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How to Write Initiative Stories That People Will Read


If you write for employee publications, chances are you’ve been asked to write a story about an initiative. But initiatives themselves aren’t always interesting. In fact, they’re often boring. To write a story that will be valuable for employees at all levels of the organization, ask yourself a few questions:

What’s in it for them? Put yourself in employees’ shoes. What about this initiative is most relevant to employees’ day-to-day work? Ask several employees questions about how the initiative would affect their work lives. For an intranet article supporting a Safety Ambassador Employee initiative at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the writer used a lead that focused on several things that some employees admitted thinking when they saw potential safety hazards.

Are some employees already doing something that fulfills part or all of the initiatives’ goals? If so, interview these employees. To do this, you may have to wait until an initiative has been in place for a few weeks or months. For example, if your hospital is working on a hand hygiene initiative, chances are a task force may be working to implement new programs. If they’re doing something that might help other departments, ask if you can share contact information or a presentation in the story so others can learn from their efforts. If a department has a webpage on your intranet with tools that support the initiative, can you share it? While this obesity prevention initiative from IU Health is for the public, it has links to programs that are already running.

How does the initiative affect frontline employees? Initiative stories often share only executives’ viewpoints. And of course, executives love their initiatives (at least at first). To be useful, believable and read-worthy, your article needs quotes from frontline employees and specific information about what their role will be in the project.

Sarah Hawkins is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. Read more of her work at www.sarahbhawkins.com.

Posted by Sarah Hawkins

Writing With Tendonitis: How to Deal


I was just diagnosed with tendonitis in my wrists. While it’s not as bad as carpal tunnel, tendonitis sidelined me from my job as a writer and editor. For a whole week, I couldn’t type more than a few paragraphs at a time without pain.

Whether you’re suffering from wrist and hand tendonitis or carpal tunnel, or have intermittent hand and/or wrist pain, over the past few weeks I learned some things that might help.

Again, I waited too long to see a doctor. Don’t make that mistake. Here’s what I did to get back to doing what I love (writing) and paying my bills.

  1. If you’re in pain, don’t delay. Get a real diagnosis from a real doctor — not Dr. Facebook or WebMD. My problem became unmanageable because I poo-pooed my pain for months. At my appointment, my doctor did some relatively painless tests and determined I had tendonitis. Phew! Tendonitis is much easier to manage and doesn’t require surgery (which is a possibility with severe carpal tunnel).
  2. Ask your doctor for stretches and exercises. Remember to also build up your arm muscles with weights, and when you’re ready, try yoga or pushups. When my arms were stronger, I never had any issues with tendonitis. My recent flare-up happened after a few months of not doing yoga or upper-body workouts.
  3. Tell your clients what’s happening and what you’re doing about it. Mac users have free, built-in dictation and speech software in their operating system that some feel is better at voice recognition than anything you can buy. You can’t do formatting verbally, but it’s great at picking up your voice when you speak clearly and not to quickly. Using the free Mac software option, I was able to finish a project that was urgent, and asked several clients if I could postpone non-urgent assignments. They were very understanding.
  4. Use proper ergonomics at your workstation. Unless you’re typing six days a week — which would eventually give anyone problems — the issue is most likely poor posture or hyperextended wrists.
  5. Take at least a few days off from typing, texting, Instagram and Facebook! When you need to reach someone, call them. I know, it sounds like it won’t work, but my clients, friends and family were very supportive when I told them I’d be calling for a while. I did still email some clients when needed.
  6. Wear a flexible support at night on both wrists. There are different ones that work for carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
  7. DIY: Create a standing desk. When I write at my standing desk, my posture is great, all the time. When I sit, eventually I slouch and/or drop my wrists into bad positions. There’s good news: You don’t have to buy a standing desk. I use my kitchen table with a box on top of it. Just make sure your ergonomics are correct by following an online guide. Alternate between your standing desk and your ergonomically-aligned sitting desk.
  8. Take a break every 20-30 minutes. Either rest your hands or do your stretches.
  9. If the problem is worse in your dominant hand, use your non-dominant hand for more activities. I’m right handed, so put a brace on my right hand to remind myself to not use it as much, and did more with my left. I held my coffee cup with my left hand, and lefty also steered my car for about a week (with a little help from righty). Bonus: Using your non-dominant hand has brain benefits.


Posted by Sarah Hawkins

How to Survive a Really Long Conference Call


A long conference call can be a challenge in any office. But when you work from home, there’s no telling what can happen. The doorbell rings. The dogs go berserk. The cat decides your ponytail is a prey animal. And this all usually unfolds the second you unmute yourself to answer a question or share an idea. 

A long call from home demands more preparation than looking over the agenda or jotting down questions. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Tackle quick to-dos that could haunt you later. Answer your colleague’s email now to prevent a thought-derailing IM later. Make sure the kids are cared for, have a ride home from school and know the “do not disturb unless you’re bleeding from your eyeballs” signal. Just taking care of a nagging errand, like dropping off the dry cleaning or picking up a prescription, can help give you peace of mind.
  2. Exercise – with the dogs if you have them. That’s right. Wake up early if you have to. You’ll feel more alert, relaxed and entitled to some sit-down time. Better yet, if you have dogs, take them on a walk or run shortly before your call. They’ll curl up for a nap while you earn the kibble.
  3. Keep moving. If you’re not leading the call, use your mute time to stand, pace, do squats, or walk or bike slowly from your makeshift treadmill or cycle desk. Just don’t get out of breath! Moving your body helps keep your mind attentive so you don’t zone out on the call.
  4. Sequester yourself. Even with all of the above going for you, that doorbell could still ring. Your spouse could pop in unexpectedly. The dog could still bark. Take the call from the quietest spot in the house – the back bedroom, the lower level, that organized walk-in closet you’re so proud of. Just avoid the kitchen pantry. Trust me on that one.
Posted by Rebecca Sims

10 Ways to Interview Like Oprah


As a healthcare marketer, you’ve probably spent some time interviewing patients for articles, videos, or audio/photo slideshows. When you’re interviewing a patient, the hope is that he or she will feel comfortable enough with you to share emotional details.

Where you do the interview, how you introduce yourself, how you ask questions and whether or not you have water, coffee and tissues on hand are all factors that play a role in enabling your interviewee to share a personal story with a stranger. Here are a few tips on how you can get the best story from your patients:

1. Say thanks. After introducing yourself, thanking the patient for his or her time, and making sure they’re comfortable, ask if some water or would be nice. Everyone likes to be asked if they need something to be more comfortable. If it’s a phone interview, ask if your interviewee can hear you well, and if he or she is in a comfortable, quiet place. These small considerations will help set a warm, caring tone for your interview.

2. Know what your interviewee wants. After introductions and small talk, ask your patient what he or she would like to get out of the interview. Oprah Winfrey always does this. In an interview Bravo’s Andy Cohen, Winfrey talks about how she pulled off some of her most compelling interviews, including one where she got Whitney Houston to open up about her troubled relationship with Bobby Brown.

3. Easy does it. To start, ask a few light, easy-to-answer background questions. If you find you have something and common, be sure to mention it. That way, the interview will feel more like an exchange (at least at first) and this will get things off on the right foot.

4. Be quiet. Let the patient tell you their story word-for-word in the beginning, without interruptions. Just listen.

5. Follow up. Once they are done telling their story, look at your notes and see what follow-up questions you have so you can revisit parts of their story and get more details. During the course of the conversation, they are probably going to say something that really makes you think, “Wait. Tell me more about that.”

6. “Feel” it. One good question to ask several times is, “How did that make you feel?” or “What did that feel like?” Feel is a good word that usually makes people more comfortable expressing their emotions. While the questions have been edited out of this audio slideshow from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, you can tell that the interviewer asked the mothers interviewed how they feel about their work to create a day camp for children with eosinophilic disorders. Around 2:50, one of the moms tears up as she answers a question.

7. Show you care. Articulate sympathy for the patient if the story calls for such a reaction. Add in a, “Oh my gosh! Oh, no!” if it seems authentic. Your interviewee will open up more if you allow yourself to have genuine responses.

8. Be curious. Ask questions in an open-ended way, such as “Tell me about the reaction of your family to your weight loss.”

9. Time it right. Current and former patients often lead busy lives. Your patient may be coming from work, an appointment or a busy home with or without children in tow. Consider having a light healthy snack like granola bars (including some gluten and nut-free for those with allergies) to offer just in case they’re needed. If you’re interviewing a patient in the hospital, try to book your interview at a non-meal time. Nothing’s worse than cold hospital food.

10. Say thanks…again. At the end of the interview, thank your interviewee again. Ask if they would like a copy of or link to the finished piece, and be sure to get their email and/or snail mail.


Posted by Sarah Hawkins

Interviewing a Busy Doctor? 4 Tips to Keep In Mind


If you work in hospital marketing, sooner or later it’s likely that you’ll need to conduct a subject matter expert (SME) interview to gather technical details for a service line page you’re writing.

At WriterGirl, we pride ourselves on our ability to conduct effective SME interviews with doctors and other providers in order to gather healthcare information that we turn into great, consumer-friendly content for clients’ websites. Here’s a peek into how we do it:

  • Ask clients for an intro. We’ve found it’s helpful if our client contact (often someone from the hospital’s own marketing team) provides an introduction between the SME and the writer. SMEs are usually busy doctors who don’t have a lot of time to sift through their email and it’s easy to ignore a message from an unfamiliar email address. Encourage the client to act as a liaison between you and the SME in order to keep the project moving.
  • Include SME info on the sitemap. Especially for large web projects, we recommend listing SME name and contact information (both email address and phone number is best) next to each web page. Doing so helps keep everyone on the same page and cuts down on confusion.
  • Don’t skimp on prep work. In order to maximize both your time and the SME’s time during the interview, plan to spend some time getting prepared. Check out the existing website, read the SME’s online bio or do some research on the topic you’re discussing. Knowing some details going into the conversation can save you lots of time — and maybe even frustration on the part of the busy SME.
  • Express your thanks. Be sure to follow up with the SME with a simple “thank you” following the interview. If you’ve been communicating through email, an email follow-up works just fine. Besides showing your gratitude, you may have follow-up questions or need his or her assistance with a content review later on, so be sure you left a positive impression.
Posted by Danielle Quales

How To Interview Like an NPR Radio Host


I’m an NPR junkie. I have it on when I’m working, when I’m not working and when I’m driving my car. Sometimes, I find myself stuck in the parking lot of my local grocery store because the interview is so good — I can’t leave.

NPR radio hosts are able to get such great quotes and background stories from their interviewees and panelists. I wanted to do the same thing for my stories. After a while of just listening to NPR, I started to analyze what makes each interview great — and what I could do to become a better interviewer.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Be quiet. Let the interviewee tell you his or her story word-for-word in the beginning, without interruptions. Terri Gross of Fresh Air knows the power of silence. There are several examples of quietness in her emotional interview with Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are. Stick around for the end of the interview, where Sendak talks about how much he trusts Gross as an interviewer.
  1. Do your research. Listen to any All Things Considered story, and it’s clear the reporter spent a lot of time learning about the subject.
  2. Remember to edit. NPR interviews are edited, sometimes heavily. If you’re interviewing someone for a story, remember that you’ll have time later to edit your audio or add background information to your article. So, feel free to let your interviewee ramble a bit. Sometimes the best quotes come to those who wait.
  1. Listen more. Check out the The Diane Rehm Show. Once Rehm’s guests start talking, she rarely interrupts them. Sure, her show has panelists, so that’s somewhat expected. But notice that when she does speak, she says something observant. Often, she’ll repeat back something an interviewee said and ask a related question.
  1. Stay with the flow. “I’m wondering if…” is a great way to lead into a question or suggest a line of conversation. Rehm and Gross use this phrase to successfully introduce an idea and ask a question at the same time.
  1. Use what you know. Lead with something you know about your interviewee’s story, then ask a related question. David Dye of World Café starts many of his interviews this way. It shows you’ve done your research, builds rapport and helps put your interviewee at ease.
  2. Collect your thoughts. Even the pros, including Gross, say “um” when they pause to think. In fact, she is known as The Queen of Like. Maybe she’s the only one who can get away with using “like” as a filler word so much, but either way, it’s best to think about what you have to say so that you use the right words.
  1. In-person interviews are best. Do NPR interviews sound the same when they are done over the phone? No. That’s because the many ways you can connect with someone in-person — eye contact, an introductory handshake, offering water or a snack before you start — really help get your interview off to a solid start. Also, if your interviewee is uncomfortable with a question, or has more to say after a pause, you’re better able to notice the subtle cues he or she will show if you’re both in the same room.
  1. It’s OK to repeat a question. If you ask a question and your interviewee doesn’t quite answer it, ask again, but do it gently. NPR interviewers will often re-ask questions, especially when interviewing politicians. You might say, “Just to be sure I understand…” or “I want to make sure I got this right. Tell me again how you…”
  1. Always thank your interviewee. This has been said before, but it’s worth repeating. Offer thanks when you start, and again at the end. You hear this on every NPR interview. It’s easy to do and makes the interviewee feel more at ease.

Sarah Hawkins is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. Read more of her work at www.sarahbhawkins.com.

Posted by Sarah Hawkins

3 Tips for Hospital Communicators on Instagram


Here’s a stat to think about: There’s more than 300 million monthly active users on Instagram.

Or to put it another way: More people are using Instagram than Twitter.

Is your hospital ready to jump in? Take a look at these three ideas before you get started:

Hashtag with restraint

Hashtags like #hospital or #healthcare aren’t helpful. Use hashtags that are relevant and timely to the photo you’re sharing. Posts with more specific hashtags (#fluvaccine or #pediatriccancer) will appear in hashtag search results, alongside many other types of posts and accounts. Use hashtags that your target audience might use. That way, your posts will appear organically in their feed.

Post photos of people

Followers love seeing and hearing about everyday people making a difference at your hospital. Be sure to post photos when a celebrity visits your hospital or when a staff member has made a big difference in a patient’s life. Don’t forget to share photos and stories of remarkable patient stories (like the time a nurse helped deliver a baby in your hospital’s parking lot or when a transplant recipient ran a marathon).

Share well-made videos

Don’t limit your Instagram account to just photos. Share some “behind-the-scenes” footage of your hospital’s ongoing remodel project. Capture a video of a team of your nurses walking in a local 5K to raise awareness of a rare disease. Post a video of your therapy animals at work on the pediatric floor (kids and animals — what’s not to love?!). Once the video is made, share it all of your social media channels to maximize your marketing investment.

Posted by Danielle Quales

5 Reasons Why Your Hospital Needs a Blog


Building brand awareness and trust is vital for your hospital. But you can’t just throw up a billboard or put together a commercial about your “cutting edge” technology and call it a day.

That’s not going to work. What’s going to work is starting a blog. Here are a few reasons why it’s important:

Increase your traffic. If you would like 55 percent more site visits and up to 97 percent more links to your website, an active blog can do that for you. Here are some great tips on how to increase your traffic through blogging.

Help people find you. A well-written blog can help people find you more easily through SEO. Skeptical? Well, these stats on the importance of SEO are hard to ignore.

Market that content. Content marketing the biggest trend for 2015. Why? If you have great content, you’ll be able to build your audience, especially on social media. Remember to repurpose it. A blog can turn inspire a great photo for Instagram or Facebook.

Build your community on what you own. Facebook’s organic reach dropped drastically since its IPO. Who’s to say the same won’t happen with Twitter, or Pinterest, or Instagram? And if you’re “renting” space there, your community could even disappear. Build your own community around your blog and no one can take that away from you.

Show you’re a leader and build trust. Everyone can say they are a leader in their field. But a well-written post can prove it and build trust in your brand. Get a doctor to write a post on why children should be vaccinated. Ask your CEO to write something about your hospital’s latest expansion project. Shocking, but true: You don’t have to be the sole blogger at your hospital. Talk to people in different departments to see who might be up for writing a guest post.

Need help getting started? Contact us today to learn about our special blogging packages. 

Posted by Nancy Jean

5 Reasons Why We Love Roper St. Francis’s Blog


All hospitals have great stories to tell. In the past, PR folks could find a story, pitch it to a journalist and there it was…in print or on the evening news. But in a rapidly shrinking media market, what should a hospital marketer do?

Tell their own story!

When a hospital tells its own story and does it well, it can do wonders for brand awareness. The marketing team at Roper St. Francis in South Carolina caught on to the idea and dazzles readers with a great blog.

Here’s why we keep coming back for more:

1. Compelling patient stories. They’ve got a blog category called, “Life Changing Moments.” This highlights amazing videos about patients. For instance, this one is the story Shaun, a man who was trapped for 36 hours with a spinal cord injury when his vehicle flipped. The RSF team helped him walk again. Wow.

2. Quick snapshots on why they’re the place to go. With posts like, “Why We Dig 3-D” the hospital can show off their technological advances.

3. Their experts do the talking. Having a blog with your experts writing posts can help introduce them to the community.  “What I Wish Every Woman Knew About Her Breasts” authored by a doc is just the ticket.

4. Fresh content. If you’ve got compelling new content and a site that’s updated regularly, people will keep coming back. RSF is doing a terrific job at finding interesting content for their readers. The team posts about twice a week.

5. Connecting is a snap. From their blog, you can see their tweets, “like” their Facebook page, find a doctor or get to their website. Their blog also welcomes comments.

Posted by Nancy Jean

Healthcare Employees: Saving Lives, 24/7


You’re on a plane, on your way to Thailand for a friend’s wedding. You’re flying over Siberia and are two hours from the nearest airport. An older man sitting near you has a heart attack. What do you do?

Ramon Goomber, a pharmacist and a regional director for Specialty Pharmacy, was on such a plane flying over Siberia, on his way to his friend’s wedding, when a 60-year-old man who was sitting nearby slumped over and passed out.

Someone had notified a steward and the plane’s crew had already announced that they needed medical help. Goomber looked over and saw a doctor, who was also a passenger, giving the man CPR.

“I could see that the doctor couldn’t get enough pressure on his chest while this man was in his seat,” Goomber says. “I jumped out of my seat and we pulled him out of his chair onto the floor.”

The plane’s crew brought an emergency medical kit with syringes, epinephrine, an IV bag and other materials. Goomber’s friend, who is a police officer, stepped in to help. While Goomber, his friend and the doctor performed CPR to keep oxygen flowing to the man’s brain, the crew contacted nearby airports, asking for permission to land.

At one point, Goomber and his friend performed CPR while the doctor went to the back of the plane to talk on a satellite phone with Medlink. Goomber called out the man’s status to the doctor.

“Every time he lost pulse, I had to yell to the doctor, so people were panicking,” Goomber says. “This man’s wife was there, and she wound up going into shock. We were able to move her to the front of the plane so she wasn’t watching or listening.”

CPR is physically and mentally exhausting. Ideally, there would have been multiple people giving chest compressions. In this case, other passengers may have been afraid to step in, or might have thought that help wasn’t needed. No one else volunteered to help.

“Had I not had my friend with me, we couldn’t have done it,” Goomber says. “We were tired, but couldn’t stop. This man was non-responsive. All I thought was, ‘We need to keep his brain alive.’”

Working with the doctor, Goomber used his pharmaceutical expertise to dilute the epinephrine with sterile water so that it would help keep the man alive until the plane landed.

Finally, the plane made a fast, rough emergency landing at an airport. The doctor left with the man so that someone who knew the history would be with him at the hospital. Goomber and his friend continued on to their destination.

“He ended up recovering with no impairment, no brain damage,” Goomber says. “Had we not started CPR immediately, that would not have happened.”

But what about liability?

CPR saves lives. But when we see someone who needs help, we’re often afraid to step in — even if we’re trained to do so. You might think: “I know what to do, but what if I don’t do it right? Will I be sued?”

Not all states have a Good Samaritan law on the books. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reviews Good Samaritan Law and goes through some of the differences in the laws, state-by-state.

“I had zero concerns about liability,” says Dr. Thomas Inge at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who helped save the life of a man who had a heart attack in a restaurant. “There’s a presumed protection under Good Samaritan law.”

In Inge’s case, he and another doctor happened to be eating at a restaurant when a fellow diner had a heart attack. They worked together to put the man on the ground. He wasn’t breathing, was sweating and they couldn’t feel a pulse.

“I’ve been a doctor for 20 plus years,” Inge says. “You go into muscle memory and just do what has to be done. It took about 20 minutes for EMTs to get there.”

The man was taken to a hospital and had cardiac surgery. He survived and is doing well, but would not have made it to the hospital alive if no one at the restaurant had performed CPR.

Advice for fellow Good Samaritans

Inge and Goomber say it’s vital to always be current on your CPR training. For clinicians, the cost of CPR training typically is covered by employers.

“There were different levels of preparedness among the flight crew,” Goomber says. “Some were panicked. Everyone should be first aid-trained. CPR training should happen in elementary school, high school and college.”

Inge says that clinicians should always stay up-to-date on CPR training. When he helped the man in the restaurant, for example, Inge wasn’t aware of the new American Red Cross Hands-Only CPR guidelines for victims of cardiac arrest.

“Everybody who takes the Hippocratic Oath knows that we may be called upon when we least expect it,” Inge says. “That’s what we’re trained to do, and we believe it’s our obligation to society.”

Sarah Hawkins is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. Read more of her work at www.sarahbhawkins.com.

Posted by Sarah Hawkins