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A Living Kidney Organ Donor is Needed to Save Meredith Hucke’s Life. PLEASE HELP!

Dear friends, family, and members of the public who are taking a few moments to stop by and read this important message and plea for help:

The time has come for my friend, Meredith Hucke, and her parents Ken and Linda Hucke, of suburban Philadelphia, to reach out to the public and the news media for help. Meredith, who is 38 years old, is a friend of mine, and she is desperate need of a new healthy kidney from a living organ donor in order to stay alive.

Meredith was born in 1973 and in 1976 she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Twenty five years later, in 2001, Meredith’s kidneys failed. [The kidneys have important roles in maintaining health. When healthy, the kidneys maintain the body's internal equilibrium of water and minerals (sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfate). Those acidic metabolism end products that the body cannot get rid of via respiration are also excreted through the kidneys. The kidneys also function as a part of the endocrine system.] When Meredith’s kidneys failed in 2001, she was put on a transplant list so she could receive a kidney. Because she had diabetes and because her kidneys failed, she also needed a pancreas at that same time. So she underwent both a kidney and pancreas transplant in 2002 where she received the organs from a cadaver (yes, a dead human body).

The shelf-life for cadaver organs is about 10 to 15 years. And now that it’s 2011, the shelf-life of the kidney Meredith currently has in her body has failed.  It is not working at all. And Meredith is in urgent need of a new one in order to stay alive.

Dialysis is the only thing that is keeping Meredith alive right now. Dialysis is a process for removing waste and excess water from the blood, and is primarily used to provide an artificial replacement for lost kidney function. When a patient receives dialysis it does wear out their veins and is very stressful and taxing on the body. And in time, dialysis patients cannot tolerate the process if they are on it for too long. Meredith is currently receiving dialysis 3 days a week and as you can imagine, it’s pretty stressful on her body.

Currently, Meredith is in an urgent healthcare state. She needs a kidney from a living organ donor; someone who is willing to give one of their unneeded kidneys to her.

What is great and encouraging news it that the human body has two kidneys but we only need one to live and survive. So someone who is in a good health condition and willing to help Meredith, can indeed help if they would like to. The criteria to give a kidney to Meredith is really simple. A living organ donor must be under age 60, be in generally good health, and have an O+ or O- blood type. That’s it.

Meredith is currently on a national “waiting list” where thousands of organ transplant patients just like her are also waiting…. where they “sit” a wait for a live organ donor to come forward. This list is made up of over 10,000 people. Frankly, the chances of Meredith getting a living organ from this national list is very slim. And as you can imagine, this is very hard for Meredith and her family.

Meredith, Linda and Ken (her parents) and I all believe in the power of social media. We believe that social media communications and networks can help make Meredith’s story become viral, and help Meredith find a donor rather quickly.

We are kindly asking everyone to please take a few minutes and watch The Hucke’s 4-minute video of where they are asking for help. Then take another minute or two and share and push this simple communication out onto any and all of your social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.). We believe that the impact in doing so, really could help save Meredith’s life. Thank you.

 

If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a donor for Meredith, please contact Ken and Linda Hucke at the contact information below. They will explain the organ donation process to you, and they will provide you with the paperwork and application where an approval will be given by The University of Pennsylvania to see if you meet the requirements. There is no cost involved in being a live organ donor.

Please contact:

Linda & Ken Hucke
215-938-1720
khucke@verizon.net
kelimeryn@verizon.net

Both I and the Hucke family thank everyone for their help in advance, the prayers that have been sent Meredith’s way, and the kind words of encouragement. Whatever help you can give to help spread the word about Meredith’s urgent need, the more grateful the family will be.

We all remain positive, and we let God bless the rest.

And from the bottom of Meredith’s heart – she says “Thank you!”

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Making Twitter’s Top 10 2010 Tweets: Story Facts & Lessons Learned

So this past Tuesday morning when I awakened, I learned that I had made Twitter’s “The 10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010’ list. While I was caught off guard with the news, I found it interesting at the same time.

As I saw the news about this on Twitter and Google, and I read further, low and behold – there it was. There was my Twitter story, sandwiched between President Obama and the BP Oil Spill, as having the #3 most powerful tweet of 2010. “Wowzers” I thought.

About 30 minutes later my phone started ringing, the tweets and emails started rolling, and the Facebook messages started appearing – all from friends, family members, colleagues and the news media… all who wanted to make sure I was aware of the news and also requesting to speak with me.

The Facts behind the Story: Understanding How Cell Phones Work

The story in short form is that I was on a mini-triathlon in Farmington, Connecticut, at Winding Trails; a park where I had never been and that I was unfamiliar with. Somehow while on the bike portion of the race I managed to get lost on the wooded trails. After realizing I was going in circles, watching the evening sun set in, and determining that I was officially lost – I kicked it into gear and tried hightailing myself out of the park. This is when I had my accident. I hit a big root going pretty fast down a hill, I used both breaks on my handle bars to stop myself, and I went flying up and over the handle bars and body came crashing down hard on the ground with the bike hitting me. After waiting for about 10 minutes assuming someone from the race would pass me, and then making two phone calls that could not get me a connection, I resorted to Twitter for help. [Read my full story here where I thank the people who helped me, and read my Twitter stream where ask for assistance in calling the police].

One question that remains fuzzy for some is how was I able to get an Internet connection on my mobile phone but not able to make a phone call? When USA Today covered the story they spoke to David Redl, Director of Regulatory Affairs at CTIA – The International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry. David was quoted saying “that in areas with spotty cell phone coverage it’s not unusual to be able to send instant messages or messages through the internet.” Simply put, on a mobile phone, a phone call “connection” requires a large amount of bandwidth and strength whereas a text message, instant message or internet connection requires very little. This is why the UberTwitter application I use on my Blackberry worked in this situation. Additionally, Twitter is a tool that I use in my day-to-day job, and the UberTwitter application on my phone is up, open and running live on my home screen at all times.

The Reality of Today: Two-Way Communications

Yesterday I was asked by a member of the news media, “Leigh, how does it feel like to make Twitter’s Top 10 Powerful Tweets of 2010?” My response? “Exciting and neat.” Why? Because I thought my ‘Twitter rescue story’ was a big part of telling the world about the power that social media communication platforms, networks and technologies hold, not just in emergency situations, but in day-to-day communications. And I was proud to be a part of that storytelling.

My ‘Twitter rescue story’ went viral when it hit back in July 2010 due to the NBC affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut, locating it on Twitter within less than 15 hours after it occurring, and then additional media requesting interviews with me. Within days the story went all around the world from the U.S. to Sweden to Australia to Brazil to the U.K. In addition to all of the news coverage the story has been presented in emergency preparedness and response meetings, its’ going to be included in a text book on social media communications, and just last week I received a call that Blackberry is requesting to include it in corporate video of their own… The list goes on. Overwhelming to me, but certainly helpful to many.

By profiling my story in ‘The 10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010’ the story itself has definitely shown and taught a majority of the world that our communications world has changed and continues to change for the good. So long are the days when news and communication was all one-way. Hello to these days – the days that show and prove communication is all about two-way and multiple communication and engagement.

The Reality of Social Networking: A Lesson to be Learned

To me, an average consumer who happens to be a communications and PR professional and professionally communicates for a living and develops social media communications strategies for clients – it is indeed ironic, but rather exciting and neat. I am happy to be a part of it all and I thank Biz Stone and Twitter for placing a consumer story like this on their list.

While I sustained no critical injuries, I was very out of alignment and indeed pretty sore internally for three months; from my neck down to my pelvic region on my left side. What I felt was the equivalent of the soreness one may feel after a bad car accident but it was nothing I couldn’t rehab through.

If I had to go through it all again just for the sake of letting the world know that social media communication platforms, networks and technologies do work in emergency situations and have forever changed our communications world – I would definitely do it. At the end of the day, if my story can help people in some way – than that’s a good thing. To me, when we are able to help others in or day-to-day lives then we are most certainly helping the world to continue to go around.

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Twitter Leads Rescue Efforts of Fazzina Bike Crash

Twitter. Never underestimate its viral engaging power. Ever. Please, just don’t ever do it.

The power Twitter holds for instant viral communication is utterly amazing, and it helped me get rescued last night after I suffered a mountain bike crash in deep evening-lit woods that I was unfamiliar with.

Yes – that’s right. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I was rescued last night by the The Town of Farmington Fire Department (Connecticut) after suffering a serious mountain bike crash where I ended up off the beaten path alone in a wooded forest that was totally foreign to me.

I participated in a min-triathlon with my cousin John at Winding Trails in Farmington, Connecticut. We did a lake swim, a mountain bike ride and a run (well, I didn’t make the run). I was doing so well at start… I had just completed a ¼ mile swim, then jumped on to my mountain bike and proceeded to ride this pretty hardcore mountain path trail for several miles (lots of hills, roots and rocks, etc). I was to be riding on the marked “blue” trial (there were “green” and “red” trails too). In my 20/20 hindsight, I definitely missed a turn on the “blue” trail where the rest of the pack was riding because I was focusing too hard on avoiding the roots (you see, riding on an unfamiliar trail can be very tough – especially in a race when you are being timed). So I rode out of the way. For a while there were one or two people near me, then eventually they were all gone. A bit of the way into the ride which felt like forever, I realized I had to have been lost and on the wrong trail. This resulted in me riding further and further away on a different trail which was not part of the race and where eventually no one was in sight. Oy!

The woods seemed forever long, deep and thick to me. I pride myself on having a great sense of direction, but I couldn’t see where the sun was setting because the trees were very tall, and my natural compass sense was not working. I was really confused. Again, this was the first time I was ever in the trail.

Being slightly panicked in foreign dark woods reminds me of The Blair Witch Project or the Into the Wild story. I was feeling a tad uncomfortable and a bit scared. With that, and with the sun starting to set in unfamiliar territory, I kicked my body into high gear and began to high tail it out of these woods on the “red” trail (a totally different trail than the triathlon was on). I was flying… I must have been riding at about 25 miles an hour down this hill. During this speed, I hit some roots while making a right turn, pulled on my brakes and – BOOM! I had the worst biking accident I’d ever been in. I flew up and off the bike and over the handle bars about 10 feet into air (I was on a hill). Prior to hitting the ground I saw my life crash (literally) in front of me, and it was all downhill from there (again, literally) as I rolled. When in air all I kept thinking was “OMG – I’m going to break my neck!” And there is no one out here with me!” The noise my body made when it hit the ground was unbelievably loud and awful. And the bike hit me too.

When I landed, the wind was knocked out of me, I was hyperventilating a bit, coughing, dry heaving, spitting up dirt, shaking, going into a semi shock and slightly panicking…  I landed on my shoulder first, then rolled on my breast bone, my rib, my pelvis. My neck got thrown to the right. My helmet hit so hard it was dented and flew off my head. The water bottle was crushed like a car had hit it and my bike looked like a Mack Truck hit it. The handel bars were turned in a 180 position and the wheel and tire were busted.  I thought to myself “How on earth did I just survive this?” Then I started crying, felt the shock, and began to panic more. Then the pain started to set in. Then I realized I was alone. I could hear a pin drop in the woods it was so quite. I waited about 10 minutes or so thinking a rider or a triathlon staff member monitoring the trails would eventually ride by me… But when I didn’t see anyone, I then began screaming for help.

I shouted out in tears many times:
“Hello is anyone out here?”
”Can anyone here me?”
“Help!”
“I need help!”
“I’ve been in an accident! Please help!”
My words fell onto to deaf ears.

As I laid there crying on and off, I was wet from the swim still. Bugs were now biting me. I was full of dirt in my mouth, ears and nails. My face and legs were chaffed. My skin was scuffed on my shoulder that caught my fall. And I was starting to cramp up. I tried to stay calm, but the shock was taking a bite on me. I had to think clearly. I’ve been  trained and certified in First Aid and CPR (I’m a certified Spinning instructor), and for many years I was lifeguard… So I knew how to respond to these situations. But when shock sets in you go a bit numb and get confused no matter how mentally strong or knowledgeable you are. And this is what happened to me. I was teetering from slight shock to rationale thinking. It was an odd mental position to be in.

After not seeing anyone or having anyone hear me, I then crawled myself to my BlackBerry that was in my bike pack under the seat of my bike, and I had prayed that it was not wrecked. When I saw the phone on and working I immediately attempted to call my cousin Maria with whom I was visiting with all week  (Maria was at home, not on the race with us, but knew I was on the race).  But the signal strength for a phone call was so low and the connection was dim with the call saying  “connecting….” Her phone rang once, then it went silent. I tried calling a second time but no luck. Her phone didn’t even ring. At this point I knew the connection was too low for a call, so I decided the Twitter route.

I’m definitely digitally connected. My BlackBerry Bold 9700 (a top BlackBerry smartphone) has me connected on 3 emails accounts, Facebook, 3 Twitter accounts, SMS and MMS messages, BlackBerry Instant Message (BBM) with voice notes,  phone/voice calling and the Internet. I knew Twitter and the UberTwitter application that I had installed on my phone (always open and running on my BlackBerry) would get me an immediate response as my messages would be sent to the 1,000 or so people in my network. I also knew that my Twitter network being comprised of mostly healthcare communications/public relations colleagues would take me seriously. My thought was “I’m a communicator who uses and counsels clients on how to use social media to communicate their healthcare needs, and now here I am with a needed medical emergency asking others with similar background to help me. Of course my Twitter network friends would respond immediately and help me! It was a no-brainier for me to take this course. [I didn’t go the Facebook route b/c I didn’t think it would result in immediate help where asking breaking news happens on Twitter in just seconds.] Remember, it was getting dark and I needed help immediately. So Twitter it was.

Thankfully, the signal I had was strong enough for an Internet and texting connection. I also learned in the midst of it all that the BlackBerry instant message (BBM) worked too.

Within seconds, some of my network of Twitter friends and colleagues from Pennsylvania, Canada, Chicago, Oman (yes, in southwest Asia!), New Jersey, Italy, and Washington, D.C. heard me. Within minutes, they kept reading my Twitter stream as I continued to post and communicate with them. They came together as a team and contacted the Winding Trails Park, the Farmington Fire Dept and Police and within minutes I heard the sirens in a far. I was so thankful!

My one Twitter friend Jonathan Vitale of Erie, Pennsylvania, who is in his last year of medical school, kept me calm through his messages. He and Julie Coffey of Canada happened to be one the first people on Twitter to see me shout out for help. It was comforting to know he was there. And comforting to see all the messages come pouring in to me from dozens and dozens of people who were helping. Steve Woodruff ended up posting a recap and giving an update to the community. Steve, thank you so much and thank you for your outreach to me. Thank you also for showing how powerful Twitter can be!

Being injured alone for a good 30 mins in a forest where I had never been was scary. It was also painful and it was shocking. But Twitter and those taking the messages that are posted on Twitter seriously – is what got me rescued, placed on a stretch board, and taken to the Unvisited of Connecticut Medical Center where I was properly treated. So Amen to that.  [By the way, you can click here to see a little video I shot while I was taken out of the woods on the ATV on stretcher.  I finally was laughing a bit... Just thankful to be rescued and laughing at the reality of it all.] But notice in the video how dark it was out.

When the Fire Dept. and medics arrived, Jeff with the Farmington Fire Department told me “we are rescuing you from the Twitter call you did. Amazing!” Another guy named Connor said, “I guess that Twitter thing really works.” I replied, “Yep, it sure does.” We laughed a bit but in all seriousness chatted about it.

Meanwhile while I was on the stretcher and in the Ambulance, I would not put down Twitter. I kept communicating to let people know I was okay in terms of not breaking any bones and that I was in good hands. This was a must for me…

Luckily I have no broken bones. I was poked and pricked and on an IV of some nice anxiety drugs to calm me, and some anti-inflammatory meds. I am extremely sore, very stiff and uncomfortable. When I cough and sneeze, I am in pain. But all in all I am very very lucky nothing else happened.

I will eventually heal. My bike will get repaired. My pretty pink nails will eventually come clean. My # 241 triathlon number marked on my arm will eventually wash off, and I will ride again… but only in woods and on a path I’m familiar with, and making sure my BlackBerry and Twitter is with me.

As for Twitter’s power and all of these other wonderful communication tools that are often misunderstood, overlooked and sadly mocked from time to time – they are indeed powerful. From meeting people to do business with, to sharing information, to communicating crisis situations, to helping people get rescued –– more and more of these communication tools is what is making our world continue  to go around.

Communication in our world and in our lifetime is no doubt forever changed, and will continue to change. So please, continue to embrace it.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

My Note of Thanks:

I am forever grateful to all the Twitter friends who help get me rescued yesterday. Thank you so very much! You are all wonderful people who came together and coordinated the calls, followed up, and updated the community. If I missed anyone who helped with the initial effort to get me rescued, I sincerely apologize. I could not keep up with who was doing what.

@DrJonathan Jonathan Vitale, Erie, Pennsylvania
@coffeyjulie Julie Coffee, Toronto, Canada
@WesleyWilson Wes Wilson, Toronto, Canada
@swoodruff Steve Woodruff, New Jersey
@arun4 Arun Rajagopal, Muscat, Oman (Southeast Asia)
@dcaplick Debra Caplick, Chicago

@francishopkins Francis Hopkins, Washington, DC
@silver_medalist Sandy Ward, Mukilteo, Washington

It is not possible to thank everyone on here for your outreach to me and your well well wishes. But please know that from the bottom of my heart I thank you all. It means a lot to see how so many people reacted on line and helped me.

What’s amazing to me is that my messages reached as far away as Italy and Southwest Asia. So Simon Lee and Arun – thank you very much for caring and helping that far away!

I of course am thankful to the entire rescue team (which I have now learned was pretty large) who all provided rescue assistance, the Farmington Fire and Police Dept, the volunteers in the ambulance squad and medics, and a random mountain bike rider named Jason P. who escorted the medics to me. I appreciated all of the efforts by everyone.

<— Here is the bent wheel from the front of my bike. Looking down from the top here, the wheel should be straight. As you see, it is very off. Over $200 to fix my  bike too.

————————————————————————————————————————

Media Coverage of Story:

Below are just a few of the stories and various versions that ran in the local and national news media. This story has indeed been airing all over the world, from the United States, The Netherlands, Brazil, United Kingdom, to Sweden.

UPDATE 7/30/2010: Here is the original broadcast news story that ran on WTNH-TV, NBC 30 News in Hartford. It was this piece that got sent out on the NBC wire and fed into various U.S. markets including, New York, Miami, Salt Lake, Raleigh, Philadelphia and many others.

UPDATE 7/30/2010:A PR Week article by Christina Donnelly.

UPDATE 8/2/2010: Here is an interview with Jonathan Vitale on the “Doctor Anonymous Show” along with more information about incident from me.

UPDATE 8/2/2010: Here is the USA Today article by Liz Szabo.

UPDATE 8/4/2010: UOL in Brazil.

UPDATE 8/5/2010: ABC News’ The World Newser by Tess Scott.

UPDATE 8/5/2010: Tonic’s article by Marc Hertz. (Tonic is a digital media company dedicated to promoting the good that happens around the world each day)

UPDATE 8/5/2010: Coffee with Harrison by Harrison Painter on GoGladiatorTV.

And hundreds more…

If anything is learned from this its that texting and Internet use can work when a phone call on a mobile phone can’t get through. I hope people from all over the world are encouraged by this information so that it can help others in future emergency situations. If anything, my story can be encouraging to others and may help save a life or two in the future. That’s really positive!

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A Blind Man Inspires Strategic Change

A colleague of mine shared this little story with me years ago. I always loved it, and reflect on it often. This story is a great reminder that strategies don’t necessarily need to be grandiose in order to achieve a goal. Sometimes just a little fine-tuning or different plan in the attack may be exactly what is needed to achieve a different result.

 —————————————————————————————————

One day there was a blind man sitting on the step of a building with a hat by his feet and sign that read “I am blind. Please help!”

A creative publicist was walking by and stopped to observe. He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat. The publicist dropped in a few more coins and, without asking for permission, took the sign and rewrote it. That afternoon the publicist returned to the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of dollar bills and coins. 

The blind man recognized this publicist’s footsteps and asked if it was he who had rewritten his sign and he asked what he wrote. The publicist responded: “Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the message a little bit differently.” The publicist smiled and went his way.

The new sign read: “Today is spring and I can’t see it.” 

Sometime we need to change our strategy. If we always do what we’ve always done, then we will always get what we’ve always gotten.

[Now print this out, and post it in your office on your cork board. That's where its been for me for many years.]  :)  

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The Health Illiterate Patient Wrongly Judged

Today I witnessed a clinician make assumptions about a patient (and wrongly judge the patient) based on the patient’s appearance which consisted of handsome looks, classy clothes, clean grooming, and nice presentation. What the clinician didn’t know is that underneath the nice appearance actually sat a patient who had comprehension problems and communication limitations; a patient who was “health illiterate.” (Yes, for non healthcare folks reading – that is a real term).

The caregiver was made to sit in the waiting room while the patient was taken in to see the clinician for testing. The clinician prevented the caregiver from going with the patient saying that:

  • The caregiver wasn’t permitted
  • There were HIPPA issues (although the patient had given consent in writing that the caregiver was his caregiver)
  • The patient “looks like a man who can do just fine on his own… unless of course he needs an interpreter”

In today’s day and age, families often assign caregivers when a family member is sick. Sometimes there are multiple caregivers. Caregivers help the patient to retain information, help guide the patient in their treatment, and relay info to others. In many cases caregivers are needed due to health literacy problems. I know as I have been a caregiver in the past for these reasons. I am also a caregiver now, and I work in healthcare communications and understand the importance of health literacy and the limitations and potential outcomes that can occur when a patient is health illiterate. Sadly, it looks like those on the front lines of care are forgetting about health literacy in their communications to patients (at least in what I experienced today).

Health literacy remains a very big problem in the United States. Some documented facts:

  • 46 million American adults are functionally illiterate.
  • 40 million Americans read at or below 4th grade reading level.
  • Nearly half of all American adults –90 million people– have difficulty understanding and using health information.
  • The average American comprehends between a 4th – 7th grade level.
  • 26% of Americans can’t understand when their next doc appt is scheduled.
  • 42% of Americans do not comprehend instructions to “take medication on an empty stomach.”
  • 49% of Americans cannot determine if they are eligible for free care by reading hospital financial aid forms.
  • 60% of Americans cannot understand a standard consent form.

Even well educated people with strong reading and writing skills may have trouble comprehending a medical form or doctor’s instructions regarding a drug or procedure. At some point, most individuals will encounter health information they cannot understand. This is why caregivers are so important.

Shame shame on this clinician today! Health literacy can strike even the well groomed. And clinical staff needs to think better than make assumptions. By making assumptions the patient can walk out confused and it can just cause the family a lot stress; making caring for the patient more difficult as one doesn’t know what has been communicated.

As the old saying goes “a book should never be judged by its cover.”  What I witnessed today I never want to witness again.

Are the medical and nursing schools teaching health literacy to students these days? I really hope they would be. Its great the medical societies like AMA, AAFP and ACP take on this role, but where do the medical schools stand with this? Id really like to know.

As a healthcare communicator, I never lose sight of health literacy in my work. Personally, I’m thankful it plays such a big role in my life as I am able to help myself, my family, and my friends muddle through potential challenges it may create.

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Say “No” to Publicity Stunts!

Last night I was watching Larry King. I usually catch his show 3 to 4 nights a week… I love how Larry interviews and feel the public viewing audience can really benefit from his unbiased journalistic interviewing skills. The way journalism should be.

Anyway, last night Larry interviewed Richard Heene, the father to Falcon Heene a.ka. “balloon boy. ” This is the boy who supposedly floated away in the homemade air craft/balloon in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 15, 2009. The father Richard Heene, made the big aluminum, space ship-like balloon in his back yard and still insists today that his son Falcon was on board the craft when it took off. [Okay, whatever. I saw all the footage and its pitiful and a disgrace that this man is trying to maintain innocence.]   

So I watched this piece… And I sat there in amazement. I was amazed by many things in this piece from the drama Richard Heene possessed, to how the public perceived the Heene’s disastrous publicity stunt. While the Larry Kling piece reported all that happened and gave Heene the chance to speak and share on his side of the story, it made me concerned afterward… concerned about the lay public conducting their own publicity stunts sometime in the near future b/c they think it’s a quick way to get publicity and not have to pay for public relations services.   

The word “stunt” originated from a Middle English word “stunt,” meaning “foolish,” “short-witted.” And publicity stunts have been around before P.T. Barnum who supposedly said, “The bigger the humbug, the better people will like it![okay, I guess Richard Heenan took that literally].  

I believe what Richard Heene and his family conducted was an “attempted publicity stunt” clearly gone wrong which resulted in a worldwide publicity “disaster.” WOWEE was it a disaster or what?

Heene’s publicity stunt clearly failed. Have you seen what this guy got smacked with? Prison time, fines, worldwide negative publicity, a town that despises him, police officers that don’t trust him and neighbors who don’t want to be surrounded by him. It couldn’t get any worse for the family. The video Richard Heene shot prior to balloon “lift off” (and shared on national TV) was disastrous! It couldn’t have possibly looked any more staged! And he looked more like a fool trying to maintain his innocence on Larry King than he did during the whole ordeal itself. This was just one big utter PR disaster that the whole world knew about that took place in small backyard for one family’s quest for 15 minutes of fame. How pitiful. How sad. 

Since before P.T. Barnum’s time, publicity stunts have always been public relations activities. We don’t see them often as they are very risky to conduct, to organize and to pull off (in the older days like in Barnum’s time, we saw them more frequently). You will rarely see a public relations agency or consultant recommend a publicity stunt or help strategize on one, as they will more likely to backfire, create severe damage or potential cause a crisis situation. Even the greatest PR teams can try put them together and they could fail. However, if planned and executed exceptionally well along with some good luck, they can be a highly effective form of communication/message delivery. And I have seen a few good ones in my day. But I do not recommend these stunts as PR tactics. Not for any business: small, medium, or large, or for any person/celebrity: unknown, known, or famous.  

While I love the Larry King show, I hope last night’s show didn’t plant a seed in anyone’s head. I walked away thinking it really might as what I saw was so outrageous. I applaud Larry for doing a great job as usual and for maintaining his professional composure while interviewing Heenan.

If you ever know of someone considering a publicity stunt, do them a favor and tell them to not conduct the stunt at home. Better yet, tell them to never conduct the stunt at all. Have them call a public relations professional or a PR agency for help with any publicity direction needed. One wrong publicity move could destroy and damage an image, reputation and business forever.

The Heene’s ”Balloon Boy” publicity stunt gone wrong makes for one of the greatest case studies ever. Im sure P.T. Barnum would have appreciated this one.

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Got Em! FDA’s Communication Heads to Provide PR Industry Social Media Guidance Update

As my colleagues and I gear up for the 2010 PRSA Health Academy conference (April 14-16, 2010 in Chicago at the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile), I’ve been pretty excited the past few weeks as I pulled together what I felt was a much-needed panel to update the healthcare PR community: a panel of FDA officials who are on the front lines of developing communications guidance and the latest thinking on the use of social media. I’m also excited as I get to work with these officials, and moderate the panel as well.

This year’s PRSA Health Academy conference titled “Effective Communication in an Era of Health Care Transformation: Practical Strategies to Navigate Change,” is a conference that typically draws 200+ mid to senior level healthcare communications and PR professionals. Attendees of this conference will now have the opportunity to hear from both Julie Zawisza, Director of Communications for the FDA’s center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office, and Thomas Abrams, Director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Communications Office. Both Tom and Julie will talk about:

  • Policy development for the industry’s web-based drug communications, including promotion and advertising
  • What the FDA heard from pharmaceutical companies, Internet marketers and IT gurus at the well-attended November 2009 Public Hearing on the ‘Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools’
  • The challenges of meeting FDA rules in an Internet age
  • The FDA’s foray into the social media realm, through use of Twitter, You-Tube, blogs, mobile devices, and other tools to enhance the agency’s ability to reach target audiences with important drug safety information. 

I am both pumped and charged for our industry to hear this panel speak because lots of questions have been brewing in the healthcarecommunications and PR industry since the hearing. Among hundreds of questions wanting to be answered by live and online attendees, many wanted to know:

  • what the FDA’s next steps were/are
  • what the FDA’s true areas of strengths and weaknesses were/are
  • how the guidance document was going to be developed and who was going to contribute to it
  • among much more…

First, I hope many of you will be able to join us this year for the conference. It’s always a great healthcare communications conference.

Second, I truly feel this is a panel that should not be missed! Many members of the healthcare PR/Comm industry will get to hear directly from the FDA’s Communications heads. A topic that everyone in the industry is glued to.

Lastly, since I will be moderating this panel I’d love to hear questions that you all feel are the most important for Julie and Tom to answer to the healthcare PR industry. What is that you all really need and want to know as the FDA is currently developing the guidance document?

Looking forward to your comments and input.

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How the FDA Can Harness Social Media for Improved Patient Access to Treatments & Clinical Trials

Below is a letter several of us wrote and submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration around the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s November 12 & 13, 2009, Advisory Committee Meeting hearing around the use of social media. Read more

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Hunting for a Healthcare PR Job Got a Lil Easier!

If you’re looking for a healthcare PR job – it just got easier! And if you’re in a position where you are recruiting for healthcare PR talent – it too just got easier!

There was a time when my phone would ring and the emails would roll in from recruiters of all type contacting me about open healthcare PR and communications jobs… During that same time messages via word-of-mouth or via email would roll in from PR friends and colleagues looking for a new gig. There was one week where I was contacted on 40 different occasions about positions. And often I would count up to 8 to 10 messages received in one single day. Because of this, I often found myself (and still do) playing matchmaker.

I take a genuine interest in all people and networking has imagesalways been something that I felt I’ve done well with throughout my career. Given that I have a large network of healthcare public relations and communications colleagues, I am in a position to “match” and “connect” people. And this is something I have found myself doing over the years. Frankly, it’s easy for me to connect people. However, it can be extremely time consuming and it could be a full-time job. So I just created something to solve this. Plus, in this economy, so many people need help with leads for jobs and this method can really serve as a help.

I started a Twitter handle called ‘Healthcare PR Jobs’ which can be found at @hlthcarePRjobs. I started this group to help connect healthcare PR/communications pros with executive recruiters and agency and corporate HR recruiters looking for good healthcare PR/communications talent. I also started it so everyone can share opportunities as they learn of them. It’s going to take a little bit of time to build up but I am hopeful that soon enough it will be a great resource to use to learn about healthcare PR jobs and to forward along to friends and colleagues who are looking.

So what do you need to do from here?  Follow @hlthcarePRjobs on Twitter; also know as ‘Healthcare PR Jobs.’ (If you’re not on Twitter then get with it and make this your reason to finally join!). Once you start following @hlthcarePRjobsyou can follow, post a job, retweet (which means to forward a post) jobs that you see, share info, and connect with professionals who you may not have known previously. [If you aren't familiar with how Twitter works, def have a friend or social media colleague show you...]

My plan was that beginning in November of 2009 I’d begin holding weekly Twitter chats on Tuesday’s at 9:00 PM Eastern at #HCPRjobs and talk about job hunting issues, challenges in the healthcare PR job environment, salary issues and much more. We haven’t started this yet. However, Twitter chats create forums where many people join, chime in and share their knowledge. Chats are also an opportunity for you to connect with more people and expand your professional network. I will feature three jobs per chat. If you have a job that you want me throw out there to the participating chat group and highlight, get to me early enough in the week I will feature your job.  [Stay tuned for the date of the first chat!]

Hope to be seeing at @hlthcarePRjobsimagesCATNJ0LC

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PR Budget Cuts or Reallocation?

The other week I attended the ExL Pharma Communications/Public Relations Summit. Approximately 150-200 attendees who work in healthcare/pharma corporate communications and public relations were present. Many issues were addressed and discussed from crisis communications to social media.

One session I attended, “Doing more with less. Communications is increasing and Budgets are Shrinking” was well attended, with Mary Lou Panzano, Director U.S. Internal Communications at Bayer Healthcare, Bob Laverty, VP of Communication at Eaisi Pharmaceuticals, and Stefanie Mendell Director of Communications at GlaxoSmithKline on the panel. Great conversation.

The audience in this session was polled and it was found that 2/3 of the attendees have felt impact on their PR budgets. We didn’t get into great discussion on ‘where’ the impacts were actually made, but several industry polls are showing that while budgets are being cut, money is being reserved or shifted over to social media spending. And that is making sense as 60% of Fortune 100 companies are engaged in social media in some way, shape or form as I type.

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What is it like for many of you? How are you deciding where to place your budget dollars these days? And where are you placing them? And how much of your communications/PR dollars are going into social media (not actual amount, just percentage).

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