Thursday, January 22

Endorsing Content: Mayo Clinic

Nowadays, blog launches are hardly news. But when the organization is the Mayo Clinic, it piques our interest.

Sure, blogs aren't new for the Mayo Clinic. It has several, covering topics that range from Alzheimer's and Depression to Genetics and Safe Sex. It also has social media initiatives on YouTube and FaceBook.

The newest blog, however, presents something else entirely. Sharing Mayo Clinic "provides an online site for patients and employees to share their stories about what makes Mayo Clinic unique."

While the concept is grounded in the theory that organizations should give social media message control over to consumers (which may or may not be prudent), those few words of intent place the blog somewhere in the middle of virtue and vice. Is the blog about patients sharing their experiences or is it a media rich endorsement page? The mixed intent comes across in a statement as well.

"Rather than our patients just being able to talk with the people they see every day, these platforms allow them to share their experiences with people all over the world -- some of whom they know personally, and many they do not," says Lee Aase, Mayo Clinic's manager of social media and syndication. "We also see Sharing Mayo Clinic as an opportunity to provide glimpses into the lives and motivations of Mayo employees who are dedicated to working together in teams to provide the best care to every patient, every day."

The first half of the quote is intuitive and empathetic. The second half of the quote is marketing.

There isn't anything wrong with that; and I'm a fan of everything the Mayo Clinic is attempting to do in terms of bridging the communication gap between medical professionals and people. (Check out Aase's sincere interview on YouTube. It's solid.)

However, if it wasn't for the brand equity of the Mayo Clinic, it seems to me that this new venture might be mistaken for astroturf — a series of endorsements leveraged by miracles of modern medicine (e.g. If UCLA Medical asked me to do the same after our daughter's visit, you can bet the personal review would be glowing.)

That's not to say this first step doesn't have potential. If Mayo Clinic employees and patients are willing to share their stories (perhaps in real time on occasion) and the Mayo Clinic cross references those stories with its other social media initiatives in support, Sharing Mayo Clinic might be a real breakthrough in social media as well as medicine.

You see, there is difference between telling people some time and showing people something. Rather than place the emphasis on stories that make Mayo Clinic unique, the Mayo Clinic only needs to share stories that make its patients and employees unique. With a simple shift in intent, the benefits become self-evident.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting Sharing Mayo Clinic, and I appreciate the sensitivity of your comments. We want to do this the right way, and have it be meaningful and useful. Obviously we think there will be some benefit arising from people sharing their stories on the blog as they have off-line for 100 years or more. And we want to profile employees in various roles, not just the high-profile MDs, nurses and researchers.

But it IS going to be an open community that we help facilitate, not a spin city.

Rich on 1/23/09, 7:55 AM said...

Lee Aase,

Thank you. I appreciate it.

I really do believe Sharing Mayo Clinic has some potential and will be benefit the Mayo Clinic and others. It really resonates in your YouTube video appearance.

I presented the concept to my class last night as an excellent example of blending of public relations and marketing. My only reservation comes in when I consider the application of a specific intent (which the Mayo Clinic has) and those who attempt to force apply what you are doing to their situation, creating testimonial and endorsement blogs that will not resonate.

As I said, it's a fine line. However, if anyone can do it right, I believe it could be you and Mayo Clinic, specifically because the Mayo Clinic's reputation precedes it. As you point out, people have been sharing their stories off-line for 100 years or more. (Who hasn't heard of the Mayo Clinic?)

Also, please don't mistake me. I like that you will profile employees, MDs, and researchers as well as patients. As I told my class so they can understand subtle differences in the communication plans they develop in the future, showing people instead of telling people commands more authority and authenticity. Ergo, there is no need to ever have a patient say the May Clinic is unique; their stories will show people that it is unique.

I really look forward to see what you develop and hope, with confidence, it becomes something others can aspire too.

All my best,

An an afterthought, I'm even thinking how amazing my daughter's first story — being born three months premature — could have benefited parents who now face that experience if social media been better adopted a few years ago. Doctor, nurse, etc. commentary could have augmented it. And there in lies the brilliance of what could be done.


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