Friday, July 29, 2011


I mentioned earlier this week that National Health Center Week is right around the corner ( Aug 7-13) and all across the county, community health centers are publicizing their events. Their intent is to bring attention to the work of community health centers - bringing preventative & primary care to over 20 million Americans regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Their publicity efforts will draw patients in for services, dignitaries in for tours & media in to cover that.  This year many will integrate social media and their websites more than ever before. Here are some tips for using the digital domain to publicize their activity.

1. Link related content to your press release and distribute it online, by email. To help editors and reporters gain background easily, hyperlink key phrases straight to online sources for more information. Connect them to your website, NACHC's Health Center Week website, but also HRSA, state sources, or anywhere you think will give them insight to the greater story: that changes in Medicaid or health care reform policy that affect community health centers will change the lives and health care of people in your community.

2. Post your press releases on your website.  Search engines may pick it up there before any news coverage or announcements in the press are printed. Publicity in the digital age can be immediate, and a press release can become news before news media chooses to help make it so.

3. Optimize your press release by using strong key words. It is not enough to build a who-what-when-where-how lead to attract attention anymore.  You must create content that improves search engine results while you provide information. Google Insights is a place to start identifying what key words will achieve good results.

Here's a simple example of how this can work. I entered five key words:
Health Care, Insurance, Back-to-School, 
National Health Center Week, & Medical Home 
Some community health centers are currently gaining official "medical home" designation and it is a term used to describe a comprehensive health care center. Lots of back-to-school giveaways and innoculations occur during National Health Center Week. Many people who are unemployed and out of insurance. Community health centers are a place for them.

When I compared how often these terms show up in search rankings I learned that people search the web for information concerning "insurance" more other terms listed, on the web.  Here you'll see results of comparisons in the "Health" category. I also checked related categories, like "Lifestyles," "Business," and "Local" and though different, confirmed the term most searched was "Insurance." You can narrow the search to your region or Metro area, as well.

This graph tells me health centers should highlight their mission to serve the uninsured, especially during this economic downturn time. Decribing fully why an FQHC can do that OR adding a quote from a clinician, patient or community leader who mentions that, may bring their press release to the attention of readers who need them or reporters who are writing about the economy, or health care, or community health centers.

Google Insights is just one tool community health center PR people can use to optimize and maximize their publicity efforts. There are many more, and many I do not understand yet, but I'm learning.

Are you working on Health Center Week? Did this help?

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I mailed this postcard to get out the vote in a run-off election
during my first campaign to serve on the Metro Council in 1999.

This week is my party week.  It has my birthday and wedding anniversary AND my mother's birthday in it. I enjoy presents, family and friends all week long. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend I met in AWRT/American Women in Radio & Television many years ago. We were both presidents of our local chapter back in the '80's and she showed me how to be self-employed.

Back then, we rented P.O. boxes and printed business cards but did not divulge we were home-based professionals. She had a few years' more experience in business than me and, like me, is a Nashville native. She became my model for business marketing, using grassroots connections to stay visable and employed. She introduced me to association, government and non-profit work and she knows how to have a good time.

Now we try have lunch several times a year, and yesterday it had been too long since we last talked face-to-face.  In minutes, we were in full-swing, consulting & affirming each other, sharing stories and background on people we know, in the news and in our lives.

After 2 1/2 hours, we parted, laughing. And she said something that made me pause. "You're proactive," she said.

I do care about my family, my community, society and myself. I like being with other people who feel the same way I do. My work in advocacy, public service, promotions and PR have all been portals to something greater - personal relationships, knowledge, service and fun.
It is a privilege to be proactive.
I'm having a good party-week. Thanks for being a part of it, too. :)
Join the party and leave me a birthday message. I don't think Blogger lets me respond like Wordpress does, so know I appreciate having the chance to connect & for sharing this time with you today. Peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I am not a publicist nor a public relations professional. I do promote messages mostly through educational channels to connect people with issues and elections and then motivate them into action.
I use PR skills and, for my own development and pleasure, I enjoy reading my friend Susan Hart's blog EveryDay PR who has a great business background, website & presence. It was a headline post there that led me to read about the changing nature of PR in the digital age.

I train, coach & activate advocates in community health centers across the Southeast. The second week in August is National Health Center Week when hundreds of CHCs (community health centers) or FQHCs (Federally Qualified Health Centers) will highlight their work with promotional activity. In many areas, free health screenings send children back-to-school healthy. Parents come along and receive preventative care to avoid problems with high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity in many cases. I like this annual event at Wewahitchka Medical Center in North Florida.

Elected officials from Congress, state & local governments tour the sites to see how grant funding they approve is used. Community health centers give the nation a huge bang for its buck. Visits are educational, productive and may attract media coverage.  That's why I am posting next Promoting Health Center Week in the Digital Age.

Many health centers are active in social media. Some are using Facebook for patient outreach. Others use them to boost community and employee relations.  Most will generate publicity for Health Center Week. Like most non-profits, some of it will be volunteer coordinated, though most will be directed by staff, in-house. I try to offer as many resources as possible to the people I know in community health centers to help them succeed in message delivery.  As they adopt more use of social media, they need to also start thinking of press releases more as "content" and use them to promote their events beyond traditional press "influencers" or legislative schedulers.

If health centers want to spread the word about their good work & awareness week, there are many news outlets they can use or develop now. Effective advocacy requires effective media strategies.  If this is the first time you've heard National Health Center Week, I've made my case.  If you're working to promote the cause, please read on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It's election season in Nashville, when our Mayor, Vice-Mayor and city Council are campaigning -especially the and those running to fill one of five At-Large seats or a contested race in one of the 34 districts represented on the Metro Council. Drama and turn-out are expected to be light but tension will still be high, not only for those involved in campaigns, but also for those people working the elections.

Election administration is a big job with a lot of moving pieces.  In Metropolitan Nashville/Davidson County there are 172 precincts staffed with a minimum of 4 election officials per precinct (larger precincts have more.) Base pay for a long day of work is $145. They all stay the entire time polls are open to the public from 7 am-7 pm as well as witness the opening and closing of their precinct's machines.  At many precincts, poll workers and their officers are political icons in their own right. In the precinct where I vote, our former Councilman of 20+ years runs the show.  Because I know how many people ask me who I think they should vote for, at each election since I served on the Council, I wonder how many people look to him for guidance too. By law he must be neutral in his work as election officer. As a long-time public servant, I'm sure he is.

Poll-watchers help safeguard the election process. I am coordinating a team of non-partisan observers again this election.  Since I first began poll-watching as part of a 2006 League of Women Voter's study on voting integrity, I found that poll-watching was a satisfying, valuable grassroots activity. Tennessee statute defines the role and numbers of poll watchers permitted to observe the election process. It states they may be appointed by each political party, each candidate in a general or primary election, any citizen’s organization interested in a question on the ballot, and any citizen’s organization interested in preserving the purity of elections and in guarding against abuse of the elective franchise. That would be the League of Women Voters - Nashville.

We pin on our official name-tags/credentials, our LWV buttons and become flies on the wall at a sampling of precincts. Volunteers scan their check-lists, looking for all the ways voters can be denied access to elections, influenced, or assisted within the law. We record when there are machinery problems, change or address or provisional voter requests. We like to think that our presence helps create a culture of honesty. In my experience, good people work at the polls. They are also, by law, disproportulately partisan.

Even though county tax-payers fund election operations, state governance and its two primary parties run and operate our elections. Read the statute Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-13-206 and see for yourself.  Democrats can deny a winner her place on the ballot in a county-funded primary election. Republicans fill the majority of seats in all county election commissions (Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-12-103) & coordinate election decisions, oversee conflicts and purchase voting machines. The General Assembly's majority party appoints them, along with the Elections Coordinator who works for its Secretary of State. Independent voters have no place in the process.

Still, non-partisan participation plays an important role in elections. Where offered, it is a place to serve where winning is not the sum game.  Election integrity is. Election observers count.  If you're interested in getting involved in poll-watching, call or leave a message here. Learn what I mean when I describe the "culture of elections."  It's a large, complex organization with a lot of moving parts. We need to be sharp to keep up with them all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead       

I enjoy small groups, both as a facilitator and a member - in the community, at church and in the field. When people get together in small groups, they talk, hear new ideas and get valuable feedback. In small groups people can test their opinions and their reasons for them within a moderated, supportive setting. Small groups allow us to use new language and feel comfortable with it. Words like "appropriations" "conferees" "evangelization" and "disciples" are put in context and move from mere jargon to real meaning in small group process. Small groups give people a place to grow, learn and change.

In the field I facilitate learning and try to accomplish it within a virtual small group setting.  I coach teams of health center advocates and League of Women Voters state and local leaders on scheduled conference calls each month. It is a challenging, yet still productive way to facilitate feedback and discussion though nothing can top meeting with people face-to-face. Yesterday I enjoyed being a part of A Small Group discussion using Maestro - a software that allows groups to gather, breakout and re-convene, share ideas, material and feedback. You can find a free trial offer on its website if you're interested.

A Small Group has its actual meetings in Cincinnati and I connected with it after reading Community: The Structure of Belonging by the group's founder, Peter Block. I made contact to learn more about its process for improving civic conversations to heal society and practice using it. I joined a phone-linked book discussion first, and then the larger group gathering yesterday. I am excited about joining its monthly small group discussion again. Why?

I want to improve my ability to understand people, why they resist ideas and adopt them. I want to hold "super-powerful conversations." I am inspired by being with others who are not shy to reflect deeply and offer insights that are personal, diverse or challenging. I want to become skilled at asking transformative questions, those that engage listeners & invite them into community or fellowship with me. To found my opinions on fact or first-hand knowledge instead of media reporting, I must know people who live beyond my boundaries. I want to offer help where I think I can and empower people to offer their gifts as well. I want to experience life's richness. I want to strengthen democracy.

The right question can open a super-powerful conversation ...

Video courtesy of A Small Group/Elaine Hanson

Do you believe in the transformative value of small group discussions? Are any small groups transforming you?

Friday, July 8, 2011


I attended President Obama's tweet-up Wednesday. Did you?

It was the biggest chat of all - a national town hall meeting online and on Twitter. All Twitter reports 169,395 tweets were sent to #AskObama and the President added 23,000+ new followers yesterday.

In all, only 8 tweets were answered. Plenty of banter went down. We heard serious answers, humor and candor. The rapport between the Commander-in-Chief and Twitter's Chief Executive Jack Dempsey was geeky as could be expected from the former professor of constitutional law and creator of the premier social media network platform.

Huffpost Humor collected some of the funniest #AskObama tweets sent. Politicians and lobbying groups were present in the twitterstream. Capitol Hill's  Roll Call noted organized tweeting led by the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Community Health Centers, the group I represent.

I tweeted because it was the place to push a message forward right now. I am committed to doing what I can keep community health centers strong. In full disclosure, that is my job and I value it. Still, I have worked in the public sector and I know a good government-funded program when I see one. Community health centers were included in the nation's health care reform bill and strategy because they bring the best bang for the buck to the nation. For more than 40 years we've leveraged a federal grant into funding 8000 sites for health care services into communities to serve close to 30 million people across the USA. That's good stewardship. I want to support it.

I tweeted because I wanted to be part of this debut grassroots activity. I wanted my issue to be registered in among those hashtagged. I wanted to get retweeted.  The President built on his experience in grassroots organizing and social media from his (pre) 2008 election work and tapped a network of engaged activists on Wednesday. I expect to see more of this type of outreach. We know our President is progressive. In social media, he continues to blaze the trail.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Whenever I travel I tune into Public Access television
to learn the culture of the community.

In our country free speech and media access are integral parts of our perfect union. So valued, they are protected in our Constitution - the highest statute of the land. It makes sense for a strong community like ours to have high-quality Public, Educational & Government access PEG television stations on the air, available and accountable to the public, because Nashville is a well-run city and well-run cities maximize resources and talent.

This week I helped promote ours: Government access/Metro 3 and the NECAT network/combined arts, education and community access channels. Metro 3 operates within Metro government's IT department. The other three are directed by an appointed board. Metro's Cable Access Television (CATV) special committee held a public hearing to assess the city's need and desire for operating a PEG studio and Comcast channels 3, 9. 10 & 19 since they come to us by way of our joint franchise agreement.

Since Comcast uses our public right of way to conduct business, it provides consideration of several types: broadband width, connectivity, cash and channels. That deal is renewed every decade or so. The CATV special committee negotiates that deal at public's interest's charge. They are mayoral appointees, too.  The city supports PEG TV operating costs that it's sponsors do not. Comcast contributes to capital expenses like technological upgrade currently with $100,000 annually absorbed into the city's coffers and left for admin to direct and fund competing budgets.

I joined local producers, PEG staff (all two of them) and other viewers to give testimony to our love for PEG. No lobbyists, government affairs veepees or concerned columnists were evident. Metro IT & Law were. I hope it helped.

PEG provides a place to build a public soapbox, distribute information, or fill an unmet community educational or entertainment need.  Local journos have a handle on its value. I'm not so sure Nashville's stellar medical, non-profit, political or academic institutions do. If they did they'd be grabbing up the $75 hour prime time placement, airing outreach messages, promoting local learning, B2B training, best practices and original programming to give visitors a glimpse of what we have to offer and citizens a place where learning is free.

Sure you can argue nothing's free. And I will stand firm behind the value of public access television. In an age when media pundits are also candidates, paid by corporations regulated by government, it is only fair that  Comcast give the community access to four channels as part of the price of laying cable, managing a business that runs through our front yards.

Years ago, I was a production volunteer at WDCN-Channel 8. I ran camera and chyron for Action Auction and membership drives. I only quit as my family grew. Then, I created Parent Talk, a local weekly radio show and interviewed experts on family-related issues and took call-ins.  I kept that sponsored and aired for four years.  Now I plan to become a producer, promote civic engagement and examine issues on NECAT.  With such a grassroots tool at hand (and an undergrad degree in radio-tv-film) I am itching to take up a new opportunity. Programs are already in development. Stay tuned.