The Snow® Communications Blog

Dads with smaller testicles are more nurturing fathers, according to a rash of news stories run by Time, NBC, USA Today and other news organizations. Trouble is, the underlying story is far more nuanced – based on a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Testicular volume is inversely correlated with nurturing-related brain activity in human fathers.” As healthcare PR professionals, we should be concerned when healthcare reporting sensationalizes scientific findings and fail to accurately rerport on these findings.

The key word there is correlated.

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Leading healthcare news watchdog critiques stories linking smaller testicles to men being good dads

As Gary Schwitzer points out in his excellent blog, most of the news organizations failed to accurately report on this study. Gary notes that the authors of the study, at Emory University, did not claim that they had found a causal relationship between testicle size and parenting skillIn fact, they allow that it could be the opposite: parenting activity results in changes in the male body, including testicle size.

In the Emory University blog the authors state: “We’re assuming that testes size drives how involved the fathers are,” Rilling says, “but it could also be that when men become more involved as caregivers, their testes shrink. Environmental influences can change biology. We know, for instance, that testosterone levels go down when men become involved fathers.”

To be sure, some of the stories, like the ones in NBC and USA Today, do get to the nuance, but deeper in the article after most people have read or heard a misleading headline.

Why is this important to healthcare PR people? If the media can’t get a story like this right, where the information presented is fairly straightforward, how will they get complicated stories right, such as the appropriate treatment options for patients with low risk forms of cancer?

As a Minneapolis healthcare PR firm, we’ve heard clients complain that competitors can make unsubstantiated claims about their products and not get called out in the media. Schwitzer provides a watchdog service for healthcare news stories on a limited budget. His organization, and similar efforts, deserve support. But it’s important that health PR professionals, and healthcare reporters, conduct the checks and digging needed to provide accurate information to healthcare markets and customers.

Like many Minneapolis B2B PR firms, Snow Communications uses Google analytics, SEO strategies, and related digital marketing technologies; but we understand that content is everything. We know a good story when we see it. Maybe that comes from having been a reporter and writer for The New York Times, The Star Tribune, Radio Sweden and other news organizations. Having been an editor, I have a good idea of what editors want, and don’t want. Good B2B PR firms figure out how take a story that is not fundamentally glamorous – and often far from it, and turn it into something a publication’s subscribers want to read.

In addition, we’ve launched dozens of new companies successfully.

Content Marketing: The Gift That Kept Giving

B2B PR and Content Marketing

Zepol logo

When we launched new company Zepol, we realized right away that this was a content marketing play – even before that term was in wide use. Zepol publishes trade data – data about the movement of goods from country to country, and that data is of great interest to a lot of people at companies and other organizations.

We made successful pitches about Zepol, its rapid growth, its value to its customers and related themes. But the gift that kept giving was where we offered recognized publications the opportunity to provide Zepol trade data in their publication and on their website. This became a recurring source of promotion for Zepol long after our work with them was complete.

Please read our case study

See details in our Zepol case study.


B2B PR Firms: Content is King

Posted on September 4, 2013 by

For rock solid B2B PR firms that deliver big time for clients, content is king. It always was and it always will be. As a Minneapolis B2B PR firm, we’ve always believed that timely, relevant and focused content drives PR and marketing. Yes, digital PR, content marketing, social media, SEO and Google analytics are all important. They amplify your message and engage your intended audience. But without good content, the work a B2B PR firm produces will not be as effective. Don’t take my word for it; listen to Google:

Google Engineer Matt Cutts Recommends “Old Fashioned Marketing

Matt Cutts recommends effective B2B PR firms start with strong conent

Google engineer endorses “old fashioned maketing.”

As Distinguished Google engineer Matt Cutts recently said in an interview:

…a lot of SEO has been focused on technical matters and very highly specific ways to configure your website and stuff like that. There are best practices, and you need to make sure you get the basics right, but it is true that a lot of SEO is now circling back around to good old fashioned marketing.

We’ve found over the years that many B2B companies lack a well-defined marketing communications strategy. They struggle to express the key differentiators that drive results-oriented B2B PR, including law firm PR, healthcare PR and technology PR. Their press releases and media pitches go unanswered; they scratched their head and blamed the media. Now, with digital marketing and social media, they embrace digital techniques and gimmicks designed to increase click throughs and get them mentioned on obscure blogs read by a few dozen people.

Original, Strong Content Needed

Original, strong content offers information and insights not readily available, in a timely fashion, and in a form that is useful to people you want to influence. This, not click-through formulas, is what Google is trying to track in its search engine technology. Cutts says:

We’ll always keep chasing after the ideal world in which the search engines do what you would intuitively expect and bring you the best answer, whether it be from someone who is a friend of yours or someone who is an expert in the field or some completely different serendipitous author or person that you didn’t know about before, but they can really help with the information you need at that moment.

For a Minneapolis B2B PR firm specializing in healthcare PR, law firm PR and technology PR; we seek to help our clients define their audience and hone their messages so the recognized publications and websites cover them regularly even while we push out their ideas and engage their customers via digital marketing and social media.

Law Firm PR Generates New Business

Posted on September 3, 2013 by

Law firm PR generates new business when PR and content marketing is used to positively change perceptions in the firm’s market. When Gray Plant Mooty, a business law firm with a 100-plus year history in the Minneapolis – St. Paul market, wanted to gain more public company business, they asked a Minneapolis PR firm that specializes in law firm PR, Snow Communications, to develop a strategy and then implement it.

Law firm PR generates new business

Gray Plant Mooty logo

Key To Campaign

Key to the campaign was understanding the market perceptions that were hindering the firm from gaining more public company business. With a better understanding of these perceptions, Snow was able to develop and implement a communications strategy that targeted some key areas of market perception for change.As an experienced law firm PR firm, Snow Communications has worked as a law firm PR firm for numerous law firms, and was well grounded in law firm PR, so it already had a methodology developed for working with law firms and creating successful law firm PR campaigns.

Central to the campaign was creating visibility for the public company issue in key media read and valued by decision makers, buyers and key influencers.

Encouraging Results

The results included improved awareness of the firm’s public company legal services offerings and additional business. As a Minneapolis PR firm with law firm experience, Snow Communications understands that supporting business development is the key to bring value to its law firm PR engagements.

For more information, see our case study, “Legal PR: Breaking Through.”

What can healthcare PR and marketing professionals learn from the controversy regarding Penn State’s $1,200 surcharge on employees who do not meet a new requirement of the school’s wellness program to provide certain personal information and undergo a free biometric exam?

Penn State made an official announcement of the changes in early July, after consultations with faculty and other stakeholders. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the story in mid- and late July, “Weigh in or Pay,” followed by NPR on August 2nd. By mid-August the story had made The Wall Street Journal.

Opponents challenged the new policy, beginning with a post by a Penn State professor on the blog maintained by the Pennsylvania division of the American Association of University Professors, followed by coverage on the faculty senate blog and a drive on petition site, where opponents of the new requirements have gathered more than 2,000 signatures to date. Analysis has occurred on independent blogs, including the Harvard Business Review blog – see “The Dangers of Wellness Programs: Don’t Be the Next Penn State.

A few observations:

I don’t claim to be an expert on wellness plans, which are encouraged as part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but here are a few observations from a healthcare PR and marketing perspective:

1. Rewards are easier to market than penalties. If a plan reduces a member’s cost for taking a positive action, that’s likely to cause a lot less problem from a PR and marketing perspective than a penalty for not taking the same action.

2. Highlighting  plan member self-interest is generally superior to highlighting the needs of the employer. It’s possible that too much of the Penn State wellness program focus was on how much money it would save Penn State. Positively engaging plan members is probably easier when the health and lifestyle benefits of an action for them are the main thing emphasized. As we’ve stated elsewhere:

Suppliers to the healthcare market must communicate how their products and services will help…meet the new challenges and opportunities in healthcare. Providers must reach out to patients in new ways, emphasizing better outcomes and patient engagement.

3. Be prepared for controversy with vision, persistence…and evidence. Well-run wellness plans have demonstrated strong ROI, promoting healthier lifestyles and outcomes with genuine cost savings. Yet, critics of the Penn State plan, including the authors of the Harvard Business Review blog post (see above) attacked the merits and payoffs of the new requirements. Promoters of these plans must be ready to cite clear evidence that plan requirements result in better outcomes. And with social media, including petition sites, Facebook, blogs, etc., opponents have more tools at their disposal. It would be wise for plan promoters to have a comprehensive crisis management plan in place, including provisions for social media.


Physician diagnostic overconfidence may be harming patients, according to a new study published in JAMA. The study was actually about overconfidence regarding internists’ diagnoses. Even in difficult-to-diagnose cases, where the internists were correct in their diagnosis only 5.8 percent of the time, their confidence in their diagnosis was high. In easier cases, they were right only 55 percent of the time. For the study, that made the physician diagnoses wrong half the time.

As Cheryl Clark reports in a story for Health Leaders Media, one of the authors of the study makes the point that hospitals could do a better job of providing feedback to physicians whose initial diagnosis is wrong. Hardeep Singh, MD, principal author of the study, told Clark that the opportunity for learning is sometimes lost when feedback does not occur.

Singh suggests there is a serious problem regarding diagnostic accuracy:

The whole medical enterprise is based on the fact that one goes to a doctor in the belief that doctors usually know what they’re doing, otherwise you won’t go. If a doctor said, ‘you know, I’m kind of wrong half the time,’ no one is going to come to them.

Patient Engagement Needed

As we’ve previously written, patients and their families need to be engaged and consult reliable online resources and/or seek second opinions.

Since our post on 8/1/13, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has received little attention, despite the recent start of record-keeping requirements for drug, medical device and certain other healthcare companies that make payments to physicians, and upcoming public reporting of such payments. However, The Wall Street Journal ran a story yesterday, “Doctors Face New Scrutiny Over Gifts.” The Journal reported that some physicians are already reconsidering what gifts, free dinners and other reportable compensation they receive from covered companies:

“John Mandrola, a cardiologist in Louisville, Ky., said he has been paid a total of $1,500 to $2,000 this year by medical-device makers for speaking engagements. Knowing that such transactions will become public has caused him to be more cautious about what fees to accept, he said. He avoids industry reps visiting his office, believing he can get information on new drugs elsewhere. I’ll continue to weigh the benefits and the negatives, and I think the Sunshine Act and the public reporting of all this stuff makes us think about that,” said Dr. Mandrola. “And I think that’s a good thing.”

CMS Advising Physicians to Keep Records

The story reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Management are advising physicians to keep records of all payments and transfers of value from industry.

Reporting to the Public Begins in September, 2014

Healthcare PR professionals can expect to see increased media coverage of this issue, especially when the data begins to be available on a government website beginning in September 2014. That’s a year away, but the reporting has already begun.


If you’re a healthcare PR or marketing professional, please note: Over-diagnosis and overtreatment resulting from cancer screenings has led an expert panel to suggest that the word “cancer” should not be applied to conditions that are not lethal. The U.S. National Cancer Institute commissioned a panel to study the problem created by too many growths found through screening that are clinically insignificant and indolent in nature. Writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the panel reported:

“Screening always results in identifying more indolent disease. Although no physician has the intention to overtreat or overdiagnose cancer, screening and patient awareness have increased the chance of identifying a spectrum of cancers, some of which are not life threatening. Policies that prevent or reduce the chance of overdiagnosis and avoid overtreatment are needed, while maintaining those gains by which early detection is a major contributor to decreasing mortality and locally advanced disease.”

The authors note that while mortality from certain cancers – e.g., breast and prostate – declined between 1975 and 2010, the incidence has increased significantly because the screenings found large numbers of insignificant cancers. In contrast, they note, screening for colon and cervical cancer decreased incidence as well as late-stage disease through detection and removal of precursor lesions.

The panel’s advice? Reclassify  non-lethal lesions as “IDLE” – indolent lesions of epithelial origin. What’s the implication for healthcare PR and marketing professionals? Use caution when promoting screening programs or technologies. Be aware that overtreatment and over diagnosis is a significant problem, and communications about screening or screening technology should reflect this. For example, testing for PSA (prostate specific antigen) should include “informed consent” between patient and doctor, in which the pros and cons of PSA testing are discussed. Healthcare PR professionals should consider including some cautionary statement in their promotions for screening programs and screening technologies. Cancer screening has saved many lives, but patients should be aware of the risks.

With the rise of patient engagement, candor and full disclosure are the new standard.

Data collection begins today for the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (Sunshine Act). Part of Obamacare, the Sunshine Act requires that manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and biologicals report payments they make to physicians and teaching hospitals. This is designed to bring transparency to these financial transactions, most of which are for legitimate purposes.

Some of these payments have raised concerns that prescribing physicians may not be impartial in what they choose to prescribe for their patients. With the Sunshine Act, these payments will now be in the light of day and it is hoped that this will encourage appropriate payment practices and improve confidence in the impartiality of prescribing physicians.

What Are the Implications for Healthcare PR?

What are the implications for healthcare PR? Healthcare PR professionals who work for companies covered by the act or who have such companies as clients should make preparations to handle inquiries that might arise from the media, including bloggers. An audit should be done of payments reported under the act, and potentially controversial payments identified. A plan should be thought through and put in place to handle any media inquiries. This plan would identify spokespersons, have basic answers drafted, and include specific steps for handling inquiries. If needed, spokespersons should receive media training. Key messaging should be prepared that connects back to the company’s core values and product development strategy.

For more information on the Sunshine Act, go to The program is administered by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in the Department of Health and Human Services.


Are your legal services viewed as a commodity or a brand? Law firms are struggling with price pressures from customers and prospects, yet few law firms actively and comprehensively market their services in a branded way. As an agency that works not only with law firms but also with branded companies like Hormel, General Mills and 3M, we’re used to designing marketing campaigns that build on branded products and services and make the case for the price premium customers expect to pay.

Branded product marketing communicates higher quality, greater overall satisfaction and the higher likelihood that the product will meet the customer’s specific needs. In the case of branded services, the customer service dimension, including a satisfaction guarantee, is highlighted along with the promised end result. Branded product and service marketing tout the key differentiators that make that product or service unique.

Law firms that seek to build market share and pricing power should develop a branded marketing strategy and communicate their brand promise in a consistent, comprehensive way.

– Joshua Schneck

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