PerkettPR’s “Influencers Who Inspire” Series Continues with Lindsey Dunn, Editor in Chief for Becker’s Hospital Review

DunnHeadshotOne of PerkettPR’s areas of expertise is servicing clients within the healthcare industry and because of this, we follow the top publications in this exciting industry.  One of our favorite publications that we read religiously is Becker’s Hospital Review.  We are thrilled to share an interview with its Editor in Chief, Lindsey Dunn.

In your former life, you worked in PR. What made you move to journalism and how does your PR experience influence your role in the media?

I worked for a little over two years in advertising and PR before returning to grad school. I made the jump to journalism after grad school. I had always loved writing and it was my favorite part of PR, and when I had the opportunity to take a job (then, as a reporter), that would allow me to write full time, I jumped at it.

I think my experience in PR has shaped how I work with PR people and companies and has made me more open to the role they play in shaping media stories. There are a lot of businesses in the healthcare space that produce (and share with the media) excellent surveys, studies, reports, etc., that we do not have the resources to create on our own. Journalism as we know it is going through a huge transition as we work to create excellent coverage with limited resources. At the same time, you see more active efforts by brands to be known as “thought leaders” through reports they share with the media, and their own custom content. This melding of independent journalism and content marketing worries a lot of people, but my belief is that consumers are smart. We have a journalistic responsibility to 1) make clear the source of content and 2) speak the truth. Most content marketing still abides by this; even it is more promotional than traditional journalism. So my hope is that as we transition to new business models for journalism, independent trade publications like ours will continue to thrive alongside other models.

Favorite Chicago restaurant/bar/dive and why?

I love Brick’s Pizza in Lincoln Park. It has great pizza and an even better beer list. It’s located underground, in a window-less, very old-school setting. It’s actually right next door to a now-defunct bar called The Catacombs. I mention that only so you get a true feel for the place. It’s always packed and they don’t take reservations, but it is a can’t-miss spot in Chicago’s often cold weather. There’s something cozy about going underground in the winter for hot pizza and cold beer. I recommend trying the “Grease Fire,” but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Becker’s Hospital Review publishes a ton of content – how do you keep up?

I don’t! I sure try, but I am certainly not the expert on everything. My role is more to educate and empower our reporters on the voice we want our publication to have and the stories that are important to pursue. The reporters are really the experts on each area they cover. If I have a question on a meaningful use, I know our HIT reporter will have an answer, without looking it up. Same for our M&A reporter, who could probably tell you every transaction in the past year. They are in charge of being experts on the beats they cover, and they, not me, ensure our readers have the most relevant news and feature articles for the areas they oversee.

Of course, I edit and guide their features, we talk about angles, sources, and all those other things, but I’m really more of a mentor that oversees the overall direction of the pieces on the website. I have my hand a bit more directly in the editorial development of our e-newsletters and print issues, but overall, they are the ones ensuring our coverage hits on the most relevant issues.

How has Obamacare impacted Becker’s editorial coverage? Or has it?

It has certainly given us lots to write about! House Republicans, who are now making their 37th attempt to overturn the healthcare reform law, recently put out a report stating that enacting ObamaCare will take 190 million hours per year. The point being, there are a lot of new regulations that have to be created, commented on, revised and released to enact many individual components of the law. We report on each of these rules and analyze how the new regulations contained in the rules could impact hospitals and healthcare providers. It’s an obligation we have to our readers.

ObamaCare also is a catalyst for a lot of the other trends we are seeing in the industry: consolidation, pay-for-performance, unique agreements between providers and payors. Each time a hospital merges, we cover it. Each time a payor starts an accountable care organization, we cover it. There’s certainly a lot for us to be on top of.

Based on your many interviews with hospital administrators, what’s keeping them awake at night?

Without a doubt, it is the challenge of the transition from moving from a fragmented, fee-for-service delivery system to a value-based one. In a fee-for-service system, your doctor is paid for every service he or she provides to you. As we look 5-10 years into the future, it’s more likely your physician will receive a set fee based on your individual risk to oversee care for you for the year. If they keep you relatively healthy and out of the hospital, they make money. If your condition gets worse or isn’t managed properly, they lose money. It’s a whole new business model for hospitals, and they can’t make the shift overnight. I think the concern of CEOs and CFOs of hospitals is how quickly they should shift to this new model, given that insurers still, for the most part, pay on a fee-for-service basis.

What keeps you awake at night?

To be honest, I sleep pretty well. Of course there are the occasional times when I have that running mental list that keeps me turning, but for the most part, I do my best to enjoy my time after I leave the office without stressing about things I can deal with tomorrow. I’m a big fan of “The Energy Project,” and first discovered it when I read an article by its founder, Tony Schwartz, in the Harvard Business Review.  He coaches companies and executives about how closely productivity is linked with getting enough sleep and taking time away from the office to recharge. It’s kind of crazy that this guy has becomes a business guru by simply telling people to stop obsessing over work, but so many people do! For writers, a key part of being great at what you do is being creative. If you’re tired, hungry and at a desk for 12 hours a day, you’re probably not going to be churning out your best work. I encourage our team to leave the office for lunch, take a walk around the block in the afternoon if the weather is nice, and leave at 5 (if their work is done, of course). You can actually be more productive and produce better work if the hours you work are more focused and without distraction.

Have you always worked in healthcare media? Why?

As I mentioned earlier, I came from the PR side, and there I worked on consumer product accounts. Becker’s was my first role in healthcare media. The reason I was able to get my initial job here was due, in part, to some experience I had in grad school editing academic medical papers that were eventually submitted and accepted to peer-reviewed journals.

Despite not actively choosing healthcare media, I couldn’t be happier. I always knew I wanted to work in business media, versus consumer, and healthcare is a subsector of that. I’m lucky to be covering it in such an exciting time. Hospitals are going through transformational change and looking to publications like ours to help keep them abreast of the changes and inform their decision making. Although it’s a several degree leap from what I do to the patient who receives great care, I do believe that the content we put out every day ultimately helps hospitals delivery higher quality, more affordable care.

Biggest pet peeves? Work and personal.

I am a very to-the-point person, so I’m not a huge fan of meetings. Without an agenda (and more importantly a leader that keeps people on point), they sometimes turn into a “let’s talk about everything about this project” fest, and you have your busy writer on deadline who is thinking “this is a waste of my time, I just need to write.” Meetings are sometimes necessary — for example, to share our editorial strategy, goals, provide feedback, etc., but when I go to one that starts getting away from its purpose, it’s something that bothers me.

Personally, I don’t like when people are late. Emergencies arise of course, but I people who are chronically late definitely unnerve me.

You get pitched by PR pros every day – having been on both sides of the equation, do you think you’re more accepting of the PR pitch than others or more critical?

I think I’m friendlier than your average editor when responding to pitches, especially calls. I used to get some really rude voices on the other end back when I was an intern pitching. I too much prefer email, but I at least try to not ruin the day of the person on the other side. I think of my 20-year-old self calling up some middle-aged tech reporter and all the anxiety I felt!

That said, I really wish PR people stood up to their clients more and made a case for smarter pitching, both in terms of angle and targeting. For example, if a product gets an award for being “green,” most outlets don’t consider that newsworthy, yet I get tons of these types of email pitches every week. Companies are paying agencies for their expertise, yet the PR leaders are afraid to say, “Hey, we can draft, revise and go through the approval process with you and your attorneys to write a release on this and then charge you to distribute it on the wire, and then charge you for 15 hours for our AAEs and AEs to pitch it. Or, let’s just have our AE send a quick, informal email or Twitter message to the three or four reporters at the two outlets that actually cover this kind of news. The latter will save you, probably $2,500.” I am making up the number, but you get the idea. I guess it means fewer billings for the agency, but wouldn’t the top companies flock to someone who wasn’t afraid to at least propose this approach to them?

What is next for you for the remainder of 2013?

Professionally, I am focused helping us meet our key growth goals for the year, which are 400,000 visitors per month to our website and 80,000 subscribers to our E-weeklies. We are really close on the website goals, with just about 385,000 visitors last month. So, growing our E-weeklies is a key priority now. Part of our growth is organic, of course, but I am also trying to work with our team here to develop an active social media plan, and also more actively market our brand to healthcare executives. We have a slew of journalists here who really are poised to be thought leaders in the areas they cover, so now we just need to look for opportunities for them to get in front of our audiences in this way.

Personally, I definitely want to take more time to give back. We do quarterly service projects through Becker’s, but I’d like to do more individually. I’ve done mentoring before, and it is so rewarding. I plan to get involved with that again after summer, when the new school year starts. I volunteer for a program that works with at-risk youth specifically on their writing skills, so it’s right up my alley. Working with teenagers on their personal essays is probably some of the most challenging, satisfying editing I’ve ever done.

 

“Effective Executive” Series with Eliot Buchanan, Co-founder and CEO of Plastiq

Eliot BuchananThis week’s “Effective Executive” interview is with Eliot Buchanan, Co-Founder and CEO of Plastiq, an online service that allows people to use their credit cards to pay for things when they couldn’t before. We asked Eliot about his early days building the Company, the challenges he has encountered and what he is passionate about.

As you worked to build Plastiq, how long did the entire process take?

I would say the first two years at Plastiq were spent almost exclusively on building and testing the business concept, talking with customers, understanding the marketplace, and building relationships. Like many industries – though perhaps even more so in financial services – forming key relationships in the marketplace is one of the biggest assets (or, if lacking, drawbacks) of an early stage venture like ours. For us, this was true from the very beginning. We were very focused and invested heavily in building social capital with the ecosystem before even asking (and getting) that ecosystem to adopt our product.

What obstacles or challenges did you encounter in the earlier days of Plastiq?

There were many. I’ve always said that the most exciting time in an early company is the first month or so. That’s when you think you have the best idea in the world that needs no money, will scale infinitely, is without competition, and you estimate that you can sell it for a billion dollars. After the first month, reality starts to set in, and various roadblocks happen. I’m sure these feelings are comparable for other companies that are driving disruption and innovating within an industry.

I think what has allowed Plastiq to thrive, however, is that we have embraced each of these roadblocks as a challenge and this has fueled important and necessary change. Perhaps a competitor had highlighted an important aspect of the ecosystem that we missed in our early days, but which we only now learned unexpectedly. Or take the need for capital. Any entrepreneur’s toughest challenge can be raising money. But through that process of pitching and speaking to hundreds of people – each of whom was a potential customer of my product as well – I was able to learn so much about how I could describe my own business to different audiences. This allowed me to better align myself, understand various challenges, and strive to improve them.

Another aspect worth mentioning – and I suspect it’s universal to the start up process – is the true daily rollercoaster ride. I am confident that no one except the entrepreneur experiences as many ups and downs in a single day. But it is also this same process that can lead to building the grit and character required to creating something big. This has been true of Plastiq since day 1 and it absolutely remains true today.

Can you describe how your Harvard education prepared you for your role today, leading the company and being its strategic advisor/visionary?

I get this question a lot, and I generally think about my time at Harvard with some frequency. I suspect this is because I enjoyed my experience there. I think there are two aspects worth mentioning.

First, in terms of formal preparation, I would strictly say that Harvard offered no formal education that applied directly to what I am doing at Plastiq, or any business for that matter. Before you raise concerns about the Ivy League education system, let me clarify my statement a bit further. Harvard is a liberal arts college, and it focuses on teaching students to appreciate a broad range of interests and perspectives. This established a foundation that allows the thought and reflection necessary to be “creative” and innovate or go outside established boxes.

In fact, formality, in this respect, would be the exact opposite of what – in my view – would engender entrepreneurship. The academic informality at Harvard (and I’m not saying it’s perfect) encouraged me to think more as a “generalist” rather than a “specialist”, and pushed me to better understand what I wanted to do, what needed to change in the world, what could be improved, and what mattered or didn’t matter to me.

The second aspect is all about people and character. This is not unique to Harvard but more broadly any successful “college” experience. While at Harvard, I was surrounded by incredible people. Challenging people. Some people I didn’t like (that’s life). And others I didn’t understand (that’s growth). Whether it was my roommates, classmates, or teammates (I was on the varsity squash team), I found myself constantly challenged and pushed to become a leader, to get along with others, to learn from them, admire them, cherish them, and help them. Some of my hardest days as a college student were learning seemingly basic skill sets within a team setting. It’s extremely difficult for me to sit here today and imagine how I could be leading a group of talented executives without having gained a hands-on “education” about people – their strengths and flaws – as well as my own while I was in college.

Can you explain what you feel it means to be a true “entrepreneur”?

In my view, an entrepreneur is a leader of change and a motivator of trust in others to carry out that change or at least respect that it is happening without them and around them. In this respect there is no financial instrument linked to the definition of “entrepreneur” or their outcome, and we see many “entrepreneurs” in non-business pillars (presidents, activists, religious leaders, sports icons – these are all entrepreneurial in many of their aspects). Entrepreneurs in any “field” must all lead people through the toughest moments. They will always have many doubters, a lot of competition for their business or at least their attention, and they must always be “on” no matter what time of day it is–where they are, or who they are with. The world – or at least their world – is ceaselessly watching.

In terms of “serial” entrepreneurs, I don’t really appreciate the term, as it focuses too much on the “business” and a quantification of success. I think, at least in my view, one only becomes an entrepreneur after one has been through a number of ventures, and in thus the very “serial” nature of the term is really a pre-requisite to being a “true entrepreneur.”

Being part of many other ventures, do you enjoy the start up culture? Why or why not?

I’ve always been a self-starter and have consistently been drawn to solving problems, taking risks, and I’m never afraid to “try the new.” There are many things I love about being in an early stage company, but suffice it to say, I had a normal 9-5 job once and lasted only a few weeks (probably because I wasn’t qualified).

I think what I enjoy most about the environment I am currently in is the people; each day I am forced to be a better leader – even a better person – in order to move the company and our vision forward. I never thought leading and motivating could be all I do in a day while still being exhausted, satisfied, and ready to wake up the next day – eagerly – at 5am. It doesn’t quite make sense, except perhaps in the start up world. That’s a neat feeling and it’s a lot of fun.

Outside of work, what else are you passionate about? hobbies?

Being an entrepreneur, my list will be noticeably short…

I was a big squash player in my younger days as well as in university. I’m slowly getting back into the sport, which I enjoy very much. I like traveling and the outdoors – my former college roommates and I do a multiday backpacking trip each year ever since we graduated.

What is next for Plastiq for the remainder of 2013?

If I told you I’d have to kill you (kidding). One of the things I enjoy most about our company and my team is our somewhat paradoxical obsession of laying low and being patient but then ultimately going out with unprecedented scale and impact in everything we do. This doesn’t mean we wait until we get everything right (mistakes are, after all, the ingredients of success for an entrepreneur), but rather that we feel comfortable in our own skin and like being humble, before ultimately letting the world know that we’ve abruptly taken over a marketplace.

2013 is no different. For the first quarter most of my team was universally focused on a single goal, while the broader market would have probably asked, “sorry, who is Plastiq?” At the end of March, we launched our product that addressed the largest payment opportunity in Canadian history, and was the first and only provider to allow tax payments for all Canadians on any credit card of their choice.

What I will say about the remainder of 2013 is that the March launch for tax was not about “pay your taxes”, but was more about “welcome to Plastiq.” We have a lot more in store.

Tell your story – Storify

storifyWorking in an industry that’s constantly evolving, it’s imperative in PR to stay on top of the latest technologies, tools, and services. Whether it’s a social network (we love LinkedIn for networking and thought leadership opportunities) or a social media management tool (Hootsuite is on the top of our list)—we’re always on the look out for new and innovative ways to improve efficiency and enhance our client service. Being open-minded to new ideas, testing out new processes, tools, and services helps PerkettPR remain in the forefront. Did you know in 2008, we were one of the first PR firms to join and find value in Twitter? So, it’s no surprise that when I came upon social media curation service, Storify, I was eager to explore this social network that allows users to tell virtual stories using videos, pictures, tweets and more.

In PR, storytelling is pivotal. Every brand has a story. And it is how a brand creates a story for its target audience—one that features compelling content and meticulous thought – that makes it relatable and engaging; however the way we tell the story has evolved from traditional mediums like newspapers to the concise art of 140 characters. Storify extends our “storifying” abilities even more. Being in PR, this network is especially enticing as it gives us the control to creatively tell our clients’ stories – on our terms. Whether it’s showcasing client coverage, sharing videos, or promoting an upcoming event there are many valuable uses for this tool. Storify makes stories more interesting and authentic—bringing together many voices into one story—allowing a brand to build more trust and credibility with its audience. This network proves to be both interactive and social—giving stories depth and resonance—qualities needed in today’s social media savvy age.

In fact, Storify recently launched Storify Business, a premium service that allows companies to spread story content more effectively while building their brand presence. Some of the new specialized features include the ability to make stories private, more accurate analysis of results, real-time updates, CSS styling with custom story display, and enhanced technical support. We’re looking forward to seeing how marketers and companies alike embrace this new service.

Do you use Storify? Is it useful? What are some of your favorite stories? What additional features would you like to see to further boost your story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

MavenSay What?

Every now and then, I come across a product or service that makes me ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?” MavenSay—a new social networking app– is no exception.

mavensayWith this app you’re able to share your lifestyle with a trusted community of enthusiasts and local taste makers. What pair of running sneakers do you love? Where do you get the best coffee heath bar ice cream? Where should I get my eyebrows waxed? What’s a new song I should download?

At its heart MavenSay is about knowing what’s good by sharing the latest trends — fashion, food, music, shopping — through reliable and trusted recommendations. With a soft launch in October, the six month old app is making huge strides in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. More than a location based guide, MavenSay wants to be the community for lifestyle curation.

mavensay2So how does it all work? Well, one of the best things about MavenSay is how easy it is to use. Simply, find you friends through Facebook and Twitter to see their recommendations. You can also visit the weekly “Discover” section to find a curated collection recommended by MavenSay. or use the nearby map feature to view favored local finds.
And with a spokesbear named Fred the Honey Maven ¬and creative video ads like this one¬ http://vimeo.com/58834365 — it’s hard not to appreciate this bright company’s creativity to attract Mavens.

It will be interesting to see if MavenSay will stick. Are you a Maven? What are some of your favorite features? What could MavenSay do to enhance their app? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.