Presenting in Columbus to Cancer Communicators

I’m pleased to be in Columbus, OH this morning to present to the NACCDO/PAN meeting. These folks work for NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers. As you will see in the slides, this is my second time presenting to this group, and the first time was a quite memorable day for me.

We had lots of good questions and discussion, and Debra Loggia had some great insights. Check out the Twitter stream of the discussion. And if you have comments or questions, I’m glad to interact.

Where have all the polyps gone?

When I heard that Peter Yarrow of the ’60s trio (with Paul and Mary) had recorded The Colonoscopy Song to increase awareness of the need for colon cancer screening among those of his vintage, all sorts of lyrical possibilities ran through my mind…

Where have all the polyps gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the polyps gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the polyps gone?

Gone to lesions everyone!

When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

I naturally saw the progression moving from polyps to lesions to metastases (although that had too many syllables for the song’s meter) to graveyards. But instead of just recycling one of his oldies, Peter came up with a whole new song, which he performed on the CBS Early Show this week (and also posted to YouTube):

To support this screening awareness initiative, we interviewed a Mayo Clinic physician about for more background on colon cancer and colonoscopy.

I had my first colonoscopy about a year ago, a few years ahead of the time when I would otherwise qualify for a screening colonoscopy, as part of the journey that led to my diagnosis of celiac disease. The prep wasn’t the most fun, but I actually have no memory of the colonoscopy itself.

I don’t know whether my colon, like Peter’s, is “really cool.” But I’m glad to know it doesn’t have precancerous polyps. If you’re over 50 and haven’t had a colonoscopy, make an appointment this week to find out about the coolness of your colon.

Mayo Clinic Social Media Update

As I Tweeted earlier today, I had an opportunity this morning to provide an overview of Mayo Clinic’s social media activities to another division within our department. One of the things I enjoy about doing presentations like this is that as I update previous versions I can see where we’ve made progress in the intervening time.

Coincidentally, a Mayo Clinic colleague — Nancy Jensen — who leads our Public Affairs division in Florida and also is extensively involved in cancer communications nationally, asked me to provide an overview of what Mayo is doing in social media for a discussion board on which she is a member. It’s a group of cancer communications contacts for academic medical centers. She also thought it would be good for them to get a taste of SMUG and some hands-on social media education, so I decided it’s time for another update here.

Since my last Mayo Clinic social media progress report in May (which I would encourage you to check out for background), we have three significant developments:

  1. Our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel has been significantly upgraded. We’ve been able to get the look and feel customized to closely match mayoclinic.org, our main Web site for patients, and we’ve added playlists to group some of the similar videos and highlight them. Currently we have featured our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge videos and the video testimonials and personal stories we shot at the Transplant Games with the Flip.
  2. We’ve started a Mayo Clinic News Blog. We still have some refinement to do, but it serves at least two good purposes. First, it enables us to provide video and audio resources to journalists on a password-protected, pre-embargo basis, which should help us get more news coverage. Second, when the news embargoes lift, we take off the password protection and make those same resources available to interested members of the general public. And the videos we put there can discuss the research stories in much greater detail than would get into any mainstream media news story, which is a great service to potential patients.
  3. Finally, in just the last two weeks (coinciding with the Transplant Games), we established a Mayo Clinic Flickr account. The first application was to make photos available to the participants who visited our booth, but we’ve also created sets for photos of our campuses, and it seems the next move might be to put photos there that accompany our news releases.

Nancy also mentioned that it would be good for me to discuss some things a smaller communications unit, perhaps with three or fewer members, could do. It’s easy for people to look at the resources Mayo Clinic has, and think that these tools are just for the bigger players.

That would be a mistake; the truth is just the opposite. Here’s why.

Social media tools are a great democratizing force. They enable anyone to create content and distribute it worldwide (and also get feedback from users.) Kids can do this in their basements or dorm rooms; as communications professionals we certainly are capable of learning social media.

On a related note, the cost of participating in social media is extremely low. Through wordpress.com, you can get a blog with customized look and feel, mapped to a domain or subdomain of your choosing, and with the ability to deliver your podcasts, for $45 to $55 a year. A Flickr account with unlimited bandwidth and storage costs $25 a year. A Facebook page is free, and if you work for a non-profit, so is a YouTube channel. You may need to pay someone to do the blog and YouTube customization if you don’t have that in-house capability, but if you have a corporate Web site those design elements would be fairly easy to match. And you can get a Flip video camera, with tripod, for less than $200. A digital still camera also can be had for that price or less, and you already have computers capable of using these tools.

You can learn more about how to use these tools for free. That’s what Social Media University, Global is all about. You can enroll here and then go through step-by-step, hands-on courses in general social media, blogging, podcasting, Facebook and other topics. All it takes is your time.

In the end, that’s the real potential cost for social media: it takes some people and a commitment to be involved. But I would submit that these tools provide leverage for you to accomplish your other work, and that by using them you will get better results in less time. And they also provide an opportunity for you to leverage the involvement of others in your organization, outside of your public affairs or communications group.

Tell your story! How are you using social media?

In the comments below, please share your stories and examples of how you’re using social media in your organization. I’d like to see them, and I know Nancy’s fellow cancer communicators would enjoy them as well.