Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is your Blue Ocean Marketing Strategy?


Simply put, a Blue Ocean strategy is one where you redefine a market and dominate. By doing that you are swimming in a Blue Ocean free of your competition instead of swimming in the bloody Red Ocean of competitors beating each other up day-in and day-out.

For your information, a really good book is out on Blue Ocean strategy. I highly recommend you buy and read it. No specific plug or name provided nor payments here in accordance with FTC, FCC and SEC regulations. Search any of the fine book sellers out there for the text.

So how does this apply to healthcare marketing?

Healthcare is undifferentiated and for all practical purposes a commodity. Hospitals, health system, physicians and other providers have similar programs and services, have the same managed care contracts, share physicians etc., etc., etc, across multiple competitors.

The commoditization of healthcare is accelerating even more so now with the entrant of non-traditional providers who are competing on price and service, which is a deadly combination for traditional healthcare providers who are slow to change.

Hence a Blue Ocean strategy by major for-profit competitors actualized and in development in traditional healthcare services that is redefining markets and will eventually allow them to dominate. All the while you swim in the bloody Red Ocean of the “me too” look alike competition for the healthcare consumer.

Just because you package the same mouse trap differently than others, doesn’t mean it’s any different.

Developing what I call a Blue Ocean marketing strategy in truth stems from becoming a Blue Ocean strategy organization. Marketing leadership and organizational transformation at its best and you have can take the opportunity to grow professionally, personally. Be the innovator and show marketing as proactive rather than reactive.

Learn, apply and find your Blue Oceans to swim too from the bloody Red Oceans of unproductive competition.

You can reach me at 815-293-1471 or for marketing strategy consulting services.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Lesson in Public Relations Continues

What a case study for healthcare!

The Chicago Bears just can't get it right. This has been a continuing comedy of PR errors that only leaves you scratching your head.

Damage control.....

Day after the press conference, the President of the team goes on the media tour to clarify statements on what the organization meant. (See my previous post) Damage control pure and simple.

It gets even better......

Then it turns out the press release about the firings was wrong and that really two of the assistants weren't fired, but were more like employee-at-will kind of relationships with no contracts. The offensive coordinator and his position coaches had contracts and will be paid. Probably some legal issues now because of that.

PR lesson continued.....

Look. For your own PR efforts, you control the message and the day when you decide to go public. Winning or losing a PR battle is not controlled by the media, it is your responsibility. You, through your actions or inaction's will determine whether you are successful or not. There was no reason in the world for the Chicago Bears to lose the media and message battle. All they did by this comedy of errors is further reinforce to the fan base, local media and national audiences that management is clueless about what to do. The Bears have lost any benefit of the doubt that remained. If this goes south when the 2010 season starts, the fire storm will be unrelenting. Sports fans have long memories.

What you can do to avoid this......

First, admit (and your ego will get bruised) that you may not have a clue about what to do.

Next, listen to your PR staff if you have any, and I am assuming at this point they know what they are doing.

Develop the right messages and practice, practice, practice with whomever you are sending out there to represent the organization. Limit the CEO or president's exposure.

Make sure the press release is right the first time.

If you have never been in a crisis communication situation before, bring in outside expertise. You can not handle it by yourself. This is no time to learn by doing, too much is at stake.

Physicians, patients and the media in your community will remember what you did or did not do for a very long time.

If you don't do it right on a day that you can control the outcome through right planning, thought and action, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

I can be reached at 815-293-1471 or by email to

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Lesson in Public Relations

The Chicago Bears held a press conference on January 5, 2010, after a dismal at best season long performance by management, the coaching staff and players. No need to go into the gory details; the lesson here is how not to handle public relations.

For weeks now, the media and public has been in an uproar over team performance. This was exacerbated by a perceived lack of indifference and arrogance by the team leadership. Clearly a crisis communications situation if anyone in the PR department at Halas Hall was paying attention.

The Press Conference

A press conference is held, they trot out the team President, General Manger and Head Coach all in that order. The President speaks, apologizes and was contradictory in his remarks about the situation being unacceptable, change is needed, mistakes were made, but things are going to stay essentially the same. He spoke for 20 minutes which was 15 minutes too long.

The GM gets up apologizes, says mistakes were made, change is needed, but things are going to stay essentially the same and I would make the same decisions the same way again. He also has a different message than the team president. Q and A ensures.

Head Coach gets up, has a different message than the other two, is arrogant and testy that he is being questioned about any of this and never admits to making any mistakes. Change is needed but things are going to be the same. He fires his entire offensive staff, demotes himself from being the defensive coordinator and life goes on.

The PR department for the Chicago Bears should be fired in mass for that performance. As a marketing and PR professional this was an embarrassment.

What Went Right?

Virtually nothing.

What Went Wrong?

Virtually everything.

Let Me Count the Ways

Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle this as a crisis communication situation
Different, conflicting senior management messages
Testy responses to questions
Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the communication
Poor speaker body language
No overriding organizational message
Organizational arrogance
Lost messaging opportunity
Appearance of offense to blame for the season
All three senior managers appearing not to be accountable
The organization furthering to anger the media and fan base

What struck me about was the similarity to how I have seen hospitals and healthcare systems handle crisis communication situations and public relations.

Is it not true that any press is good press! And the Bears are getting a lot of bad press locally, regionally and nationally.

PR Lessons for Hospitals and Healthcare Systems

Understand the nature of the situation
Be transparent
Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation
Limit the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak
Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board
Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern
Don’t scapegoat
Don’t blame others or give the appearance of blaming others
Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing
Practice, practice, practice
Anticipate hard questions and do a strong Q&A document
Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint
Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can be destroyed in a few short minutes
Remember that it is not just a three day story
Watch your body language
Know your facts about past performance, reporters will be prepared

I can reached at 815-293-1471 for marketing and PR consulting, or via email at the