FEBRUARY 7, 2013/SAN FRANCISCO and NEW YORK - EVC Group, Inc. today announced that John Carter, former Director at WCG, joined the award winning investor relations and integrated communications consulting firm. Carter will join as Principal, and will lead the expansion of the firm’s integrated communications practice.
Carter joins EVC Group from WCG, where he managed account teams for the agency’s consumer practice, including Hershey’s, Warner Bros. and Michaels. Carter focused on strategic social engagement and analytics, while also coordinating teams for content creation and digital execution. Prior to WCG, Carter led the consumer public relations team at SHIFT Communications, where he opened and ran the firm’s New York office.
“Our integrated communications team represents nearly 40% of our business and has successfully developed and executed programs for both major international enterprises as well as start-up ventures,” said Doug Sherk, Founder & CEO. “As the practice has evolved, we wanted to add a leader with experience developing new avenues for clients to reach their audience. John’s success at developing as well as executing social strategy, combined with his reputation for building strong teams, makes him the ideal fit to lead the firm into our next stage of growth.”
“For over a decade, EVC Group has provided senior counsel to an exceptional roster of loyal clients,” said Carter. “I’m excited to join Doug’s team, and will be focused on maintaining the outstanding level of client service the firm provides while exploring new opportunities to build on client successes.”
About EVC Group, Inc.
EVC Group is an investor relations and integrated communications practice providing strategic counsel and execution to businesses of all sizes needing to communicate their unique value to investors, customers and the consumer. The firm’s practice areas include biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, life sciences, financial & business services, and technology. Established in 2002, EVC Group is well regarded for its strategic thinking; seasoned, senior-level staff; frank counsel; deep relationships, and tangible results that have a measurable impact on its clients’ businesses. For the past two consecutive years, EVC Group has been awarded the PRSA Silver Anvil award for the category of Investor Relations for Companies with Sales Less than $500 Million. The firm maintains offices in San Francisco, New York City and Southern California.
Amy Dockser Marcus of The Wall Street Journal (and others) reported today on a study on lithium and Lou Gehrig’s disease conducted through PatientsLikeMe.com, an online patient social network.
Readers will recall our post back in March on patient networks and the observations of Barcelona Tech University professor Mari Carmen Domingo. What we didn’t include then were Prof. Domingo’s comments on PatientsLikeMe.com and the generation of patient social networks like it.
In the July 2010 edition of Computer magazine professor Domingo wrote that PatientsLikeMe co-founder James Heywood saw how patients wanted to know more about how diseases and treatments would affect their everyday life, more than doctors could share effectively.
And as we noted, research is showing that patients in some cases trust peers more than their doctor, adding to the demand for online communities.
When EVC Group asked Professor Domingo in August how companies might find value for patients and customers through social networks, beyond sponsoring them and advertizing on them, one of the multiple areas she pointed to were trials like the one reported on today.
“Pharmaceutical companies can run clinical trials with patients willing to be volunteers,” Professor Domingo said then. “Tools that analyze the effects of treatments on their bodies such as blood levels, symptoms, side effects will be very useful for this purpose.”
PatientsLikeMe is not the only patient network that is building communities who can help advance innovation. CureTogether.com is another. Each must walk a delicate balance between privacy and advancing patient care, as well as the benefits of community.
PatientsLikeMe lets users know up front that the medical records they enter into the site will be visible to others – which is the point – and they point out that among those others are companies who can pay for access to aggregated data.
Domingo observed in her July article that the large numbers of patients participating in communities like this obviously do not see a threat to their privacy as much as a commons where they can share their own experience and metrics to benefit others, and themselves.
An initial draw to these communities is the everyday take on disease and treatment as Mr. Heywood observed.
“[A] contribution that is really hard to quantify is the psychological support such a platform provides to patients, who without it, would most certainly have been left to suffer in silence,” Professor Domingo said in August.
But after that comes the ability to marshal that information to start crunching real numbers that can guide treatment of hard-to-crack medical problems in new directions.
The report on corporate IT in today’s Wall Street Journal contains some smart examples of how companies are benefitting from social media and mobile technologies.
But this cautionary tale from The New York Times should remind social media novices and veterans alike that Twitter’s cachet should not make it the default channel for every conversation.
By the Times’ account, one company invited employees to Tweet suggestions for improving their workplace, then criticized an employee who suggested that the workplace would benefit from imporved relations between management and labor. The company told the employee that the response violated corporate policy against public statememts that could damage the company’s reputation.
So, in this case, management invited employees to comment on working conditions in a public forum, but was embarrassed the feedback it elicited. Frankly, this should have been anticipated. It is folly to expect nothing but comments about the quality of cafeteria snacks or jokes about nap rooms. This discussion should never have been hosted on Twitter.
As an interactive broadcast medium, Twitter is not for everything. As the Journal points out today, corporate users of social media platforms must be prepared for freewheeling discussion of their compnaies or products. Management can set guidelines for employees but cannot ultimate control user behavior. There are plenty of reasons why this is sometimes good. The example reported by the Times is not among them.
The lesson: No doubt, people like Twitter, it is cool and current and useful. That doesn’t mean that every corporate discussion will be cooler and more useful when hosted on Twitter. A company needs to think critically about how its uses Twitter and the other ubiquitious social meda platforms, and it should deploy more private forums for conversations that it wouldn’t want to appear in The New York Times.
The corporate social media policy is a good place to address this issue. Most policies that we’ve seen are written to limit employee behavior, or limit the employer’s liability for this behavior. It would be appropriate for a social media policy to also set guidelines for the company’s official communications on social media channels, identifying which are appropriate, and which are clearly not.
Social media has become so rich, accessible and easy-to-use that it is meeting the demand of patients, particularly those with chronic conditions, for the experiences of others like them to guide their own decisions.
Peer-to-peer health information is becoming more influential than a physician’s advice, Topol said. (If you weren’t at the Congress, you can read Modern Healthcare’s account of Dr. Topol’s 90-minute presentation here, you will need to register, but it’s free).
The doctor is no longer the gatekeeper but a participant, a very authoritative and influential one, in a big and complex ongoing conversation.
Studies bear this out.
Wendy Macias and Liza Stavchansky Lewis found evidence in their 2004 work that many Americans believe the Internet is a better source for health information than health care providers.
The 2009 Pew Internet Project found 42% of Americans had been helped by following medical advice online.
An iCrossing Survey found 64 percent of respondents perform searches for health information at least once a month, 11 percent once a week, 12 percent two or more times a week.
In her July, 2010 article in Computer Magazine Professor Mari Carmen Domingo of Barcelona Tech University points to an “increasing reliance on physician and patient social networks, which promise to transform healthcare management,” echoing Dr. Topol
“Some additional contributions not related with the velocity of the conversations are the possibility to bring together people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and share experiences,” she said in a conversation with EVC Group.
That means communicators need to respect the ability of empowered e-patients to impact an expanding part of the healthcare economy as they join physicians as networked managers of their own treatment and wellness.
For companies that need to communicate their unique value for patients, EVC Group says:
- Tell more patient-facing stories that better reach e-patients through social media.
- Listen to what e-patients are saying and how they react to your communications.
- Participate in the social media conversation, at the very least, don’t be distinguished by your absence.
Quora is the new Twitter, or at least the buzz machine is treating it that way. The question is, does it have a place in a communications professional’s toolbox?
Just as with blogging, Facebook and Twitter before it, the answer is yes and no.
Quora is a social networking site, in which users choose who to follow, and may in turn be followed by others, except in this case the main activity being followed is asking and answering questions.
Part of the excitement here is interacting with hotshots in the business or media world in a personal manner, something that has helped bolster Facebook and Twitter (anyone want to know what Ashton Kutcher is doing right now?). There is some additional excitement about Quora, though, because the questions-and-answers format speaks directly to authority and thought leadership.
The EVC Group take on it – which as always is focused on the tangible - remains in line with what we had to say about Twitter and many other social media outlets when we spoke to PRWeek back in 2009. Be strategic in how you use it, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re being productive because of the volume of your activity or number of followers. Is that activity leading to face-to-face relationships, something EVC Group prizes above every other interaction?
That doesn’t mean don’t get out there.
When The Poynter Institute recommends six ways for journalists to use Quora, that means public relations professionals should be there.
Six days after Poynter’s January 12th piece, Katherine Boehret at The Wall Street Journal wrote a review of the service in which she pronounced it to be still an insider’s tool that is continuing to evolve. Interestingly she then tweeted on @kabster728 “So I’m curious: If you read my column today, did you sign up for Quora? What are your 1st impressions? http://is.gd/3nnU2N.”
An insider’s space that is continuing to evolve is a good place to be, even if you mostly do what Katherine found herself doing and monitoring what others are doing and saying. PRWeek agreed later in the month.
The jury is still out on the ultimate utility for businesses as Inc.’s article Monday articulates. Though, we do note that Tyler James’ advice on how to cultivate tangible relationships through social media is in line with our own experience.
Be there, be findable, monitor and participate. At minimum, do not be distinguished by your lack or presence.
We participated last week in a forum hosted by Gerson Lehrman Group. Calling the forum, “Facebook and Pharma,” GLG gathered New Yorkers from big pharma, advertising, public relations and social media for an informal discussion on the usefulness of social media in the pharmaceutical industry.
Some thoughts we took from the evening’s discussion:
First, the social networking guidelines we’ve been anticipating from the FDA are not likely to materialize soon. And if they do, the guidance isn’t likely to be definitive. So the industry will be challenged to craft creative social media strategies amid the many regulatory bugbears. Indeed, most of the powerful campaigns referenced at the event were for consumer products, not drugs or devices. (Remember the New Old Spice Guy?) There was a heavy sentiment in the room that with FDA (and in some cases SEC) regulations, pharma companies are limited in their ability to use social media as more than a marketing channel by rising to the level of “engagement,” or “steering the conversation” around drug therapies and meaningful medical care. Social media may belong to the crowd, and industry may have to get comfortable just listening in.
We know of companines in regulated industries that have achieved “engagement” with social media. Our client Cardiac Science’s blog, Facebook and Twitter pages are an excellent example of this. But we also recognize the value of listening. Several forum participants described very compelling new media strategies that enable manufacturers to learn directly from patients’ behavior. An iPhone App, for example, that helps diabetics track their meds and glucose levels provides one pharma comany with great insight into patient behavior that could help craft better therapy going forward. A futurist in the group sees the potential for new technologies to discern therapeutically relevant patterns amid the chaos of online patient chatter about treatments for specific diseases. Standouts from other consumer oriented industries have shown that setting up on Twitter, following a few throught leaders and watching for comments about your brand can yield valuable intelligence for your customer service organization, or sales force, or investor relations account team.
Another happy outcome of this event was our introduction to The Shoshin Project. Check it out.
Pondering whether your company should be using social media?
You already are, you just don’t know it yet.
Throughout your organization people are on Facebook, Twitter or they’re blogging about the company on their own sites. Your sales force is on café pharma anonymously posting comments about your upcoming marketing strategy.
Some of this is harmless. Some of it is brilliant, like the sales rep in Connecticut who is making videos of himself explaining your product and posting them on YouTube so potential customers can find him online. He’s driving revenue with it.
Another portion of users in your organization represent a serious breach of security and are giving a smart competitor an advantage.
Companies are coming to terms with this in unique ways, and it doesn’t always mean clamping down.
Online shoe retailer Zappos.com Inc., of Henderson, Nevada, has more than 450 employees using Twitter to communicate with one another on topics ranging from politics to marketing plans. They have begun offering classes to teach basics like how to follow a friend’s updates to advanced topics like using third-party services.
GE has a Tweet Squad that helps employees get up to speed with using social media.
What to do.
A social media policy is the right place to start.
IBM for instance has developed an evolving social media policy that gives employees best practices on the assumption you’re not going to be able to stop them from using social media anyway.
You will recall in a previous post we mentioned your legal department losing their cool when you started a company Twitter.
The process of setting up the social media policy can help avoid this blowup. Include your legal counsel and regulatory officers. Together you can establish a framework for the company to proactively use these tools in a way that isn’t overburdened by a stiff approval process that erases many of the virtues of social media’s spontaneity, speed and responsiveness to the market. But on the other hand you should end up with a structure that allows you to avoid doing stupid things online.
A well crafted policy not only tells employees what they shouldn’t be doing online, but can also frame up best practices and can serve as a roadmap for harnessing some of the good ideas already being used by the rank and file.
We recommend all our clients have a policy, and most do or are working with us on developing one.
There are three scenarios a comprehensive social computing policy needs to address.
The first is when employees maintain personal blogs, tweet, or post information about themselves on Wikis, message boards, e-mail groups, Facebook or other social forums online and may occasionally reference information relevant to their work at the company.
The second is when employees who maintain personal blogs, tweet, etc., specifically to profess their professional interests and therefore feature their work at the company prominently.
The third is employees who maintain official corporate blogs, or maintain personal/professional blogs described in scenario two, that are actively encouraged by the company and for which the company makes publishing resources available.
If you account for all of these and are clear with your organization about the benefits of helping the company tell its story online, and are transparent about the penalties for missteps, you can achieve some amazing results.
Like most social media, Twitter is a trap. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on it thinking you’re getting a message out.
At the end of the day you have nothing to show for it but a follower list of indefinite value and screaming fits from the legal and regulatory departments over some of the messages you sent out.
Read what we had to say recently in PRWeek and you’ll get the idea of what to do to make it worth your while.
The takeaway is, be a broadcaster second, and a listener first. Put smart content up, but more importantly pay attention to who notices, decide if you would like to get to know them better and then dispense with social media altogether and meet them over coffee. If you don’t do it face-to-face, at least get one-on-one.
No matter how charming the guru you’ve hired, social media messages from a company or their agent do not win hearts, minds or dollars. The word of an objective and credible observer - like a traditional media journalist - does. Use social media to find and get to know those people and get into close quarters with them without a screen between the two of you so you can tell your story.
Now about those screaming fits your smart content elicited from legal and regulatory, stay tuned, more on that soon.
Nicole Zerillo, May 15, 2009
Twitter has quickly become a baseline tactic for PR initiatives seeking to engage audiences in online conversation. It can be a good tool to connect with company stakeholders, including media.
In addition, Twitter can be an excellent tool to try out different brand strategies to reach specific consumers, says Nancy Martira, senior interactive strategist at Ketchum.
The firm has tried several types of Twitter initiatives for its client Skinny Cow to generate awareness for the brand, including a coupon giveaway targeted at Martira’s followers, which are largely mom bloggers, and then her followers’ followers.
“It’s of relatively small cost,” Martira says. “It’s not like launching a national broadcast campaign, but if you succeed it has the opportunity to really ripple.”
Chris Gale, VP of EVC Group, notes that Twitter is an excellent source to create opportunities for face-to-face relationships and deepen connections with already interested media.
For example, EVC Group aids it client Comarco, a mobile power source maker, on Twitter as its IR AOR. When it noticed a key publication for the company, Wireless Week, Tweeting about Targus Group, it let the outlet know of Comarco’s new exclusive distribution deal with Targus, and an article resulted.
“Comarco is a turnaround company, and because they’re small, sometimes it can be difficult to get news out about their successes,” Gale says. “[The Wireless Week story] helped lay out what Comarco’s achieved.”
Some companies also use the site as an additional customer service function, responding to consumer complaints and requests. Examples include @comcastcares and @BofA_help. That type of promise to a consumer, however, carries a significant commitment, so a brand must decide whether or not it is the right step for it.
Olympus Imaging America at @GetOlympus, for example, notes that the company’s Twitter page does not handle service requests. However, Michael Bourne, VP and account director at Mullen, which handles the account, says he uses monitoring tools Techrigy and Twitterholic to help him decide to jump into conversations that involve the brand.
“That gives me the ability to know who is talking about us, competitive products, or subjects important to the brand,” says Bourne. “In terms of their influence factor, I can decide if I want to engage.”
Frequent updates and following news alerts can waste time for a PR professional managing a brand on Twitter, Gale adds.
“The point is… not to preoccupy yourself with putting out content or the number of people following you,” he says.
• Utilize Twitter to build relationships with target demos and key media
• Check out what competitors are doing in the space
• Respond to every brand mention or criticism
• Provide more quantity than quality updates