blog that has since been abandoned, are maintaining a spotty, lackluster effort today—or just now getting around to launching your new blog—you need buy-in from your team. Get your group of practitioners together and clearly explain the importance and benefits of establishing an effective blog presence. Emphasize the importance of establishing thought leadership to positively influence current and prospective customers.  Identify Your Team’s Individual Strengths Review the list of integrative modalities offered by your center and the mix of practitioners fulfilling these services. Ask each team member to commit to writing two consumer-oriented posts per month, approximately 350-600 words in length, on topics around their area(s) of interest and expertise. Blog Topics The topics for your posts are virtually endless. Do you provide integrative services around, say, primary care, oncology, pain management, naturopathy or women’s health—and offer dietician/nutritionist consults, supplementation, massage, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques? Have each contributor (practitioner) start their own list of topics. Flesh out each list as a group and offer feedback to help shape the most viable ideas. Create an Editorial/Production Schedule This task is crucial and fundamentally helpful. Create a simple spreadsheet Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy
  18. 18. 18© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• that captures your contributing authors’ names, assignments, word counts, text deadlines, image deadlines, publication dates and any special notes. Make the spreadsheet available on the company server, DropBox, Google Docs or otherwise for all authors to view in real time. Give editing permis- sions to your team if you want them to provide direct input. Or, ask for ideas to be sent directly to the blog manager who’ll subsequently approve and en- ter. There is no right or wrong way; do whatever works best to keep everyone in your organization on the same page. Frequency Matters If you have ample blog contributors on your team, you might easily be able to publish 3-5 quality posts per week, ideally several across a few different subject matters. KISS—Keep it Simple Stupid Silly The following proven rules will streamline the writing process and increase reader engagement: 1. When writing, turn off email client and all social media windows … so you can actually focus on writing! Use strong titles— it’s the doorway to readership. Keep your titles under 75 characters. If your title stinks, the post will not be read! Numbers are good, i.e., “5 Ways to Improve Your Conditioning;” “10 Must-Have Super foods”, “8 Ways to Lower Your Inflammation Load.”  Integrative health topics can be endless so choose blog subjects reflecting your specialty areas. This tactic has been used successfully for decades to increase newsstand magazines sales. Write the title first; then deliver on its promise. Create SEO-friendly titles by including strong keywords. 2. Keep posts under 650 words—brevity rules! Use short paragraphs, short sentences and simple words. 3. Always use at least one powerful visual image—stay away from bor- ing and predictable images and kitsch!  Invest a few dollars for each post and use quality images.  I use 4. Post 1-2x week (consistency and frequency make a big difference for SEO; post as often as you can). 5. Maintain list of blog concepts/ideas—use a content calendar/produc- tion schedule. Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy cont’d
  19. 19. 19© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• 6. Create an outline (based on writing frame; see #14!). 7. Write (right brain). Do not simultaneously edit (left brain)! 8. Complete the draft. 9. Next edit and format—shorten everywhere you can. 10. Add hyperlinks (to outside sources and to pages on your own site) and meta- data (description, keywords, tags, category(ies). 11. Read through silently twice; then read aloud once. 12. Proofreader(s) review if available! 13. Search engine optimization—if you use WordPress, publish a draft with a timed release, use WP admin panel, run through the Scribe plugin to analyze the content.  Then incorporate provided suggestions for optimizing content, making the post more SEO friendly; Scribe target score: 100 (If you don’t use WordPress and are just starting to create fluid content like a blog, then use SEO tools available based on your website program and content management system.) 14. Ready to begin?  Use a writing frame: Strong title—write your titles, headlines, sub-headers and copy with search engine optimization in mind. Make sure to tag ap- propriate keywords. Lead paragraph (short premise) Personal experience (personal storytelling rules, but must always function as a doorway to serving readers’ needs) Main body—numbered points, bullets or both; bold interesting points or sentences. Break up with subheads to keep reader attention and move them through your content. Conclude with a question to encourage engagement and com- ments (as long as you have the time to monitor the responses and respond accordingly, I recommend turning on the com- ments field). Even if you are not a prolific scribe, don’t worry. Following these rules will help keep your blog post writing focused. Posts of this size, say 350—650 words, can be re- searched, written, edited and formatted in less than 75 minutes.  It will take some time to get there.  You just need to get started. 15. Use a writing frame, like this one from Chris Brogan. Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy cont’d
  20. 20. 20© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• A Couple More Important Tidbits Stay On Topic Three of the most common mistakes with blog posts are that they’re too long, dense, and stray off topic. You may be able to follow your own writing perfectly well, but, if your transitions are not smooth, you will lose the reader’s interest. Writing two separate posts are usually better than conflating two themes into one. Follow? If so, I’ve kept your attention thus far by employing the same tactics and avoiding the pitfalls I’ve written about in this section of the e-Book! Do Not Edit Your Own Writing If you wrote it, you should not edit it. You are too close to the trees. If possible, get another set of eyes across your copy. Depending on your organization’s size or capacity, perhaps there are internal marketing and communications resources. Or maybe the blog manager herself or an outside resource is the best match for your editing needs. Creating a Sustainable Blog Strategy cont’d
  21. 21. 21© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Once your new blog strategy is up and running, you are on your way to creating interesting, relevant content around your center’s (brand’s) integrative medicine mission. Creating great content is an important start, but now you’re ready for your content to be read more widely. Essential Reading Brody Dorland wrote an excellent post for the Content Marketing Insti- tute called 12 Things to Do After You’ve Written a New Blog Post.  The advice Dorland shares largely works across business sectors and certainly applies to integrative medicine centers of all types and sizes.  I’m always saying that content is king, but, to get your work out there, distribution is still really important.   As you will read in Dorland’s post, there are many effective ways to go about this.  Follow the majority of his suggestions and you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your blog readership. RSS Feeds There is one thing that Dorland and I don’t agree on: the use of RSS feeds to populate one’s various social media accounts.  Having your social media accounts automatically populate does not allow for message control, which is essential to success engagement and storytelling. If you have, say, less than a half-dozen accounts including Facebook, Twitter and Google+, it’s more effective to manually craft different messages based on the specific social platform, audience and space limitation.   If your blog team is managing to create say, 3-5 posts per week, it will not take long to manually post these to a half-dozen social media accounts.  Be careful to leave at least a dozen character spaces on your tweets to allow others to retweet your messages. Blog Content is Not Channel Dependent You’re creating blog content, but it doesn’t have to just stay there.  Your blog initiative is your core content hub. It doesn’t need to stay digital. Not all existing or prospective customers get their media from RSS feeds, social media or e-newsletters.  Believe it or not, some folks across the age spectrum still prefer print—or they read a combination of digital and print.  The point is you need to reach your customers where ever they actually consume their media, not simply where you would like them to be.  A good deal of your blog content is perfect for populating your e- newsletter. And, it can easily be re-purposed for your additional communication efforts. Extending the Reach It’s neither hard nor expensive to have a decent designer come up with a print newsletter template informed by your brand identity (logo, fonts, color palette, etc.). You can essentially reuse the same template for Maximizing Readership of Your Blog Content
  22. 22. 22© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• years.  Consider delivering your newsletter to your patient database and distributing bulk quantities to strategically-targeted places where they’re most likely to be read, including your own reception area. Reaping the Rewards Growing influence and reach by cultivating a dedicated readership takes time.  But done correctly, and consistently (imperative!), your blog program will pay long-term dividends: building trust around your brand (center) and increasing patient volume through education—the delivery of informative, quality content. Maximizing Readership of Your Blog Content cont’d
  23. 23. 23© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Simply put, live presentation is and will always be the most powerful communication medium. Nothing engages people like a live experience. Whether sports, music or … yes, medical information—a live setting experience provides more engage- ment than a book, CD, television or website. Some of the most successful integrative medicine practices, clinics and centers share at least one common theme: consistent community outreach and education. Centers with varying fiscal and human resource capability are realizing the value of providing patients with relevant, beneficial information. In effect educating and consistently motivating new patients to use their various integrative services. Communicate to Educate Evidence-based integrative medicine is still quite new for most of the general population, and, for many conventionally-trained clinicians, administrators and medical students, too. After word-of-mouth referral, community outreach and education is often cited as a primary builder of clinic utilization; it helps drive self- and physician referrals. Following are some community outreach content ideas. Create a weekly series of 60-90 minute lectures, targeted to a single intervention or specialty area, such as: • Acupuncture • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction • Guided Imagery, Visualization Techniques • Deep Breathing Exercises • Yoga Pilates • Nutrition • Exercise • Biofeedback • Nutraceuticals (dietary supplements) • Pain Management Centers specialize in different conditions and provide varying sets of integrative intervention. Choose your top five or six areas of interest and expertise and get started. Introduce your center and discussants Start each lecture (seminar, discussion—whatever you choose to call it) with a short introduction to you, your center, your staff, your colleagues— and anyone else addressing the audience.  And of course, thank folks for making time to attend. Community Outreach: Using Experiential Content Marketing to Influence, Engage and Grow
  24. 24. 24© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Let your audience know what will be covered during the 60-90 minute lecture, such as: • The evidence • How specific interventions are administered in clinic • Service models: insurance vs. pay-for-service • Hands-on demonstrations • QA session • An opportunity to meet the speaker(s) and clinic staff after the lecture Don’t forget the collateral Always make sure your center’s brochure is readily available by placing one on each seat or passing them out to all attendees as they enter. Also, having a lecture one-sheet is smart and makes a good companion to your brochure. Endless options Depending on your audience size, you may opt for small or large group dem- onstrations. For instance, for larger groups you could provide the audience with mats and towels and introduce yoga or Pilates. Or forgo the mats and towels and do a mini Tai Chi class. Or turn the lights down and do a deep re- laxation breathing demonstration. For smaller groups, acupuncture or cook- ing demonstrations can be wonderful. When it comes to developing quality program ideas for your lectures, the topics are nearly endless. Quality educational content can be shaped to appeal to general or targeted audiences. Existing patients? Check. Prospective patients? Check. Community physicians? Check. Other practitioners and influencers? Check. Samples of speaking events • Simms/Mann UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology —Insights Into Cancer Public Lecture Series • Blum Center for Health—Classes and Lectures • Northwestern Integrative Medicine—Workshops and Lectures • MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Program—Lecture Series • Torrance Memorial Integrative Medicine—Lecture Series Potential Speaking Venues • Your center or clinic • Affiliated hospital (not offering IM services) • Local grocery store like Whole Foods or indie health food store • Local gym • Library • YMCA • Community center/senior center • Church, Synagogue, Mosque or other places of worship Community Outreach cont’d
  25. 25. 25© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Marketing your lecture series There are numerous ways to promote your integrative medicine lecture series.  Here are just a few: • Your website (and partner websites) • Media tie-ins: Look for an appropriate local media partner spon- sor  (radio, print, web) to cross-promote your series • Attractive fliers or post cards distributed at local health food stores, spas, gyms, etc. • Your e-newsletter • Facebook, Twitter and other social media • Venue Partner: if you tie into a community center, library or other public or private venue, make sure you’re included in their event calendar and heavily cross-promote You don’t have to be a major center or spend a lot of money to create a qual- ity oriented and well-attended experiential educational series. You just need to follow these steps and do the work! There’s never been a better time to go “live” and touch someone! Community Outreach cont’d
  26. 26. 26© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Social Media: Inform. Engage. Listen. More integrative medicine professionals than ever are using social media sites like LinkedIn for globe-spanning peer-to-peer connection allowing for productive, creative idea sharing. The use of crowdsourcing by medical specialists discussing challenging patient cases is growing. Facebook has over 1 billion monthly users. Twitter transmits over 400 million tweets every day. According to The Pew Research Center’s Internet American Life Project, nearly 80 percent of Internet users go online for answers to health questions. Social media now plays a significant role in consumer health education. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI) reports that “one- third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans.” It’s hard to ignore this explosive growth, but astonishingly, most integrative medicine centers have not yet jumped on the social media train to engage current and prospective patients (customers). Thefollowingoffersgeneralguidancetointegrativehealthprovidersinterestedin creatingafoundational,legallysound,socialmedia(akasocialbusiness)strategy: Social media includes myriad platforms and channels.  Here is the basic mix: • Website + Blogging/Micro Blogging (Twitter) • Social Networks (Facebook, Google+, 100’s of others) • Social Bookmarking (Digg, Delicious) • e-Newsletters/e-Blasts • Photo Sharing (Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram) • Video Sharing: (YouTube, Vimeo) • Public Comments on Websites Legal Exposure and HIPAA Concerns Let’s get these important issues out of the way first. To properly and responsibly utilize social media to engage current and prospective customers you need to closely adhere to a few basic precepts: • Include a medical disclaimer • Do not offer specific, individualized medical advice • Never include actual full patient names, even in response to input or questions • Monitor your social platforms regularly for offensive behavior and remove inappropriate comments
  27. 27. 27© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• (Important: If your organization has established social media guidelines, review them carefully in the context of this section.) It’s remarkable how many integrative health websites fail to include a basic medical disclaimer. This vital SOP should be followed in every applicable social media outpost.   Here’s a very basic disclaimer used on FON’s site: “All information contained on this website is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is neither intended nor suited to be a replace- ment or substitute for professional medical treatment nor for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition”. Looking for something more comprehensive? Go to any major medical Web- site and find theirs at the footer (very bottom).  It’s either presented textually or linked to its own page. Add this today!  And while you’re at it, make sure you have a solid privacy notice and clear terms of use language that is typi- cally accessible from the same footer area.  Never use social media to provide specific medical advice to patients.  Com- municate about specific conditions in general terms. Patients and prospects wanting specific medical advice should be encouraged to make a clinic ap- pointment.  This is a responsible, appropriate way to convert local prospects to patients. Patient privacy must be maintained in all communications. Do not disclose information that may be used to reveal patient identity or their specific health concerns. Remember that even by changing a name, the patient, family, friend, colleague or employer may still be able to identify the specific person. The HITECH Act that promised economic incentives to providers for implementing EHRs, simultaneously increased civil monetary penalties for unauthorized release of protected health information. A major focus for this funding was aimed squarely at security breaches through social media, further proof of its exponential growth.  Providers who ignore HIPAA laws when engaging in social media strategy do so at their own peril. Simply follow these rules and you are golden. Social Business is Good Business for Integrative Medicine Implemented responsibly and effectively, social media focuses on three important areas: • Informing: Via the consistent delivery of useful information. • Engaging: Via regular interaction with consumers and organizations sharing an affinity and interest for advancing integrative healthcare. • Listening: By discovering what your current and prospective pa- tients are saying about your center—and acting on this information to ensure quick and exceptional customer service. Social Media cont’d
  28. 28. 28© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• These are the primary pillars of social business.  Social media allows organi- zations to engage directly with current and prospective patients, effectively cutting out the middle man (traditional media). By sharing and discussing relevant, useful information about your area(s) of expertise, you establish thought leadership in your community, while gaining greater rapport and trust.  Meaningful engagement drives business. By listening to what others are saying—both good and bad—about your center on social media pages and via searches, you will learn how to im- prove your business by elevating the quality of your customer service. Start by setting up a Google Alerts “listening post”. Simply enter up to 10 search terms and how often you would like an alert delivered to your inbox. Start with the name of your center and an individual practitioner’s name. Then, focus on more general keyword terms related to your local area and core services provided, such as “chelation therapy Nashville”, “integra- tive medicine Nashville”. Then, set Alerts for your main competitors. Google will capture search results across the web. Knowledge is power, especially when acted upon. Can you really grow patient volume with a smart social media strategy? Absolutely. But it takes time and commitment to earn big dividends. First and foremost, social media is about the engagement process through sharing relevant and useful information.  This helps establish trust around your brand. You need to “give” (provide something useful) at least 10-15 times for every “ask” (i.e., pitching a sale, special offer or other deal). If your current social media presence primarily consists of “selling” inte- grative services and heavily promoting your center, then you are going about it all wrong. Save that for interruptive print ads and radio spots. Social media is for educating, engaging and storytelling … all forms of discreet, tactful selling. Setting Goals You need to set realistic goals. You aren’t going to get 100,000 Facebook “likes” or 200,000 Twitter “followers” overnight. That is, unless Justin Beiber is blogging as part of your IM social media posse. Regardless, the sheer volume of likes and followers should not be the end-all metric by which success is measured. Qualitative engagement beats quantitative connections every time. Focus on Your Hub Your hub is comprised of your website, blog and newsletter. You own and control these. They cannot be taken away from you; the rules cannot be easily changed.  However, this is not the case regarding the myriad social networks and media outposts where you have the “option” of maintaining a presence. Social Media cont’d
  29. 29. 29© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Remember, unless your last name is Zuckerberg, you are simply renting— usually at no charge—space on a given social network platform. Although you can do some level of transactional business from social channels, your primary goal should be getting prospects to your website to take a deeper look at your brand (center) and to take action, like signing up for your blog, RSS feeds and newsletter. Choose Your Outposts Wisely You don’t have to be everywhere!  Choose carefully.  Identify and target where your patients and prospects spend most of their time online.  Typically, three good places to start are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And remem- ber, a portion of your customers and prospects still prefer to consume their content the old fashion way: print—ink on paper.  Assign Ownership    Designate one person within your organization as manager of your social media program.  A modest upstart program, once implemented, can be managed in as little as 60 minutes per day—30 minutes in the morning and evening. This daily 60 minute investment can include the basic social media activi- ties—following, liking and linking new people and organizations; sharing new content; answering questions and starting new conversations; and, impor- tantly, monitoring your social platform for inappropriate activity. For smaller clinics, the assigned social media manager, might grow into the role of main content assigner, organizer and tracker even while handling their other office duties. No Content, No Social Media I’ve stated many times in this e-Book “content is king for growing integrative medicine services”.  The strategic creation and consistent dissemination of useful, relevant content creates engagement and builds trust around your brand.  It starts with your hub—website, blog and e-newsletter—and from there populates your social media platforms. Over time, your hub and its growing base of original content allows for the creation of longer form writ- ings (i.e., e-books, guides), short-form videos and experiential educational programming—all aimed at growing clinic utilization. One Step at a Time There are plenty of sophisticated social media measuring tools and endless apps and widgets to consider. The sky’s the limit for building out a leading-edge social platform presence. This e-Book touches on the very basics.  Creating original content and a smart dissemination strategy is not simple. It takes time to master. Thankfully, in a field as rich and vibrant as integrative medicine, there are plenty of interesting topics to fill even a twenty-year editorial calendar! Social Media cont’d
  30. 30. 30© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Don’t let the tools and platforms bog things down and get in the way of the work that needs doing. There will be time to revisit new social media op- portunities, apps and platforms when you’re ready. Creating a smart social media strategy is imperative. Understanding your unique center’s goals is essential. Develop your social media program in easily executable phases. But do start! Over the long term, if done correctly, social media will be become a vital part of your business’s sustainable marketing mix—allowing you to tell bigger stories and build trust around your brand. Social Media cont’d
  31. 31. 31© 2013 FON Therapeutics, Inc. All Rights Reserved • • 301 384 2476• Glenn Sabin is a veteran marketing and business development executive who for over two decades led an award-winning media and content marketing firm in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Click here to learn about Glenn’s passion for evidenced-based integrative medicine and his forthcoming book N-of-1: How One Man’s Triumph Over Terminal Cancer is Changing the Medical Establishment. About FON Therapeutics FON delivers customized business and clinic solutions to integrative medicine and oncology centers and private practices. FON focuses on growing clinic utiliza- tion—driven by innovative marketing, messaging and brand positioning—all rooted in fiscally sustainable business models that work. Contact FON today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your busi- ness development needs. About the Author