Rebuilding the Hospital News Brand

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Harvey D. Kart

It’s been awhile since I last wrote a Publisher’s Note, however if you are following us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you know that I have been more active and engaged with you than ever before.

As we head into the 25th anniversary celebration of Western Pennsylvania Hospital News, I have been looking for ways to make our trade newspaper more relevant. Going back to last winter, you may have noticed that our articles have been more informative and educational for a healthcare audience. Over the past year, I saw many organizations reposition their brand and enhance their online presence through social media. I have been focused on working on our brand as well.

I have always stated that Western Pennsylvania is the best place in the country
for healthcare and it has been wonderful to be recognized as the trade paper in the
industry for all these years. So I have been behind the scenes working closely with
our Hospital News team to make our brand relevant. It’s very difficult for any
business owner to step back and reexamine his or her brand. I highly encourage
all of you to do this at some point with your own organizations. One question you
should ask yourself is “are you taking advantage of social media to engage with
your audience?”

Just last week, I read an article about why more health experts are embracing
the social web. In the same week, I read how Proctor & Gamble is moving away
from commercials during soap operas in favor of social media. I also took some
time to review the social media columns written by our assistant to the publisher,
Daniel Casciato. By the way, I have to give credit to Dan for helping make us make
the transition into social media, and putting our brand front and center in the
healthcare community.

When we launched Western Pennsylvania Hospital News 25 years ago, no one
could ever imagine how social media would change how we interacted with one
another—no one could even imagine the power of the Internet back then.
The slogan from our original collateral piece of Hospital News 25 years ago,
still holds true today; it’s just that we’re doing it differently now. Our slogan back
then was, “Dedicated to the spirit of unity, community, and sharing.”

It’s interesting that was the core message 25 years ago. We weren’t talking about healthcare professionals. We were really talking about the core value of human beings. Up
until now, our slogan has been a bit more formal and was more about the business—“
the region’s healthcare monthly newspaper.” But we are now returning to
our roots and going back to that original slogan which seems more appropriate
these days.

When Hospital News was first launched, we were talking about it being your
direct link to 30-affiliated area hospitals. That was it. We were very small in comparison
to now being global in the Internet Age. Today, Hospital News has become
a vital source of information for everyone involved in the continuum of care. It’s
no longer just for physicians and interested business leaders. Recognizing that our
brand reaches more people, not just regionally, but globally now, over the past couple
years I had to openly admit that my model—like so many other company models—
was in need of repair. Adding relevant content was just the first step. I then
began taking a closer look at social media.

Although we have been active on Twitter and Facebook over the past year, I
decided to give LinkedIn another try. I started my account a year ago but never
really did anything with it until about six weeks ago. I was sitting at 40 connections,
and as we close out 2010, I’m now closing in on 1,000+ connections. I took the time to look up people who I had crossed paths with in the healthcare community over the past 25 years. It was great to know that they were still there for me and that I’m still there for them. It comes back to that original slogan—“dedicated to the spirit of unity, community, and sharing.” That was a strong bond that we built. It’s so gratifying to know that bond continues to exist after all of these years.

In addition to using social media more effectively, we just launched an improved version
of our website, www.wphospitalnews.com. By using a WordPress theme, the site is
now more interactive. You can engage directly with the authors and comment specifically
on each of the articles that we plan to post on a weekly basis. If you have news to share, no
longer do you have to wait for the print version.

We can post articles immediately now, and we can also tweet about it, mention it on Facebook, and post a message on LinkedIn to our followers. In turn, those connections—all
1,800+ of them through our social media accounts and our 7,500+ email subscribers—
can share our stories and yours with their community. And as always, we still reach 40,000+ through the print edition.

Finally, we’ve extended our brand and this past summer, launched Pittsburgh
Better Times, an online lifestyle publication for people who are divorced, widowed,
and separated. Check it out at www.PittsburghBetterTimes.com.

We’ve all been making changes to our brands—to make it better and to make it more relevant to our core audience. During 2011, we want to hear from you. We want to report on your stories—on the significant changes your organization has undergone these past 25 years. How have you changed? How are you more relevant today?

Harvey D. Kart
hdkart@aol.com
770-353-5847.