Campaign Success: Telling the Story of Diversity for Network Health

Network Health could be called the epitome of the word diverse. The Medford, Mass.-based health plan, which provides access to high-quality health care for more than 200,000 moderate- and low-income residents in Massachusetts, has embraced diversity at many levels—one could even say they’ve embedded it into the company culture.
The reasons for this commitment are easy to understand. Having a diverse workforce allows Network Health to better serve, understand and represent its members who come from a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds. And the strategy appears to be working: Today, Network Health employs more than 400 employees, 46 percent of whom are non white, and 24 percent of which are in supervisory positions. Network Health’s employees speak nearly 20 languages themselves, and provide customer service in more than 170 languages.

The commitment to diversity, in large part, stems from Vin Pina, vice president of Human Resources. Pina, who experienced discrimination firsthand when a landlord refused to rent him an apartment due to his race, has made it a priority in both his personal and professional life to promote diversity and the understanding and acceptance of other races and cultures. When Pina joined Network Health, he spearheaded a three-year strategic effort to diversify the health plan’s workforce in accordance with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC) employee-diversity standards. Under Pina’s leadership, Network Health hired twice the number of minority employees than standards propose in only two years.

As Pina said, “It’s simple: If our employees speak the same language as our members, and know our members’ neighborhoods, struggles, customs and traditions, we can be more efficient and effective in connecting and communicating with them.”

Pina was soon recognized for his dedication to diversity and was named a 2011 Boston Business Journal Leader in Diversity. It was then that we knew Network Health had a compelling story to tell and we used this recognition as a launching point. We developed a PR campaign that would highlight Pina’s unwavering commitment and showcase the multiple programs Network Health has created to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As a part of the campaign, we also highlighted the fact that health care reform would result in a dramatic increase in the number of minority patients entering the health care system in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is set to take full effect. In other words, embracing diversity would be more important than ever.

The media responded immediately to the campaign. Through carefully crafted storylines, we secured several feature stories for Network Health in mainstream media, UMass Amherst Magazine (Pina’s alma mater) as well as a number of multicultural publications such as OJournal, Southcoast Today and TuBoston.com. We also helped Pina author contributed articles for outlets such as Color Magazine, which highlighted his personal experience with discrimination and views on why diversity is a societal imperative.

In addition, the campaign helped secure further recognition for Pina and his work at Network Health.  Most recently  he was named a 2012 New England Human Resources Association (NEHRA) Diversity Champion.We’re proud of our work on behalf of Network Health and look forward to sharing the many ways this Massachusetts company is making a difference in the lives of its employees and members.

Jessica Boardman is a senior consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @J_Boardman.

Content and Creativity Come Naturally

Most people can identify a defining moment in their life when they recognized the path they wanted to follow in order to fulfill their passion.
For Barbara Call, Greenough’s new director of content, this happened in fourth grade. Her writing debut: A series of short stories about a mouse. It was at that moment (although she didn’t recognize it until years later) that she knew she would become a writer.

We are extremely lucky that Barbara found her way to Greenough a few months ago and now we can’t imagine life without her. Writing comes naturally to Barbara and she has an uncanny ability to remain calm under pressure and quickly write or edit carefully crafted, emotion-evoking content.

As Director of Content, Barbara uses her creative juices to oversee Greenough’s content department, managing the development of varying material, from tweets to whitepapers and everything in between. Barbara is also charged with helping define and manage content strategies for Greenough’s clients; she believes that all content must be highly strategic, deliberate and carefully placed in order to truly add value to clients. Barbara works closely day in and day out with both account services and the media relations team to ensure that all content both integrates with and supports our clients’ overall objectives and makes sense strategically.

Barbara brings a wealth of editorial knowledge and expertise to our company, having spent 20+ years in the journalism industry as a writer, editor and author. As a Syracuse University magazine journalism grad, it’s no surprise Barbara landed numerous roles in some of the country’s most highly-regarded publications. She brings invaluable knowledge of the IT and technology industry, having held several senior editorial positions at Ziff Davis’ PC Week and editing breaking news from well-known players such as IBM, Compaq and Dell Computer. Barbara has also contributed to numerous magazines and online news and information sites including Cook’s Illustrated, The Boston Globe Magazine and Body & Soul magazine, among others.

She is the author of 6 books, including her favorite title, The Crafter’s Devotional: 365 Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Unlocking Your Creative Spirit. The book reflects Barbara’s passion for art and creative expression, offering 365 ways artists and creative types can use their creative energy to build, experiment and inspire. In her spare time you will likely find Barbara doing just this: Working on some kind of arts and crafts project. You might also find her training for an upcoming mountain bike race with her partner Matt, watching her 16-year-old son Alex at a wrestling match or cheering on her 11-year-old son, Jack, at a basketball game. She also loves live music, anything outdoors and spending time with friends and family at Bisby, a family summer home in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state.

Wise words that the content guru herself likes to live by? Do what you love and love what you do. And for all those aspiring writers out there looking to make it, Barbara has some advice: Write for yourself and yourself only. Write because you love writing, because it makes you feel good, not because there’s a paycheck involved or promise of fame or glory. If you do this, you will become a better writer, guaranteed.

Coming Full Circle: Greenough Alumni Update

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Where you land early in your career can shape your professional life for years to come. Make good connections, and those contacts may last a lifetime. Build a skillset for understanding your client’s needs, and you’ll use those techniques over and over again. And gain the confidence that you can do whatever you put your mind to, and chances are you’ll do just that.
Just ask Helena Kimball, who cultivated good connections, learned excellent client-service skills and grew to trust her own abilities under the tutelage of Phil Greenough.

“Greenough was instrumental in getting me where I am today,” says Helena, who worked for Greenough for five years starting in 2000. “Phil has always made it a priority to help guide young people in their careers, and during my tenure, he made us believe we could accomplish anything we want. He used to say, ‘You can run the ship as long and far as you want—just make sure it doesn’t hit the rocks.’”

Helena joined Greenough during the technology boom, and in late 2001 she moved to San Francisco to help run an office for Greenough’s west coast clients. After four years on the West coast—and promotion after promotion at Greenough—Helena joined technology firm Laszlo Systems, Inc., a leading provider of Rich Unified Internet-Applications, as Director of Marketing Communications.

“It didn’t take a stroke of genius to recognize Helena’s many skills and potential,” said Greenough. “When presented with a great talent, a good coach knows enough to set direction and get out of the way. So I tried to fuel Helena’s vast competitiveness and enjoyed watching her lap the field.”

From there she moved into the solar industry, and that’s where she’s found her niche—and where she came full circle into Greenough’s wheelhouse. As Director of Marketing Communications for Recurrent Energy, a leading solar project developer and generating company, she not only cemented the PR and client-service skills she had built at Greenough, but also learned the ins and outs of the solar industry from the development side.

“Phil taught me how to build successful customer relationships,” she says. “He always told me ‘You should really be aware of your client needs before the client asks you.’ I honed that business acumen at Greenough.”

After helping to launch Recurrent and building their brand, Helena moved to the manufacturing side of the solar business where, as she says, “I could help influence change across the solar industry, ranging from policy issues to product innovations.”

Helena currently serves as Head of Marketing Communications for North and South America for Yingli Solar (NYSE: YGE), one of the world’s largest solar module manufacturers with headquarters in Baoding, China.

“My Greenough ties remain strong,” she says. Recently Helena helped bring Greenough client GT Advanced Technologies together with other solar energy companies as members of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), a group of American solar companies representing 97 to 98 percent of the U.S. solar sector. CASE’s members are opposed to protectionist trade actions that put U.S. solar jobs and growth at risk.

Helena points to Greenough for helping her understand the importance of team effort, such as the CASE coalition. “At Greenough, it was very important for us to mentor people. I remember taking time out of my day to make sure people felt like part of a team and that they were growing career-wise. Teamwork is key to any successful business.”

Go Ahead, Journalists, Pick Apart My Experts

A few days ago, Andrew Nusca, a journalist and editor primarily for ZDnet and SmartPlanet whom I respect and follow, shared the following on Twitter:

"I'm inclined to think that by increasing the quantity of published stories, journalists have devalued their own information."

Nusca's tweet summed up in 18 words the conundrum that Dean Starkman had just let examined 3,500 in the Columbia Journalism Review.  His article, "The Hamster Wheel: Why running as rast as we can is getting us nowhere," suggests that the scramble of media outlets to produce more content – any content – faster is leading to the media industry's undoing.  It's an insightful analysis of the current state of news reporting, and, despite Nusca's succinct summary, I'd recommend it to anyone who cares about the quality of the news they read, whether in a media-related profession or not.

The interaction of quality, quantity, production time and value of news stories is an issue that was on my mind long before I saw these two recent examples of journalists questioning the process they're caught up in.  I've hesitated to blog about it though, because the questions that arise don't necessarily shed positive light on either PR or the journalists on whom our success depends.  But I'll take a risk here, because I believe the future of both industries depends on asking these tough questions.

More stories equal more opportunities for coverage, right?  More headlines ought to mean more opportunities for clients to be in them, even if they're refreshed out of the top spot in moments.  (I'll leave the challenges of keeping up with an incessantly accelerating news cycle to another post.)  In his article, Starkman suggests what he calls "The Wheel" gives undue leverage to PR.

The Wheel infantilizes reporters, strengthens P.R. This is just logic. If reporters lack the time to gather, analyze, and reflect on information, then they will have less leverage to confront the institutions on their beat. And make no mistake, we are living in a time of P.R. ascendance. 

It's not easy for me to include that excerpt here, but I've seen this firsthand.  Yet while it occasionally makes my job easier (yes, sometimes it makes it harder, too), I don't think it's a good thing.

For example, the Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) newsletters that connect journalists in need of sources with experts and PR reps, has become an essential part of the PR practitioner's toolbox.  I love HARO.  I think it's a brilliant idea, and I've heard that journalists love it too.  However, I increasingly see queries from stretched-thin reporters who request that respondents simply include a pre-fabricated quotation and the expert's name, title and company.  No interview required.  No questions asked.  No risk of being misquoted.

A PR pro's dream, right?

Maybe.  It's a wonderful gift to be able to control the message, to be able to respond quickly without the hassle of coordinating schedules and dial-in numbers.

Yet as a consumer of news, as a citizen who believes that freedom of the press is not only a right, but also a responsibility – I'm concerned.  The same hallmarks of great journalism I sometimes fear in PR – probing questions, deep due diligence research, aggressive pursuit of countering opinions – I desire and appreciate as a consumer.

In no way do I mean this as an attack on journalists.  What professional in any industry has not felt the pinch of the "do more with less" mantra of the recession and found it necessary to sacrifice going the extra mile in some small (or large) area in order to survive?

Rather, my concern is with journalism as a whole, with how the ethos of reporting has changed and is changing.  

Starkman writes:

News organizations must change with the times, but nowhere is it written in Newsonomics (or whatever thrown-together, authoritative-sounding book is being read like Torah by news managers these days) that news organizations should drift away from core values, starting with the corest of core—investigations and reporting in the public interest. These are not just “part of the mix.” They are a mindset, a doctrine, an organizing value around which healthy news cultures are created, the point.

And while I outlined my concern as a consumer above, and though what Starkman aptly calls a "recalibration of the news calculus" may put more power in the hands of PR, I'm concerned for PR, too.  Letting the value, quality, and truthfulness of news degrade in favor of high click-rates and more content also demeans the quality of results we get for our clients.  Sure, I'll have to work harder to get a good story working with more scrutinizing reporters.  But if it means better news, not just for my clients but for the general public, that's extra work I'm eager to do.   

– Contributed by Catherine Morgan. Follow her @c_morgan.

The Real Twitter Bug

Twitter bugLast Tuesday you would have thought the world was turned upside down as a Twitter bug spread across web causing mayhem and panic within the Twittersphere. A colleague of mine barely had time to walk through the door and put her stuff down before she had hopped on Twitter and became a victim of the security flaw. 

The bug affected thousands if not millions of users who, by simply rolling their mouse over a certain tweet or chunk of text on Twitter, were redirected to harmful third-party sites without their consent. Some users were lucky enough for the bug to write and send an unsolicited update or re-tweet on their behalf.

Within my own office, a public relations agency where every single employee uses Twitter, the news of the bug spread fairly quickly. After discussing it amongst each other, we then proceeded to let our clients know about the bug and told them to avoid Twitter until it was fixed. At the time we did not know what exactly the bug was or the type of damage it could cause. However, as PR professionals helping our clients manage corporate Twitter streams, choosing not to address the issue was a risk we were not willing to take.

The folks at Twitter corrected the flaw in a very timely fashion and all in all, it proved to be more of a minor inconvenience rather than a full-blown catastrophe, which is how some people treated it. However, the situation did, in a sense, serve as a wake up call. I realized how much we, as PR professionals, are reliant on the platform and how much it has become a part of our daily routine. 

The PR industry is obviously just one group who relies heavily on Twitter. It seems to me that each day, Twitter continues to extend its power and influence upon different groups of people. What are the implications of this? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. The implications are vast and complicated and certainly not black or white. 

As many people have begun to realize, Twitter can be powerful tool to do good, or it can abuse its power to do bad. For example, Twitter has done wonders in the world of customer service. Companies like Comcast, Jet Blue, Southwest Airlines and Dell have all addressed customer service issues directly using the platform, ultimately promoting a positive brand image and leaving customers happy. 

Or how about the role Twitter played in the Iran Election back in 2009? After traditional media was blocked from use, Iranians turned to Twitter to post updates, photos and videos of the real-time, often violent opposition occurring between demonstrators and officials. Clearly, widespread use of Twitter has done good in terms of raising awareness of important societal issues as well as addressing customer service concerns.  However, at the same time, it also has facilitated and enabled libelous rumors and accusations, invasions of privacy, and, as we saw a few days ago, harmful security threats, damaging not only one’s computer, but one’s online reputation and credibility. 

I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that Twitter simply has got its hold on us. And a lot of us. Whether enabling good or bad, there’s no denying that Twitter’s power is real and here to stay. So although this week’s Twitter bug has been fixed, I think the real Twitter bug lies within us and it’s not going away anytime soon.

– Contributed by Jessica Boardman. Follow her @jboards.

Hang Up and Drive

We announced some exciting news at Greenough today – we’ve been selected as the PR agency of record for the Arbella Insurance Group. Our major focus so far has been the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation’s groundbreaking Distractology 101 program, which educates new drivers on the dangers of distraction at the wheel. The centerpiece of the effort is a mobile classroom created to change the driving behaviors through real-life driving scenarios demonstrated in the company’s state-of-the art simulators. Arbella CEO John Donohue felt strongly that something needed to be done to stop the epidemic of distracted driving. And it is an epidemic – more than 6,000 people are killed each year in accidents involving multi-tasking at the wheel. That’s a shocking number.


I’ve had the privilege of working with the Arbella team on the Distractology 101 program and can tell you it’s definitely been an eye-opening experience. I’ll reluctantly admit that before getting on board with the program, I’d been known to read or send a text or two while behind the wheel. Not anymore. What I’ve learned has surprised me. Sure, we all know that looking away from the road and at the cell phone in your hand is dangerous – but most of us think we’re safe as long as we’re using a hands free device, right? Not necessarily so. According to a study done by the University of Utah, there is little or no documented difference between the risks associated with handheld and hands-free devices. Researchers found that the distraction actually comes from the conversation, not holding the phone. Even more surprising? The study also found that using a cell phone will driving, whether hands-free or handheld, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. And all of us are paying the price for this deadly multi-tasking: the annual cost of crashes caused by cell phone use is estimated at more than $43 billion, according to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.

So how do we stop the madness? One answer, certainly, is legislation. Seven states have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone. 22 other states, including Massachusetts, have enacted legislation that bans text messaging while driving. But the fact is, as with drunk driving, laws just aren’t enough. As Donohue says, it’s about changing behaviors – not just with teens, with all of us. I realize now that every time I pick up the phone while I’m at the wheel, I’m sending a message to my kids in the backseat that it’s ok to multi-task while driving. It’s not ok. We’re all so used to the immediacy of communication these days and sometimes we have to force ourselves to step back and unplug for a bit, especially when we’re behind the steering wheel. Believe it or not, the world will wait.

-Contributed by Amy Erickson. Follow her @amyerickson.