An Advocate’s Website Checklist

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As we close in on the end of the year, many of you are (or at least should be) in the process of reviewing your marketing plans in preparation for the new year.

Others among you, those who are just getting started with building advocacy practices, may be looking at ways to improve what you’ve started (or maybe you even just hope to get started!)

Among the marketing tactics we should all be using is a marketing website. In fact, except for finding public speaking opportunities, your website is arguably THE most important piece of marketing you can use.

Most of you realize that, and appropriately put your efforts into building effective websites. During the past few weeks, I’ve been asked to review a handful of advocates’ websites. Unfortunately, I have had to say no – there has just been no time to do so.

So I thought about how could I help out without getting myself into a time pickle… and began writing…

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Carly Simon, Ketchup and an Advocate’s Secret Sauce

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Many readers of this blog (members of The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates) know we’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to complete the build of the new APHA membership website.  Short of raising my two daughters, I think it’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken – just enormous – hundreds of resources and thousands of pages – and I’m happy that it is now complete! (Or at least as close as it will ever be – these things are never truly complete.)

Along the way, I’ve learned a few lessons about how to approach the work that can help you, too. And here is the bottom line to those lessons:

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… and Now the New York Times

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Over the years I’ve been asked this so many times – when do I think health and patient advocacy as a well-known profession will “arrive?”  As if there should be some sort of date on which a switch is flipped and the world begins to recognize, then hire independent advocates to help them navigate the healthcare system.

Truth is, I’ve been expecting that tipping point for years. But (true confession) the evolution has been slower than I anticipated. Despite my 30+ years of business experience, working with every size business in every area of business imaginable, my crystal ball is still somewhat tarnished and my prediction abilities remain challenged.

The answer remains:  I just don’t know. It has been growing steadily. The opportunities are apparent every day!  But… yes, it has been slower than I thought it would be.

So many advocates, frustrated because the profession isn’t more mainstream, and because their phones don’t begin ringing off their hooks the moment they hang out their shingles, ask me “Why can’t the Alliance make it happen?  Just do a lot of big promotion!  Why aren’t you pushing advocacy in national press?  Or doing lots of google advertising? or?”

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How to Overcome the Biggest Challenge in Patient Advocacy Today

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A few weeks ago at the WASHAA Annual Meeting (Washington State Health Advocacy Association) I was asked my opinion on the biggest challenges in patient advocacy as we turn the corner to 2016.

I didn’t hesitate with my answer. I know exactly what those huge challenges are. So I shared my answer, which I’ll also share with you in a minute.

As an individual, your answers might be slightly different from the ones I see. You might consider your biggest challenges to be recognition of the profession by potential clients, the ability to get people to pay for your services, the juggling of business as well as your advocacy work, time management – or many others. (What DO you think are your biggest challenges?  Please comment to let us know.)

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Off to a Running Start!

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During the next few weeks, just prior to January 1, our brains begin to process the “Oh no! A new year is about to arrive! It’s time to make another New Year’s resolution!”  And then, the thought we all try to suppress… “… which I’ll give up by the end of January.”

Yikes! That’s no way to get started, feeling as if we’re going to fail before we even get going!

I’m no different. I undertake this annual process just like everyone else does. And yes, usually by the end of January, I’m as guilty as almost everyone else who gives up on their resolutions, too. Year after year after year…

This year…. OK, so this year I’m promising myself it’s going to be different. You know the definition of insanity – it’s repeating the same behavior and expecting different results, so THIS year, I’m going to try NOT to repeat the same behavior.

… Starting with timing and its effect on preparation. Part of the problem is timing!  We expect to throw the switch on changing out a bad habit, or any non-productive habitual behavior (or lack thereof) – but we just aren’t prepared to make that change. Is it possible that lack of preparation is what has stymied us in the past? Is it possible that better preparation for such big changes will improve our success rates?

Here’s what I’m talking about…  two personal examples, both putting me out on a limb, but in an effort to lead by example for you I’m making a vow to change – and I’m doing it NOW, before January 1. I am prepared. I have a running start….

<gulp!>

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Making the Case for Nonsense

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I suspect this discussion is going to surprise you as much as it surprised me.  The topic is Nonsense, but not Nonsense by its classic definition.  No, this Nonsense is quite different, and, frankly, sometimes it chokes me up.

Just published a month ago, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing is the title of a new book by Jamie Holmes. Jamie is a Future Tense Fellow at New America, a non-profit, think-tank / forum / media platform that promotes the intellectual study of politics, prosperity and purpose. Part science, part exposé, part business lesson, Nonsense will surely leave you looking at your world very differently. It is extremely well-researched, easy to understand and, truly, just fascinating.

Specifically, Jamie’s Nonsense promotes ambiguity, its great utility for big decision-making, and its role in improved outcomes. And he makes a very good case for it.

Not what you expected, right?

In my lifetime, I have never handled ambiguity well. To me, it’s anxiety-producing limbo. It’s the road to hell – not knowing – not having the answers I think I need – not knowing how to deal with an important situation because I don’t have the important details. To me, ambiguity becomes an additional problem that just exacerbates the original problem. I can’t solve my problem or formulate my plan when I don’t have all the facts.

I raise this today for a few very different reasons. Continue Reading →

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Merriam Webster, The Who, and Hacking Churnalism

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Today we’re channeling The Who, Merriam Webster and one of my longtime favorite fellow patient empowerment buddies, Gary Schwitzer, who reminds me at least weekly why we just can’t trust the media without very careful review.

As follows:

I love a new word. When this one appeared in my inbox last week, I wanted to share it with you because it’s an important concept for advocates and patients alike.

Today’s new word is: Churnalism. (Take that Merriam Webster!) Churnalism is the product of lazy reporters and journalists who, without further investigation or review, simply reprint (or broadcast) a submitted press release or video roll from companies looking to profit, like pharmaceutical companies or medical device makers, or others looking for donations or grants (called “soft money”) like university or non-profit research centers, or anyone else who might make money by getting their information shared.

I encountered that new word churnalism in this headline, found in Gary’s Health News Review (HNR) newsletter:

Chicago Tribune repost of news release sets new low for churnalism

Here’s the problem Gary and his team at Health News Review address:  “News” is published and broadcast every day that makes its readers and listeners sit up and take notice – and is usually at least partially wrong or incomplete, and therefore misleading.

Health News Review does just what its name suggests. They review that health news: published stories and articles (text and video) produced by mainstream media and those press release submitters, and they rate them according to a list of criteria which, when met, make a story solid, objective news — information that can be trusted. The best a story can be rated is 5 stars. The worst is zero.

Now, it strikes me that churnalism by itself is already the definition of LOW, so to say the repost by the Chicago Tribune was the lowest of low – well – I had to check it out. On the HNR scale – it hit that goose egg, that zero. Ouch.

We have all fallen victim to this deception. We read or hear things we want to believe! We read or hear things that strike fear! But so often we aren’t getting the real truth.

Here are some sample headlines with their ratings:

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Shark Tank, Narrative, Your Audiences – and Success

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I’m a huge fan of TV’s Shark Tank. Not an episode goes by when I don’t learn something about business, investment, marketing or some other tidbit I can use in my work. My favorite “shark” is Barbara Corcoran because I find she bases her investment decisions on smart money-making plus appropriately enthusiastic entrepreneurs who share their stories of passion and work ethic.

This season there is a new shark in the tank, Troy Carter, who prior to this was totally unknown to me. Seems he used to be Lady Gaga’s manager, and is known for media production. He’s certainly on my radar now, big time. Barbara – watch out!  Troy may be giving you a run for your money into my “favorite” position!

Why such a quick pivot?  For the simple reason that one of Troy’s interests in an entrepreneur is “narrative.”  In the episode I watched, two entrepreneurs were seeking a quarter of a million dollars for selling SOCKS (of all things). All the other sharks wanted to know about data and statistics – how many have you sold, how much does it cost to make them, etc etc. But Troy asked them, “What’s your narrative?”

Yes – narrative is important enough even to sell SOCKS!  Yet – it’s barely mentioned in other business circles, at least not using that terminology, and not so intentionally.

But I believe that for us as patient advocates, narrative is one of our MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING TOOLS. So let’s look at it more closely – what, why, when and how.

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