Blogging Tips From a Disgraced Hospital
Blogging – unless you’re just doing it for fun – is a business. So bloggers can learn a lot from what makes other businesses thrive or fail. Today I bring you the sorry tale of a failing hospital – a tragedy with lessons for us all.
This week, here in the UK, we’re reeling from the report of a public inquiry into the spectacular failure of Stafford hospital – a general hospital in the heart of England, part of our much loved National Health Service. If you saw the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games in 2012, you’ll know how fond and proud we Brits are of our health service – for those of you who missed it, there was a lengthy sequence with idealised images of caring nurses in pristine uniforms lovingly tending the sick. Sadly, this is a far cry from what’s been going on at Stafford.
Stafford Hospital has become a national scandal of epic proportions. In the years leading up to 2008, hundreds of patients endured appalling suffering due to atrocious standards of care. The news has been full of harrowing tales of neglect – desperately sick patients left lying for hours in their own excrement, food and drink left out of reach – there were even reports of patients drinking water out of flower vases. Hygiene was so abysmal that patients’ relatives cleaned the toilets themselves.
People didn’t just suffer – they died. The hospital’s mortality rates were sky high.
How could this happen in a wealthy western democracy in the 21st century? How could a hospital, whose mission is to save life and relieve suffering, foul up so catastrophically?
The public inquiry has analysed exactly what went wrong and its report highlights some fundamental flaws, which led the hospital to lose its way. Now, it may seem a giant leap from running a hospital to blogging, but some of the failings that led to the mess at Stafford are exactly the same kind of mistakes that could scupper your blog – so listen up, folks….
1. Not Putting Your Customers First
The main criticism levelled at the managers of Stafford hospital is that they failed to put patients at the centre of their work. They had other priorities (like money and targets) and lost sight of their number one commitment – to take good care of their patients.
So – are you looking after your readers? Do you try to see things from their point of view? Or are you distracted by other concerns?
Your readers are your blog’s lifeblood – so neglect them at your peril. They should always be at the forefront of your mind. If you forget – or just don’t bother – to put your readers first in everything you do, you’re setting your blog up to fail.
2. Not Listening
The people in charge of Stafford hospital had no culture of listening to feedback – they took no notice when patients or staff raised concerns about standards of care.
What about you? Do you really listen to your readers? This should be a no-brainer, because blogging’s supposed to be interactive – it’s a conversation, not a monologue, so it goes without saying that listening’s part of the deal. But do you?
Are you accessible? Do you have a contact form on your site so it’s easy for people to get in touch with you? Do you encourage people to leave comments on your blog? And if they do – do you respond to them?
If you want your blog to succeed, you’ve got to pay attention to what your readers have to say – even if it’s not always complimentary! Listen – and learn.
3. Letting Standards Slip
Stafford hospital’s managers were criticised for “a tolerance of poor standards”. They simply failed to focus on the quality of the service they were providing.
So how’s your blog’s quality control? What kind of standards do you set for yourself? Do you bust a gut to make your blog the best it can possibly be? Is the layout pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate? Is your content top notch? Do you spend time editing and proofreading your posts?
If you’re prepared to make do with mediocre content and just churn out poorly written articles in the belief that any old rubbish will do, your readers will notice, believe me – and they’ll vote with their feet. There are plenty of high quality blogs on the web – if you want to compete with them, you’d better not let your own standards go down the pan. Quality matters – it really does!
4. Focusing on “Numbers” not “People”
One of the main criticisms levelled at the people in charge at Stafford was their obsession with finances and meeting “targets” – they were immersed in the numbers game and forgot they were dealing with human beings.
What about you – are you preoccupied with your blog’s analytics results, traffic stats, Page Rank and Alexa scores? I’ve had an interesting chat about this with some fellow bloggers just this week on Google+. My good friend Atish of TechTricksWorld had kindly congratulated a number of bloggers on their Page Rank scores, but Mayura, of Mayura4Ever, chipped in with a comment saying he prefers “Reader Rank”. I said I thought it was nice to have both and Mayura said he agreed, but wisely pointed out that our priority must be PEOPLE, because there’s no point blogging without them. Words of wisdom from a great blogger – thanks for putting us straight on that one, Mayura!
5. Lack of Insight and Self-awareness
The people running Stafford hospital lacked insight into their own shortcomings – they didn’t see what was happening to patients, right under their noses. There was plenty of evidence things were going wrong, but they were blind to the warning signs. They were unwilling to take a good, hard look at their own service and scrutinize what was actually going on.
If your blog’s going to thrive, you need to be willing to analyse and reflect on your own performance. That includes being open to criticism and prepared to recognise your failings. We all have weaknesses; we all make mistakes. The trick is to learn from them.
Blogging Lessons from the Stafford Inquiry
I don’t want to trivialise what’s occurred at Stafford – I’m a nurse by profession and as devastated and distressed as anyone by what’s happened there. But I think it’s perfectly valid for us to draw lessons from this disaster. Running a hospital and blogging may seem poles apart, but they both involve providing a service; and the success or failure of any service – whether it’s a hospital, blog, garage, burger bar or department store – largely depends on the underlying values and motives of whoever’s running the show.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s driving you? What’s your blog really for? Who is it for? Are you truly focusing on your readers’ needs?
- Are you listening to your readers? Do you make it easy for them to talk to you and pay attention to what they have to say?
- What standards do you set for yourself? Do you strive to provide the highest quality, the best value you possibly can?
- What are your top priorities? What’s most important to you – your stats or your readers?
- Are you aware of your own weaknesses, open to criticism and willing to learn from your mistakes?
Do you really want to make money blogging? I may be naive, but I think the financial rewards will eventually come if you get your priorities right. If Stafford had been a private hospital dependent on market forces, I don’t think many patients would have paid for the privilege of spending a single night in one of their beds. It would never have survived as a business.
Thankfully, if you make these kind of mistakes, no human being will suffer and die as a result – but your blog just might.
OK – over to you – what motivates you to keep blogging? Which principles and values do you think are crucial to your blog’s success? As ever, I’d love to hear from you – so if you’d like to join in the conversation, please leave a comment below.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post, it would be great if you’d share it with your friends!
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