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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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.

What Can These Four Pictures of Cats (and one Rabbit) Teach You About Marketing?

AUTHOR: Marshall Akita

Have you ever opened a clickbait article, only to find that the content inside isn’t what you expected? Well, sorry, but it’s happened again. However, to retain honesty in our advertising, I’ve interspersed this post with 4 pictures of cats (and one rabbit). I’m partial to number 4 myself—what about you?

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A friend shared a spectacularly interesting Airbnb rental opportunity with me the other day. For any Van Gogh fans who have ever dreamed of spending a night in his sumptuously colored Bedroom in Arles, now you can. Personally, I think I’ll stay somewhere else—the attempt to render Van Gogh’s admittedly challenged perspective grasp in three dimensions would probably make my head spin—but…

I have to admit – I’d never seen anything like this before.

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Because of that, I read the description a bit more thoroughly. In fact, the entire thing is a promotion for the Art Institute of Chicago’s ongoing Van Gogh exhibition. What struck me most about it, however, was that it was completely novel. Because of that, I paid attention.

The Van Gogh Airbnb was, in fact, novel in two ways—one of which was not immediately apparent. First, it was simply a creative and, to my knowledge, unique attempt to create a rendition of a real location, but in the exact way that it had been previously rendered in an artwork. In other words, it was conceptually novel.

But there was a second novel quality—one that I had failed even to notice at first—that really caught my attention. I had never even thought of the possibility of marketing on Airbnb, but the fact that I was seeing what was, essentially, one very elaborate ad as a piece of the Airbnb content, seamlessly integrated within the other listings. It was so seamless, in fact, that I hadn’t noticed it was an ad at first.

Novelty had my guard down.

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Like most people, I tend to get annoyed when I see an ad over and over again. My finger hovers over the ‘Skip Ad’ button on the YouTube pre-rolls, waiting for that 5-second timer to elapse. Every once in a while, however, something catches my eye as particularly interesting, funny, engaging, or just plain new. Those are the messages I pay attention to.

Geico has the art of making me want to listen to them down to a science. As a company, they are constantly refreshing their messaging. Because they also put such a strong emphasis on keeping their ads exciting, this means that whenever a new campaign shows up, I pay attention, wondering exactly what they have come up with this time.

The only problem with this strategy is that it is prohibitively expensive for many companies. Creative content costs money, just like any content, and more refreshes mean more expense—something that companies with more constrained marketing budgets simply cannot afford. How, then, can a company take advantage of the power of novel advertising without breaking the bank?

Creativity shouldn’t cost a fortune.

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The price of creative content does not have to be a limiting factor. That is exactly what I find so compelling about the Art Institute of Chicago’s Van Gogh Airbnb—it is certainly a creative piece of content, but it is also deployed creatively.

Nowadays, advertisers can easily be spoiled for choice when it comes to where they show their marketing content. There are scores upon scores of ad platforms, each with their own unique advantages. Some may reach a broader audience, but savvy marketers are increasingly turning towards platforms that focus on smaller, more targeted audiences and ones in which marketing content can more seamlessly be integrated into the general content that consumers want to see.

By moving to smaller, more diverse, and more targeted marketing platforms advertisers are learning how to better engage with their clients, and the ones that get there first do it best—that’s just the nature of novelty. The first website banner ad attracted massive amounts of traffic. Before that, the first ads on television were captivating, and before that, radio ads brought people their favorite programming. In this world of TiVo and iPods, people can now skip the ad content that they have come to find distracting. Where it is still new and exciting, however, people do pay attention, allowing advertisers to make the most of their creative content without having to spend on perpetually rotating campaigns.

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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.

Consumerism & the Unusual Quote on Our Website

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

At the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) last week one of the presentations by Zoetis raised the issue of consumerism as one of three key drivers influencing pet owner decision-making. One of several definitions of consumerism from Dictionary.com is “a modern movement for the protection of the consumer against useless, inferior, or dangerous products, misleading advertising, unfair pricing, etc.”  This boils down to pet industry consumers trying to help each other make the “right” decisions when buying goods and services for their pets.  This seems like a noble plight… but wow, is it complicated!

Preaching To the Choir

One term I heard in every single Practice Management session I attended was “Dr. Google”.  To me, this term’s meaning has already transcended Internet searching and is more of a metaphor for “all the data and information, accurate or not, that is easily obtained with the click of a mouse.”  I know I’m stating the obvious when I say:  This is a problem!

This brings me to the choice we made for the George Bernard Shaw quote on the homepage of our website:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I mentioned above that consumerism seems like a noble cause.  It is clearly well-intentioned, but when it comes to medical care (human or animal), there’s a whole lot of room for interpretation about what’s “good” and what’s not.  Whether the guidance comes from a friend, a veterinary professional, Dr. Google, or the 18-year old retail clerk at the pet store down the street, it’s still highly possible that misinterpretation could happen or important details could be missed, leaving even the most sage advice morphed into something problematic.

The real challenge here is that veterinary professionals end up being more and more challenged to offset the “noise” and ensure an accurate message is delivered and received.

What’s a pet owner to do?  And how can we help them?

Carefully listening, evaluating and understanding all the information available to consumers has become very difficult.  Deciding how to activate on it is even harder.  It is therefore imperative that trusted sources (like, say, veterinary professionals or Pet Cause Media) find ways to effectively deliver credible information to pet owners.  Simply having a discussion during the exam is often times insufficient.  It’s necessary, of course – but may very well need reinforcement.

Here are a few tips to help pet owners stay on track as they absorb the noisy influx of media and other advice that is constantly trying to influence them:

  • CONSISTENCY. Words, images, video, everything that is presented to an audience should demonstrate some degree of continuity.  The more often a person hears or sees something, the more likely it is he/she will remember – and trust – it.
  • RELEVANCE. With so many alternatives, options and choices, it’s often hard for consumers to know if or when something applies to them and their pets. Short, targeted, and focused messaging can help with this.
  • CLARITY. “Keep it simple, stupid.”  Not very endearing – but still good advice.  Eliminate over-complicated terminology and multiple calls to action. One topic/action at a time is a best practice.
  • BI-DIRECTIONAL COMMUNICATION. Don’t assume your audience understood (or even heard) your message.  Validate. Ask them to explain. Check for understanding.  Measure results and make adjustments if needed.

What other ideas do you have for ensuring your message is heard and understood?


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.