5 rules blacksmithing and healthcare communications have in common
I started blacksmithing recently…and had no idea what I was getting myself into. Rest assured that I learned 5 key lessons very quickly before seriously injuring myself (phew). And guess what? All of these rules paralleled best practices for integrated communications:
Always know what both hands are doing. In blacksmithing, I try not to hit myself with a hammer. In communications, we try to align everyone internally to develop smart integrated strategies. For example: does your marketing team know the top challenges and successes sales are facing right now? Are your executives using the right key messages when describing the company? What’s your product team working on? The most strategic communications move-forward plan ensures that marketing isn’t just coming up with brilliant ideas, but ideas that directly guide and support other constituents. Understanding their objectives and experiences will help you prioritize and focus—topics, outlets, target influencers—which leads to more impactful communication.
Be conscious of those near you. Just because you’re being safe at your anvil, doesn’t mean the person to your left is. Just because your competitors are talking about the best ways to combat ICD-10 in the final stretch, doesn’t mean you have to. However, by paying attention, you have the ammo to know whether it’s worth being part of that conversation or if you want to start a new one. Without knowing what competitors around you are saying—in articles, in lead generation efforts, in social media—you may not be aware that you’re all saying the same things or even look the same, so how can your target audience distinguish your value propositions? This means their buying decisions are going to be based merely on blatant differences in price, for example. AMGA and HiMSS are a great place to start! Visit booths, do some spy recon, then head back to the office and have your communication partner do strategic competitor audits and steal time to talk to sales about what they heard on the floor.
Don’t be afraid to just go for it. People that blacksmith for the first time tend to hammer tentatively, to which my British blacksmith instructor yells, “You’re not going to break metal. Don’t be timid, just go for it!” This is absolutely true about communications, and a big reason why a lot of us love this profession. Many clients are concerned about taking a strong stand in thought leadership, letting their unique perspectives drive a conversation. We completely understand not alienating anyone, but that’s more a matter of delivery, not often the opinion itself. We see this more commonly in consumer tech industries, so why not healthcare. Going bold can be incredibly inspiring to prospects and the industry, help your brand stand out (and build trust), and even nurture leads more quickly than jumping on a neutral bandwagon. If you’re not sure where to start, simply ask your SMEs: what do you wish people were talking about?
Just because the metal isn’t glowing red, doesn’t mean it won’t burn. Yeah, okay, I burned myself, but only once. Learning the proactive versus reactive natures of our business is so crucial to success. While it may not be possible, proactive is always better. Ignoring something doesn’t make it go away and controlling conversation is more impactful than joining conversation. Take crisis situations, for example. In healthcare, a security breach can be devastating. For most of our healthcare IT vendors, it’s a #1 fear, but proactively preparing the communication strategy ahead of time—media training, client emails, talking points—will help you ensure a swift, buttoned up approach to keeping a chaotic situation (internally and externally) as calm as possible.
Hammer smart or you’ll work twice as hard. Your feet, your hands and your shoulders all need to be aligned to hammer the most efficiently and effectively, and this is definitely true about communication. If you align your tools and resources well, your campaigns will run much smoother and you’ll spend half the time. For example, no need to do everything manually; use marketing automation. It’s one of the great marketing gifts that have been introduced over the past few years, and now you can gain incredible user insight and analytics, find out what marketing pieces are driving results, execute AB testing to really understand your audience’s preference, sales can clearly visualize hot leads, and much, much more.
I also learned not to wear open-toe shoes, but I can’t figure out how that applies to healthcare communications. What lessons have you learned in your daily lives that apply to our industry?