Data Privacy – Making Everybody Happy

We just updated our Privacy Policy. In the process of doing so, we reflected long and hard about our stakeholders – the vet practices, the suppliers who pay us, the pet owners, and others – and what their needs are.  We believe we perfected a policy that meets all needs and maintains strict privacy controls to the benefit of everyone.

But this was not without a lot of drafts and discussion… and even a little sacrifice.

We want to provide everything to everyone so that all stakeholders get the best results across the board.  But leaning too far in one direction comes at a cost for someone else. For example, if we gave practice-specific sales data to a supplier about a product, the sales rep for the supplier could hound the practice: “You’re selling more of our competitor’s stuff than ours!”  The practices would shut us down very quickly, and would be justified to do so.

Why fuss over privacy when pet health is not covered by HIPAA or similar laws?

Short answer: It doesn’t matter what the laws do or don’t cover. Perception is reality. Pet owners rightfully expect vet practices to keep their personally identifiable information (PII) secure.  They also expect – right, wrong or indifferent – that their pets’ medical records will be kept private. As described above, practices don’t want to divulge too much identifiable data to their suppliers or distributors.  And suppliers naturally don’t want their market share data broadcast to competitors.

Focusing on business results

What we learned from our quest to please all parties is that when it comes to data privacy, the best approach is to prioritize business goals and focus on how to accomplish them with the most minimal disclosure.  Sure, there are all kinds of opportunities to tell stories from massive amounts of data and turn them into productive exercises. But not by forsaking the trust and relationships with the stakeholders.  There’s almost always a way to find a solution – if the end goals are defined.

Incidentally, as part of our work on this we created a list of practical examples that show how our privacy policy works. These examples not only make the policy easier to understand for our stakeholders, they also helped us ensure our policies allowed us to accomplish the business goals we defined.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media improves veterinary practice outcomes using integrated communication tools. It is the national leader in Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ and digital stakeholder awareness for veterinary offices. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) for more details.

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My First CE Lecture

On Saturday, August 26th I delivered my very first CE lecture at the AVI Talbot Symposium at CVC in Kansas City.

It was a thrill to be back in the saddle doing presentations – I was a trainer for many years at the start of my career and I often miss it.  It was also a bit terrifying because I am relatively new to the pet health industry and wanted to be certain I was delivering great value to the people who trusted me with their time.

“Do What  You Love”

I quickly got into a groove and started enjoying myself. I was talking about a topic I know very well – how to take a procedural approach to decision-making and problem solving – and applying it to veterinary practice data.  The head nods, audience participation, and fervent note-taking gave me confidence that I was on the right track, even though a few people left the room after a few minutes. I have now been asked back to re-deliver the lecture at CVC in San Diego.  (I’m thrilled!)

In the end, I came to realize that when you’re passionate about something, you’ll make it work with quality and pride, even when you’re not completely confident in yourself.

What Veterinarians Can Take Away From This Realization

I recently heard a funny joke:  What’s the difference between a sales person and a veterinarian?  Answer – “A sales person hears ‘No’ 9 times and ‘Yes’ one time and goes home feeling the day was a succes. A veterinarian hears ‘Yes’ 9 times and ‘No’ only one time and never wants to discuss that topic again.”

It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. Even when a veterinarian has complete confidence that his/her advice is solid and will help a pet, the topic will be avoided if a few clients object to it.

My advice: If you’re passionate about the advice (be it pet insurance, flea/tick & heartworm prevention, dental, or whatever), find a way to make yourself comfortable communicating it to clients.  Not everyone will want to hear it, and that’s completely fine. But if it matters to you, run with it and be proud every time you’re able to help a pet.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media improves veterinary practice outcomes using integrated communication tools. It is the national leader in Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ and digital stakeholder awareness for veterinary offices. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) for more details.

Ask Pet Owners: “Why?”

There is a great article in the New Yorker about Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.  One particularly interesting notion was presented: When people were asked to explain – in detail – their position on something about which they felt strongly, their position weakened once they realized they didn’t have a lot of basis for the opinion.

As consumerism continues to run rampant among pet owners and veterinarian struggle more often with externally-influenced, highly-opinionated clients, new tools and techniques are required to successfully influence people to make the “right” choices for their pets.  One such tool could simply be asking a very basic question:  “Why?”

Asking “Why?”

Veterinarians stand to gain a lot from asking “Why?” to clients who seem stubbornly focused on something that isn’t aligned with the doctor’s thinking.

  • To begin with, per the New Yorker article, there’s a strong likelihood that if a client is asked to explain his/her perspective it will invoke a thought process that may ultimately result in a tempering of the opinion.  It’s much easier to have a client self-actualize and come around to the doctor’s point of view than it is to argue.
  • Another possibility also exists: the client might actually have a valid perspective.  At the same time the doctor asks the client “why?”, the doctor should ask him/herself the same question.  The most likely result is that the doctor will have substantiated his/her perspective and can explain it with greater clarity to the client.  It’s also possible, however, that after thinking it through, the doctor could conceivably change his/her perspective to align with the client.

Using “Why?” To Start a Conversation, Not a Confrontation

It would be dangerously easy to turn “Why?” into a challenge where there’s a winner and a loser.  The New Yorker article addresses the human propensity to want to win.  So the spirit of the “Why?” question and the intended result must be clear – and genuine – to the doctor before asking it.  A good start:  “Let’s talk through this to make sure we’re both aligned in our thinking about how to help your pet. How did you arrive at the conclusion you’re sharing with me?”  Not so good: “Where did you hear that? Why would you think what you said is true?”  An honest-to-goodness desire on the part of the veterinarian to work with the client instead of against him/her will be evident in tone of voice, body language, choice of words, and more.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media improves veterinary practice outcomes using integrated communication tools. It is the national leader in Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ and digital stakeholder awareness for veterinary offices. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) for more details.

NAVC – Change Is In the Air

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

The 2017 North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) conference in Orlando was productive this year, but I’m never going to attend the NAVC conference again!  That’s not because I didn’t like it – I did, very much – but because they are rebranding to VMX, the Veterinary Meeting and Expo.  That was certainly a surprise, but it wasn’t the only change for NAVC. The move of the entire conference from multiple hotels to the Orange County Convention Center changed the overall experience as well.

Something I suspected was “coming soon” found its way to the top of the list of conversation topics – the debate about telemedicine and how (if) it will be accepted in the veterinary community. The 2015 Supreme Court judgment that a state regulatory board can require a veterinarian to perform a physical examination before giving advice will certainly affect the legality of telemedicine approaches. While it’s obvious certain aspects of this brave new world aren’t feasible in any pet health setting, it’s also evident that the market will likely drive some amount of adoption. More change.

And the other prevailing theme was the announcement of the Mars acquisition of VCA. While the change here is evident for VCA teams, it’s also important to recognize the overall influence this will have on the industry.  Purchasing power by the combined dominance of Banfield, VCA, Blue Pearl and the others will likely have a material effect on supplier decisions and relationships. As well, the corporate acquisition of practices may take on a new shape if more consumer companies like Nestle or others start dipping their toes into the practice acquisition waters.  Even more change.

It will be important for all industry stakeholders to acknowledge and – ideally – embrace changes as they happen, and find a way to be a productive contributor to the veterinary community.  Organizations who help veterinary professionals maintain consistency and predictability in key areas of their profession are likely to do very well. Veterinarians are not necessarily change-averse, but they are understandably risk-averse.  They are doctors, after all, and doctors are comfortable with protocols.

So then – what are you doing to help ease the uncertainty of change for the veterinarians and their teams so they can continue to deliver the quality care that is core to their professional aspirations?


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media improves veterinary practice outcomes using integrated communication tools. It is the national leader in Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ and digital stakeholder awareness for veterinary offices. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) for more details.

How a Recent Customer Complaint Validated What We Do

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

It might seem a little odd for us to reveal – in the title of a post, no less – that we had a customer complaint, but every business has to improve continuously and I live by the notion that, “it’s not if you will have problems, but how you handle them that matters.”  In this particular case, the customer is a veterinary practice who didn’t realize they could decline certain content on their screen — we allow this for all practices, as long as they permit at least some sponsorship to run, since this is what pays for the system.

OK – so we need to improve how we communicate that to practices.  No problem; we can do that.  But the point of this post isn’t about how we need to improve practice communications…

So how, then, did this complaint demonstrate the value of Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™?

The practice complained because we were running a couple of sponsorships for products they don’t carry, and – here’s the good part – clients kept asking them about these products, forcing them to say “we don’t carry that.”  They got frustrated having to say “no” to clients so they called us on it.

That’s right – our systems did exactly what we expected them to do – they encouraged clients to ask about what they saw on the screen!  Although we have plenty of data demonstrating that this happens when digital signage is present in a venue, it’s nice to know through unsolicited feedback (even if it’s a customer complaint) that our data is valid and that our system is effective.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

How Veterinary Practices Can Benefit From “Digital Narcissism”

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

Two recent articles captured my attention the other day. One was written by Marshall here at Pet Cause Media and (using some cute cats to prove his point) talks about how important it is to differentiate.  The other was from AdAge and talks about how “Digital Darwinism Has Created a Market of Digital Narcissists“.  Both articles had a similar message:  Make sure your target audience notices you and wants to engage with you – even though that’s harder than ever to do!  I began to contemplate how veterinary practices should apply this lesson.

Technology For the Sake of Technology

A common mistake for many businesses, veterinary-related or not, is to jump on the bandwagon when new technology is available. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: if you can’t articulate (and, ideally, quantify) the business benefit you’ll get from implementing new tech, then don’t do it.

“Digital Darwinism” is defined as, “…the phenomenon when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt.” Businesses who don’t keep up won’t survive. But “keeping up” is a slippery slope and needs to be accomplished deliberately and productively.

Pet Owners Are Not All Created Equal – Or Are They?

A key premise behind the concept of “Digital Narcissism” is that the focus of consumers (well, actually, of people in general) is on themselves, fueled by the free and abundant availability of information at their fingertips. Pet owners certainly have myriad preferences — cat/dog; large/small; old/young; medicine/natural remedies; the list goes on endlessly. Yet there are only two drivers behind every single Share/Post/Tweet/Pin/etc.: esteem and belonging.  Consequently, every single pet owner is created equal in that their digital life revolves primarily – sometimes exclusively – around themselves.

The challenge for veterinary businesses, as well as for any pet industry stakeholder, is to enable each individual pet owner to materially activate based on his/her list of preferences while still catering to the individuality of the person. Brian Solis has a really good article about how to approach this: http://www.briansolis.com/2014/06/accidental-narcissist-future-customer-engagement/.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

Product Benefit vs Emotional Messages

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

Procter & Gamble’s Chief Brand Officer, Marc Pritchard made a few interesting comments in a teaser article on Ad Age recently.  One in particular got me thinking about the pet owner experience before and during a veterinary exam:

It’s not “either” product benefit “or” emotional messages — it’s “and.”

Mr. Pritchard was talking about the need for marketing campaigns to be more entertaining in the digital/social media marketing landscape because viewership of the message is voluntary.  At Pet Cause Media we’ve talked at length about how to keep pet owners interested and engaged with our waiting room education technology while simultaneously imparting important concepts they will remember when they step into the exam room.

A few thoughts occurred to me about the pet/veterinary-specific realm as they relate to Mr. Pritchard’s observation:

  • Know the audience.  These are pet owners.  “Cute” works. Always.  Bring a smile to their faces and they will keep paying attention.
  • Know the mental state of audience. Pet owners in a waiting room are typically bored, anxious, or both.  The content should deliberately acknowledge and soothe both of these emotions.
  • Tell ‘Em What They Can Do.  This popular customer service 101 mantra (“Don’t tell them what you can’t do; tell them what you can do!”) applies here. Many well-intentioned – yet vague or alarming – educational messages can be found in the pet world.  “Beware – it’s flea & tick season!” leaves the problem in the viewer’s lap.  “Ask your doctor which flea/tick solution is best for your pet!” is far more helpful and delivers a positive message.
  • Leverage the drivers of Esteem and Belonging.  One or both of these are behind every Post/Share/Tweet/Pin/Like/etc. on social media.  They can be very powerful when applied to digital marketing. For example, “Give your cat heartworm prevention today” is a reasonable – but dull – call to action.  “Make sure your cat is part of the fast-growing group starting heartworm prevention today!” is provocative and inclusive.

When it comes to pet health education, there’s a lot that can be communicated to pet owners.  There must be a healthy balance of “things they need to know” and “things they want to see”.  Ideally, the message will also comprise “things they want to repeat to others”.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.