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May 08, 2012


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David, Inova's posting of ER wait times on its website is perhaps the coolest thing I've seen in healthcare in a year.

David Meerman Scott

Nalts -- And I was too thick brained to even notice that. THANKS for pointing that out.

Seth Godin


I've wanted to write something like this for years

well done, David


Thanks for highlighting Healthcare, David.

I've been consulting in the healthcare world on and off for a few years and just took a leap last year to join a health system full-time in much the same position as Chris.

The "fear" I've found is less about content/HIPPA and more about the fear of flipping the budget over and putting more resources into online/digital/content/inbound, etc.

Data helps us make the case for that. And it's working here.

But, the corporate wheel turns slow...and it can wear you down.

That's why I really think the best take-away here is Chris' advice to not try and change the entire organization at once and to look for "obvious opportunities..."

Good stuff all around :)


Absolutely right David. Many of our clients work with registered and managed financial products meaning that all thought leadership has to pass through a narrow filter of acceptability with FINRA and the SEC. Sure it's always hard work blazing a trail, but now that success has breed understanding through legal, compliance and marketing departments at these clients, what was previously avoided out of fear, is now embraced as a competitive advantage. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

David Meerman Scott

Thank you Seth. I appreciate it.

Dave - Chris is a real pioneer in this area. If you haven't already, you should check out his blog. At the end of the post, Chris talks about taking it slowly which I think is excellent advice.

Camilla - Yes indeed. Although this post was about healthcare, it certainly applies to what you are doing in financial services.


I was just discussing this a few weeks ago and making the case that, yes, it may be more of a challenge, but the rewards of humanizing a brand in a highly regulated industry can be many! Thanks for tackling this issue, I'm sharing now.

David Meerman Scott

Lynne - That's exactly right. And an added benefit is that your competitors are not engaging with their market so you really stand out.

Andy Brownell

Great article,

What's you experience or exposure been in the other side (pharma) category clients? I've been working to get a client to move beyond their legal fears of publishing compelling content both in and out of their owned properties, but to no avail?

Suggestions on best in class for Pharma? Both in content creation and social broadcast?


It's cool that you actually have someone who's done/doing it as an example rather than just the theory. I have a regulatory background from my work with financial institutions and sometimes they can be the hardest to work with since you're constantly fighting the fact that better is the enemy of "good enough".


David - thanks for the kind words and all the great feedback in the comment section. I couldn't have done this all without my team: they all are fearless and we encourage each other to champion new tools and ways to communicate. Here are the five silver bullets I share with other hospital marketers, when they ask how they could start their "real-time" communication strategies:

1. Start small
2. Don't be afraid to fail
3. Celebrate your successes
4. Measure, measure, measure
5. Remember, there are no such things as "silver bullets"

Thanks again!

David Meerman Scott

Andy - in my experience, Pharma is even more fearful than healthcare.

SocialMatica - Yes. I try to use examples in my posts and Chris is an excellent one.

Chris!! You're a superstar. Thanks for the additional helpful pointers. And keep up the great work. Tell your boss that you need a raise.



As a former lawyer (I spent 14 years in practice), I come up against a whole slew of reasons why social media can't be done. Lawyers are great at this, but very poor at seeing the potential that comes from something (mildly) different. I think as well as fear there is a huge amount of apathy. Professionals want everything to be laid out in neat tidy rows of success "If we do this we get that", and given the process of social media, they just sit there scratching their heads. My bigger concern is that once every firm climbs on board the cattle truck that we will be back to square one where there is no differentiation save for the issue of remarkable content. The early adopters will have more than a critical advantage - they will have built such a loyal tribe that none of their members would even dream of looking elsewhere.

Bring it on.


David Meerman Scott

Julian - I really appreciate your comment from the (former) lawyer perspective. Really great stuff.

Raúl Colón

As a Big 4 CPA Firm Alumni where every communication has to be reviewed for legal purposes I understand clearly why some companies have a needs for that.

On the other side I use to work for the Information Risk Management practice of KPMG and I have to say that my biggest concern with these companies is staying away from risk by doing nothing only might create an even bigger risk.

Risk management is a unique discipline where you try to guess what will have great impact by evaluating different scenarios. I guess that seeing how a company does nothing to interact with their customers in my opinion creates more risk than taking the approach Inova took.

More companies need to understand that measuring risk is looking at the complete eco-system not looking at just the negative perspective of things.

David Meerman Scott

Raul, Frankly I do not understand why a CPA firm would require all communications to be reviewed. It makes no sense in today's real-time world. Instead, such companies should set a policy and let people get on with their jobs without interference from the lawyers.

I think there is much bigger risk in saying nothing.



Good advice all around.

I do think, though, we are dodging the biggest elephant in the room, here, when it comes to digital healthcare communications:

The FDA.

The scrutiny experienced by Inova-- from a regulatory perspective-- is a comparative walk in the park compared to those that have to deal with DDMAC. I wonder if Mr. Boyer has any insight on that?

I wonder if

Cygnis Media

Awesome! I like your post and decided to write an article in future. Thanks to motivate

Verona Segura

Thanks for taking this opportunity to discuss this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject. If possible, as you gain information, please update this blog with more information. I have found it really useful.

Tamara G. Suttle, M.Ed., LPC

Hi, David. Thanks again for another great post. I consult with mental health professionals and allied health professionals specifically on how to build strong private practices. Your post mirrors what I deal with every day and the "F-word" i.e. FEAR is exactly what this is about.

Health professions are highly regulated AND many are light years behind when it comes to marketing and general business practices. I, too, was a late-bloomer online. . . because of fear.

I know when I meet the rare health care professional who is engaged with social media in an effective way that she is well on her way to building a strong and vibrant business and leaving her colleagues in the dust. If I can learn to build relationships online and to leverage those relationships for my business, then so can any other health care professional.

Yes, these highly regulated industries do have special needs and concerns. I think that's part of why I've been able to navigate these waters. I've come from the mental health field and was already familiar with those concerns.

One of my frustrations early on was that many of the tech professionals that I encountered initially were clueless and appeared disinterested in my very real risk management and clinical concerns related to engaging with others online. Once I connected with a techie who was truly concerned about MY concerns, my now-favorite-geek and author, Beth J. Hayden, I was able to move beyond my fears to discover the perks and pleasures of building relationships online.

As a mental health professional, boundaries and HIPAA are real concerns. However, they are not barriers to marketing online. They are just parameters that need to be effectively addressed.

Thank you for highlighting this issue and specifically referencing health care professionals. We are a professionals that are sorely in need of technical support and guidance and there are too few of us actually offering that in an effective way. It's a wide open field for those of you who are interested . . . !

David Meerman Scott


Bravo!! Thank you so much for jumping in. Hearing from a healthcare professional like you is a very important addition to this post and I thank you for doing so.

Together, one person at a time, we're making a difference in how healthcare professionals see the value (and risk) of real-time communication.

All the best for your success.


Sharon Thomas

Content marketing is required. Engaging in social media or creating valuable thread is never an offense. This article is written more on fear. I got to learn new things.

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