Shut it Down

Social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and other community-based websites have created venues to easily share and distribute personal information. These sites, in conjunction with the development of the smart phone (and the iPhone, in particular) have allowed users to share information with large numbers of people in mere seconds– in the wrong setting, this can be problematic.

In response to this sharing, the local New England Baptist Hospital has banned the use of Facebook and other social media sites within the walls of the medical facility. The hospital states it values personal patient information over the adaptation of technology and innovation.

Others disagree. Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston believes that limiting access to social media sites may discourage the proper sharing of information.

What are your thoughts? And are technology and the development of the smart phone to blame?

Healthy & Wealthy

The health care landscape has shifted dramatically over the past twenty years – from simple, inexpensive visits to your local doctor to today’s complicated and costly procedures that require proper health care insurance. The shift is one of the main reasons for President Barack Obama’s proposed health care reform plan.

A current trend that intends to cut costs promotes at-home treatment. Instead of running to a hospital for minor medical situations, patients are using emerging technologies to solve problems themselves. Many of these new, at-home treatments not only save the patient time and money, but also spare health care costs and resources.

As we’ve shared on the HB blog in previous weeks and months, new medical technologies are sprouting from all over – the iPod, diabetes devices, and more. One company, Intel, is doing its best to lobby for more of this home-based, patient-initiated medical technology.

Both health care policy and technology are primed for a sweeping change – over time, do you think they will be successful?

Above: Barack Obama’s full health care reform speech from July 22, 2009.

Big Papi Blindsided: Lessons in Crisis Management

On July 30, 2009, The New York Times reported that Boston baseball hero David “Big Papi” Ortiz tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. The news hovered over Fenway Park like a storm cloud. Umbrellas opened. In a prepared statement after the game, Ortiz claimed the news “blindsided” him and added he was “surprised to learn” he tested positive. “I will find out what I tested positive for” said the Emperor as he donned his new clothes.

Companies and individuals can learn a number of crisis-management lessons from David Ortiz’ prepared statement.  Here are the top five:

1. Tell the truth. My grandmother used to say, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Ortiz (and Manager Terry Francona) both used the word “blindsided” to communicate their reaction to finding out Ortiz’s name was on the infamous 2003 list of players taking performance enhancing drugs. The Boston Globe reported on August 1 that all players on the list were notified… in 2004. Maybe Ortiz’s voicemail wasn’t working.

2. Control the story. Ortiz issued a prepared statement on July 30 that was nothing more than a stall tactic as he went on a quest to “get to the bottom of this.” Today is August 5. Six days is an eternity in “breaking news” and the timer is still ticking. Given that Ortiz learned four years ago that he tested positive, why was he caught so flat footed? Denial? Fear? Hope that it would never come to light?

3. Choose your words carefully; Don’t dig a deeper hole. Papi said the news blindsided him…we now know that he knew in 2004 (maybe). Papi said “I will not hide.” It’s been six days. Papi said, “Given the way I live my life I am surprised I tested positive.” You can’t be surprised in 2009 about something you learned in 2004.

4. Be prepared. Big Papi’s statement lacked preparation. The only thing he could potentially say is that he is suprised the news leaked. But then again, is that really a surprise? Fellow player Alex Rodriguez’s name was leaked in a Sports Illustrated story earlier this spring from the very same list. The dam was breaking. The scent was getting stronger. Hoping the inevitable doesn’t happen will not help prepare for the inevitable.

5. Face the music. Ortiz is about to head to New York City – the media capital of the world – for a series against the arch rival Yankees. Hiding is not going to make it easier. It will not go away. Papi needs to step up to the plate, even if he might strike out with some fans.

He will get another at bat, and he can make that one count. The question is, does he care?

Fans will still come to the game and cheer for him to hit a game-winning home run in the ninth. He may lose some endorsements and his clean reputation, but his on-the-field business will continue as normal.

For companies that mismanage a crisis, the stakes are a lot higher and the boos are felt where it hurts most, the bottom line.

You go to school for what?

When I was in college I spent too much time playing video games. Now, kids are going to school to create, design and study video games that are comparable in sales to a blockbuster film. You may think that is a crazy notion, but it’s no joke. The video game industry is that popular and it has the numbers prove it. Back in 2008, Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV. This installment from the long-lived series raked in more than $500 million in sales during its first week in stores, selling more than 6 million units worldwide. Even during this economic decline – U.S. video game sales rose 10 percent in February, 2009 to $1.47 billion. Leading the charge for hardware is the ever-popular Nintendo’s Wii console. Video game software sales climbed 9 percent in the month to $733.5 million while hardware sales rose 11 percent to $532.7 million according to market researcher NPD Group.

The study of video games – in computer science, art, and sociology has been considered somewhat under appreciated, but with it’s industry’s growing popularity, colleges and Universities are deeming it an acceptable academic curriculum. Hundreds of schools have developed video game related programs and some big-name universities are toying with the serious side of video games. Some schools include: ITT Technical Institute, DeVry University, The Art Institutes, Pratt Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and Mass Institute of Technology.

If you’re not up to speed on what video games look like today, please check out this video. Maybe you won’t laugh when your kid tells you that he or she wants to go to school to become a video game designer.

The Brand New HB.com

It’s about time.

Over the past few months, the Hart•Boillot team has been hard at work designing an entirely new website. Although our old site performed its job effectively, the new HartBoillot.com will offer a better reflection of our company. Visitors can learn more about our areas of expertise (including several in-depth case studies), our key players (including some unique facts about the HB team), and our newly-expanded collection of design work (including a unique pro-bono event invite).

We invite you to visit the site at your leisure – we hope you enjoy browsing it as much as we did creating it. Happy clicking!

McCain and Obama on Technology

If you focus on technology markets that touch healthcare, clean technology, renewable energy and high-tech, it’s worth reading a recent (September 2008) report published by the non-partisan Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

The report, “Comparing the Candidates’ Technology and Innovation” can be downloaded from the foundation; or right here. It details how the candidates have positioned themselves on a host of topics including tax, innovation and R&D, digital transformation, broadband & telecommunications, e-government policy, workforce reform, energy and environment, education and more – all focused on how technology plays out in the candidates’ positions. Might sound like a tough read, but it isn’t – and it may affect the way you vote.

It's all about the team

Our very own Boston Celtics celebrated the franchise’s 17th NBA Championship last week and we couldn’t be more proud. After acquiring all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason, the new-look Celtics earned the league’s best regular-season record before advancing through the playoffs to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

Throughout the season, the Celtics stressed the importance of team – a concept we also use at Hart•Boillot. We like to think of ourselves as one unit rather than individual employees. Much like the Celtics, we all offer something different for the company. But in the end, its our collective effort that makes us who we are.

We may not receive trophies for our work, but our awards come in the form of consistent client satisfaction – even the NBA Champion Boston Celtics can appreciate that.

PR people as liars

CBS News’ Andrew Cohen’s maligning of the PR industry on June 1, 2008, in response to Scott McLellan’s new book, generated an extraordinarily defensive response from many in our industry. This included an indignant (and appropriately well-written) public missive from PRSA among many other responses.

Cohen responds to the responses on June 2, 2008, noting, among other things:

For a profession that lives or dies on public perceptions you folks in public relations have as much work to do as the legal profession and the journalism profession (and the political profession) in changing the negative attitudes of your now-cynical audiences.

If I take issue with one thing, it’s Cohen’s use of the word “now.” If you are in the business of communicating, and you trust your audiences to be discriminating and educated, then you must also assume that they are cynical. Cohen is right — we have as much work to do as the legal profession and the journalism profession… not just now, but always. We should be doing that work every day as part of our practices, particularly given that journalists are the first people whose trust we need to earn. While nobody likes to be thrown in with a group that is receiving a tongue-lashing, why not let some of Cohen’s diatribe roll off our shoulders and appreciate the rest of it as a valuable reminder of our ethical responsibilities.

Social Media and Politics

I had the pleasure of participating in Social Media Club of Boston’s “Civics, Social Media and the Countdown to Election ‘08” on February 7 at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. While I was excited about the meeting, I almost avoided it to hear Ségolène Royal, the former French presidential candidate, who was speaking in the room next door!

The meeting included a panel comprised of Morra Aarons-Mele, political director of BlogHer.org, the largest site for women bloggers, with over 5.5 million unique visitors a month; Joseph Carrabis, founder and chief research officer of NextStage Evolution and NextStage Global, author of 23 books and over 300 articles, and a master at analyzing marketing, media and customer (audience) behavior; and Robert Boyle, founder of Glassbooth, an organization created to develop innovative tools to empower the American voter. Glassbooth’s first tool, Glassbooth.org, was launched last November and was instantly a critical success – check out this site’s brief quiz and see if your preferred candidate actually shares as many beliefs with you as you might think.

The meeting addressed numerous issues related to social media, including: privacy vs. anonymity, the dark sides of social media, the way social media can extend the news cycle (for better or worse), the lack of issue-based analysis in traditional media in the US, and US journalism vs. global journalism.

Among the many kernels of knowledge and wisdom shared by panelists and attendees (who included some amazing social media pioneers, such as video blogger Steve Garfield) was the fact that research shows that most voters actually did not vote for the candidate who most strongly agreed with them on the issues in recent elections. Apparently, most voters end up supporting the person who presents information in the way that they prefer to have information presented, rather than the person whose beliefs and record most strongly align with their own.

While I find such results depressing, it does support the notion that marketing is critical, no matter what your product, service or message. Some politicians might think, “If I say it, they will listen,” just as engineers might think, “If I build it, they will come.” Until these become true (and it might be a better world if they were), we will have jobs marketing, packaging and presenting information to our audiences, touching their specific emotional triggers and producing the desired behavior. Fortunately for us, in B2B marketing communications, we work hard to translate a message into words and images that clarify the content for the audience, and we aren’t asked to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes!

Perspective and Conspicuous Consumption

I came across this Web site today: Running the Numbers. It’s a fabulous look at conspicuous consumption in the US today. I personally have trouble quantifying large numbers like 2.5 million plastic bottles used in the US every hour. However, the artist does a wonderful job of making those concepts really mean something.