What’s Your One Thing? That was the headline that greeted us as we checked my son in for shoulder surgery at a suburban Chicago hospital recently. The whole concept centered on prompting patients (and their families) to share with the staff that one request that would kick off their experience on the right foot. And it worked. I was positively predisposed to expect a quality patient-centered experience, simply by asking what mattered to me at the start.


For the most part, it was a good experience. Most importantly, my son’s surgeon, anesthesiologists and nurses got high marks. (Isn’t that really the ONE THING we all want in this situation? Great medical care.) Like most surgeons, though, our doc operates at a number of highly regarded area hospitals so the marketer in me wondered, what about the other touch points that could distinguish this facility? Honestly, those produced mixed results. But maybe because of the solid start and positive outcome, I was still inclined to give the hospital the benefit of the doubt. I believed they had great intentions of delivering on their brand promise.

A week or so later, a HealthWorks Collective webinar on the impact of social media for healthcare providers in supporting patient engagement, inspired me to take a little closer look at the hospital behind the ‘one thing’ challenge. My intent was to write a blog on customer experience and feature this program as a great, if somewhat unexpected, healthcare example.

Countervailing Forces

The hospital’s website looked like the most promising and informative social asset for background. As my colleague Kathy Baughman posted recently, ‘the great hope is that what people learn online will increase the quality and the level of how we engage’ offline. It didn’t quite play out that way.

While there was no mention of the program, even in the Patient pages, the “Contact Us” tab offered up lots of phone numbers as a starting point. Given my focus, PR was the logical place to begin, after all, generating positive coverage (traditional or social) is their charter. Unfortunately, the PR number listed was disconnected. Tried the main number and listened to a long automated message to no avail. Not an auspicious beginning.

Next stop: Patient Experience – potentially the program owners, surely they had influence on the start of my journey with the hospital. I got an automated message – at three different times during working hours. (I’m not entirely convinced that anyone really works there.) Ok, now my confidence is starting to waiver.

Last stop, Marketing. It’s a campaign so maybe this team had a hand in implementing it or even conceiving it. Imagine my relief when a human picked up the phone! I explained my reason for calling: Recent patient. Loved the ‘one thing’ concept. Writing a blog. Couldn’t reach PR or Patient Experience. On deadline. Who can I talk to about this for a little context? Just need 5-10 minutes, tops!

The answer is, apparently, no one. The Marketing person had no idea what I was talking about or who I should speak to about it. She’d “get back to me.” Now, any one of those snippets of info I provided upfront should have motivated her to at least try to make good on that. I could be an AP reporter or a power Mommy blogger for all she knew – or cared, judging from her tone and desire to get me off the phone after taking down my number. At a minimum, give me the ‘right’ PR number or even toss the ball up to a colleague who has a chance to salvage this one. Nope. I felt like Tom Brady on Sunday, watching the Hail Mary pass hit the ground. Ok, that’s a stretch — but it was frustrating at best!

My One (More) Thing

My experience with this brand started off on a high note but, rather than move me up the curve from ‘good’ to ‘great’ (like the program intended), my online/offline experience took an unexpected turn back. In the process, it reinforced some Social 101 rules:

  • Keep your website info up to date. Don’t just add new events or announcements; periodically check and refresh base content.


  • Make it easy for your customers or prospects to interact with you, online or offline. I had to work pretty hard for no return.


  • Keep staff in the loop on major initiatives. If it’s important to enough to have tabletop displays, it warrants a heads up to employees, especially those charged with promoting your brand.


  • Be responsive. In a social world, word travels incredibly fast. Don’t underestimate the ‘network effect’ of consumer influentials. Of course, bad WOM travels much faster than good.


And my one more thing, live your brand promise like you really mean it.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.