Don’t Get Left in the Dark When It Comes to Understanding Medicare 

 By Sharon Wagner at

Do you ever feel like you need to be a rocket scientist to understand Medicare? Well, you are not alone. For most seniors, making sense of it all is a constant battle. Seniors need Medicare, and all its parts, to ensure their healthcare needs are met. Thankfully, your experience with Medicare does not have to be complicated. Here are a few ways you can make your healthcare coverage much easier to understand. 

Make Use of Medicare Tools and Resources 

If you want to know which Medicare coverage is best for you, you need to do a little homework. So long as you have a basic understanding of the internet, you can easily gain access to online Medicare and Medicare Advantage resourcesthat will break down the benefits offered by each plan part. These resources are developed with internet novices in mind, so you definitely won’t need a PhD to figure them out. But don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help you out if you are not savvy when it comes to the web. If you have a smartphone and feel comfortable using it, you can even download a Medicare appto easily figure out what is covered by your current plan, and what is not. This app only details Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, but it is still very useful for seniors. When looking for Medicare help, just be aware that Medicare scam attemptsare common. Never give out any sensitive information over the phone and hang up on any suspicious calls.  

Understand Medicare Part A, B, C, and D, and Supplements 

There are so many parts and details to Medicare for you to understand. So it’s no wonder it can get confusing, for seniors and really anyone. Web articlescan be extremely helpful in laying out the differences between the ABC and D’s of Medicare, as well as available supplements. To make matters simpler, think of Medicare Part A as your most basic coverage for hospitals. Part B is what you will use for doctor’s visits and other preventive care, which can include anything from a flu shot to X-rays, but limitations do apply. The rest is where coverage details get really murky. You need to add Part D in order to have prescription drugs covered, but you can also opt to combine this with a Medicare Advantage plan. You do need to pay a premium for prescription drug coverage, but your costs will depend on your plan provider and options. 


Write Down Your Important Medicare Enrollment Dates 

Even with simplified explanations and tools, you may be feeling overwhelmed. The best way to reduce that stress is to review articles like this well ahead of your enrollment period. Not sure when that is? Well, if you are new to Medicare and are getting ready to turn 65, you will sign up during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). You can sign up for coveragewithin the three months leading up to your birthday or the three months after. Either way, your plan will kick in when you turn 65. Missed the IEP? That’s okay! You can still sign up for health care coverage later on in the year during Open Enrollment (OEP), which typically starts in October and ends in the beginning of December. Just be aware that 2019 brings important changesfor Medicare’s OEP timeframe. You may see lower premiums or added benefits by switching your plan, so be sure to do your homework well ahead of time. 


You need experts to manage your health, but you shouldn’t have to be an expert to manage your Medicare coverage. If you’ve made it this far, you have plenty more tools at your disposal for decoding your Medicare mysteries and questions. You can use these helpful resources on your own, or ask a family member to sit down with you and help you figure them out. However you make sense of all that Medicare has to offer, be sure to do it in time to make changes that will matter the most for your healthcare coverage. 


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Protecting your Market Identity:  Addressing External Strengths and Threats

 by Sarah Sherwood, publicist

In my experience, CEOs and senior management generally spend their days managing internal issues: tasks like managing company performance, unsettled budgets, and staff conflicts. Frustrated, they would like to pay more attention to what it is they believe they have been hired to do—focus on more significant external issues such as competitive research and competitor activity, customer behavior, and market trends and analysis. A study reported in the Harvard Business Review reported they spend just three percent of their time with customers.  The same was true with investors.  As a result of this, the distracted CEO is at times frustrated, and for good reason. The effect we often see are weak strategic plans—fit neatly into a boiler plate of mission, goals and quotas void of an overall objective, and trendy-worded strategies that don’t amount to much.  When the quarterly numbers appear, there is both good news and bad. What keeps the CEO up at night is the fear that the company is merely limping along.

I’ve been a publicist for 29 years now and like many of my peers, I see that CEOs who prioritize their time establishing a clear corporate identity, while delegating the important role of internal caretaking, tend to thrive more.  Research backs up this concept:  that a CEO is better fit to take the shared internal culture and strengths and build key relationships that externally back up and affirm a company’s claims.

What leads to this impasse I describe earlier is the mistaken philosophy that external issues, such as communications, should be delegated and are somehow fully taken care of without the CEO’s involvement.  CMO’s are notoriously important to crafting and maintaining a strong corporate identity, but they are not performing to their potential without the leadership and active involvement of the CEO.  There can be a natural partnership between the two roles.

Many companies do not even have a CMO.  Their reputation and identity does limp along, and they often wonder why they aren’t better known and engaged with companies and people they can help.  It is because reputation isn’t prioritized at the highest levels of the company or organization.  Reputation management is by nature a senior management function, yet companies are delegating reputation to those without enough experience.  Once in a crisis, the CEO’s position matters because it magnifies this very problem—and the organization’s alertness to consumer criticism and wide spread misinformation is not always remedied with a CEO that must play catch up. 

External management involves the message every CEO wants to provide its publics.  Most realize you cannot teach your lesson without a wide classroom.  Ironically, more opportunities exist than ever:  Major newspaper circulation is up dramatically; digital media outlets abound; there are tools to develop relevant and powerful strategic plans and new apps that make video production and circulation easy and affordable for any company.  A CEO has a menu of possibilities at his or her fingertips.  Are you there or are you struggling?

If you don’t feel fulfilled concentrating on internal issues so much, maybe you shouldn’t.


Sarah Sherwood is a publicist in Northern California. Her experience includes Edelman Worldwide, Stanford Hospital & Clinics, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


Other Helpful Reading:




by Gabrielle Parkinson, M.A., Executive Coach

You are the CEO of your life and it’s up to you to manage your career and to develop effective career management strategies that work.  The old adage, “Timing is everything,” is still right on. Attaining clarity about what you want is your main job right now.  Here are some key strategies for “Maximizing Where You Are Now:”

·       START MANAGING YOUR THOUGHTS because you create with your thoughts, your words, and your actions.   If your current job is just not working well for you, take a look at what’s not quite right and consider this a gift, because this situation is providing evidence for what needs to change.  Consciously shift your focus and ask, “What do I want in my next position?  This isn’t working, so what would work well?  What other options sound exciting?”  Look at what you do enjoy about your current position and focus on what you do well and what challenges you to stretch and grow.  Remember, what you focus on always expands.

·       DO YOUR VERY BEST IN YOUR CURRENT POSITION and do exceptional work.  Anticipate that you are going to be leaving this job –which is only short-term--and you want to leave in good standing with excellent references and referrals.  Your reputation and how you feel about yourself is something you will always take with you.   So, look for the opportunities to excel and to shine.  And ideally, you are staying in touch with the reputable people you have met through your current position.  There is a subtle and very important shift you make internally when you do this--you begin focusing on doing a great job and enjoying your work, and what you focus on is what will materialize.  It’s always best to leave a position when you are “on top” and doing a great job.  You feel successful and are leaving because you aspire to further develop yourself professionally and feel ready to step into new opportunities.

·       DEVELOP A LONG-RANGE PLAN – YOUR CAREER/LIFE PLAN. Is it time for you to develop your own game plan?   Where do you want to be personally and professionally in five to ten years? What is your personal vision? What excites you and inspires you?  What are the essential aspects of an excellent working situation for you?  Engaging in strategizing and planning for yourself—which is part of your CEO responsibilities in managing your own career—is a very smart strategy for you right now.  You know the power of having specific goals, so it only makes sense that now is the right time for you to develop your own tangible game plan. Your customized career life plan takes a holistic approach and will help you achieve a better career/life balance, developing yourself both professionally and personally.  Once you gain clarity and ask for what you want, your job is to expect success and stay open to receiving your requests.

·       TAKING EXTRA GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF RIGHT NOW. An important part of your responsibility as CEO of your life is “filling up your cup.”  That means you are taking responsibility for your own “self-care” -- staying strong and healthy, doing things that make you feel good, surrounding yourself by wonderful people where there is mutual love and respect, and taking time to rejuvenate your energies on a regular basis.  Whatever it takes for you to feel good about yourself, feel good about what you are doing and just feel good about the life you are living – this is your responsibility.

·       BE DELIBERATE ABOUT EXPANDING YOUR NETWORK. Begin by taking an honest look at your current network.  Are these the people you want to associate with?  Who do you want to be associating with?  Are there some gaps between your current network and your ideal network? Be strategic about this and be proactive in finding new networks that will serve you well professionally and propel you into your next career move.  Your objective is to continually be open to making new professional connections with people you admire and respect, and the more diverse your network is, the better.

 Gabrielle Parkinson has been an executive coach for over 30 years.

5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep When You Suffer From Back Pain


5 Ways to Improve Your Sleep 
When You Suffer From Back Pain

By Cheryl Conklin of Wellness Central


You know that sleep is important for your overall health. A healthy sleep routine can boost your immune system, preserve your mental health, and even help you maintain a healthy weight. When you live with chronic back pain, however, getting the sleep you need can be a struggle. This is why you need to take the right steps to address your lack of sleep and manage your pain symptoms. So, if you suffer from nightly pain, here are some measures you need to consider. 


Choose a Bed That Supports Your Back 


A supportive mattress can make all the difference in your quality of sleep, especially if back pain is a chronic issue. Manufacturers are beginning to recognize this connection, so it should be easier than ever to find a mattress made for chronic back pain sufferers. These specially equipped models should relieve excess pressureon your vertebrae while maintaining spinal alignment as you rest. Proper support for your back and spine means a better night’s sleep, which can be especially handy if you are recovering from surgery. Having the right bed will support better sleep habits for years to come, so invest in a quality mattress for your health. 


Adjust Your Preferred Sleeping Positions 


When back pain is a constant problem, it’s important for you to find ways to feel comfortable. Your favorite sleeping position may need to be tweaked so that you can still feel relaxed without putting undue pressure on your back. Some helpful sleep positionsto relieve back pain include curling into the fetal position or using pillows to keep your body aligned. An adjustable bed or wedge support pillowsmay also be useful for finding a position that maximizes the quality of your sleep. There are various shapes and sizes to address different pain concerns, so do your homework to find out which will work best for you. 


Purchase New Pillows to Alleviate Pain


Using pillows to support your lower body can enhance your sleep positions, but you also need to find pillows that support your head and neck. Rather than settling for standard pillows, try looking for modelsthat are shaped to properly hold cradle your head at night. These pillows may look a little funny, but those odd angles are specifically designed to reduce discomfort in your neck and spine. Memory foam is also a good choice for those who deal with chronic pain since it molds to your body and holds that supportive shape throughout the night.  


Use Gentle Exercise to Reduce Discomfort 


Chronic pain can make daily activity feel like less of a priority. Studies show, however, that even moderate exercisecan actually help you control your symptoms. A regular exercise routine enhances your body’s ability to tolerate pain and also helps you maintain your overall physical health, which can lead to fewer pain symptoms. Even better, exercising in the morningcan also improve your sleep hygiene. So, take a morning walk or start a yoga practice to better manage your pain and sleep. Staying active can also enhance your energy levels, which can make exercise easier as you get more practice. 


Make Regular Stress Relief a Priority 


Chronic pain is a physical feeling, so you may not think there’s a connection to your mental health. Reducing stress, however, is a crucial part of any chronic pain or sleep management plan. When you feel anxious or stressed, you tend to be more sensitive to pain, which can make your symptoms feel worse. Pain can also lead to more stress. It’s a cycle that can impact your quality of life, as well as your caliber of sleep, so make time for stress-relieving self-care. Find a new hobby to help reduce stress, such as coloring or gardening. Meditation is also a great way to reduce stress and improve feelings of positivity, making it a healthy practicefor anyone. 


If you are stuck in a cycle of chronic pain and regular sleep loss, it’s time for a change. Making more supportive choices when it comes to your sleep and health will make it easier to manage those pain symptoms and give you more control over your life. 


Cheryl Conklin is a freelance writer and tutor by trade and a blogger, adventurer, traveler, and creator of in her free time. She created because she believes one can’t have physical health without mental health and vice versa. She wanted a place to share her thoughts on wellness along with the great resources she finds on her own wellness journey, and so was born.



Photo Credit: Unsplash

Dr. Linda Dean: Stop Gun Violence--What Artists Can Do To Make the Point for Sensible Gun Laws

Linda Dean has been a licensed family and child counselor for nearly 40 years, and received her training and education in both the U.S. and Switzerland. Her study of art, and her training at the C.G. Jung Institute has impacted her viewpoint.

My life has been about helping children and adults find healing, from either abuse or other difficult experiences, so speaking out against unneeded gun violence is something I must do. As a Jungian Psychologist and Artist, I had an idea I shared with Jim Eason at KGO Radio in 1972. But news about the Watergate break-in prevented him from airing our interview. I’ve never let go of this idea: to communicate, through art, that our militaristic culture, now through our gun laws, is killing Americans. With renewed student activism, now is the time to bring this idea back to the public by exploring deeper thought through artistic expression instead of superficial thinking.

Artistic expression has taught us about racial conflict, economic divides, the reasons for revolutions and even great optimism. Artists with a political purpose have created both figurative and realistic images, finding that in their expression, they can motivate and inspire action. Since Valentines Day, 2018, we have reached a tipping point in the fight against the gun lobby. Most Americans are against the NRA’s viewpoint; their hearts are aching for change. We need the power of artistic expression to fuel social activism.

Long before the Renaissance, art reflected and impacted human kind in depth above and below consciousness. Notice the cathedrals, the murals, sculptures which still move the souls of people at a depth below ego consciousness. Even before writing, cave art told us something about our existence. 

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

Right now, here in the United States, we are beyond the crisis point. Education is harder to find, let alone achieve. The dumbing down of America has reached unbelievable heights. Many communities have teachers who must pay for school supplies. Book shortages are rampant. Politicians keep cutting budgets and ill prepared elected officials (check out your state) are reluctant, even unwilling to help. Now these same officials support arming teachers, locking doors to schools, without a thoughtful strategy limiting guns in the arms of dangerous individuals. Sadly, what is happening has more to do with power than ever before...that is power for a few.

Few gain from our irresponsible access to weapons. We know the few: Investors and, of course, representatives to both the House and Senate are financed by gun lobbyists and billionaires who want to keep what they have and get still more.

Too many representatives are willing to sacrifice the public for self gain. Meanwhile, they actually work very little. They are provided the very best health care and retirement benefits. My dear Americans, it all adds up to millions of people going hungry or dying from illness, many of whom work hard. The founders of our country did not intend for this to happen.

But a few very gifted students in Florida are making waves, bringing the issue of profit versus safety to the front of our minds. But we need to go deeper. We need to activate the depths of our bodies and minds, reach for creativity--we need to go to a level that is not subordinate to the lure of power and profit.

Action Based on Fact

We need people to FEEL so deeply it becomes impossible not to act. We need everyone to care and then VOTE!! We need every man, woman and child to know the facts about gun violence. There is already so much data that shows the harm that comes from our current gun laws:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. (CBS NEWS)

Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed with guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed with guns. (CBS NEWS)

In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers more than half billion dollars ($516 million) indirect hospital costs. (URBAN INSTITUTE)

A study undertaken in 2011 indicated that in states where local background checks for gun purchases are completed, the suicide as well as the homicide rate are much lower than those without (HEALTH POLICY JOURNAL).

Using Art To Make A Point

Do you remember the Oklahoma murders? Were you moved by the display of those empty chairs? Do you remember the AIDS Quilts? These works of art moved our culture into action. I call on the artistic community to create works of art that will speak to these despicable crimes—and—to the necessity for sensible gun laws. We have had too many deaths from guns. Our so-called congress and senate will not act in our favor. The gun lobby, among others, pay them too well. Can we call these bribes?

When the small children at Sandy Hook were murdered, mental illness was blamed. My dear Americans, these acts are not caused by mental illness—they are caused by the political financial gains politicians have received.

Artists, I call on you to make a plaster of each person murdered because sensible gun laws are not in place. Your art should reflect the many years of neglect. Then we should come together to display them on the Congressional Mall. If we could place chairs there—the many thousands of chairs, for both the children and grown ups who have died due to inefficient gun laws we could communicate a powerful message. Let us share our ideas so that the victims are represented and continue to share their voice. We need to experience the impact of so many human beings now mourned by their families.

Given the urgency of this problem, I hope Artists nationwide will act now.


My Timeline: A Look at How History Repeats Itself


By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

My sister is a senior in high school. Nearly all of the boys will be drafted very soon. Last year’s graduates are already serving in Vietnam. I am living in student housing where each of a hundred families has at least one child. We are all living on a ‘wing and a prayer.’ But at least then, tuition is only 54 dollars a semester.

One of my neighbors has a younger brother who is in the Coast Guard. She tells me they are bringing back hundreds of coffins at a time. She tells me the government is lying about how many are killed.


My husband has graduated and we now live in our first home, one we bought. We have neighbors and now we have a second child. Across the street lives a woman whose brother was killed in Vietnam. Folks are now beginning to protest the war. But my neighbor says her brother would have died in vain if we stop before we win.

Next door my neighbors have two little boys. They do not protest the war because the boys are so young. Surely it will be over before they are of draft age. Besides, ending the war would cause a big recession, even a potential depression. Our economy could not survive losing the war.

My milkman (yes in those days milk was delivered at the front door) had two little boys in grammar school. He was not worried about the war because his boys had asthma and would be 4F and not able to serve.

By then my sister was married to a Vietnam vet. Larry had PTSD, although we didn’t have a name for it then. She would waken during the night to find him crawling on the floor with a large curved knife in his mouth. He was back in the war. We all loved Larry, but he was an emotional wreck. Before he was drafted he was accepted to Stanford University but didn’t attend because of the draft. His service in Vietnam ruined him emotionally. He never did go back to college.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.


A Modest Proposal by Swift

Have you read it? If you took English Lit as a freshman in college, you probably did. Swift commented on the Irish Potato Famine and England’s refusal to send aid to the ‘Catholics” who had too many children and thus were poor by choice. Incredibly, he suggested having these folks sell their youngest infant for food.

Swift’s second advantage states that selling the young children as a “fancy delicacy” to the affluent people will give poor Irish tenants some valuable property in their children. He is basically mocking both the children and the parents because children already have value and no parent that cherishes their child would want to have their child eaten by the rich people. This proposal is basically stating that children have little to no value, and in order for them to be valuable they should be sold to the elite.

The Depth of Greed

In Swift’s day “the haves,’ the English’s richest, wanted to keep it all. So it is now. During the Vietnam war, an entire society, ours, benefited with a good economy. What we learned was that the soldiers and their loved ones paid the price. The gain was ‘shared’ by millions of US citizens. But most of us didn’t know until a few brave people began to protest the war.


So with the attitudes of my milkman and neighbors I decided we were selling out a generation of wonderful men and women for economic gain.

I could not sleep, could not wait to make my point.

I remembered Swift’s Modest Proposal. I began to feel anger at the milkman, who I saw as most Americans. It was okay with my milkman to feed his family on the lives of those boys at my sister’s school.

SO I went to the army surplus store and bought a gun belt, with holes in it from bullets, a fatigue set and convinced my husband to be my model.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.

First I used plaster to copy him, all but his head. He was in a prone position. This plaster mold showed the weave of the fabric, the bullet holes with frayed edges, the gun belt. All of it.

Next, I needed to copy this mold with the wax used to create metal sculptures, because this mold made a positive image of a ‘dead, headless’ soldier. It was my idea to send this image to President Nixon. But I wanted it to be of food, not metal, to make the point that Swift’s modest proposal was rearing its ugly head once again.

To send it I needed a pine coffin like the ones our military were sent home in.
Then I went to a cheese company and purchased 200 pounds of grated cheddar cheese. I made a latex mold of the casting so to encase my soldier’s body in red paraffin like gouda cheese. Finally, I painted the latex with red paraffin and stuffed the cheese into my red paraffin mold.

By then the cheese was turning dark in places with mold of its own.

I took my dead cheddar cheese soldier to the student union of my college, San Jose State University, and covered a long table with a red tablecloth, on top of which I placed the top of the coffin to serve as a cheese board. Above my creation on the wall I had a poem citing Swift’s Proposal, quoting him: “A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the four or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in Winter.”

The mother of radio host Jim Eason saw my piece and told her son about it. Hearing about it, he was going to use it on his program. That very day the news of the Watergate break in broke and Old Cheddar never made it to the news.

The poor guy was dumped in a dumpster, never to tell his story.

By then I was in college studying art. Conceptual art and political art was a big thing back then. My husband had his masters in art history. Both of us knew how art impacted the world, for at least as long as the reformation.


Guest Post on Four Proven Ways to Reduce Your Thyroid Antibodies

By Dr. Randy Hansbrough, DPsc

4 Proven Ways to Reduce your Thyroid Antibodies 

Published on April 25, 2018

Dr. Randy Hansbrough, DPsc Functional Medicine Practitioner

If you are suffering from an autoimmune disorder or a thyroid condition, then you are likely aware of just how important it is to keep the number of these thyroid antibodies in check. The best way to do so is to get right down to the root of the problem – discover the trigger and remove them. Here are 4 proven ways to do just that: 

1. Change your diet. 

Consider removing the top food items that seem to be the riskiest for those with autoimmune or thyroid disorders. These include grain products, all dairy, peanuts, alcohol made from grains, and soy. Instead, stick to whole, unprocessed foods. 

2. Remove stress. 

You know stress can be dangerous for your body. And, you know that reducing your stress can make you feel a million times better. Now is your time to do just that. Rid yourself of your stress by incorporating techniques to reduce its effects, such as learning meditation. 

3. Heal your infections. 

Talk to your doctor – and dentist – and take care of any infections that may be found throughout your body. No matter if they are small, big, or unnoticed, infections can wreak havoc on your system. Make sure you take regular good quality probiotics, especially during and after any antibiotics.

4. Nutrient deficiencies. 

Nutrients are what our bodies need to stay healthy and functioning at its optimal level. However, if your body is lacking any of these nutrients, you will find that your body will feel the effects. Seek the guidance of a medical professional to clear up any nutrient deficiencies. 

If you would like to learn more about getting to the root of your thyroid condition, contact Dr. Randy Hansbrough and his team at (772) 287-7701 or visit his website at If you are looking for more information or to interact, click here


The Untruth That is Social Media: Authenticity Will Always Be Critically Important

Very rarely is social media a perfect tool on its own. A new New York Times article shows how LIKES and reviews were bought, rather than earned. What we can learn from this to perfect our company's communications.

By Sarah Sherwood, publicist

Since I started in communications almost thirty years ago, through world wide agencies and on my own, I’ve seen changes that work, and really serve clients, and then there are some that trend for a while but ultimately don’t work for clients. It is critical for any company’s communication strategy to understand which is best, because public communication can be expensive and time consuming. 

Since social media has taken center stage, communications professionals have touted a tool that is much easier than taking the time to work with traditional media. But facts are emerging that show many CEOs frustrated that social media is not producing the numbers or the success they have been promised. Most companies that are opinion-dependent need an integrated strategy. Allow me to explain why.

The Big Numbers are Big Nonsense

One of the reasons, which the 2016 election highlighted, is that too much of the information is fake. Recent reporting by the New York Times highlights what many publicists have known for years:  People are buying popularity in the way of large numbers of LIKES and reviews. It’s distasteful but it is also highly ineffective. 

You Must Build Credibility First

Good products and services that third parties talk about are what counts. And lying about numbers can ruin a reputation once you’re caught. I recently took a my very niche client’s Facebook page from a couple of hundred LIKES to a couple of thousand, doing the work of attracting genuine LIKES and very positive, real reviews. 2000+ LIKES is not a huge number, but that doesn't matter as much as many are told. These pages simply serve as a reminder to those already interested, as well as a place to highlight all the news our organization is getting—again, that proven popularity. I didn’t put all my eggs in the social media basket, because it does absolutely no good to pitch opinion-dependent products and services with social media with one exception: reviews.  Real reviews have the substance and authority your publics are searching for—they aren’t taking any of the major platform’s word for it. If a lot of people genuinely LIKE something, they want to know why, and now, they want to know if it’s real. There is a formula we use that shows your audience genuine value.

An Integrated Strategy with Traditional Media Yields Results

It is a waste of time and money to concentrate solely on one form of communications —you need an integrated strategy. Part of that integrated program must include a communications professional who has good relationships with reporters and bloggers you care about, and that often comes with big agency experience, and continued education. We know, through research from Stanford University and other academic data that much of what is on social media doesn’t convince the oversold public. It merely serves as another form of advertising and marketing, controlled media that does a great job reminding people they’re out there but doesn’t convince consumers. Studies find instead that third parties, mostly in the form of reviews and news articles, earned media, are much better at giving people a reason to buy. And we need all of it to be effective: reasons, reminders, and a place to go. But do social media professionals know how to work with the news media? Most do not. Teams of communications professionals learn from each other and can make up a powerful alliance for your company.

I'll give you a secret from the inside of the communications industry: there are public relations professionals who don’t want to build a relationship with journalists. It is hard work and takes specific skills, a “nose for news,” and a proclivity for the truth. It challenges the most seasoned professionals. But some of us are passionate about that because we see how powerful traditional media and third party development are at building trust. Instead, some public relations agencies have gone full throttle toward social media as their main strategy because it is easy money and easy work. They can say here are the numbers, “proving” that much wanted ROI. But the recent New York Times article I’ve referenced above shows why they aren’t always true numbers.  

Instead, see reviews and articles on social media as one tool in a necessary trove of communications functions. If you aren’t going after other forms of communications, you aren’t getting your money’s worth.

Real Numbers That Count: Create A Public of Believers

The underlying problem is that our attention span has become shockingly brief, as studies show that the average time spent on Web sites is a mere eight seconds. Think about that: the average time your potential consumers spend on your site is averaging eight seconds (some say ten). That alone tells you that old fashioned relationship building is needed in order for your communications to be effective. Public relations, done correctly, is the relationship business. Think of social media as pretty quick speed dating in that scenario.

Observers are beginning to argue that social media is anti-social.  You cannot build key relationships, the way you need to, quickly. There is one exception: if your publics already know they want your product. Then social media is the way to go, because really, at the end of the day, it has some of the strengths of advertising, when done right.

Inside the industry we’ve known for years that people have been buying LIKES and reviews. Sometimes it takes a New York Times article to get people to talk about it. It takes a few smart journalists to do the research and vet it and get the point across, along with social media to help push it out so that the information put out has credibility and is believable. That’s what we’ve learned. And it has been a fascinating journey.


California Stem Cell Report by Kevin McCormack, CIRM


A Rare, Written Self-Exploration: California's Stem Cell Agency Slices and Dices its Own Spending

It is a rare day that the $3 billion California stem cell agency actually explains in writing its budget and finance choices. Today it did.

Usually the agency relies on Power Point slide presentations at its public meetings that amount to little more than an outline. Today, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), as the agency is formally known, filed a 652-word item on its blog discussing its spending plans.

Written by Kevin McCormack, the agency's senior director of communications, said the CIRM team had examined CIRM's financial picture during the last few months. He wrote,

"It boiled down to a few options.
  • "Keep funding at the current rate and run out of money by 2019
  • "Limit funding just to clinical trials, which would mean we could hit our 50 clinical trial goal by 2020 but would not have enough to fund Discovery and Translational level research
  • "Place caps on how much we fund each clinical trial, enabling us to fund more clinical trials while having enough left over for Discovery and Translational awards"

McCormack continued,

"The board went for the third option for some good reasons. The plan is consistent with the goals laid out in our strategic plan and it supports Discovery and Translational research, which are important elements in our drive to develop new therapies for patients."

Nearly all of what McCormack wrote is familiar to readers of this web site. But it may be new to many of other followers of the agency.

McCormack noted that budgets are "rarely exciting things." Some might argue that precisely how the agency is spending $6 billion (including interest) of public money is at least as exciting as the arcane world of, let's say,  generating a "mesenchymal stromal cell-seeded small intestinal submucosa  decellularized extracellular matrix,"

CIRM's spending is directly important to hundreds of California scientists and the institutions that benefit financially from CIRM awards. The stem field in general has already benefited from the loads of CIRM research that is laying the groundwork for greater developments -- not only in California but globally.

It can arguably said that CIRM is the largest single source of stem cell research funding in the world. And one of its greatest products is hope -- hope by hundreds of thousands of persons, perhaps millions, that CIRM's research will speed development of therapies that will ease their suffering or the suffering of those who come after them.

Nothing boring about that. And kudos to CIRM for taking a longer look at the nickels and dimes that make it happen.


Science Deniers: How to Reach and Persuade Those Who Deny Science

Solving The Science Denier Problem:  The Problem is Growing

A Sherwood Communications White Paper

Sarah Sherwood, publicist

November 22, 2017

Many scientists are trying to figure out how to have constructive conversations with climate change Deniers.  Extensive efforts to educate certain populations have not lead to significant shifts in a change of opinion. Using fear or guilt has not been effective in getting people to act, either. As a publicist who has worked with scientists for many years, I share insight into how to appeal to and influence these publics.

Science Denial Is Growing

We know that the majority of Americans care deeply about the environment.  But due to recent elections we also know that the minority—those who do not believe climate change is real and doubt science in general—can have big influence on policy.  Here we are, with elected officials and the president’s EPA working against what we know to be helpful to the environment.  It’s extraordinary.  Moreover, we know from Gallup data and social scientists that a shocking 32%[1] of Americans don’t believe in climate change, and that group is actually growing, so we need to act.  What can science-based organizations do to sway science Deniers to examine the truth?  Is there a way?  I believe there is.

As a country, we’re used to concrete facts being taken as such, and we’re used to society having patience for the theories worth testing.  What is new is the trend toward almost immediate denial of climate change and growing apathy about change in a significant minority of Americans, even though the current administration acts contrary to the majority of public opinion.

The lesson lies in treating the Denier population as scientists do normally when studying it. 

How To Begin to Reach Deniers:  Seven Recommendations to Reach and Influence

As we work with different populations, we also deal with unpredictable behavior.  We are complex beings who are often tough to figure out.  But we know what denialism is: a person's choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.[2]    At this time in history we have a challenge:  How to deal with people who deny facts, who live in an alternative, almost cult-like world of reaction and dogma that has real consequences.  This audience may interpret the Christian Bible without a coherent explanation and historical context.  They may determine to vote a certain way because of other issues important to them, thereby convincing themselves in an illogical attempt to side with a political party or some other social group.  They may believe that “the money’s not in it,” when in fact, the investment in alternative energy is both profitable and popular. 

Whatever their reason, climate change denial is dangerous and considered a national security issue to those who study it.  So how do we communicate so that these publics can begin to listen and be open to scientific expertise once again?  Here are several of my recommendations:

1.  To Begin to Engage, Really Know the Audience

To begin to search for answers in the way we can publicly communicate, we need to look at our audience:  who is the climate denier?

Generally speaking, they are Evangelical Christian Conservatives[3], but that’s not all.  They are also executives who have a financial investment in oil and other products that are unfriendly to the environment.  There are other groups who fit into the Denier audience category, including anti-government groups, low-income Americans and lower-educated Americans.   For each group, there is a perceived “payoff” to denying climate change.  These three rewards can be helpful for formulating a communications strategy aimed at educating Denier Americans:

A.  A social reward:  the bonds they so desire are there when they “agree” with their social group and its leadership.  Understandably, this “opinion” is not deep (because they are followers), but it does matter at the ballot box.  Because this opinion doesn’t begin with their experience, but with the leaders of their social group, there is an opportunity to educate them on the science, and there is a way to communicate the facts that I will go into below.

Oil and gas executives also gain socially, patting each other on the back with each “win” against the environment.  There is an “in” there, too.

B.  A financial reward:  Obviously oil and gas is a very profitable business.  But there is one industry that is suffering due to lay offs and industry predictions and that is coal.  They are losing both profit and reputation.  So we have opportunity here as well, with coal industry executives, to create ways to help them profitably transition to more meaningful methods of energy. Once we make headway there, we can use that success to reach oil executives, too.  There is a long-term strategy here that I believe in.  Proving that the financial rewards are short term begins with shining a light on what has happened with coal.  The growing unpopularity with the oil and gas industry is the next story.

C.  The last is what I call “a passion reward.”   Believing in something powerful gives you a personal reward, a feeling of belonging plus another personal belief that helps define you, so that you feel knowledgeable, helpful and content in who you are.  This is especially rewarding to lower educated and lower income Americans.  But does this passion reward sound familiar?  We all crave this; however, some form passions based largely on fact—and some do not.

One insight into the Evangelical group is how they are strong followers of evangelical leadership.  They believe each leader is sent from God, so they follow their instructions closely.  A tight community, they are often monitored by each other, as well as the leadership.  Those who fall in line are accepted and those who don’t are “counseled” to believe and act differently.  Those who disagree may still be accepted by the group, (depending on the issue), but there remains a tension between the disagreeing person and the rest of the community. 

There is much more insight here, but my point is that armed with intimate knowledge about what motivates Deniers, we can begin to formulate strategies to both reach and educate them.  Which brings us to the next critical step…

2.  Recruit Those Deniers Admire to Spread Important Facts

Taking what we know about Deniers into consideration, begin to form partnerships with leaders who may have influence, perhaps Evangelicals who do believe thoughtfully in conservation, animal-welfare and/or public health to present the science.  Using language that is respectful of what they believe, meet them where they are by praising their beliefs in scientific fact. 

There are Christians, Christian leaders, Republicans[4], Libertarians[5], National Executive Groups[6], as well as Oil Executives[7], who are concerned about the environment and share an appreciation for what has been discovered about climate change and the dangers it poses.  For example, recently, several thinking Republicans have supported measures aimed at “using American innovation to improve environmental stewardship.”[8]

Approaching climate-conscious conservatives and other supportive groups and individuals and urging them to speak out on the issue—separately from known environmental groups--is a way to meet these groups where they are without making them feel threatened.  Since many of the groups who are dismissive of the environment are followers, they can have great influence.  Some in the environmental movement are taking it further by communicating to those who do not believe in climate change in respectful ways.[9]  Choosing language that is more psychologically influential is a powerful part of public communication.

The best way for these leaders to communicate with Deniers is to show them how and why they support the environment.  Indeed, there are intellectual Christian arguments to support the environment[10] and there are economic and pro-investment reasons as well.  I often refer to the economic successes of solar energy, for example.  And I’ve recited this scripture:  “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” (Numbers 35:33-34)  Speaking in their language is often a strong motivator, but encouraging and making way for a leader they admire, be it an astronaut or military leader, who speaks their language, and is motivated by some of their own beliefs, is much stronger than going alone.

3. Give Republicans the Tools To Save Face

I believe, based on what’s going on in Washington, that many elected Republican officials want to support the environment, but the extreme wing of the party currently carries too much influence.  Environmental issues are typically seen as a liberal agenda, with climate change action and green energy policy originating with the Democratic party and its voters only. That motivates Republican members to push back for political reasons rather than what they actually believe is true.  But what if they came up with a superior policy all on their own?  What would a creative Republican-driven climate-friendly policy look like?  What if they were the heroes who got something done and worked across the isle to win bi-partisan support?  Both parties would win, but more importantly, our environment would benefit.

It’s not all politics; denial is also a reality of our evolutionary make-up, which leads me to another evolutionary secret to persuasion…

4.  Appeal to Women to Talk to Denier Men about Climate Change: A Personal Campaign

Do mothers, grandmothers, wives, aunts, daughters and sisters have influence?  You bet they do.[11]  We have a courageous army we don’t acknowledge.  In fact, a majority of conservative women believe in climate change.[12]

A highly personal campaign, showing concern for loved ones is not only smart, it is necessary.

Just as commercials about Medicare show women speaking to their husbands about the importance of their health, the right kind of campaign educates Republican families on why Republicans, Nixon and Ford, for example, supported the environment.  I see Christian wives, sisters, aunts and daughters who can argue what the Bible really says about environmental stewardship.[13]  And the smartest gender on investment could talk to their husbands about why supporting environmental investment and dollars is critical, as well as their vote.

And there is another critical audience that has influence...

5.  Smart American CEO’s Should Speak Directly To Wall Street Republicans

The immature, simple-minded fight over climate change policy often shows itself as the economy-versus-environment debate.  It makes for great television drama, but it isn’t quite right.  It’s the ugliness of politics at work and overcoming that position is complicated.  But lining up the facts as well as CEOs who recognize why this is so important, may be easier with Wall Street Republicans, who can be moderate on the environment.  Regulations is their dirty word, but here you have a greater educated public than the other audiences we have discussed here. CEO’s care about their businesses and the markets effected by climate change at the end of the day, and we need to show them how a healing environment is worth their time and energy—as well as their reputation.

And speaking of markets…

6.  Go Local and Bring the Threat Home

Segmenting is the way publicists and public communicators effectively spread ideas--and it is effective.  To counter the disconnect that we’ve been talking about, talk to all audiences about what they see happening and why.  Why are there more hurricanes that hit our town?  Why are the trees in our forest dying?  Why is the cost of our local oranges going up? Climate change discussions need to be framed as matters related to current impacts at the local level. It is great that we want to save polar bears, but what will motivate most people are the risks right now, and in their own backyard.

We know humans tend not to protect those things they either don’t know or don’t value, so ingraining a sense of value in their backyards is critical. In fact, there is a strong relationship between an individual’s connection to nature and their ecological behavior.

The last tactic is…

7.  Conduct Preventative Campaigns

Last, it is not enough to push out the facts; you also must combat misinformation.  According to inoculation theory, facts are important but by themselves aren’t sufficient to convince people as long as misinformation is also a daily reality. People also have to be inoculated against the misinformation. [14]  This means pre-emptively protecting public attitudes about climate change against real-world misinformation.

We know now that a foreign government has been seeking to spread false information here in the U.S. in order to cause chaos.  We also know that groups here are doing the very same thing.  As I mentioned, there are groups who listen to this information and they are followers—and they actually look for consensus cues. [15]  In the absence of their own intellectual curiosity, and often feeling marginalized themselves, what should I believe is their own internal struggle.  These are not truth seekers; they are easily fooled.  How do we help them?  By taking them out of their subjective perception and clearly showing them the overwhelming consensus that climate change is real and threatening.  Along the way, you want to use the correct spokespeople to communicate with them about the weakest parts of the untruth, explaining the fallacies employed by the myth. Once the audience understands the techniques used to distort the truth, they can reconcile the myth they once believed in with what is real.

There is both a wrong and an effective way to communicate this.  We must be dedicated to communicate in their language, with leadership they respect and through media outlets they watch and read.  After all, it is issues that drive wave elections, but that only makes a difference when voters understand who truly represents their beliefs.

We can showcase the message that we can all acknowledge that our intuition can be wrong at times, therefore forgiving this giant and unfortunate mistake of denial.[16]

Again, there are communications strategies that will meet the Deniers right where they are, in order to finally get through to them, but only once we believe it can be done.

Sarah Sherwood is a publicist in Northern California who has worked for Stanford Hospital & Clinics, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, the CDC and many other clients in science and medicine.  She is the chair of hospitality for her beloved church.


















An Interview with Dr. Gustavo Carvalho, Bariatric Surgeon, Universidade de Pernambuco

HI Sarah, at first I’d like to say thank you, it is for me not only great honor but a great pleasure to work with you again in this interview, and I hope I can be of some help not only to give my sincere opinion but also to share my enthusiasm about Minilaparoscopy, that is possibly one of the most sub used great technique of minimally invasive surgery.

1. What is unique about the development of the new "mini-lap"?

 The low friction trocars were really a game changer for us, allowing us to tie knots and dissect tissue with an unmatched precision. Current Mini trocars we are using now, is called low friction, and unlike their ancestors from the 90s, do not have a sealing membrane or a valve (Low Friction). They have very low friction between trocar and forceps, therefore almost no force is needed to move the instruments inside the trocars. The possible increase in CO2leak was a huge reason for criticism at that time, but actually we measured ii, and it is so small – less than 0.1 l/min - that it does not impose any real consequence in the performance of the procedure. Its also nice to observe that many current technical limitations of MINI are being resolved by the efforts of the industry in crafting more resistant, with less chance to bend and higher performance instruments. The second point that we must stress about our new mini technique is that we have almost no use for the mini 3mm optics, especially for doing routine cases like cholecytectomies and inguinal hernias. For the third point we must not forget the fact that there are no 3mm clip appliers or stapling devices for mini. To solve this limitation, we have been always emphasizing the importance of the correct use of monopolar and bipolar electrosurgery, as well as the use of intracorporeal knots. Several procedures like appendectomy, inguinal hernia repair, anti-reflux procedures and of course our killer procedure mini-cholecystectomy are really suitable for the mini technique that we call clipless – it is overall much simpler and most efficient than the regular mini, that imposes a need to change optics in order to place clips - as we do not use the mini optics and consequently we can’t and don’t need to exchange the scope from 10 to 3mm and vice-versa just to put clips in the cystic duct and cystic artery - changing optics makes the procedure not only boring and time consuming but also more expensive as the mini-optics are expensive and not really long living. Mini clipless has been a real advancement for us. Wehave been performing this technique of Clipless cholecystectomy since 2000 and for that we have used just a standard 10-mm scope, we have been following very rigid standard principles, and after 16 years of experience we have done over 2.100 MINI Clipless cholecystectomies, without mortality, significant hemorrhage, cbd injuries or conversion to open surgery, when necessary, in few cases we have converted to regular laparoscopy – by placing 1 to 3 5mm trocars – that can undoubtedly confirm the safety of the mini clipless procedure. Currently, MINI Clipless is, depending on the settings, an ambulatorial procedure or a 1-day surgery, very safe, with all the advantages of laparoscopy, highly reproducible, cost effective, and with great aesthetic appeal leading to highly satisfied patient !

2.      How is it different from the old mini lap?

Ok Sarah, for that question let me take as an example the case of mini-clipless cholecystectomy: besides the fact that we use low friction trocars, what gives us much better dexterity and make our knot tying easier and quicker, not only when compared with regular laparoscopy but also when we compare it with the minis with regular trocars, we also have the advantage use a totally new generation of mini instruments, longer, much better crafted and with much stronger and durable material, when we compare them with the old instruments from the 90’s.

Still there are 5 points that must be emphasized in our technique that makes it a really simple and standard procedure, now being reproduced in several countries around the world.

1) Only one 11mm Trocar is used and its scar is hidden inside the navel, three other low friction mini-ports are used for inserting mini instruments.

2) As only one 10mm optics is used there is no necessity for boring and time consuming 3mm optics exchange, therefore we must tie knots.

3) Cystic duct is securely closed with surgical knots

4) Cystic Artery is safely sealed by electrocautery, strict principles must be followed for safe cauterization of cystic artery.

5) Gallbladder is always retrieved in a BAG, increasing safety for preventing contamination of the umbilical wound, also avoiding the necessity to exchange the optics.  

Considering that NOTES cholecystectomy is still experimental, although hybrid transvaginal cholecystectomy is gaining popularity in clinical practice and single port is still a nonstandard approach, with significant technical challenges, and a not stablished safety profile, Mini´s approach almost identical to the standard laparoscopic technique offers significant benefits without exposing patients to unecessary postoperative complications, therefore being the logical choice of evolution for a routine elective cholecystectomy.

3.      How do you think your new development will impact mini lap as it becomes more established in the industry?

In the last few years, mini has evolved from a mere surgical curiosity to a really useful and advantageous technique, and is currently being used more and more in many center around the world to perform a wide variety of surgical procedures in different surgical areas, such as colorectal, gynecologic, pediatric, urologic and general surgery, always in a safe and reproducible manner. The transition from traditional laparoscopy to Mini is really very smooth and easy for the general surgeon who is already well trained in laparoscopy. There is still however, a need to get familiarized with the mini-instruments and to learn some tips and tricks, for that, to supply that training, industry can be really helpful, as an untrained surgeon can jeopardize the technique for not using the instruments in the correct way, possibly damaging the instruments and the patient.

Another aspect that is important to mention is that mini is a cost saving procedure, Since low-friction mini-trocars and other mini instruments are reusable and now long lasting, Mini can lead to a significant cost reduction, since the high cost use of disposable equipment is avoided. On the other hand, the burden of clip appliers and staplers not existing for Mini procedures, reduces even more the total cost of different procedures. In the specific case ofcholecystectomy, not using clips not only saves money, but also surgical time since scope exchange is not necessary. In the case of inguinal hernia TEP repair, no balloon dissection is used and Mini-TEP is considerably faster compared to regular laparoscopic TEP repair. In mini appendectomy a knot is easily tied at the base, and no staplers are needed to be used in most of the cases. Staplers and clips are costly equipment, mini procedures, in general, do not use them, the advantages in cost effectiveness of mini procedures have been reported in surgical literature for different procedures calling the attention a paper published by Chekan at JSLS in 2013 when he found that mini cholecystectomy is more than 200 dollars cheaper than an average laparoscopic conventional chole. Considering that over 700.000 lap-choles are performed every year in USA, the adoption of mini besides all the advantages for the patients would imply in an economy of at least 140.000.000 USD, and those cases were not clipless, imagine if those cases could have been done clipless the economy would possibly be even higher.

4.      What do you see is the future for mini lap?

Even though mini has been among us for more than 20 years, we must say that the game is just starting for mini now, we believe in a bright future for mini in a not very long time from now. Unlike other new access methods like NOTES, Robotics and single-port, MINI reigns for its simplicity, offering increased dexterity, delicacy, and precision, without significantly adding extra costs and at the same time, maintaining the triangulation that is already an important stablished advantage of standard laparoscopy. As surgeons we all know that surgical precision has always been dear to our hearts. All those new developments will have a huge impact on mini as it will be progressively more standard and widespread as an efficient and cost effective surgical tool. Mini is more and more occupying the space that would in the long run be occupied by robots, but because of money shortage, that space is being occupied by minis. We will see from now, more and more, the most critical parts of a complicated laparoscopic procedure being done by minis, like a cbd exploration or reconstruction after a biliary procedure, or pyeloplasty, or a ureteral reconstruction, or tubal anastomosis, and believe me cosmetics will not be the reason, but true reason will be to use the proper instrument for the proper task. Imagine that a small needle for a 5-0 or 6-0 thread is better handled by a 3.0mm needle holder than with a 5mm needle holder. The surgeon who performs open surgery do not use the same instrument for different scale tasks. When they close the abdomen, which is a brutal task they use bigger and stronger needle holder and forceps, but when they are performing a very delicate anastomosis like a cbd or vascular suturing they switch theirs instruments for more delicate and proper ones. Why an endoscopic-surgeon must use only 5mm and 10mm instruments during a whole lap procedure. We believe that in a near future for example during a pacreatoduodenectomy a surgeon will switch to a robot to perform the more delicate anastomosis in a much more precise way, but for the surgeon who do not have enough resources to invest in a robot, still he will have the choice to do better by using mini instruments. In the long run mini would be considered the poor man robot. In the near future mini will be recognized not only as a tool with cosmetic advantages but with all the real advantages: besides being a simple and standard procedure, it gives the patient much less wall damage, is cost effective, have improved visualization and dexterity, keeping a safety profile compatible to standard laparoscopy, all those advantages that mini can provide goes far beyond cosmesis, the only proven advantage of single port so far!

5.      What other new things are you working on?

Most of our new plans now includes the development of new mini tools, and applying mini in even more advanced procedures, that will make mini even more attractive. Also we are pushing mini to the limits, doing now all advanced surgeries and procedures that we believe are much better performed by mini than regular LAP. We are now also working very hard in sending the mini message to the world, so more surgeons around the world will be able to understand that mini has much more to offer than just a pretty face, and cosmesis is just a good side effect of mini. When surgeons are able to understand that message they will be able to enjoy the real benefits of mini. We are also collaborating with many important surgical societies, like SOBRACIL, SLS and ELSA among others. We also are trying very hard to keep mini on the media and to make it even more attractive for surgeons and patients. We have recently started a facebook group named mini friends, and so far it is a great success being accessed regularly by more than 2300 surgeons around the world, who are interested in minimally invasive surgery, very interesting discussions including videos, pictures, questionings and case reports are being discussed frequently there, and for that we believe facebook is an amazing tool. We believe mini is now mature, but the real message of mini still need to be spoken and for that we once more thank you SARAH for the opportunity!

Gustavo Carvalho, M.D., is a laparoscopic/bariatric surgeon in Recife, Brazil, with subspecialties in minimally invasive surgery. He is a Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons (SLS) faculty member and recognized as a pioneer in mini-laparoscopy.

Why I Target Newspapers To Reach Sophisticated Client Audiences

By Sarah Sherwood, publicist

Let’s face it:  The power of news coverage not only names you, but helps define your company.  We know the competition for news coverage is fierce for our client’s target audience.  The American attention span has changed, but hunger for good information hasn’t.  To be sure, traditional news remains an important part of public life. More than seven-in-ten U.S. adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely and 65% follow international news with the same regularity.[1]  For those who pay attention and crave news – a key audience for most clients – it’s a jungle out there.  But there are specific strategies that help you get through.

Today specific targeting of communications is more crucial, period.  Even in 2017 there are many, many targets, of great variety.  But don’t be fooled—there are too many outlets that are not well read and/or do not have much credibility and they are a waste of your time and money. Smarter targeting involves first knowing your audience well, including which sources they’re really getting their news from so your communications staff can focus on primarily delivering to those traditional and digital media outlets, third party organizations and potential partners that will garner results and meet goals. Even though there are fewer traditional media outlets, my experience tells me that if you are targeting a more sophisticated audience, there are more results with traditional news media coverage because traditional news still carries more weight. And my money is on newspapers, both in digital, and yes, paper form.

The Established, the higher-middle class to the upper crust audience, engage with and trust print advertising over digital media. In fact, research shows that print advertising in newspapers ranked the highest among millionaires, in their engagement potential, at a high of 74 percent.[2]  Why?  Generally speaking, these are the people who have the patience to engage for a longer amount of time, and are impressed when the content moves them (because they tend to be more passionate).  They tend to have higher levels of emotional intellect, which translates into a real reader.  They tend to live in one place longer, which hints at stability.[3]

It is true that overall Americans distrust in news outlets is growing, among mostly younger audiences and some have stopped reading newspapers all together.  But again, don’t be fooled.  If you are targeting a sophisticated reader, one with more experience, education and income (generally speaking), these are newspaper readers. For the average Daily reader, who has spending and decision-making power, trust in the media has declined only marginally, according to Pew research.  These are Americans who decry lower standards of journalism, such as opinion-driven writing and outlets with less rigorous reporting criteria.  So while you are pleased that your marketing materials are out there on social media sites, don’t be too pleased, because it doesn’t tend to work with a sophisticated audience.  Overall numbers do not matter—it is who is viewing your advertisement or news story that is important.  With social media, with the exception of a few, it’s easier to click through and off.

In contrast, newspapers have a highly dependable audience.

Digital newspaper readership, however, is growing, and will grow out of its adolescence as newspapers continue to figure out how we like to consume its information.  Social media is showing pretty low confidence scores[4], and my experience is that in general (there are real exceptions), it can be pretty tough to sell to a customer via social media, as opposed to digital news, although your best bet is to have an integrated marketing and publicity campaign that will both persuade and tell your publics where to go. Just know that your readers will see social media information as advertisements rather than news[5].  Even with younger readers, you want more recognizable news brands, with a history of accuracy, in order to persuade.[6]

The fact is that newspaper readership is mostly made up of an established, stable, more educated and higher income audience, which is critical to your sophisticated campaign. 

So why aren’t more communications departments going after publicity and publicity targeted toward newspapers? Marketing and publicity are different and highly specialized, and we used to respect this—but that is changing—with the blending of marketing and publicity.  We see marketing professionals writing press releases that do not produce results.  We see marketing talent too broadly. Organizations that want to reach a dependable, sophisticated audience need high level publicists in every organization or agencies that specialize and truly understand the news media.

It’s always been a challenge to break through the competition for ink, but using social media as a substitute for traditional media coverage is a mistake.  It is much better to engage in an integrated campaign with both marketing and publicity professionals working side by side.

Sarah Sherwood




















The Art of the Dinner Party

by Sarah Sherwood

Think of the beginning of your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn experience, building an audience until it takes off. That is the ancient art of the dinner party. 

They come to forget about the stock price, the mother in law, or the missing pearls. Some come nervous; some cannot wait to jump in and put their best foot forward. 

As with well-designed social media campaigns and sites, it needs to be a great place to go. You’re throwing a dinner party; fun and indulgence in the 1920’s will forever have its place. Making it perfect requires details just as important as the photos in Pintrest, or the recommendations on LinkedIn. 

A dinner party must be a place where people can come to forget about their troubles, and gather to celebrate life with friends, acquaintances, and people they would want to meet. It doesn’t have to break the bank—it has to distract in order to bring out what is lovely about life: good hearted people, lively music, delicious food and then things like color, a little nature a la flowers, and all in the appropriate spot and, just in time. 

To plan your party, like your web site, step back and ask yourself: when people walk in the door, for the first time, what do you want them to see? What do you want to communicate straight on? As they move about the evening, what do you want them to remember about their experience?

Good party (and on line) planning considers the visitor, and his likes, so that means you will consider whom she wants to sit next to—this matters tremendously. How can you encourage the best of conversations? Answer: with beautiful art, travel photographs and, in some cases, with children running around. People love to talk about other cultures and their kids. 

Put away your electronics, unless they are truly the next best helpful thing, and do not, and I mean this, carry your cell phone. If you are the lucky guest, you must make sure that any technology you carry is transported with class. If your boss calls, please politely step outside. Being a nerd can be very helpful, but not at a dinner party. I have a friend who is a genius Hollywood high tech executive, and he has the best way of showing off with music and technology. He enlists his baby grand and highlights it with some beautiful black box that carries the music throughout the house. It works.

I think about web sites with phony, flashy technology and shake my head.

Once they have arrived, take good care of your people. Refresh them with not just a drink; but with your prized smile. A happy host or hostess, not overdressed, but elegant and kind, steals the show. 

Now it is time for the toast. Make it about someone you love and you will shine. If you fumble, laugh at yourself and carry on. If announcing you are running for office, be human.

And then you know you’ve made it; you look around and even so and so is having a great time. Because, and this is the point, the conversation they longed for has taken place. 

Ah, community. Someone needs to tell Sartre that heaven is other people, too.

How Women in Business Are Moving Forward

by Sarah Sherwood

This is still so pertinent I want to republish this article from two years ago…

As seen in the Grassy Road Blog:

“Don’t be a woman in drag,” went the article. “Act like a lady,” was the advice. In my 20+ years as a publicist I have seen this kind of counsel hurt women both personally and professionally. The truth is that women have been transcending this kind of advice since we have worked outside the home, which is as long as men have been working, actually. We’re acting as if women just walked into the boardroom and they can’t figure it out, when working is what women have been doing for many, many years. It’s mildly annoying to be told how to be, how to act, or how to go through any “how-to-be” training program.

At American University, where I studied public communication, there were basically two different camps in communications theory, a.k.a. preparing clients for how to be, in public. One group believed that public communicators must tightly control the client and then manage closely, moving them with the script. People in politics tend to follow this formula.

The other group believed more in authenticity, arguing that you can damage their communications with too much control. This group of communicators give their clients a few perimeters based on their goals and work with the client’s own style to bring out what they want to say. This makes some communication professionals nervous. What it does is force them to sign good clients who have positive intentions.

I’ve been in the later camp since I left graduate school, but even more now. This is what we women need to do: lovingly, and without worry, self-police ourselves. Speak up, yes, and speak authentically. People can see right through the kind of personal positioning that Penny refers to in her post because the words you choose are insignificant compared to the tone you use, which come from your beliefs. When you come from what you believe you’re always more powerful. This is what I tell women.

Successful women have figured out that to solve problems, we need to first prioritize, hire what we need, work hard and be who we are. That’s it. These women are taking time out to raise their children, or looking for good quality childcare. They are having long talks with their husbands and their bosses. They are concerned about quality relationships in and out of the office. And they are making it work. They always have.

From my perspective, it is easy to see that people everywhere are oversold. They see through the B.S. and yearn for a quieter place. What do they want besides an efficient solution to their problem? They want honesty—basically a friend in business. How many companies have this kind of relationship with their public? I applaud those who do.

So please stop telling us how to behave. We moved on a long time ago, figuring out that it is much better and much easier just to be us.

Improving the Image of Physicians in the U.S.

by Sarah Sherwood

In Dr. Kaci Durbin’s excellent article today for entitled Doctors: You Have a PR Problem, she describes the response to the negative portrayal and assumptions of physicians as near silent amidst the firestorm of criticism. Indeed, the public perception of physicians has been on the decline, while they are being framed as greedy and limited in knowledge. As a communications professional who has worked with scientific organizations for more than 25 years, I can assure you that not enough has been done to correct this misperception—a larger communications campaign is needed to ensure the integrity of the physician reputation. The basic communications lesson is this: If you don’t continue to define yourselves in an effective way, you will be defined by someone else. And that someone else doesn’t understand medicine as you do. Here are my recommendations:

1.  First, Increase Your Understanding of the Communications Profession

“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” – John D. Rockefeller

What is PR, exactly? In the medical field, there is a lack of understanding of what good communications is all about: educating the public with facts and important points of view. Good PR professionals share the truth, connect scientists with the right reporters and utilize critical third parties to educate the public. Professionals with international agency experience, and/or agencies on the international level have the skills necessary to actually alleviate perception problems. They present the facts effectively not just to the traditional media, but also directly through integrated marketing and social media campaigns. Your job is to be available to speak out on behalf of the profession and your patients.

Action:  Hire International Agency Experience to Integrate Improved Skill into Your Campaigns

2.  Move Out of Your Comfort Zone: Speak Out

I speak about this regularly because it is so critical to public identity. Being defined by your audience is often not a good place to be, because there is a true lack of knowledge when one doesn’t go through medical school or have the experience with patients over the long haul. The public doesn’t benefit from this lack of knowledge about physicians, and what they actually do for patients and society. The images we hear about are reinforced by the physician scientist, who has been socialized by our culture and through medical school to speak conservatively. But studies show that physicians have a strong intuitive side and many are extroverts—and these are the professionals who would make effective spokespersons. However, I have worked with many introverts who are successful in educating the public in a substantive way. What matters is that you do speak out. Your concern about patients each and every day is equally critical to the message as showing how much knowledge one has.

Action:  Cultivate Excellent Spokespersons

3.  Coalesce To Build Strength in Your Public Communication

Keeping quiet has significant negative ramifications, but struggling through this negative perception individually is worse—not just on morale, but on the collective reputation. An effective public campaign includes a coalition that shows strength in numbers and in the extrinsic commitment to patient care. There are many great physician organizations who concentrate on their members, but not enough on reputation and public identity. The good news is it is easily remedied through effective public education campaigns.

Action:  Support each other publicly as well as internally, with a shared campaign

4.  Empower Female and Minority Scientists To Speak Out and Educate

The physician reputation doesn’t need to soften or be ultra-personalized—that is a mistake—instead, it needs to show effectiveness and inclusion. There are patients who need to hear from female or minority physicians. Particularly, the history of women in the profession, recent and even not so recent, is not always so helpful and can add to the negativity. But that is changing, and there are many male leaders in medicine who regularly empower their female colleagues. Moreover, the strength of each culture involving women and minorities can only add to the profession’s reputation. Show off the brilliant diversity in medicine and diminish the perception (and myth) that medicine is only for white men.

Action:  Increase the comfort with the profession through important groups

Thanks to Dr. Kaci Durbin and others, we are moving toward solving the identity problem in order to understand the necessities and complexities of the profession and transition from the problem she so aptly describes. Medicine needs to be understood. Medicine needs to be appreciated for all it provides, under sometimes difficult circumstances. Medicine needs a public information campaign.

Sarah Sherwood is a publicist who has been practicing since 1990. She can be reached at