What can doctors learn from Communications – PR professionals? Spending time with #prpeople at Nat’l Press Club

Big Ass Fans , Taking risks in marketing / transparency

I got to spend time with Holly Potter ( @htpotter ) and colleagues Laura Dunn ( @CUgirl481 ), Patrice Smith, Catherine Hernandez ( @cbhernandez ), and partners Matt Bennett ( @mattdbennett ) and Randi Kahn from Golin Harris ( @GolinHarris ) at yesterday’s PR People Awards, hosted at the National Press Club. Because it’s Holly and team, because “if I can walk to it, I’ll do it,” and because I welcome the opportunity to learn from experts outside of health care, I happily went.

I’ve touched on a little bit of what I’ve learned from communications professionals in a previous post on here, yesterday I felt like I broadened my view a bit more:

The White House and the Press Club – Open Leadership is not a given, we still have to work at it

We got a cool back-stage tour of the Press Club, including the Truman Lounge, home of the famous piano depicted in this photograph of Harry Truman and Lauren Bacall. What I learned here was about the past history of the White House, where US Presidents would come and socialize with the press in a safe environment, to promote communication and shared understanding. The Press Club is set up with the right security for this tradition to continue, it just hasn’t. It struck me as ironic since the colleagues I have with were being honored for their work in creating openness among our leaders at Kaiser Permanente.

So despite the existence/availability of so many tools to express openness, openness itself cannot be created or forced by the tools, the tools just make it easier. Hmm..kind of like technology in any situation.

Taking risks, promoting dialogue

What I also saw yesterday is a profession that in many cases lives behind the scenes, and yet, are really working hard to promote openness and dialogue. The example in the photo above, is of a company that decided to be direct with its customers about what it builds, and it has been very successful. Some professional communicators might say, “don’t do it,” when such a name change came about, others might say, “If this is you, be authentic, relate to your stakeholders (maybe not in those words, I don’t do this for a living, remember).”

What I have seemed to find in my conversations is that it is often the Communications and Public Relations professionals that are working to promote more openness, more transparency, so when we think this hospital or that health system is not open, it’s usually not the PR team that’s responsible for that approach, it’s they who are trying to change the approach. Their tools are dialogue and communication, after all.

When the phone rings, or the tweet comes, answer it

When I first started working with communications professionals, I encountered medical colleagues who resisted putting in the time to educate stakeholders and the community, and I didn’t understand why, so I went ahead and answered the phone, text, tweet, from my Communications professional colleagues when they rang, and I learned a ton. I encourage all other health professionals and health system leaders to do the same. If you can imagine that there’s a group of professionals who exist to help reduce the gap between those who want to serve society and those who are being served so that they (we) can serve better, this is them. Take advantage.

Congratulations Holly, Patrice, Laura, Diane

The other great thing about the day was the amount of achievement present from Kaiser Permanente in the room. Four people honored, Diane Gage Lofgren ( @dianelofgren ) inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Laura as one of 15 to watch in 2010. There is something good going on in the Brand Strategy Communications and Public Relations group at KP!


More photos are here. Enjoy.


1 Comment

Ted Eytan, MD