Spinning your wheels with email? Time to get creative.
A few weeks ago, I was doing research for an article on the increasing role of Web 2.0 in healthcare IT, and I hit a bit of wall. I found two CIOs who had accounts on Twitter, and I really wanted to interview both of them. While it wasn’t difficult to get in touch with John Halamka, whom I’ve spoken with in the past, it wasn’t so easy to pin down Will Weider, CIO at Affinity Health System and Ministry Health Care in Wisconsin.
I initially emailed both CIOs, and while I was able to get through to John (possibly because he recognized my name), I wasn’t so lucky with Will. I sent out an email, but heard nothing back. So I dug a little deeper and found his blog, which provided all of his contact information, including his Twitter address. Having just created my own Twitter page (www.Twitter.com/khgamble), I found his site and hit "follow." A short while later, I got an email informing me that Will Weider was now following me, so I sent him a direct message through Twitter asking if I could interview him for the article. My pitch, by the way, was limited to 140 characters (a standard on Twitter).
A short while later, I saw that he had responded, and had to contain myself from doing a dance of joy. He said I could either call him over the weekend (which was out since I was headed for Vermont) or schedule a time for the following Monday with his assistant. He then sent me a codeword that his assistant would require in order to confirm that Will Weider did indeed intend to set up an interview with me.
Why all the Mission Impossible antics, you ask? When I spoke with Will, he told me that not only does he get as many as 800-900 emails a day, but his assistant gets inundated with calls from people assuring her that Will knows who they are and wants to speak with them. Using social media tools like Twitter, he said, has made his life easier by enabling him to more quickly sort through messages, and by helping him to, well, cut through some of the muck. If he relied only on phone calls and email to maintain communications, he’d probably spend all day doing just that.
It was a very valuable lesson for me; if at first you don’t succeed by email, try, try another method. It’s funny — all the research I did was helpful, but the experience of trying to get through to Will Weider taught me everything I needed to know about social media.