MCSMN Blog

February 7, 2018

Proceed Until Apprehended

By Lee Aase, Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

That's the innovation philosophy I learned from one of my early mentors at Mayo Clinic, a former administrator for Cardiovascular Surgery.

And it's a major reason why we were able to get an early start in so-called "New Media" and then move relatively quickly into social media.

But these innovations were only able to gain a foothold at Mayo Clinic because they were consistent with the history and cultural DNA we've described earlier in this series. Otherwise, the organizational immune system would have attacked them as foreign invaders.

Just as our founders were committed to traveling and learning from others so they could apply those lessons in their practice, leaders in Mayo's administrative departments—including Public Affairs—feel an obligation to ensure that the work we do on behalf of Mayo Clinic also is of the highest quality and taking advantage of the latest developments.

That's why Chris Gade (now our Public Affairs chair, then a vice chair for external relations in the Division of Communications) invited an external consultant to present on new media to his direct reports in early 2005.

Amos Kermisch led our MayoClinic.org team, and I was the team leader for media relations. The consultant introduced Chris, Amos, and me to various communications innovations, including blogging and podcasting, and how we might apply them at Mayo Clinic.

As I subsequently discussed these ideas with members of our media relations team, however, there was understandable skepticism. No one was familiar with podcasting, which was invented just a few months earlier. Shouldn't we focus efforts on pitching stories to major news organizations that have larger impact? Is this even worth our time?

Reasonable questions. Thankfully, however, our earlier development of syndicated media offerings made it possible for us to experiment with new media without much incremental effort.

As I recounted in last week's post, Chris had initiated the Medical Edge syndicated television project just before I started at Mayo Clinic in 2000. After I succeeded him as manager for media relations in 2003 we added a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column and a daily :60 radio segment under the same Medical Edge umbrella. All three syndicated offerings also were posted on MayoClinic.org.

As I learned more about podcasting, I came to understand that it was essentially a series of .mp3 audio files delivered through an RSS feed. Instead of needing to navigate to the website and play segments individually, users could subscribe to have them delivered automatically to "podcatcher" software on their computers.

Podcasting officially became "a thing" in June 2005 when Apple launched its iTunes Podcast Directory, and that's when we decided to adopt the Proceed Until Apprehended philosophy.

We already had the approved audio files on MayoClinic.org, so in essence, podcasting meant we were just experimenting with a new and more convenient delivery method. We just needed a way to create the RSS feed.

I approached Mindi Klein, a talented and curious programmer who reported to Amos, and asked if she'd be interested in developing a tool that would create an iTunes-compatible RSS feed linking to the existing audio files on MayoClinic.org.

By late July, working in her spare time, Mindi had developed the RSS tool and submitted our podcast feed to the iTunes directory.

We hadn't sought internal committee approvals. The audio content had been vetted for provision to radio stations, and was available on the web for consumers, too.

The podcast seemed like a low-risk way to potentially get broader distribution of our content.

But as BuzzFeed would say, "You won't believe what happens next!"

I'll tell you all about it in next week's post.

Lee Aase is a Communications Director for Mayo Clinic's Social & Digital Innovation team and is Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. This post is part of a series called Mayo Clinic's Double Helix: How Revolutionary Organization and Networked Communication Built America's #1 Hospital.

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