» Connecting the Power of Writing with the Practice of Medicine

Masthead header

6 Ways to Recruit Top-Notch Employees to Your Company


My goal as the CEO of WriterGirl is to build a company where I would want to work. I want to attract the best talent to our team. Through the years, I’ve learned how to hire a talented, engaging staff that shows up each day, ready to do their best. Here’s how:

Trust your staff

This year, I’m offering my staff something that’s throwing them for a loop: unlimited vacation. Truly. I don’t care how many days they take off. I’m not counting. Taking a week off to go to Rome? Why not make it two? Really. As long as everything is taken care of before they go, I say, bon voyage! I want my employees to enjoy their life, have some fun and then, when they’re ready — come back.

“Slow to hire, quick to fire”

That’s always been my motto. When I hire someone to work at WriterGirl, he or she is on a three-month trial program. That way, we can see if it’s a good fit for both of us. If it doesn’t seem like it’s working out — it’s better to cut off the relationship sooner, rather than later.

Offer affordable health insurance

As a small business owner, I’m not legally obligated to offer my employees health insurance. Especially with the Affordable Care Act, many small business owners are letting employees find their own health insurance through the marketplace. But I didn’t want to do that.

That’s because even though health insurance is a big cost for us, it pays off in the long-term. If I’m recruiting an employee from a bigger company who offers health insurance, I don’t want that future employee to feel like they are taking a “risk” for coming here. I want to remove the barriers to working for a small business.

Keep staff engaged with training

We know healthcare moves fast. We want to make sure our employees are kept up-to-date with the latest trends. That’s why we send our staff to conferences or pay for them to attend webinars. And with our WriterGirl Academy, we’re training each of our contractors (Associates) on the best practices of healthcare communications.

Invest internally

We spend the majority of our time doing work for clients. But sometimes, you’ve got to do something for yourself. Last year, we hired a social media manager and traffic to our website has nearly doubled. This year, we’re going to launch a new website and branding campaign. Investments like these show employees that you care about your brand and where it’s going.

Be bold and have fun!

If you’ve ever seen our staff at a healthcare conference, we’re always the ones out having the most fun. Whether we’re on the dance floor or chatting up people who stop by our booth, you can just tell we’re having a good time. I want to hire people who know how to get their work done — and have a great time doing it. And most important: I want my employees to enjoy each other. When I’m looking at candidates, I’m not just looking at their resume — I’m looking to see how their personality will mesh with ours.

Are you interested in joining our team? Find out more.

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

LinkedIn: To Connect or Not to Connect?


Recently, I received a private message from a male business professional on LinkedIn asking me for more information about WriterGirl…and my phone number.

At first, I thought it may be a good business prospect, but soon realized that it was more likely he was hitting on me. He was from the United Arab Emirates. His business’ website looked delightfully shady. And when he was in college, I was in diapers.

Unlike Facebook, where I only accept friendships from people I have actually met in real life, with LinkedIn, I have always accepted any connection that asks. Why not? You never know who you will connect with and where that relationship will go.

Call me naïve, but I always used LinkedIn for business opportunities, knowledge and discussions. I didn’t think some would use it as a dating website (I’m talking to you, Mr. Phone-number-asker). But after getting his message, I’ve determined it’s not a good idea to connect with just anyone.

Below is a list of tips to help you determine whether you should accept that request to connect on LinkedIn. After all, quality connections are much more valuable than the quantity of connections.

  • Are they in your industry? If you work in the healthcare industry and they sell villas in the Caribbean, it is likely the connection will not be of value. (Unless, of course, you are looking to purchase a villa in the Caribbean). On the other hand, if you are a healthcare marketer and the person asking to connect is another healthcare marketer, you could learn a lot from their posts.
  • Will this connection benefit you professionally? If you are currently on the job hunt and the person asking to connect is a recruiter, connecting is a no-brainer.
  • Did they attend your college or university? If they attended the same school as you, you may have had a class with them or maybe they just want alumni camaraderie and to build their network.
  • Are their posts relevant and interesting to you? If you are passionate about animal rights, but you are a healthcare marketer, it makes sense to connect with PETA if you are interested in their cause. 
  • Do you know them personally? Duh! Connect!
  • Are they good looking? Just kidding!

As a LinkedIn user, do you have any more tips to add to your list? Let us know. 

Posted by Laura DiGiulio

5 Reasons Why You Need Writing Help

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.44.41 PM

Before joining WriterGirl, I worked for 20 years as a hospital marketer.

I’ve been there and feel your pain. It’s a big, busy job — endless meetings, emails, phone calls, TB tests and fire drills — all before you get to the actual work to promote your hospital.

I’m proud of what I accomplished in that role, all without yelling and minimal foul language. I credit great relationships with quality vendors — graphic designers, web developers, printers, photographers, media buyers and ad agencies.

But guess what I almost never outsourced? Writing!

Now that I’m on the other side of the desk — serving clients instead of being a client — I see the error of my ways.

If you’re hesitant to hand over the keyboard to outside help for creating content, here are some surprising benefits you’ll find:

It’s less emotional.

When you or a staff member pour your own sweat and time into a website or newsletter article, it’s harder to be neutral about feedback on the draft. When someone else writes it, it’s easier to be objective about what changes really work for the piece.

You’ll have a little more room on your plate.

Every member of your team already has a desk full of projects and ongoing responsibilities. Then, something unexpected comes up — a new service to promote, a media crisis, jury duty or maternity leave. When you plan ahead to get help with time-consuming writing, you build in capacity to handle the surprises that always come up.

They can ask the questions you can’t.

It can be awkward to ask questions of your own clinical experts. They may think you should already know all the details about what makes them special. When you bring in outside healthcare writers to interview your experts, they bring a fresh perspective and draw out those great nuggets that set your hospital apart.

Your experts feel valued by the investment.

A physician understands there’s a cost associated with engaging an outside writer, but might take for granted the cost of your time. It’s an investment that pays off, in quality content and the opportunity to use precious staff time for other tasks.

Handing it off helps you define what you need.

When you call a high quality writing company for assistance, they know the right questions to ask to get you exactly what you need — even if you’re not sure what that is when you pick up the phone. That process of handing it off clears the fog inherent at the start of a project, revealing the path to reach your goal.

It took me 20 years to realize that it was OK to ask for writing help. I hope it doesn’t take you this long!

Posted by Karla Webb

WriterGirl Can Help With the Magnet Recognition Application


Is filling out your Magnet Recognition application stressing you out?

Take a deep breath.

WriterGirl is here to help.

We have more than 40 writers, editors and content strategists with years of healthcare experience, including the technical editing of Magnet Applications.

In fact, a lot of our professional writers are nurses, so they understand the process. When you work with us, not only will you get the benefit of someone who understands proper acronyms and links, but you’ll also work with a writer with clinical expertise.

For this application, we know “the devil is in the details.” When you’re submitting, the links to graphs and data have to be 100 percent correct. You worked so hard on the journey to Magnet. Don’t let the application hold you back from certification.

Kirsten Lecky, our director of business development, says having an extra set of eyes on the application can help make the process go smoother. With us, you don’t have to worry about typos.

“Since the Magnet journey is a long one, bringing in a third party perspective for a hard edit and proofing can be the difference between certification and denial,” Lecky says.

Our job is to help you get certified. We can do this by editing the format, punctuation, grammar, spelling, word choice and acronym consistency before you submit your application. We’ll also organize the files, links and attachments to meet the specifications outlined in the manual.

We promise. It’s that simple.

Want to find out more? Email us today. 

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

Introducing Our WriterGirl Academy


We’re proud to have more than 40 freelancers (we call them Associates) working with us. Our Associates have strengths in different areas, so training each of them is one of way of ensuring that we offer consistency. To that end, we needed to come up with a way to make sure that all of them have access to the same training and information.

That’s where our WriterGirl Academy comes in.

Through the WriterGirl Academy, Associates take interactive courses on topics ranging from best practices for interviewing subject matter experts to how to write compelling patient stories; from writing for mobile to following plain language standards. All of this training is supplemented with one-on-one mentoring.

Rebecca Sims, our senior manager for learning and development, heads up the Academy.

“We developed the WriterGirl Academy to support our Associates with things they need to know to do their best work for WriterGirl,” Sims says. “And we supplement our core curriculum with advanced courses to encourage Associates to be life-long learners in their craft.”

Each year, WriterGirl requires Associates to re-certify in the core curriculum, which is updated annually to reflect current best practices and industry trends.

Training to be a WriterGirl starts only after a prospective writer is thoroughly vetted. Once we accept a writer, we have a number of procedures in place to ensure he or she is set up for success.

“We want each writer to understand our expectations, and at the same time, know that they have a support system,” Sims says.

Bottom line: We train our Associates like we would train a full-time employee.

“We really invest in our talent,” Sims says. “We make sure the quality checks and balances are there. We make sure everybody knows what our standards are. We want our Associates to learn and grow with us.”

Investing in our team pays off. It’s no surprise that many of our Associates have worked with us for many years — several of them from the beginning. That’s because we build long-term relationships with our Associates, just as we do with our clients. If you liked working with a particular writer last year, chances are good he or she will still be here this year — and in the years to come.

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

4 Tips If You’re Working Abroad


One of the perks of working from home is that you don’t have to work from your home. You can set yourself up at a coffee shop, a library or a park bench to get your work done.

But what about working from “home” in Athens, Greece?

Earlier this month, I got a room by the Parthenon, pulled out my laptop and started writing hospital marketing copy. But would I get distracted by all the beautiful sunsets, the whipped feta cheese and the party pour of wine every night at dinner?

Of course not!

Well…OK, maybe just a little

If you’re planning on working abroad, here are a few tips to follow to make sure you can still get all your work done and have a great time:

Start small

Before I took the plunge of working from home in a foreign country, I tried it in the U.S. first. I’ve worked from home in Washington, Arizona and California. Working domestically in the U.S. will give you a good sense if you can pull of an international working trip. If you find yourself hanging out with spiritual advisors in Sedona all day — and nothing is getting crossed off your “to do” list — then maybe working in an exotic location for a week just isn’t right for you.

Be realistic

When you’re traveling, staying on a typical 9-5 routine doesn’t make sense in your new time zone. Could I really be doing good work at 1 a.m. in Greece, even though it was 5 p.m. back in the U.S.? Highly unlikely — I need my beauty sleep. So, talk to your employer before you go and figure out a set of work hours that make sense in your new time zone. Then, you can put up an away message to your contacts back home, explaining the situation. Eight hours is still eight hours, no matter how you swing it.

Maximize your vacation part of your trip

The best part about working when you’re in a foreign country is that you’re forced to take advantage of your time when you’re not working. I’d wake up ready to go at 6 a.m., with a map in my hand, ready to explore the city. If you’re a journalist at heart, you’ll enjoy having a deadline of when you need to be back to work. My motto: Play in the morning, work at night.

Set expectations with your travel friend

I went to Greece with a good friend of mine from Chicago. While planning the trip, I made it clear that I would be working in the afternoons and evenings. If you’re traveling with a friend, make sure the person is an independent traveler. You don’t want them to wait around in the hotel lobby for you to finish your work. However, when you are traveling with an independent traveler, just know there will be days when he or she is out on a wine tour and you’re writing marketing copy for a hospital’s orthopedic webpage. But that’s a small price to pay for writing, watching the sunset and drinking your wine — all at the same time.


Posted by Jessica Levco

4 Ways to Make Your Interviewees Comfortable On Camera


Speaking on-camera is hard. When you’re asking someone to be in a video, always try to remember how nerve-wracking taped interviews can be. Whether your interviewee is camera-shy or camera-ready, here are a few tips that will help ease stage fright.

  • Let your interviewee know that you’ll be doing several takes, so flubs are perfectly fine. Also, that you’ll be able to edit out pauses and “ums” from the final product.
  • Steer clear of teleprompters. Unless your interviewee is extremely experienced with a teleprompter, he or she will most likely look a deer in headlights when using one. Instead, interview them with the camera rolling. Ask the same questions several different ways. This will help you get several different takes on the same subject, so you can use the best answer. In this video by Baptist Health, the doctor is talking naturally to an interviewer and explaining the condition as he would to a patient.
  • Start with an easy icebreaker question or two, but be sure to keep your tougher questions at the beginning of the video. Most people tire a bit as the interview goes on. The optimum time for them to answer tough questions will be near the start of taping.
  • Talk to your subjects about wardrobe. In most videos, employees should wear what they would normally wear at work (in healthcare videos, scrubs, lab coats and suits are great). No stripes, as they can look funny on-camera. The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center video, Crushing Weight: Jacob’s Story, features a doctor in both scrubs and a button-down shirt.

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

Posted by Sarah Hawkins

What Swing Dancing Can Teach You About Social Media


There are a few skills in life I feel like I can do better than most people. Like boiling water, leaving concise voicemails and giving really good high-fives.

Dancing has never been on this list.

Especially swing dancing.

Despite this fact, I decided to give it a try last week. If you’ve ever been in a room of swing dancers, it feels like you’re watching moving artwork. The room was filled with O’Keefe’s and Picassos, but I felt more like a three-year-old who was happy eating finger paint.

I started to think about how this feeling must be similar to hospital communicator who is just starting out on social media. You feel like everybody around you knows what they’re doing — they’re out having fun and making it look easy — you want to join, but you’re not really sure where to start or how.

As I stepped on toes and hit one guy in the head (I need at least a three minute warning before someone tries to spin me around), I thought about the similarities between the swing dancing scene and the health care social media community. (This was easier than me trying to figure out the difference between a 4-count and 6-count.)

And with that…a one-and a two-and a here we go:

Everybody is friendly

Once you tell people you have no idea what you’re doing, people are willing to help teach you. Actually, in my case, I didn’t have to tell anybody: it was pretty obvious I had no idea what to do with any part of my body.

But here’s something reassuring: Whether you’re learning about the intricacies of The Lindy (I thought it was short for Linda) or how to encourage doctors to get on Twitter, there’s always going to be people to help you learn.

Don’t know where to start? See all the great resources from Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. There’s a lively #hcsm chat on Sunday nights. Wondering what tools you can use to manage your social media accounts? Check out this comprehensive list.

Also, don’t be afraid about finding a mentor from another hospital. Unless it’s a hospital directly in target market, encourage one another and exchange ideas.

People want to teach and help you learn. We’re all in this together.

Dive right in — and then dive back out

My plan for the evening was to sit in the corner, drink my amaretto sour and watch everyone dance. I figured that if I watched enough people, I would magically transform into Ginger Rogers by the end of the night. However, some brave soul asked me to dance before I could go hide.

Let me try to explain how poorly I dance: When my dance partner told me to step left, it’s not like I got confused and stepped right. It’s more like I sashay sideways and awkwardly hop up and down. And then I start laughing hysterically.

If you’re just starting out with social media, you might wonder if you should just watch or go out there and try. At first, I thought it would be better for my sake — and for the sake of everybody around me — to just sit down.

But sitting down is boring. Social media is an active, evolving, dynamic, ever-changing space. Give yourself a timeline for how long you’ll observe, but set a definite date for when you’re ready to start opening up a new account. Just like in swing dancing, start by making small steps.

Also, remember to keep your expectations reasonable. Nobody is going to congratulate you for your first pin. Case in point:

“You dance wrong,” a guy said to me, after he saw me on the dance floor for less than 10 minutes.

“Well, at least I’m trying,” I replied.

And that’s the point of social media: It’s more fun to try and risk being “wrong,” than sitting down and getting drunk by yourself.

Find your own rhythm

I kept my eyes glued to my feet the whole night. I’m not sure why. My feet aren’t that interesting.

Every dancer kept telling me that it would be so much easier if I would look up — the flow would be better, there would be more of a connection and we would have rhythm.

I was too focused on myself. Hospital communicators can fall into this trap, too. They might only think about what they think is important to their hospital — Joint Commission, staff retreats, awards and rankings. But even though you deem it important, it doesn’t mean your audience will.

You can throw posts and updates at patients all you want, but if you’re not listening to them or moving with them, you won’t be on the same footing.

You’ll just wind up stepping on their feet.


Posted by Jessica Levco

5 Ways Improv Teaches You How to Communicate Better

Cocktails And Comedy Benefit for the Fit Community

There are a lot of people in my improv classes who dream of making it big — getting cast in a play, starting their own troupe, making it to SNL.

When I’m on stage, I just mostly dream about not throwing up and/or running off it.

But even though I’m not planning on performing in front of an audience, here are some reasons why taking an improv class can help improve your career as a communicator.

‘Yes, and…’

This is the biggest rule of improv and it’s a great rule to live by as a communicator. Basically, it just means that you’re not only agreeing to the person’s idea, but you’re also adding on to it. Imagine how much more fun conversations could be if you stopped saying, “No, I don’t really think so,” “Gee, that’s just not for us,” or “I can’t.” Saying, “yes, and…” to a client or co-worker keeps the conversation flowing in a positive, creative matter.

Besides, saying “no” is just boring.

Trust yourself

In a meeting, do you say what’s on your mind or do you hold back and keep your mouth shut? Some of you might disagree with me, but you should just go with the first idea that pops into your head. If you over-analyze it or ask your inner-editor to critique it, you’re going to end up with a watered-down, “safe” idea. It’s fun to be on stage — have a thought in your brain — say it aloud — hear people laugh and think to yourself, “Where did that come from?! That was great!”

Treat everyone with respect

Del Close, a forefather of improv in Chicago, believed this: “Performers need to have the utmost respect for one another — that if they treated each other like geniuses, poets and artists — they could become that on stage.” Do you treat your co-workers or clients with that kind of respect? Do you listen to what they’re really saying (or in some cases, not saying)? Instead of just shrugging off an idea or dismissing it, give it —and the person — the attention it deserves.

Make your scene partners look good

I didn’t understand this one at first. Originally, I thought it meant that I shouldn’t wash my hair or brush my teeth before class. But what it really means is that you have a lot of power in how the audience reacts to your scene partner. This means you have a lot of control about how others view your co-worker. Imagine if you’re teaming up for a presentation and your co-worker is speaking. If you’re just standing there, slack-jawed with drool coming out of your mouth, how do you think your audience will respond? But if you nod your head and listen attentively, that signals to your audience that whatever your co-worker is saying is worth listening to.

Stop complaining

Nobody comes up to you and tells you how much they love something. Everybody complains—about the weather, traffic and in-laws. But is this something you want to listen to? So, why even bother talking about it? Granted, you’re probably not going to run around your office screaming, “I love coleslaw!” but I’d rather listen to a person talk about what they love, rather than what they hate.

Posted by Jessica Levco

How to Create an Inspiring and Informing Intranet


Every day, people across your hospital are logging into your Intranet. You’ve got to give them something they want to read. But first, you’ve got to make sure your homepage looks decent.

Here are a few tricks to keep in mind:

“Keep it fresh”: We recommend pushing out updates to key feature areas on the homepage at least once or twice a week.

Push out engaging content: Include infographics, videos and polls.

Keep what’s new front and center: Staff will look at your intranet for the latest news, so make sure that’s readily available.

Quick search: Make sure users can get to a search bar directly on the homepage.

“Less is more”: Ensure you don’t crowd the homepage with too much content that users can’t easily navigate to what they need.

Get input: Develop a simple process for employees to add their content.

Now that you’ve got the nuts and bolts down, here are a few tips for creative content ideas:

Quick links: We recommend between five and 10 quick links, which can be denoted with a text link alone or with a relevant icon.

Rotating images/banner: Update your intranet with fresh, professionally generated images at least once a month. You don’t want to bore people with stale content.

Employee recognition and spotlight: In today’s social media age, everyone wants to know what’s going on with their friends. Highlight your key performers by including their photo and a blurb on their contributions to your organization.

Important updates from leadership: Employees appreciate receiving news such as construction, financial updates, new department offerings, new staff or new initiatives directly from the leadership team by a video or written blog.

Use external content: Drop in a relevant widget or RSS feeds from trusted, outside sources, but ensure that you’re selective about what you choose. You don’t want to overcrowd the page.


Posted by Danielle Quales