Getting Mayo Clinic into Blogging

After our "proceed until apprehended" podcast experiment in 2005, our Mayo Clinic Division of Communications set up a cross-functional task force to define Mayo's approach to the proliferation of "New Media." We weren't even really thinking social media at the time.

That task force concluded in July of 2016 with recommendations I've previously recounted, namely that we find ways to change processes to enable longer, more useful podcasts that were topic-focused instead of the daily :60 grab bag in our first iteration.

One activity we explicitly recommended against was blogging. We didn't want to ghost-write, and we also were reluctant to take physician time away from patients to produce content for an unproven activity.

So how did we get started?

In July 2006 I decided to get some personal experience with blogging, so if we ever did decide to blog on Mayo's behalf, I would know how to do it.

So on July 30 I launched a personal blog called Lines from Lee on I had done a little research, and while other blogging services offered free trial periods, I liked that offered a free forever option. In fact, part of my goal for the next couple of years was to show just how much I could accomplish with blogging without spending a penny.

I published three posts on July 30, 2006 and then got cold feet. I heard stories of people being fired for blogging, and while that didn't seem likely at Mayo Clinic, I thought it best to lay low for a bit.

Finally in mid-September I got the courage to mention to my division chair that I started a blog just to learn about blogging and asked if that was OK, and he said, "That sounds fine."

That validation sent me into overdrive as a hands-on blogger. I did eight posts during the remainder of September 2006. In October I published 65 posts! Then I backed off to "only" 33 in November.

I live-blogged each session in conferences I attended, taking notes on the presentations and sharing them with the world. (This was in the pre-Twitter era.) I also did a big series on Getting Things Done (a.k.a. GTD), a productivity book that had significantly affected my work life, and even added GTD as one of the subtitles for this otherwise nondescript blog name.

What's the point for you? Personal experimentation to develop familiarity is essential when trying to introduce a new technology to your organization. By the time I even considered applying blogging on behalf of Mayo, I had published well over 100 posts on my own blog. I knew it wasn't that hard.

That enabled me to confidently present blogging to my colleagues as something they really could do, and that wasn't mysterious and available only to the technically adept.

There's no substitute for developing first-hand knowledge of and experience with tools you want your organization to adopt. Work the kinks out on your own account before you ask others to get involved. Your confidence earned through experience, and with real success stories to share, will help you make your case.

Next time I'll discuss how we built on this early experience to navigate broader blogging adoption at Mayo Clinic, both for internal and external purposes, and how Lines from Lee became SMUG.

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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How can you get your organization to adopt a new technology? By mastering it yourself beforehand.
Trying to sell your team on a new innovation? Confidence earned through experience will help you make your case.
Personal experimentation is essential when trying to introduce a new technology to your organization. Here's why:

2 points. First, I live, eat and breath GTD. It has been career and life changing for me too.

Second, I think most healthcare organizations tend to use there risk assessment skills which were honed on medical care, and extend it to social media – a big mistake.

We certainly don't want to "fail fast" when trying out a new surgical procedure, or a new treatment regime, because 'failing fast" means a patient could die.

Pt we shouldn't use this same level of risk assessment to trying new things in social media. Try blogging, try Twitter Video, try Instagram…get in the mix and play a little. Don't be stupid : keep away from HIPPA violations, religion and politics, but it's OK to play otherwise, and the faster the better.

I may be wrong, but i think culturally that is why the Mayo is so much further ahead than most other groups its size. You were not afraid to fail, and you recognized the benefits of gtting content experience out there!


Good thoughts, Matthew. As you said, as long as we guard against the really big issues like HIPAA violations, we should be aggressive in experimenting.

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