“I’ve got a new one for you.”
A few years ago, during a weekly staff call, I was relating a recent conversation with the media relations director at a health system about a potential interview with the CIO.
To be frank, I don’t look forward to these discussions, but I understand the need many organizations have for a ‘gate keeper,’ and so I’m happy to play along. I did the usual preparation for the call, making sure I had information about our publication, audience and editorial policies, as well as what the interview would entail.
But, as it turned out, all the legwork in the world couldn’t prepare me for the question the media relations director (who I’ll call ‘Bob’) threw at me. “Is your publication planning to contact our vendors? Because if you do, we don’t want to do the interview.”
When I asked Bob to clarify, he explained what had happened. A few months earlier, a sales rep from a publication that was running an article about the health system reached out to the vendors that were mentioned, and suggested they purchase ad space. But it didn’t stop there. The rep called again, this time putting more pressure on the vendor to “scratch our backs, since we’re scratching yours.” The vendor was so disgusted that they contacted Bob to let him know what was happening.
And so, quite understandably, they became quite hesitant to agree to interviews. Who could blame them? For CIOs — and all health IT leaders, for that matter — time is precious. More than that, it’s a commodity. When they’re willing to lend a half-hour (or even more time) to share their knowledge, the last thing they need is unnecessary drama.
When I told Anthony and Nancy about the conversation, they were floored, likening it to a “pay for play” philosophy — something no one with integrity wants to be part of. But what really stood out to me was Nancy’s reaction. Rather than piling on and insulting the sales rep, she treated it as a wake-up call; a reminder that although it may be tempting to blur the lines (especially when sales metrics aren’t being met), the risk is too great.
And she’s absolutely right. Author H. Jackson Brown once said, “Take care of your reputation; it’s your most valuable asset.”
To me, healthsystemCIO.com’s reputation is one of integrity, and it shows through the content we produce, the way we carry ourselves as individuals, and the organizations we partner with. And sometimes, upholding that comes with a price. For example, I’m often asked why we don’t conduct interviews with vendor CEOs or social media all-stars (with massive Twitter followings), but our focus is on CIOs and other C-suite leaders. Believe me, I’d love to double the amount of followers I have, but it’s not worth compromising our integrity.
It’s one of the biggest advantages of being a smaller publication; one that doesn’t answer to a board or a parent company. The same sentiments have been echoed by many of the CIOs we’ve interviewed from community or critical access hospitals (including Denni McColm and Patrick Yount, to name a few) — that although there are drawbacks of being small, there’s also a sense of pride and ownership that isn’t always felt in large IDNs.
But what’s more important than the size and scope of an organization is the culture. And, as so many leaders have pointed out, it starts at the top. If the message your team gets is that nothing is more important than the bottom line, it will show in their actions. On the other hand, if the message they get is to put quality first, and people first, that will show in their actions.
And it will reflect on your entire organization.