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.

 

Life Lessons From Mom That Also Apply to a Career in PR

For some of us, “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” still rings true. Play nice, share with others, don’t interrupt, work hard; the list goes on.

For me, a lot of the advice I call upon in my adult life revolves around what my parents taught me. I use their advice in parenting, how I treat my loved ones – both family and friends – and everything in between. Much of their advice I even apply to my career as a PR executive. In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share my thoughts, and those of my teammates, on how Mom’s early lessons stick with us and still help us in our careers today.

momWhen I was young, I struggled with math. Words always came much easier to me. As the daughter of two parents who worked for a national newspaper, you could say it was in the blood. How could I get through this math monkey on my back and change my perspective? My mother taught me that we all have to do things we don’t want to do. We all have to tackle the hard things. Part of life is this yin and yang of easy and hard. So with the assistance of kind teachers, patient parents, and most importantly a change in me, I switched my thinking and began to use the mantra, “I will not give up.” I heeded my mother’s tough advice. She didn’t have a ton of sympathy, but rather told me over and over, “Keep at it, be tough, and do not give up.”

I am no longer tackling Pi or the Pythagorean Theorem, or cringing after being called up to write on the blackboard in math class  - but each day as a PR professional, I am still faced with challenges that call for mental toughness and confidence. This is when the parts of my job that are harder and grittier than others call for my mom’s good old “don’t give up” mantra. This mantra makes for happy clients, solid journalistic relationships and a constant quest for me to deliver top results while striving to do better.

My PerkettPR colleagues shared what they’ve learned from their mothers as well. Here’s a collection of the awesome advice that they still carry with them in their PR careers.

From Christine Perkett

My mother taught me not to undervalue myself – which comes in handy when negotiating as both employer and vendor. My grandmother taught me that men are like street cars — a new one will always come along. I say the same is true clients – not that I don’t appreciate the ones we have (I so do!), but that they come and go and that losing one is not the end of the world.

 From Susan Sweenie:

My mom taught me that even when dealing with someone tough or not interested, just kill them with kindness. 

From Crystal Monahan:

I’ve had the privilege of having two moms in my life – my actual mom and my stepmother. Although different in innumerable ways, they both share one admirable trait that I have tried to emulate in my life and career. They both possess a remarkable work ethic. They work dawn to dusk if necessary. They have held multiple jobs to provide for their families. Nothing is beneath them – if it needs to get done, they do it. They both understand that nothing in life comes free and great pride comes from a job well done.

I’ve always tried to do my best and work my hardest, and have always appreciated the sense of accomplishment at seeing the results of my efforts whether it’s completing monthly status reports on time, writing a solid press release, or seeing my clients in the media.

Whenever I’m feeling lazy, I think about my two moms and I know they’ve probably already accomplished more in a day than many people do in a week, and I’m inspired to get back to work.

From Susie Dougherty:

“Mind your manners…” Something my mom was a stickler about, much to my benefit. I think most of us (well, maybe not as many as I’d like to think) grow up to be mindful of the simple words and gestures that help make us respected adults. But with today’s email and social media – suddenly a lot of those manners have gone out the window. Thanks to my mom for somehow making those words stick –even as the Internet has fundamentally changed in so many ways how we communicate. I’m still using my manners behind my laptop or iPhone or tablet screen – and I know that stands out to clients, reporters and even my own colleagues.”

From Jennifer Hellickson:

My mom’s a big proponent of the Golden Rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated – and this goes a long way in PR. Going that extra mile for both our clients and our colleagues in the media means trying to not only think from their perspective, but also anticipate their needs, as well. This creates a better working environment for everyone and ultimately allows us, as PR professionals, to better serve the company’s mission.

From Heather Bliss :

Mom taught me so many amazing lessons, but one of the most valuable was to be a good listener and problem solver. She has an uncanny ability to be able to listen to ANYONE, and I mean anyone. Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague or a stranger on the park bench next to her — if they have a problem my mom has the time and patience to listen and to try and help solve it. I learned how to translate some small part of this gift of hers to my work in PR to really listen to clients and understand the issues they face and try to problem solve solutions as my mother would with quickness and calm.

And, fellow PerkettPR staff member (and new mom herself) agrees:

Johanna Lucia adds:

My Mom always taught me the importance of being a good listener. She helped instill this very powerful life skill in me, and when it comes to PR– we need to hear our clients. Listening to our clients’ wants and needs is a vital part of our role and in helping develop effective PR strategies.

What inspirational mom lessons can you share with us? Do you have a favorite piece of advice learned in childhood that still remains a part of your work habit today? Please share your stories in the comments.

5 Elements of an Effective Press Release

press_release_writing“The shorter and the plainer the better.” –Beatrix Potter

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare

Minute by minute, a dizzying amount of data is created in this content-driven world. (Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from DOMO )

And as PR folks, we’re under the gun to get the message across – clearly, thoroughly and correctly on behalf of our clients.

More often than not, this takes the form of a press release, the worth and future of which has become an annual debate. (But that’s another blog post entirely… For our purposes here, rather than dispute its inherent value, let’s focus on a few ways in which we can improve upon the content of future announcements we’re putting out into the ether).

I found a great article by Bill Stoller, The Ten Commandments of a Press Release, where he outlines his top ten “shalts” and “shalt nots.” In it, he argues that “when the recipient of a release focuses only on its content — and not on its creation — the writer has succeeded.”

Stoller’s point is an important one: Good writing allows the reader to focus on the message versus the medium. Although we’re taught to write one way growing up, I tend to think that the most effective press releases today follow these five guidelines:

  1. K.I.S.S. “Simple” works, but “short” is even more impactful in our content-crazed world.
  2. Sell the story, not your company. Yes, we know who is paying for the release, but that doesn’t mean anything if no one wants to cover it, correct? Take the time to create context.
  3. Remember your audience. Resist the urge to use marketing speak or pepper in industry acronyms. B2B or B2C, it’s doesn’t matter; keep it straightforward and interesting.
  4. Do the legwork. Again, know your targets and how they like to receive content. Social media savvy? Try tweeting a link to the release. Very visual? Scrap the words and make an infographic with your information. Make it easy for journalists to do their job, and they may just reciprocate.
  5. See number one. We’re following our own rules here.

Do you have any other principles for better press releases that you’d like to see added to the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Telecommuting Tips for Those Who Don’t Work at Yahoo

This week is National TeleWork Week (March 4-8). Coincidentally this week also falls on the heels of the Yahoo decision to stop all telecommuting – so for those of you that work at Yahoo we apologize in advance, and you can stop reading here :)

Work from home comic

Whether you think Yahoo made the wrong decision or it was all ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ it does help to raise awareness for the passion people have for telework — and we are no exception. With over 15 years as a virtual business we have deep experience on the topic. So without further ado — here are our team’s work from home tips for success.

Tips for staying productive when working from home:

  • Keep the “To Do” list handy. Knowing what you have to accomplish makes it easier to plan your day and there is a huge feeling of accomplishment when you cross things off the list.
  • Take advantage of the little perks you wouldn’t have in a traditional office and customize your environment however you are comfortable and productive; wear comfortable clothing, sit on a balance ball instead of a chair, play some motivational music – heck, light a candle. These are luxuries the office worker isn’t typically allowed, so go for it. Your work environment has a huge impact on productivity, so create a space that makes you feel good.
  • Take mini breaks. Get up and walk around to get the blood flowing; check the mailbox; throw in a load of laundry; take out the trash. Take advantage of your home setting and knock out a few quick chores throughout the day.
  • Have a daily routine. Have breakfast, followed by a big cup of coffee, work through the morning’s emails, plan out your day, schedule a walk at lunch and make sure you get out of the house.
  • Plot projects based on natural rhythm. For example, perhaps try to work on writing and pitching later in the day when you can focus and dig deeper without as many distractions.
  • Eat lunch. On busy days, it’s so easy to lose track of the time, but take a brain break and eat something healthy to give you that final push for the remainder of the day. When in doubt, chocolate helps then, too!
  • Give yourself a win. In PR, we’ve got a variety of projects and priorities and things are constantly changing, but start the day with a “win,” meaning tacking at least one smaller project to completion. There’s nothing as inspiring as crossing something off your to-do list early to get the day going on a positive note!
  • Get a sounding board. If you are an animal lover consider adopting a dog or cat. If not, you could always try a Talking Tom doll. Working from home can be isolating and everyone needs someone to talk to, even if they can’t talk back :).
  • Have a back-up plan. Just like an office that could lose Internet access, power, or be shut down for maintenance, know what your back up plan is and be able to get there fast. Working from home should be seamless even when inconveniences like power outages happen.

Still not sure you are ready to work from home? Here are some direct quotes from our team members to inspire you to explore the idea further:

“I absolutely love having the ability to work from home. There’s something so satisfying about being able to dig in and get work done more efficiently without the usual office distractions, and it’s given me a better quality of life overall.”

“At one point in my career, I was commuting three hours per day (round trip) – that’s 60 hours per month of “lost” time! So I’m not only appreciative to have that time back each week, but also grateful to be able to reinvest it in things that matter, whether it’s work, family, friends, hobbies or just recharging my battery.”

“I believe that happy, fulfilled people are more productive and creative in their work, and I’ve seen that firsthand at PerkettPR. Our colleagues are able to attend functions with their kids, run marathons, blog, cheer on their favorite sports teams, write books, win Maker Faire competitions, create art installations displayed in museums, and much, much more. It’s that kind of passion, perseverance and out-of-the box thinking that makes us more interesting as people, and is also allows us to offer a greater depth of imagination and resourcefulness in our daily work.”

“As a mom of three, working from home has allowed me stay in the workforce, contribute financially to my family, all while staying an active – and visible – participant in my children’s lives every single day. The idea of commuting to the city – two hours each way, not getting home until 7pm – I couldn’t imagine a bigger detractor to my productivity than taking away those hours with my kids.”

“I love working from home because with school-aged children, I feel better knowing that I am nearby and accessible if there is an emergency such as a call from the school nurse. I don’t have to worry about waiting for a train ride home or sitting in traffic. That is invaluable to me.”

“Life is way too short to spend a quarter of your waking hours sitting in traffic in a car. There is too much to do and too much to experience with all of those wasted hours. Successful people are successful no matter where they work: At airports, in an office , on the beach…working from home is no different. You just have to be diligent about eliminating distractions.”

We believe our team’s appreciation for a solid work/life balance has a direct impact on their contributions to our success. And as Jean Baptiste Su says in his above linked Forbes piece on the subject: Happy employees make great companies.

What are some of your work from home productivity tips?