» Connecting the Power of Writing with the Practice of Medicine

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El Camino Hospital Debuts Dazzling New Website

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Want to see an example of a hospital website that puts the patient first?

Take a look at what’s going on at the Silicon-Valley based El Camino Hospital.

True, we’re a bit biased (we helped write 400+ pages of content and still have more to go), but we think you’ll love how it’s easy-to-use, informative and visually appealing — all at the same time.

Here’s what makes it pop:

  • Responsive design. Catering to a patient population that is tech-savvy and likely to access the site from a smartphone or tablet, the website is fully responsive and adaptive when viewed on any device. And of course, the content is, too.
  • ER wait times on homepage. While this may seem like a small detail, including ER wait times front and center on the homepage provides patients with useful information that can help them avoid surprises when they show up for emergency services at the hospital.
  • Simple, streamlined navigation. Designed with patient needs and questions in mind, all major site branches are easily accessible from the landing page. That means patients spend less time hunting around for information they need.

Ready to redesign your website? Contact us today.

Posted by Danielle Quales

The Perfect Blog Length


Here’s a question we’ve been getting a lot from our clients: How long should our blogs be?

For a while, the standard answer was between 300 and 500 words. But new studies are saying blogs should be upward of 1,500 words. The theory is that if people spend more time reading your blog, your SEO will improve.

But here’s what we think: Length isn’t the only thing that matters when you’re writing a blog. What matters most is writing something people will read.

If you’re reading something and your first thought is, “This is too long,” it means you’re not 100 percent engaged with the post.  If the blog is good, people will read it. If not, they’ll go back to taking quizzes on Buzzfeed.

Let’s stop stressing about SEO, “ideal” word count and what Google tells us we should do. When you’re writing your blog, write it for the reader. Not SEO. If you can get your point across in 50 words, why add an extra 500?

In the spirit of Seth Godin, who is known to write blog posts less than 100 words, we’re going to wrap up this blog now. No matter the length of your blog, here’s what to keep in mind when writing it:

  • Include subheads.
  • Read it aloud.
  • See how it looks on your phone.
  • Make every word count.
  • Ask yourself, “What’s in it for the reader?”

PS: Want some help writing your hospital’s next blog? Email us to learn more about our blogging package.

Posted by Jessica Levco

3 Innovative Instagram Posts From Hospitals


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.

We love seeing hospitals staying active on this social media platform. Here are a few ideas to inspire your account:

  • Houston Methodist (@housetonmethodist) “We Noticed You” highlights an exceptional staff member with a photo and quote from a patient showing how great they are. What a nice way to honor staff members who’ve gone above and beyond, as well as to show the community how they’re an outstanding healthcare organization.
  • Baptist Health of Florida (@baptisthealthsf) Family Fit Fest — an ongoing health and fitness initiative that Baptist Health sponsors — includes a weekly healthy eating challenge. For this, an Instagram post contains a collage of three healthy ingredients. It challenges families to create a meal using these ingredients and then, share their photos of the creative, healthy meal.
  • Nebraska Medical Center (@nebraskamed)  Nebraska Medical uses their Instagram as a major component in their fundraising campaigns. They share patient stories to inspire donations and make celebratory posts when certain fundraising milestones are met.

If your healthcare system isn’t on Instagram yet, what are you waiting on? We’d love to see the ingenious ways you can make use of this powerful, image-based social media platform.

Posted by Danielle Quales

3 Hospitals That Virtually Connect Patients with Loved Ones


We’ve all been there — a loved one is currently in the hospital, but work, school, childcare or other obligations prevent us from visiting that person. How do we show that we’re thinking about them, even when we’re unable to visit? Our three clients have found a creative solution to that dilemma:

  • Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health – As a service available for any current inpatient at Riley Hospital, a loved one can complete a simple online form and an eCard greeting will be sent to the patient. The eCard service is offered during weekdays.
  • Baptist Health of Kentucky – Send any patient who is currently in the Emergency Room or receiving outpatient surgery or diagnostic testing an eCard, which will be delivered by a volunteer within 24 hours, Monday through Friday.
  • Broward Health of Florida – Choose a personalized image and send an eCard to anyone currently in a Broward Health facility.

Best of all, eCard services are free to the patient’s friends and family, as they are delivered by volunteers at most healthcare facilities. What a great way to show someone you care and are thinking about them, when you aren’t actually able to visit the hospital.

Posted by Danielle Quales

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

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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