By Daniel Casciato
Amendola Communications is a full-service public relations (PR), marketing, and social media firm serving healthcare and healthcare information technology (IT) companies. The company has decades of experience in all facets of the industry and has worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as start-ups, successfully launching new companies and technologies.
Amendola has been recognized as one of the nation’s top five IT industry’s “Best-of-the-Best” small PR agencies by PR Source Code for three consecutive years, for being the most responsive and reliable, and consistently meeting or surpassing editors’ needs. It has had the pleasure of telling the stories and successes of not only technology companies, but also the hospitals and physician practices across the country that are early adopters of technology, helping to shape the evolution of healthcare delivery.
Amendola experiences social media from two different perspectives: how it helps its clients achieve their business goals and how it connects with journalists, clients, and potential clients. Social media helps its clients enhance their brand through search engine optimization (SEO), building thought leadership, and demonstrating how their services and products solve universal healthcare problems.
In fact, its clients have been tapped as sources for journalists as a direct result of their tweets. As a PR and marketing firm, social media helps Amendola Communications keep on top of breaking news and trends, inform clients of relevant news in real-time, create editorial opportunities for its clients, and connect with journalists online. It has used Twitter to pitch stories to editors and follow reporters on Facebook to see what’s top of mind for them.
Western Pennsylvania Hospital News recently corresponded with Caroline Hagel, social media manager at Amendola Communciations, via email to get her thoughts on how and why social media has become an important communication tool for her firm.
Tell us about some of the most common misperceptions organizations have about social media marketing?
Companies often think the only reason to be involved social media is to generate new clients. They often say, “Our client is a hospital CEO and hospital CEOs are too busy to be on Twitter.” While the validity of that statement is debatable, there are so many other reasons to participate in social media. Posting regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites can boost a company’s SEO. Consider this: if your company isn’t using social media, how are you going to monitor and influence what others are saying about your company? Social media is the best, most immediate way to find out what your clients and your industry think about your brand. It is a tool for monitoring and managing potential crises. Plus, social media is a great way to gain the attention of reporters and editors to help publicize an organization. Blogs, specifically, are the best way to demonstrate thought leadership. A corporate blog is the one place a journalist or potential client can go to learn about executives’ views on everything – from the company’s offerings, to trends, to industry news.
What are some of the issues an organization could face without a successful social media strategy?
The biggest risk an organization might deal with is backlash from an unhappy customer. Clients communicate via social media sites more than virtually any other communication channel and they expect the companies and brands they deal with to be online as well. It’s a 24/7 world and customers expect a quick, immediate response when they’re upset. If you don’t have a strategy to handle dissatisfied customers, social media – whether you are active or not – can get ugly very quickly. Social media is on the front lines, enabling you to proactively identify an issue, but organizations also need a process to quickly escalate issues so they are managed right away. Some companies have even earned a reputation for great customer service by intervening swiftly through social media, so its function in improving customer satisfaction cannot be underestimated.
How can healthcare organizations better engage in social media?
The healthcare industry is often thought of a laggard when it comes to embracing new ways of doing things, like adopting new technologies. Social media offers healthcare organizations an opportunity to break out of the stereotype and proactively offer their expertise to consumers or patients, whether it is advice from a doctor or online wellness management tips or resources.
What are some of your favorite social media applications/tools?
A tweet scheduler like Hootsuite is key. It not only schedules tweets, but helps you keep track of the topics and tweeps (people on Twitter) you’re interested in following. I also like tweetreach.com. It will analyze your last 50 tweets and offers free analysis on the number of people exposed to your tweets.
Many of us can’t find enough hours in the day, how do you find the time on social media, and more importantly manage it?
If it’s a priority and you identify goals around engagement, it’s easy to get done. You schedule it into your day, just like the rest of your work. Some updates can be scheduled at the beginning of the day using tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Once you get involved, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day where you can connect with others.
On a practical level, can a good social media strategy be outsourced, or does it need to be executed internally?
There are pluses and minuses to both methods. A dedicated, internal person may have insight into a company that an external person cannot because they’re not immersed in the environment every day. However, it can be challenging to keep up-to-date with the constant changes on the many different social platforms. Foursquare and Facebook come out with new offerings and change their look several times a year. Using a PR agency or social media agency gives the advantage of having multiple people with knowledge of different platforms to maximize a corporation’s social media efforts. If you are considering outsourcing social media, make sure your agency is experienced, has a deep understanding of your industry and your offerings, and is aligned and connected with the full scope of your company’s strategic and tactical initiatives.
What things should we absolutely avoid in terms of social media posts and tweets?
Steer clear of online arguments. Always remember social media is public and having a public argument won’t do you or your brand any good. Spirited discussions are fine, but disagreements are better worked out offline. Done right, social media is a great opportunity to narrow the communication gap with consumers and lend expertise and online support to consumers and patients who are looking for resources and guidance on the Web.
Is there anything else our readers should know that I didn’t ask about?
Our healthcare/healthcare IT PR agency has been able to launch and maintain successful social media campaigns because too few out there have a sharp focus on the healthcare and healthcare IT space. Social media is an investment in both time and talent and should be considered an essential part of your integrated communications and marketing strategy. It is here to stay and will continue to grow and evolve year after year. If you aren’t a part of the conversation or still uncertain how it can benefit your business, we urge companies to take a first step by monitoring conversations around their brand, industry and topics of interest.
Can we get a brief bio on you?
I serve as the social media manager for Amendola Communications and am responsible for executing social media, thought leadership, and public relations strategies to raise industry and customer awareness for an organization. The Amendola social media team manages multiple social media accounts on behalf of our clients and specializes in enhancing an organization’s overall web presence. Prior to joining AC, I worked for nearly 8 years in broadcasting as a news reporter and meteorologist. I also had another life as an insurance agency owner. You can find me on Twitter @CarolineHagel.
Where can our readers find you on social media?
Follow us on Twitter @AmendolaComm or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AmendolaCommunications, or find us on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/amendola-communications. But, our biggest successes are behind the scenes, supporting our clients through social media and public relations. We look forward to connecting with you!