The Written Patient Testimonial: taking it from skim-worthy to a MUST READ

Posted on May 2, 2012

nicolehangartner_head2-e1335213473498By: Nicole Hangartner, Account Executive Legato Marketing and Communications

What makes a great story? A thrilling adventure? Fascinating characters?

You may look at these two factors and think, "There is no way a story about hearing aids can have these."

This presents one of the unique challenges of writing for healthcare organizations - turning ho-hum topics into attention-holding stories. But there are ways to make joint replacements, CT scans and surgery interesting.

All you have to do is… Show the patient's health journey (the thrilling adventure) and bring out the patient's personality (the fascinating characters).

As I've made my way through two client publications since starting in healthcare marketing, I've formulated a handful of tricks (with the help of Legato's experienced team) to make my patient testimonials informational AND exciting.

5 Tips to Tell Rousing Patient Stories

1. Uncover the patient's personality and demonstrate it through the story. This will make the article fun to read and relatable. It takes a health story from clinical to personal.

2. Ask about things that may seem unrelated to a patient's health story. Things like kids, family, work and hobbies are great icebreaker topics because they are familiar and important to the patient. Plus they make excellent leads!

Example - One of my patient testimonials worked at a casino, so my lead was "she may work at a casino, but she doesn't gamble with her health."

3. Be casual and conversational in your writing. Start sentences with "and" or "but." And don't be afraid of "you." Doing so prevents your story from getting stiff and formal.

4. Use subheads as transitions. Subheads are a perfect way to break up blocks of copy and move the story forward. Find the theme of each section and use it as the subhead.

5. Write short paragraphs and use lists, bullet points and numbers. These elements make a story easy to read. Numbered or bulleted lists also allow you to express a lot of information in a smaller space.

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Why Lawyers Should Stay Away From PR – Lessons learned from the Spirit Airlines failure

Posted on May 4, 2012

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President Legato Marketing and Communications

Spirit, of course, is the airline criticized in the media for refusing a dying Vietnam veteran a $197 ticket refund because his doctor told him not to fly. The 76-year-old esophageal cancer sufferer, Jerry Meekins, bought a ticket on Spirit to visit his daughter- perhaps the last flight of his life.

But then his doctor cancelled the trip. And, with its lawyer's savvy PR advice, Spirit refused to refund the price of the ticket.

That's when Mr. Meekins went public. And incredulously so, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza turned to his lawyers instead of consulting with his PR professionals.  After all, we understand how emphatic lawyers can be, and how concerned they are with protecting the image and brand of a company.

Likely, these communications gurus offered the predictable advice: "Spirit has a non-refundable ticket policy. Refunding Mr. Meekins' ticket would set a dangerous precedent. He should have bought flight insurance."

Equally predicable, Spirit's "compassionate" response drew immediate public condemnation from just about everybody, resulting in the launch of the increasingly popular Boycott Spirit Facebook page:

Houston, we have a problem.

Lawyers and public relations professionals often find themselves at odds with one another.  And in all seriousness, we need attorneys - but ones who can balance the letter of the law with common sense.

While lawyers advise CEOs to take actions that protect the company in a court of law, public relations counselors recommend actions to protect the company in the court of public opinion.

There are many solutions to this Spirit issue, even at this late stage.  But the point is that PR professionals have a responsibility here too.  Whether you're in the airline industry, in health care, or manufacturing - you need to work in advance of a crisis by building a common understanding within your c-suite of how such situations should be handled.  And this advance work must include the involvement of your legal team, not only to anticipate various situations, but to build a general consensus on next steps.

Believe me, from someone who has managed various crises in his career, it's quite a luxury to think in advance of the obvious emotion of being embroiled in the heat of a crisis.

Want to learn more about effective crisis management? Email me at and I will send you a copy of "Preparing for a crisis before it happens."

I encourage you to combine these tips with the learnings of the Spirit Airlines PR failure, and apply them to your situation within your hospital, clinic or other business.

Hopefully, you'll never need to implement your plan.  But trust me, chances are, you will.

Spirit Airline PR Failure

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