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Archive for the ‘medical device industry’ Category

Today I’m Listening

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What can you hear between the lines—and where will it take you?

I’ll start by listening to a set of phone conversations my medical device client fields constantly. I want to hear the questions. I want to hear the responses. But I especially want to hear the tone of the questions. I’m listening for urgency and for actual language used. I’ll write down the words and note the flow and capture quotes. These notes and my listening will guide the communication that takes place next.

Listening goes somewhere.

Listening goes places.

I’ll spend the balance of the day listening between the lines for another client. But this time I’ll be listening to the text I am creating for them. And I’ll listen to the process they use to serve their customers. Listening and revising and re-jiggering and re-listening.

Listening is required to know where to go next

What—or who—are you listening to today?


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

What Would a Thick Startup Conversation Look Like?

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Collaboration from the Get-Go

We’ve been tracing social technologies back to where they hit command and control cultures. But what if a startup determined from early on to fold in their customers—not just as buying machines but in limited partnership? A tweet from Sherry Reynolds (@Cascadia) captured a poignant plea for healthcare startups to be truly collaborative. I am eager for the same thing.

Entrepreneurs who avoid collaboration may find themselves shunted off to the side.

A recent conversation with an agricultural/big data startup is a great example: they already have the Ph.D’s, the science and the published research papers in their pocket. That part is done. What they don’t have (yet) is the conversations with customers. Traditional marketing efforts might focus attention first on raising awareness, highlighting the problem farmers face and the benefit provided by the startup. That goal would be to get farmers to plunk down the cash for the startup solution.

But what if this startup began with thick conversations that pulled potential customers toward them? Certainly economic motivators would be part of the conversation. But a first-phase of talking and listening and talking and listening (typical conversation stuff) may grow the audience as well as provide clues as to the next steps for the startup. I think we routinely underestimate the power of being heard and the vision of building something together. Of course, this startup will need to decide just how far they will go in terms of partnering with conversational customers.

Their use of Facebook will be all about stimulating conversations. Only it will be for real—not a guise for just shouting marketing messages. Facebook would be the major communication vehicle for the short term. And movement would be powered by conversation.

What else would help a startup be collaborative from the get-go?



Kristina Halvorson & The Discipline of Making Stuff Up

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Content Strategy and Brain Traffic

Someone asked a perfectly reasonable question:

What is content?

Our Social Media Marketing class is composed of collegiates with a passion for writing and communicating. Whether from the Journalism/Communication school or from the English department, we’ve come together around this notion of producing content in pursuit of a vision.

So we write.

While “content” seems a rude way to talk about the deep thinking that goes into a paper on, say, the merits of determinism, it’s a term that works pretty well for less lofty/more human conversation. The kinds of conversation suited to inviting in semi-interested onlookers.

Content is the stuff we use to describe our vision for…whatever. If we’re building a coalition to alleviate homelessness, the content we produce will point to the problem, tell stories about real people, show the inadequacy of current solutions and keep offering attitudes that illustrate the need and humanity of the man on the corner with the sign. If we work for a company that makes implantable deep brain stimulators, our content will highlight the current science behind Parkinson’s disease, show current (inadequate) ways of dealing with the disease, harp on the benefits of such stimulation without hiding the downsides.01302014-content-strategy-diagram

Kristina Halvorson, founder and CEO of Brain Traffic and co-author of Content Strategy for the Web will join us today (provided she can plow through 4-6 inches of new snow) to talk about the disciplines involved with making stuff up. Because that’s what content is: making stuff up. For a purpose. Making stuff up in accordance with a discipline, toward a specific end, to meet a particular business or social objective. That’s why content and writing go so well together: there’s nothing a writer likes more than stepping into a big idea and exploring the main streets, side streets and alleys and foot paths with words and images and video. Sometimes we have a map to start with. Sometimes we make up the map as we go.

Mostly we do both.


Image credits: Brain Traffic

“You can’t change something that doesn’t exist.” (Copywriting Tip #7)

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Where to find courage to create

Designer/entrepreneur Mike Lundborg uttered it dozens of times over a few projects we collaborated on. For me this quote nearly perfectly encapsulates the dance between creativity and work that is the business of freelance life. That’s why I keep the quote front and center in my work space.YouCantChange-05232013-(C)

Even today I’m working on a story intended to invite prospective patients to participate in a clinical trial. But early review comments indicate my client wants to buff out the narrative parts (that’s right, losing the story itself) and swap it for clinical and corporate language. The story was meant to pull prospective patients toward a clinical trial, but it won’t if the corporation keeps talking.

But this is not a lament. It’s only a statement of reality and maybe a celebration—because this is how we create together. My sizzling hot interpretation of a marketing objective is held in the tongs of review and hammered into shape by my collaborator.  And by me. This is my expectation for my ideas and the resulting words, just as it is my expectation for each part of the process.

And now this: as we release a few of the projects physical constraints, my story bounces back—which makes me glad. This is what collaboration looks like. Successive drafts change but the central objective continually informs all the collaborators as we take our turns shaping the project.

Amazingly, it is this very collaborative process that needs to inform my less commercial writing projects. The courage to create actually springs (again) from the sometimes difficult conversations that surround the project. But it also takes courage to produce a rough draft.


Written by kirkistan

May 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

I hate you so much love from me to you

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When to poke your target audience in the eye

My client needed to reinforce the why behind a clinical trial. We needed physicians to remember their tried & true therapies didn’t always apply under this particular set of calcified conditions. We hoped for a visceral reaction to help change fixed treatment habits toward a killer disease. The poster was both over the top silly and aimed at the gut of a largely intellectual audience.


Some hated it. Some loved it. Some thought it went too far and was not appropriate for a clinical setting. Some found their rage against the disease. The poster polarized even as it got attention. And that was the point.

Not all our communication is meant to slip into the space between us like links in a chain moving meaning smoothly from your mouth to my brain. Sometimes you need to jar me from my stupor so I can really understand what you are saying. Because what you are saying is urgent and important and not business as usual. This is why teachers make students stand and move every 15 minutes or so—to restart the brain. This why street preachers are uncomfortable and often memorable.

Rather than automatically aim for consensus, challenge your team about the kind of reaction you want from your target audience. When does it make sense to provoke?


Written by kirkistan

May 6, 2013 at 9:09 am

Bending HIPAA Toward Spontaneity—Just for the Health of It

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What if our propensity for over-sharing helped us get healthy?

tumblr_mimklpUnHE1qbcporo1_1280-02252013Writing for Fast Company, Jennifer Miller reported on a study that showed the amazing stickiness of Facebook status feeds over other literature. Miller queued up the notion as “mind-ready content,” which is a pithy way of getting at the heart of the study. It seems the immediacy and poor spelling and bad grammar we expect in status updates all have a way of indicating spontaneity. And one of the study experiments suggested:

…the remarkable memory for microblogs is also not due to their completeness or simply their topic, but may be a more general phenomenon of their being the largely spontaneous and natural emanations of the human mind. (Major memory for microblogs abstract: Mickes L, Darby RS, Hwe V, et al.)

We’ve been witnessing the rise of social media to help people lose weight, get exercise, eat right, among a sea of many other activities. It is the telling and the reading—all on a fairly spontaneous level—that has great persuasive powers. Not to belabor this point, but it is not just reading about others’ success that can motivate behavior change. It is when we ourselves record our progress (and lack thereof) (in public and not) that also motivates change. If you’ve ever recorded the calories you eat in a day or the money you spent in a day, you know how awareness jumps to high alert.

Can these facts about human motivation and memory be harnessed by physicians? Should healthcare have a social component…generally? Privacy on the web—always a moving target—would seem to have hit the immovable object of what the US considers protected health information: those rules the medical community follows to ensure medical records stay private. But encouraging patients to share what they are comfortable sharing, is there a possible positive health outcome in that? Maybe. Maybe not. Who is itching to read about their friend’s infection (sorry: bad word choice)? I have no desire to read colonoscopy stories. But on the other side, will we start to see spontaneous-ish declarations from our friend the corporate doctor/robot that encourage us toward healthful habits—based on our Facebook feeds?

One wonders.


Image credit: Ben Giles via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

February 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

My Doctor the Telephone

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Where Patient is King/Queen/Parliament

One segment of the healthcare market expecting continued explosive growth is telehealth—so reports Arundhati Parmar in MedCity News. Parmar cited IMS Research which projects 55 percent growth in telemedicine in 2013. Telemedicine covers a wide swath of care, of course: from a simple phone call to email and web-based approaches to a variety of technologies employed in diagnosis and follow-up for everything from minor ailments to chronic and acute care.

Telehealth is inherently interesting for the medical device community in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro. Each of the big three medical device companies markets some variation on telehealth—especially focused on implanted pacemakers, defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization devices. But in some ways we are quite behind in considering the preferences and patterns of patient communication. For too many years our community has focused on marketing to physicians. But perhaps 2013 will be the year our community wakes to the fact we must talk simply and effectively with a much, much wider group of audiences. As patients continue to grasp the nuances of the power to choose, they will choose to engage with companies with whom they can develop relationships. They will demand clear and succinct information that doesn’t condescend. The days of doing whatever the physician says are quickly coming to an end.

Brand will be an even bigger deal when the patient is king.


Written by kirkistan

February 13, 2013 at 5:00 am

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