Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Last week Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, joined by key representatives from MIT and Intel Corporation, announced the “Massachusetts Big Data Initiative,” a collaborative effort to position the Bay State as a global center for the big data industry. Big data refers to the business of dissecting and analyzing the enormous stream of digital information generated everyday by consumers working, shopping or socializing online.
This announcement, paired with the Governor’s focus on expanding both the Massachusetts renewable energy and robotics industries, bodes well for our state’s economic recovery, and it could provide a model for other states to follow.
According to a recent report from the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), 120+ Boston-area companies are currently working with big data technologies and those firms employ about 12,000 people in the Bay State alone. MassTLC estimates that an additional 58,000 related workers, including data scientists and data managers, are working in such industries as healthcare, online media and financial services. Most importantly, MassTLC estimates that growth in both areas could add 50,000 jobs by 2018.
We applaud the efforts of industry leaders such as MIT and Intel Corporation, other big data innovators, such as Endeca (recently acquired by Oracle), and smaller companies that include Tokutek and Hadapt.
Bring on the big data—we’re ready for the next technology chapter in and around the Massachusetts Route 128 belt.
Barbara Call is director of content for Greenough.
Friday, May 25, 2012 | 1 Comment
The Massachusetts energy economy could be in good shape for the future if our aspiring engineers and technologists are getting a head start during field trips such as this one:
Earlier this month a class of 5th graders from Shady Hill School visited New England’s largest privately-owned solar energy park. Although the Westford, Mass.-based facility is still under construction, it’s a good example of how Bay State companies, including Cathartes Private Investments, Nexamp, Inc. and National Grid, are not only banding together to develop real business solutions but also working to educate the next generation (as well as budding engineers, designers and scientists).
Field trips help reinforce knowledge in a practical, hands-on way, and I encourage all companies playing in the renewable energy industry to get involved. Does your company have a facility that demonstrates how your technology works and/or how it’s used to solve real life problems? I encourage you to reach out to your local school district (or those of surrounding towns) and volunteer your location as a “field-trip worthy” destination. Most kids love the outdoors, and fun ideas about sunshine (1336 Technologies, Applied Materials, Veeco Instruments), wind (Mass Megawatts Wind Power, Cape Wind) and even biogas/compost (Harvest Power) are relatively easy to bring to life.
You can also use kits and toys to pique interest and develop knowledge. The Boston Museum of Science’s gift shop, for instance, includes such products as Venture View’s renewable energy-themed kit (it allows kids to build six different solar-powered vehicles, and the solar panel in each one charges a rechargeable battery) and the National Geographic’s Sustainable Earth Lab, an environmental science kit for kids ages 8+.
Why not contact the Museum of Science (MOS) and design a kit or toy in collaboration? Or work hand-in-hand with the MOS to sponsor an exhibit or provide the props for hands-on demonstrations? (FYI, the MOS is usually filled with visiting school kids during the work week.)
My point is two-fold: Massachusetts renewable energy companies need to follow the lead of companies like Nexamp and begin serving as destinations for elementary and middle school field trips. At the same time, why not design a toy or kit in collaboration with the MOS, an organization such as the National Geographic Society or a forward-thinking toy manufacturer?
Renewable energy is here to stay, and exposing our kids to the growing industry is critical—especially in Massachusetts, where great ideas are hatching (and growing) every day. Knowledge is power, and remember you may be planting seeds for our next generation of green energy and clean tech futurists.
Barbara Call is director of content for Greenough.
Monday, May 21, 2012 | Leave a Comment
In corporations, it’s common to implement and continuously refresh best practices to eliminate inefficient, low-value activities. A similar principle is now being applied to the U.S. healthcare industry due to excessive medical spending in the United States. David Cutler, an expert in Economics at Harvard University, suggests that one third—up to $750 billion— of our country’s medical spending does not contribute to improved health.
Through a campaign called Choosing Wisely, nine specialty medical groups have identified tests or procedures “commonly used in their field, whose necessity should be questioned and discussed.” The end goal: Reduce costs and improve care. Launched last year by a foundation of the American Board of Internal Medicine, the campaign galvanized around a controversial opinion piece by Dr. Howard Brody, director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities.
Since then, nine medical specialty societies have committed to this campaign and eight more are expected to join this fall. While the Choosing Wisely campaign is not the panacea for spiraling healthcare costs, it is surely a positive step forward in raising awareness about excess spending. Ultimately, by reducing healthcare costs we can ensure that all patients have access to safer, higher-quality care.
The original medical specialty organizations of the campaign, who are leaders in cardiology, oncology, radiology and primary care, last month released their recommendations for areas where healthcare costs can be trimmed. Suggestions include skipping treatments such as cardiac stress tests for annual checkups in asymptomatic patients and brain imaging scans after fainting. Arguably the most controversial recommendation is that oncologists limit or decline chemotherapy treatments for late-stage cancer patients; most oncologists agree that these patients would be better off receiving hospice care.
With reducing health care costs as its core mission, Choosing Wisely has certainly sparked a healthy but contentious debate. One argument against their recommendations is that cutting “waste” could actually be healthcare rationing in disguise. The campaign’s architects make it clear, however, that their fundamental goal isn’t rationing care or denying services to those who need them. Instead, they emphasize that Choosing Wisely is about eliminating care that has no value.
Measures to contain and reduce healthcare costs in this country are vital—especially in this uncertain economy. I support this campaign, not only for its potential to trim costs but also for its ability to fill a gaping void in today’s healthcare system: The troublesome lack of communication between patients and physicians. In addition to making doctors more accountable in their practices, Choosing Wisely’s recommendations also place equal responsibility on patients to ask important questions that may ultimately lead to better care.
The campaign is working with Consumer Reports magazine to broadly disseminate the list of “unnecessary” treatments and procedures; however, for the time being, there is no regulation that forces patients and healthcare professionals to treat these recommendations as rules. I believe it’s up consumers to question procedures that may be unnecessary. It’s really about making well-informed decisions and thinking before we act. After all, every test, necessary or not, has a cost to the system.
I urge you to get involved. Read the lists from the nine partners and use these resources to learn how you can be a smarter patient. Then tell me if you agree or disagree.
Sarah Hurley is a consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter at @Sarah_Hu
Thursday, May 3, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Surveying your customers in order to gauge their satisfaction with your products or services is nothing new—and applying that same principle to a PR, marketing and communications agency such as ours makes perfect sense. And we’ve been measuring client satisfaction for 11 years.
The results, as you might expect, help us assess our strengths and weaknesses, and they form a strong foundation for determining the agency’s to-dos, whether that’s to build on our ability to drive new sales for our customers or polish our storytelling capabilities.
Instead of purely bragging about our results, however, which you can see a select sampling of here, we challenge you to assess your own PR/marketing/communications agency on the following criteria:
1) Is your agency an extension of your own team? By this I mean does your agency work efficiently and effectively with your staff? Do the two teams have a solid rapport and bullet-proof communication? Does your agency enhance your own capabilities (versus creating redundancy) and complement your existing skillset (versus replicating key abilities)? If it didn’t violate any contracts or policies, would you hire the staff at your agency as employees? Do they have the same (or complementary) core values, work ethic, personal style (and even sense of humor) as your strongest team members?
2) Does your agency demonstrate a passion for your business? Let’s face it—it’s difficult for anyone to know your business as well as you do—but a good agency can come damn close—and should. Your perfect agency should demonstrate complete immersion in your industry, including knowing your competitors, understanding the key issues and having a familiarty with the major players, trends and developments. We’re not talking about a quick refresh before your next in-person visit or conference call—we’re referring to a deep and ongoing knowledge of all your strengths, weakenesses and paint points—internal and external. In a word, your agency should be a subject matter expert in your company and your industry.
3) Does your agency work proactively on your behalf? Someone once said you can’t teach people to be proactive—they either are or aren’t. In my opinion, the best employees are wired to take charge and think ahead—they try to solve problems ahead of the curve. The flip side, naturally, is less desirable—the reactive (versus proactive) employee waits for your orders before they move. Seems pretty clear which type makes a better partner, don’t you think?
4) Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly, does your agency help drive new sales? Is your agency connecting you to qualified leads? Yes, a large part of PR, marketing and comuinications work involves building a brand, whether that’s through thought leadership (contributed articles), social media (Facebook likes) and/or media coverage (Wall Street Journal). But is your agency working from a strategic point of view, directing, managing and integrating all the efforts, from content creation and media outreach to social media, ongoing measurement and reliable follow-up, in order to drive new business into your hopper? At the end of the day, just answering that one simple question may be the truth you need.
Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1
Thursday, May 3, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Network Health could be called the epitome of the word diverse. The Medford, Mass.-based health plan, which provides access to high-quality health care for more than 200,000 moderate- and low-income residents in Massachusetts, has embraced diversity at many levels—one could even say they’ve embedded it into the company culture.
The reasons for this commitment are easy to understand. Having a diverse workforce allows Network Health to better serve, understand and represent its members who come from a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds. And the strategy appears to be working: Today, Network Health employs more than 400 employees, 46 percent of whom are non white, and 24 percent of which are in supervisory positions. Network Health’s employees speak nearly 20 languages themselves, and provide customer service in more than 170 languages.
The commitment to diversity, in large part, stems from Vin Pina, vice president of Human Resources. Pina, who experienced discrimination firsthand when a landlord refused to rent him an apartment due to his race, has made it a priority in both his personal and professional life to promote diversity and the understanding and acceptance of other races and cultures. When Pina joined Network Health, he spearheaded a three-year strategic effort to diversify the health plan’s workforce in accordance with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) employee-diversity standards. Under Pina’s leadership, Network Health hired twice the number of minority employees than standards propose in only two years.
As Pina said, “It’s simple: If our employees speak the same language as our members, and know our members’ neighborhoods, struggles, customs and traditions, we can be more efficient and effective in connecting and communicating with them.”
Pina was soon recognized for his dedication to diversity and was named a 2011 Boston Business Journal Leader in Diversity. It was then that we knew Network Health had a compelling story to tell and we used this recognition as a launching point. We developed a PR campaign that would highlight Pina’s unwavering commitment and showcase the multiple programs Network Health has created to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As a part of the campaign, we also highlighted the fact that health care reform would result in a dramatic increase in the number of minority patients entering the health care system in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is set to take full effect. In other words, embracing diversity would be more important than ever.
The media responded immediately to the campaign. Through carefully crafted storylines, we secured several feature stories for Network Health in mainstream media, UMass Amherst Magazine (Pina’s alma mater) as well as a number of multicultural publications such as OJournal, Southcoast Today and TuBoston.com. We also helped Pina author contributed articles for outlets such as Color Magazine, which highlighted his personal experience with discrimination and views on why diversity is a societal imperative.
In addition, the campaign helped secure further recognition for Pina and his work at Network Health. Most recently he was named a 2012 New England Human Resources Association (NEHRA) Diversity Champion.We’re proud of our work on behalf of Network Health and look forward to sharing the many ways this Massachusetts company is making a difference in the lives of its employees and members.
Jessica Boardman is a senior consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @J_Boardman.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 | Leave a Comment
How many of our Twitter followers are real buyers? What percentage of our tweets do followers actually see? Are those new Facebook likes really valuable over time? Certainly you’ve posed similar questions to your marketing team or agency.
Getting answers to questions like these is challenging work—and well worth the effort. But even with access to so much data, we can still tell very little about customers and prospects by observing their relatively passive social network participation. To really understand behavior, we must rely on a concept that is both so simple yet so poorly applied in social marketing that it borders on stupidity: stimulus and response.
Most classically-trained marketers understand the concept of introducing an offer (stimulus) and waiting for a response. And over the years we’ve learned to not just measure uptake, but also to understand more about why and when a prospect actually becomes a real marketing-qualified lead. Significant investment is made in refining this process, but I hear too many stories about this discipline not finding its way into social engagement.
Before I go into five discipline-building tips, I must offer one strong caveat: I’m not saying that you should simply treat social networks like any other channel – these are venues for strategic brand storytelling, not lead gen repurposing. So, with that said, I offer five steps for bringing stimulus/response into your social marketing strategy:
- Listen first. Take the time to understand your audience before engaging them – it’s okay to listen for a while. Don’t even think about promotion until you’re sure you understand the community’s vibe.
- Earn your way in. Don’t think offer first. That will probably deliver new followers, friends, members and circle joiners who are undoubtedly there for the wrong reasons. Share, help and tell stories before you even think of asking for something.
- Tailor, don’t generalize. Why not segment your followers, friends, members, etc., for more targeted, relevant campaigns. Sure, it takes more time, but you’d be surprised at how much more lift you get when you really understand what makes different segments unique. Generalize and you’ll just be another marketer to your audience.
- Stimulate in bites, not batches. A campaign within social networks needn’t always be a fully-integrated, highly-structured program that relies on aggregated metrics alone. This is especially true in B2B marketing where five well-nurtured social contacts could actually make a salesperson’s quarter. Try to understand a few prospects better through bites of engagement and tailored offers and see what that yields.
- Study responses by hand. If you’ve listened, earned your way in, tailored your campaign and taken the extra effort to engage in bites, you likely have a good idea of who’s who in your strategically-expanding social ecosystem. Look at who they are, study commonalities and refine your content strategy to match your ideal prospects. Don’t simply generalize anymore.
We love data at Greenough. We pore over it daily, but we also understand that social marketing isn’t driven by data alone. Yes, stimulus and response works well with highly-structured data analysis, and you should have a plan for that too, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and use it like a conversation instead of simply a scientific probe.
Scott Bauman is executive vice president at Greenough.
Thursday, May 3, 2012 | Leave a Comment
For many people, a first job out of college is an introduction to the professional world, a learning experience that allows a young person to get his sea legs before starting down a career path. For Susan Willson, who joined Greenough in 2004, her first job proved to be much, much more.
Susan interned at Greenough’s San Francisco office during her senior year Stanford University, then joined the company full-time after graduating. She worked for a true mentor in Helena Kimball, and earned immediate client and media exposure due to her excellent skillset and Greenough’s boutique structure.
“I had the rare and rewarding experience of getting to make an impact very early in my career,” said Susan. “I wasn’t hidden from clients at Greenough. Far from it – I had the opportunity to work on client-facing items and even new business opportunities almost from day one.”
When Greenough’s San Francisco office closed, Susan joined the rest of the team in Boston. There she became a day-to-day contact for multiple clients. Under the mentorship of Helena, as well as Phil Greenough, Stacey Mann and many others, Susan learned to become a subject matter expert, manage account demands and hold her own by providing clients with a strategic advice.
“The level of responsibility I received was tremendous,” said Susan. “I distinctly remember going on my first new business pitch only a few months into the job. It was terrifying, but also one of the most valuable work experiences I’ve ever had. It was especially gratifying when we ended up winning the business!”
After five years with Greenough, Susan left to become a corporate relations manager for Genentech, a biotechnology company in San Francisco. She says one of the most valuable skills she learned at Greenough was how to acquire a high level of expertise about any industry in a short period of time. Susan leveraged this Greenough-honed ability to research and process information when she earned a job in biotechnology, an industry in which she had little experience but a great deal of interest.
“Greenough taught me how to develop a knowledge base so strong that client experts would ask me if they had forgotten to mention anything during a media interview,” said Susan. “That has come in handy many times in my professional life, not least when I had to go up against people with years of biotech experience as I was interviewing for my Genentech position.”
In her role at Genentech, Susan manages external communications for several bio-oncology medicines and helps inform the way the company’s story is told, including creating appealing, media-friendly narratives using all the information at her disposal, from clinical trial statistics to real-life patient experiences.
Susan found Greenough’s investment in cultivating her strengths and recognizing her successes made the company a rewarding place to work, but she also says that Greenough’s most valuable asset was its people. “This is a place with a committed focus on mentoring,” she said, “and on making employees take ownership of clients regardless of their position in the company.”
Jake Navarro is a senior consultant at Greenough.
Friday, April 6, 2012 | 1 Comment
A 2010 United Nations report revealed that more people globally are dying from chronic, non-communicable diseases, also called “lifestyle diseases,” than from infectious disease. The UN report identified “tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol” as the primary causes of heart disease, stroke and cancer. While tobacco and alcohol are regulated, diet is not—and many scientists and doctors are now touting the harmful effects of America’s dietary choices, particularly the perilous effects of sugar.
One pioneer in the public health campaign around sugar is Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, and Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at the University of California, San Francisco. Lustig spearheaded this movement with his 2009 YouTube video Sugar: The Bitter Truth, which explores the health damage caused by sugary foods and encourages dietary regulation. Dr. Lustig argues that sugar in all forms, such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, is one likely cause of lifestyle diseases. Lustig’s video, to no one’s surprise, went viral, and The Bitter Truth opened the door for further research on the topic of sugar and health.
Lustig’s campaign is supported by molecular biologist Kimber Stanhope, whose studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. And researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are studying whether sugar can cause a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which in turn may fuel certain types of cancers. This is an alarming premise, especially considering that America’s consumption of sugar has increased dramatically in the last two centuries, from just around six pounds annually in 1822 to more than 100 pounds in 1999.
Despite these recent findings, sugar’s effect on the diet is a complicated issue. Lustig admits that scientists are still trying to understand how different forms of sugar are processed by the body—the theory is that some types of sugar are worse than others (Is brown sugar worse than white sugar? And so on). Furthermore, the debate continues regarding the effect of sugar in healthy foods. Dr. Lustig admits that an apple is good for you, despite its high fructose content. Many nutritionists would say the apple’s high fiber content and complex interplay of nutrients offsets the fructose.
Settling on a solution may be equally complex, especially considering the consequences. Some groups are calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate that food companies list any added sugars on the nutritional panel of every item. Radical proponents such as Lustig are even more rigid, proposing stopgaps to sugar access, much like what we have with drugs and alcohol today. This includes sugar taxes, placing age limits on sugary food purchases and even limiting advertising of sugar-sweetened food and beverages.
In the absence of government intervention, I believe the onus is on healthcare providers and leaders in the healthcare industry to raise awareness of the sugar/health issue and offer solutions. As one of the world’s most advanced cities for healthcare, Boston and its medical community has risen to this challenge. A number of Boston-area hospitals have created Public Health Campaigns to encourage limiting excessive sugar consumption. Last year, Carney Hospital in Dorchester became the first hospital in Massachusetts to ban the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages on its campus. Since then, nine additional Boston hospitals, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Boston, have pledged to work together on efforts to reduce consumption of sugary beverages.
Absent government intervention, if that’s even warranted, I believe today’s leaders in the healthcare industry must work together to encourage lower sugar consumption. To date, I’m impressed with what many of Boston’s leading hospitals have initiated to raise awareness to the issue, and I believe it bodes well for future public health campaigns. Do you agree?
Sarah Hurley is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter at @Sarah_Hu
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | Leave a CommentWhen executives from leading Massachusetts clean technology companies gathered on Beacon Hill March 13 for the New England Clean Energy Council’s (NECEC’s) inaugural Clean Energy Day, their message to legislators emphasized three key points: Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.
The business leaders and entrepreneurs that make up NECEC—including companies like Aircuity, Nexamp, Boston Power, Konarka, Ambient and A123 Systems, among many others—are betting on Massachusetts as the place to capture the next big economic opportunity. To do that, they need business-friendly state leadership and strong clean energy policies.
Clean energy companies in Massachusetts already employ 64,000 people, and that number is growing. The industry added more than 4,000 jobs in 2010, a growth rate of almost 7 percent, and that rate will likely double in 2011. Whether providing holistic home energy services or pushing disruptive technologies for electric vehicle batteries, solar thermal, smart grid or wind, clean energy firms are growing and expanding in Massachusetts every day.
Need more convincing? Just ask the professional investment community. Massachusetts has attracted the second-largest concentration of clean energy venture capital in the country. These are not players driven by emotion – these are sophisticated financial analysts who are laser-focused on results. They’re betting big sums on Massachusetts companies because we offer smart business models paired with cutting-edge technology. This combination often results in job creation and raises the standard of living for the entire region.
To their credit, Massachusetts state officials have shown leadership in this area. Bipartisan passage of the Green Communities Act in 2008 positioned Massachusetts to improve our economy (and the environment) by increasing the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy. This has saved Massachusetts families and businesses billions of dollars, lowered electric bills in our state and spurred innovation and investment in new energy technologies. The resulting jobs have also been a boon for the state: Today the estimated median annual wage in Massachusetts’ clean economy is more than $1,000 higher than it is for all other jobs across the state.
Despite the huge opportunities in the clean energy economy, opponents remain. They will try to stave off clean energy development with unfounded claims about the Green Communities Act and related costs while ignoring the value of clean energy investment and its robust return. In a time when subsidies for fossil fuels are 10 times those for renewables, it’s time to embrace the truth that savings from efficiency and renewables adoption far exceed the cost of business as usual. Are you bullish or bearish? Please weigh in.
Jay Staunton is Vice President, Account Services, at Greenough.
Monday, February 13, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Many of us who work in PR live and die by our smartphones. I know I’m not the only one in my office who keeps mine within arm’s reach 24/7. EMarketer says that 73.3 million Americans now own smartphones. We’re bringing mobile into almost every aspect of our daily lives – we use our phones to shop, make dinner reservations, to date…even our workouts are going mobile.
If you’re one of the countless folks (like me) who’ve sworn to take better care of themselves and stick to an exercise plan in 2012, you could probably use a little motivation right about now. We’re more than a month into the new year, and for many of us, we’ve lost the enthusiasm we set out with on January 1. If you’re already in a rut and need some help to stay focused on your goals, there’s good news – help is as close as your smartphone. You can use your device to force yourself to set a goal, get rid of the excuses and even earn rewards by staying on track.
Here are a handful of apps to help you stay on track to a healthier you in 2012:
Commit to a set number of days per week that you want to exercise…and the monetary price you’ll pay if you don’t. Use the app to check in when you go work out at your gym. If you abide by your pact, you’re rewarded with money, courtesy of the people who didn’t stick to their gym pact.
Strava Cycling GPS (Android, iPhone)
RunKeeper (Android, iPhone)
This advertising-free app uses your smartphone’s GPS to track the stats of your workouts including distance, time, pace, calories, heart rate and path traveled on a map. It also offers audio cues, customized interval workouts and manual entry for treadmills and other cardio equipment.
Fooducate (Android, iPhone)
Calorie Counter (Android, iPhone, Blackberry)
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List (Android, iPhone)
Amy McHugh is a director, account services for Greenough. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @amyemchugh