Easily forgotten in this age of corporate image and branding is that without the people who work for the company, the brand or image does not exist. To put it another way: your people are your brand.

Chris Brogan commented on the disheveled interweb folks lamenting brands being kicked off Google+. No need to despair, he conjectured, “Business is about humans connecting with humans,” and continued, “Go forth. Be the brand. Just be as you as the brand.”

Brands are on Google+. But instead of hearing from Sonos, Symantec, and Raytheon, he “heard from Dan from Sonos, Tristan from Symantec, Toni from Raytheon, and lots of other people who I take to be the brand more than their CEO or official spokespeople.”

He connected with people. People! That’s the whole point of this social movement–it’s to interact with more people–to reach them more fluently. Not companies. Not brands. People! Interactions help create (destroy) trust. When I have a customer-service problem, I want to talk to someone. A real someone. Not a company.

In the 99% Conference (worth your time) video above, Simon Sinek says at the 24:00 mark:

One-hundred percent of customers are people. One-hundred percent of clients are people. One-hundred percent of employees are people. I don’t care how good your product is, how good your marketing is, how good your design is–if you don’t understand people you don’t understand business. We are social animals, we are human beings. And our survival depends on our ability to form trusting relationships.

How an employee represents a company signals everything I need to know about that company. If the employee is trustworthy, the company may be trustworthy. If the employee is genuine, the company may be genuine. If the employee is authentic, the company may be authentic. (The mays provide an important caveat; Sinek, also in the video, tells companies to stop lying to customers. He says something to the effect of “don’t ask your customers what they want you to be, just be you.”)

The emergence of the social web has helped some companies realize this. Now they are taking to their advertising campaigns to relate with people using…their people:

The campaign is among several under way that seek to burnish brand images by using actual employees rather than actors. For instance, in new commercials for Perdue Farms, the chairman, Jim Perdue, is joined by workers, including the chief veterinarian, and a farm family that raises chickens for Perdue.

The strategy behind using so-called real people is to cater to consumers who “want to know a lot more about the company behind the product,” said John Bartelme, chief marketing officer at Perdue Farms. They are interested in brands they perceive to be authentic or genuine, with a history and track record, rather than the spawn of slick corporate marketing. (New York Times)

People. Real people. All too easily forgotten.

Data: Immediacy and Volume

Ed Cotton asks two intriguing questions of brands in general: “Are brands missing a data opportunity?” and “What if brands were to give up their data and share it with their customers?”

Yes. To both.

I’ll be far from the first to point this out, but data has the ability to change the way we deliver healthcare and medicine. While organizations have not been remiss in realizing the power of personal data–it’s not like they have capitalized on the opportunity either.

The consumer-oriented healthcare set has been pushing for more data sharing from delivery organizations for years. There’s a bunch of gobbely-gook involved–but suffice it to say that healthcare data remains somewhat of a competitive advantage. Combined with inflated HIPAA fears and it becomes a world unprepared for sharing (and steeped in tradition) (and habits).

But data is another case where a new solution can be good for everyone involved–a win/win/win/win (the equivalent of a regular “win/win,” adjusted for the numerous stakeholders involved).

No one has gotten this right (on a grand scale), yet. The largest (and best?) data sorter (Google) failed in its effort. Rather miserably.

Two data problems: immediacy and volume. This strikes at a fundamental addition coming to healthcare delivery: health creation.

The health seeker needs immediacy. A lack of it prevents feedback and informed health-creating decisions. To be blunt: health is not created in the physician’s office, it is created when choosing between an apple and a piece of cake. Or when making the decision to exercise vs. sitting on the couch. Jen McCabe termed them microchoices (I believe). Your health is the summation of your microchoices. Slow feedback inhibits microchoice making.

The healthcare provider needs volume. The data from an annual physician check-up guides a physician’s indications for the coming year. More frequent blood pressure check-ups may provide additional data points. But even the patients who we consider frequent users of medical services don’t supply all that much data in a world of constant connection. Without voluminous data (read: constant monitoring) it’s difficult for anyone to find trends or patterns. Trends and patterns inform provider decision making which, in turn, informs health seeker decisions.

This is what makes the mobile movement exciting. Mobile is the current bet to provide the necessary data collection/monitoring/processing/feedback systems necessary to inform decision making.

It will require decisions on two fronts so we can do things like this on a micro scale:

  • Individuals: are you willing to allow software to constantly monitor your activities?
  • Organizations: are you willing to share the personal data (with said individual) collected to improve health?

We’ll see.

Standards in EHRs

An article on standards for electronic health records in The New York Times begins like this:

Safety is also a potent argument for standards. History abounds with telling examples, like the Baltimore fire of 1904. That inferno blazed for 30 hours, destroying more than 1,500 buildings across 70 city blocks. Fire engines from other cities came to help, but could not. Their hose couplings — each a different size — did not fit the Baltimore fire hydrants. Until then, cities saw little reason to adopt a standard size coupling, and local equipment manufacturers did not want competition.

This is an open and shut case for me. Health record vendors (especially the old guys) have notoriously been slow to scale their usability (and data compatibility) efforts. Attention is deserved on both fronts.

Also, somewhat related, with all the government cash being pumped into EHR adoption this struck me: hospitals have to be the only modern entity–individual, organization, or other–that have to be paid in order to ascertain the benefits of using computers. Luddites, indeed.

IBM asked consumers to rank the reasons they interact with companies on social media and then asked companies to rank the reasons why they think consumers interact with them on social media. The results above show the “Perception Gap.” There are striking differences, most notably that “discounts” and “purchases” rank the highest for consumers and the lowest for companies.

But I think this is interesting from a healthcare point of view. Could this be why hospitals struggle so mightily to interact with consumers on social media? Hospitals don’t offer discounts or allow consumers to purchase services via social media. Could they? Anything is possible.

The reasons for healthcare brands to be on social media are not the reasons consumers want to interact with brands, generally.

pointer via @shawnhalls