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Friday, February 11, 2011

“Time is of the Essence...”

We’ve probably all used this expression at some point in our lives, but it is truer today than ever before, especially in the business world. Consumers have a tremendous amount of influence, and their voices are more easily “heard” everyday thanks to social media. They can be your best advocate or cause damage to your reputation. Your response model must change.

In the past, large firms typically had defined processes for handling consumer correspondence, complaints or suggestions for future products. In today’s environment, businesses that have not moved to a more immediate response mechanism are struggling. As an example, think about the huge Toyota recall that took place in 2010. From all indications, the acceleration issue had been going on for quite some time. When the story hit the national news, Toyota was unprepared to handle the public outcry; indeed, their slow response has been used in case studies on ways NOT to handle a business crisis.

There are several keywords that can guide you in defining a response plan:

  • Monitor – it’s important to know who is talking about your firm and staff. You cannot address an issue or thank someone for an endorsement unless you know it is out there. Has someone mentioned your firm, staff or product in their blog? Was a staff member quoted in the online news? You need to know. It’s also good practice to monitor your industry keywords and your competitors. You may find great ideas for a new product or service by listening to what those interested in your industry are saying.
  • Involvement – the more involved you are in activities related to your industry, the higher your “expert” quotient will be in the minds of your clients and prospects. As you monitor articles related to your industry, you can quickly respond and gain exposure for the firm. Some businesses have monitored consumer discussion boards for product feedback, and when a consistent enhancement is requested, implemented it quickly to please customers. Others have contacted their local media when a relevant story appears to go on camera with a response or follow-up information. Timeliness is again key.
  • Responsibility – it’s difficult for one person to monitor and respond to all mentions of your firm. Setting some base rules and empowering all employees to watch for and respond to activity will expand your reach (business footprint) and make your staff members feel more a part of the team.
  • Now – you cannot delay in responding to comments or issues that concern your business. Timeliness is critical. This is true for both publicly posted and private comments (which can easily become public-Wikileaks, anyone?). If the comments are negative, you have an opportunity to immediately address and resolve the issue. And if you do so in an effective manner, most clients and prospects will applaud your efforts. If the comments are positive (maybe a great mention in a news article), you can push these out to your client and prospect base, who may then share with their friends, giving you some positive “viral” activity.

Our reality as business owners and managers has changed and there is no going back. It’s important for all of us to move forward. Those businesses that find ways to take advantage of these changes will be the ones that succeed. We'd love for you to share your tips for managing your online reputation. Let us know what works for you!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What Everyone Should Know About Medical Mistakes

By Thomas Sheridan

Thomas Sheridan, founder of Sheridan & Murray, and respected Philadelphia personal injury lawyer discusses the facts about medical mistakes.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine released a seminal study titled “To Err Is Human”. This study concluded that as many as 98,000 people die in American hospitals each year as a result of medical mistakes that are preventable. Ninety-eight thousand deaths per year is a staggering statistic. More people are killed each year by medical mistakes than car accidents. Medical mistakes account for more deaths every year than breast cancer, and medical mistakes account for more deaths each year than AIDS. Simply stated, health care in the United States is not as safe as it should and must be.

Nevertheless, hospitals, doctors, and medical insurance companies continue to bombard the public with claims that tort reform is necessary to “fix the healthcare system in American.” The medical and insurance lobbies contend that frivolous lawsuits have driven up the cost of medicine in the United States and are a significant cause of increasing healthcare costs. This is simply not true. The real problem with the healthcare system in America is that patient safety is not paramount.

Hospitals and doctors have failed to take any significant action to improve patient safety in America. Among the common medical mistakes that are preventable are improper blood transfusions, surgical injuries, operating on the wrong part of the body, adverse drug events, falls, mistaken patient identities, and burns. Significant error rates are commonly found in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1 in 7 hospital patients experienced a medical error. Of these medical mistakes, 44% were preventable. These medical mistakes cost Medicare $4.4 billion each year. These Medicare cost estimates do not include the additional costs associated with follow up care following medical mistakes. This important study concluded that since most medical mistakes are preventable, the need and opportunity for hospitals to significantly reduce the incidence of mistakes is significant.

To learn more, click here.

Buzzworthy Lawyers

Buzzwords become buzzwords because they strike a cord. While they’re hot, phrases like “win-win,” “think outside the box,” “convenient location,” “free consultation,” all make the advertiser appear to be on the “cutting edge.” But what happens when you are using a buzzword past the expiration date?

You lose clout and become part of the incessant background noise and not the hype buzz you’d wanted. Attorneys, for example, are egregious over users of the phrase “free consultation.” It is hard to think about other ways to impart this benefit—especially if you are using pay-per-click or other advertising with limited space, but when you do find other ways to invite people to learn more about their rights for free results will increase.

Your advertising is supposed to make you stand apart and tell the story of why you are different. It should not make you blend into the crowd because you are mimicking other competitors. Attorneys are very good at looking within their own industry and following the lead of the big dogs-the problem is it creates an environment of sameness, almost inbred advertising.

If you are going to use a buzzworthy term, be the first to do it so you set the standard. Look to other industries for a fresh approach. Better yet, stop writing “ad copy.” Really analyze who you are and what you do best. Make sure it matches the reality of what your clients like about you, then find a way to include words that your clients use and understand. And make sure you monitor your ads to avoid “ad fatigue”—change them based on what you learn works best through your testing. Online ads need more updates, but television ads can and should run for a longer time frame.

We all want to be different, but actually having the guts to do it is another thing. Are you up for being truly buzzworthy by creating your own path?


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