Monday, 31 October 2011

Employer Healthcare Congress (3). Day two – some keynote notes

My apologies to regular readers and my new friends from the congress for the delay in this next thrilling instalment from Chicago.  I had some IT issues, resolved now I’m back in the UK so normal service is resumed.

There was a wide selection of sessions on the second day and I was drawn by three keynote presentations. I’ve never been sure of the meaning of ‘keynote  speaker’ and some quick research uncovered that the term originates from barber shop singers practicing a ‘key note’ before starting a performance. A good keynote singer sets the tone for the song as a professional speaker sets the tone for a conference session.

Another, and perhaps a little cynical, definition is that keynote speakers get paid..

Bill Rancic, Winner of the Apprentice. ‘Ability to achieve success in today’s healthcare and economic climate.’
I learnt a salutary lesson from the first keynote of the day. I have a pathological loathing for reality TV (Snob? Moi?) and found my brief viewings of the UK version of The Apprentice to be full of self-opinionated egotists. (Judgemental? Moi?). So I didn’t rush to attend Bill’s opening session of the day and missed the first half hour. Big mistake. I quickly discovered that Bill Rancic is a very cool guy. Softly spoken and yet successfully projects intelligence, charisma and humility.

Bill’s presentation was very well received and attendees afterwards told me of how he related the story of his first successful business launch – selling cigars online. His innovative, but simple sales techniques (‘stand out from the crowd’) and way he has seized opportunities throughout his life provided plenty of inspiration. He also had some interesting views on qualifications and felt that if you were already a proven ‘entrepreneur’ additional gongs such as an MBA were unnecessary but he did agree that good qualifications can provide ‘get you in but once you’re in it’s down to you’

A special mention is deserved for another entrepreneur, Liam Ryan from gethealth  (  who managed to find his way to the front of the queue for the microphone to pose questions to Bill. Liam demonstrated admirable ‘seize the opportunity’ and ‘stand out from the crowd’ skills, asking a question in his soft lilting Irish accent. What was his question? I’m not sure what he actually asked – but he did manage to mention that his company is launching an exciting interactive health proposition! It was the gentlest of business pitches to a large,  influential and benevolent audience. This young man and his business partner will go far methinks.

John Casey, Director of International benefits, Google. ‘Creating the healthiest employee in the world’.
John provided a fascinating insight into life within planet Google and the technology giant really does seem to provide an exceptional working environment. He was honest about the pressures of an ‘always on’ culture of a workforce with an average age of mid 30’s – employed by a company that receives 2 million (yes 2 million) job applications a year.

I was interested at the emphasis John placed on life stages within the Google population, recognising that many ‘Googlers’ (love it) are now entering a challenging phase in their lives – new marriages, commitment to long term relationships and young families, all happy events which can place pressures on a previously uninterrupted work focus. The organisation nurtures it’s ‘Nooglers’ (love that too) who join the organisation and a mouth watering suite of wellness options are available.

John admitted that a transparent culture and an obsession to listen can create its own problems in potentially delaying benefits decisions but these open channels also encourage creativity and innovation regarding all aspects of the business. He made a strong case for branding wellness initiatives with the Google choice of ‘Optimize your life’ providing a clear message of intent. The wellness programme adopts a global approach to health and wellbeing, covering the physical, emotional and financial health of employees. This may sound like Nirvana, but John also stressed that this frugal (his word) company questions every cent so each wellness initiative must provide a decent ROI.

The company is not afraid to experiment with new health initiatives and like so many speakers at this conference, John stressed the importance of robust benchmarking and regular monitoring of wellness programmes and health data.

I have no doubt that Google is well on its way to achieving its vision of ‘The healthiest employee on the planet’ - and good luck to them.

Mitch Joel, Author ‘How marketing connects in a connected world’
Key note speakers are like buses – you don’t see one for ages then three come along all at once!

There was something of the Halloween about this presentation – not intentionally I suspect. Dressed in black, Mitch also used monotone for many of his slides and even reduced Michelangelo’s beautifully coloured The Touch’ to stark black and white. A black background and white text in capitals used for much of the content came across as a bit aggressive which is a shame from an apparently charming man.

Mitch was keen to emphasise the speed with which our digital interactions are changing – and he succeeded. The tale of his 2 year old son trying to scan pages on the TV screen with his finger provided powerful imagery of the future. As Mitch said – keyboards will (not maybe – will -) become a thing of the past very, very soon.

Allowing customers to post comments, good or bad, on your company website is a compelling way to demonstrate transparency and YouTube was highly recommended as a dynamic interaction. I took on board Mitch’s advice that you should concentrate on liking your customers and not just focus on getting them to like you.

His summary of how to use digital marketing was, I think, excellent:
·         Accept it
·         Apply it with other marketing methods, not instead of
·         Be open and transparent with all your marketing transactions and communications
·         Your techniques must be shareable and findable
·         Treat written digital marketing as publishing – a blog is ‘published’
·         Let ‘why’ not ‘what’ define your tactics

Mitch also advised us to avoid ‘digital tumbleweed’ so for fear of my words being blown across an overcrowded digital landscape - I shall finish for now.


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