red balloon

allisonwithdavinci1At red balloon, we get to work with some really terrific people, and our friends at Davis General Surgery are no exception. Based in Nevada, Dr. Davis and her Director of Operations, Charmin, work with us regularly to develop content that gets engagement and compliments from colleagues.

In this client spotlight we take a closer look at the collaborative relationship that has developed over the past six months. red balloon understands branding and “voice”, and what works to engage clients. What we don’t know is… general surgery. That’s where a great collaboration comes into play. We asked Charmin what she had to share about getting the best out of our collective creative relationship:

What is your position / title?
My official title is Director of Operations at Davis General Surgery. I am helping Allison K. Davis, M.D. establish and run a private general surgery practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. My functional roles include business development, financial management and personnel management.

What made you seek social media consulting?
Physicians, especially specialists like general surgeons, get new patients via referrals from other doctors, hospital staff, and others in the field of medicine. In addition, more and more patients are becoming savvy consumers, and seeking out their doctors of choice. I strongly feel that having an online presence which includes active social media allows Dr. Davis to reach both communities. She maintains a professional network through Twitter and Facebook, but also reaches out to patients directly via her blog and email newsletters. The links between these applications, organized by red balloon, allow for cross-pollination.

What do you find most helpful about working with red balloon?
My expectation is that red balloon will deliver two things. 1- a consistent schedule. We work with red balloon to create all content a month at a time, then red balloon makes sure it is posted according to schedule. I hate to admit it, but this would be difficult to do on my own with all my other priorities. 2 – technical management. Do I need to know the size of the Facebook banner? Do I need to know required formatting for the blog? No. And I don’t want to.

You provide a lot of ideas for content – where do those ideas come from?
• My own work. I feel like I have a little elf sitting on my shoulder that says, “Hey, that thing you did? That should go on the blog!” I make it a priority to generate content ideas.
• Collaboration with Dr. Davis. We spend a lot of time talking about patient care and talking about the business. I used to always say, “You should write a book!” I still think that, but these days, I’m more likely to say “Let’s get that on Facebook!”

One of the blog posts I’m most proud of is about why your doctor may not take your insurance. This came directly from an issue we dealt with at the office. We have turned down patients who want to see Dr. Davis because she is not a provider for a particular insurance. She wants to be a provider, but this particular company has found a way to save money by only having a few general surgeons on their provider list. In this case, the insurance company is the only winner. Dealing with this issue in the office inspired the article, which I think is very educational. Plus, we were able to get a small positive outcome from a frustrating situation.

We often wish we had more client feedback, but many clients feel too busy to provide in-depth feedback and content ideas – what makes it important for you to be as involved as you are?
I have a clear vision of the audiences we are trying to reach. When I come across something that triggers the light bulb, “our audience should know this”, I email Dani at red balloon and say, “Let’s develop this into something.”

I have a clear vision of the message we are trying to send. Dr. Davis has a compelling story. She’s a blend of old-fashioned patient care evangelist, mixed with an early adopter technologist with advanced skills in robotic and laparoscopic surgeries. I can see that message sticks with our audiences because I’m there in person. I communicate that with Dani so she can carry that through in our social media.

To me, social media is one part of the “business development” umbrella. I’ve done the work to define our target audiences, the message we want to send, and the results we want to achieve. It’s my responsibility to make sure red balloon understands that and delivers on-target. It’s not productive to say “build me a house” without any sort of direction as to where, what size, how many bedrooms, etc.

What do you enjoy about a collaborative relationship?
Dani and the red balloon staff are on-board. We have a great collaboration. It would be an impossible task for me to expect Dani to read my mind and create content without my input. Likewise, Dani is my eyes and ears on current articles and trends that might perfectly correspond with our message. We hit the tennis ball back and forth over the net a few times and the end result is better than each of us playing on our own.

From Dani, I’ve learned the content that sticks can be as simple as a candid photo and to always be on the look-out for content. For example, Dr. Davis gave a community presentation this week on abdominal pain. I have the slides and photos ready to send to Dani — I promise!

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I was recently asked to speak about toxic relationships on The Morning Scramble with Pat McMahon. We had a great conversation and the information is so helpful, both for employees enduring difficult co-workers, and leadership handling situations with negative middle managers, that I had to share here on my blog.

Employees and employers alike are often at a loss with defining and dealing with toxic dynamics. What we’re talking about is people who are resistant, narcissistic, passive aggressive, manipulative or people who make others feel bad with negative comments, actions or energy. This is a particularly difficult topic because we don’t have protections at work against this kind of behavior – it isn’t necessarily abusive and it’s not the same as Title VI protections which typically deal with discrimination issues. These behaviors are also productivity killers for companies – you end up with entire departments full of toxic personalities, and all the good people give up and go away. Here are some of the questions and answers from this segment:

Why are some employers reluctant to deal with interpersonal conflicts in the workplace?
Many C suite executives are under tremendous pressure and feel pulled in many directions, and while it’s not an acceptable reason to look the other way, it’s the reality. Leadership must make connecting with employees a priority on a regular basis.

Handling a difficult personality also requires some finesse, and that can be intimidating for managers at any level. They could also be concerned about ramifications of messy emotional conversations, or disciplining a middle manager. They may also be reluctant to make a change if that manager’s department is healthy and generating revenue – it’s not right, but it’s a factor.

What are some tips for employers handling a toxic middle manager?
It’s important to determine early on if this was a bad hiring decision or if something has happened in this person’s life recently that’s making them edgier than usual. If it’s a manager who can’t change (or won’t change), it’s time to start moving that person out the door. Sometimes it’s easier to document problems and conversations up to the point of asking for a resignation – you may just have to let someone go. It’s unpleasant, but depending on the issues at hand, it may be the best solution involved. It’s important to remember that angry personalities crush morale, and that you may begin losing talented and loyal employees if you don’t deal with a toxic manager.

What are some tips for having a conversation with a toxic middle manager as the employer?
1. address the issue directly and honestly, sharing your concerns (ideally this is happening very soon after observing a problem or receiving a complaint)
2. keep it brief, and be willing to listen
3. avoid public embarrassment, discuss concerns one and one and not generally in groups
4. don’t make assumptions, ask for feedback and input, ask the manager how they suggest resolving the issue
5. If the manager indicates that they have some issues to resolve personally, contact your company’s HR dept and connect the manager with your EAP if you have one
6. explain expectations and consequences going forward
7.  I have found this tip especially helpful: ask the manager to write up an outline of the conversation as they understand it by the end of the day – this will allow you to document that you both have the same understanding of the matters discussed and an additional opportunity to clarify your agreement going forward

What are your tips from an employee perspective for dealing with a toxic work environment?
It’s tough to deal with a negative personality but there are a few things you can do. If the person is generally a good person going through a rough time, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you’re sorry for what they’re dealing with. Keep it short and get back to the work tasks at hand.

If the person doesn’t take the hint and goes on and on, stop asking and acknowledging the issues and stick to work conversations. Keep interactions short. Form “alliances” with co-workers who understand, and ask them for help keeping the atmosphere and conversation topics more positive in nature.

None of us likes to feel like a tattle tale, or like we’re throwing someone under the bus, but there are times that you will need to go to your supervisor to ask for help dealing with the situation. It may start off as a confidential conversation in which you ask for some coaching on dealing with the negative behaviors – this lets your boss know there is an issues but also demonstrates that you aren’t looking for he or she to intervene while taking the initiative to deal with the issues. If all else fails, you will need to ask your supervisor to intervene.

If the issues escalate, or the manager doesn’t take appropriate actions it’s time to call HR – some large companies allow employees to call in these issues anonymously, but be prepared for being identified as the caller. Be honest, be kind, be brief and always handle yourself in a way that will make you feel proud later, at this point you’ll have to let the chips fall where they may.

What are your tips for creating a positive work environment?
It is everyone’s job to create a positive environment at work. First, make sure you aren’t one of the people who are putting others down, joking around too much, distracting others, or constantly complaining.

Leadership should be able to stand by every hire, and should consistently work at preventing toxic environments. I like to recommend that mid-size and large companies utilize personality assessments and multiple or panel interviews during the hiring process.

They should also create opportunities for ongoing education and training for both employees, middle managers and execs – for example, I provide corporate training that helps middle managers and leadership identify their own issues with self-awareness exercises, I show them how to identify issues developing among their teams and how to nip problems in the bud through my  business therapy™ program.

A positive work environment and quickly resolving toxic relationships at work pays off in the long run – you will keep your best and most productive employees. Have you ever had an employee or a co-worker that you considered to be toxic? How did you handle it?

Have more questions on this subject? email me anytime

If you’re struggling to keep up with all the changes in social media lately, you aren’t the only one. You’ve likely heard the fuss over the “intrusive” Facebook Messenger, and that Foursquare recently moved the check-in function to the new app Swarm. Add to that Pinterest’s new paid ads, and a whole bunch of other stuff, and it’s easy to see how fast changing social media has users’ heads spinning!

What we’re seeing is the continued trend of specialization and customization in apps and social media platforms. While this means some pretty cool and convenient services for consumers, the speed, complexity and number of changes is freaking some people out. Here’s a quick roundup:

facebook-messenger1) A lot of people are up in arms about Facebook Messenger, and having to send and receive private messages solely through this app on their mobile phones. One reason is that it’s annoying to toggle between two apps (the traditional Facebook app for public sharing of social content, and the Messenger app for communicating privately with friends).

The other reason is that media alarmists that misunderstand the app are spreading outdated and incorrect information about the permissions Messenger requests. It is worrisome for users that the app asks for the ability to access your phone’s contacts and call log, and to record audio from your phone’s microphone, make phone calls and send text messages. But without those functions, the app could not function as designed.

That being said, a lot of apps we use on a daily basis have access to this same data. It’s not fair to single out Facebook as being malicious (unfortunately Facebook is also to blame for their reputation as intrusive with research and data mining). There is an atmosphere of paranoia in today’s day and age of spamming, fraud and NSA spying, but the reality is that you have a choice – check out the Messenger terms of service, and deny permissions you’re uncomfortable with, or communicate privately with friends on Facebook from your desktop instead of your cell phone.

swarm2) Foursquare made the decision to move check-ins to another app, Swarm, when they discovered the vast majority of users were solely using Foursquare to check-in and share their location, and not for the purpose of discovering new businesses as originally intended.

Now, Foursquare will be offering enhanced listings of local businesses, and in doing so, pit itself directly against Yelp for local business searches. Going forward, businesses will need to evaluate where their customers are coming from and keep an eye on Foursquare’s attempt to overtake Yelp as the go-to resource for local listings.

3) Speaking of Yelp, the business review giant celebrates it’s 10th birthday this October, and continues to evolve as a strong social player. Recent updates to the service included the addition of video, and a new function has been added to the Yelp app called Review Translation so users can translate business reviews posted in other languages.

Pinterest-Messages4) Pinterest has made some announcements this week as well. Select companies were invited to try out new paid ad placement on the site, and new private messaging services we rolled out to the public. Users can more easily send pins and messages privately to other users on the app and desktop versions. Scenarios suggested by the site’s tutorial (see resources below for a link) include event and recreational planning with friends and colleagues. As it is, 80% of current pins are “repins”, or reposted content according to Internet Marketing, Inc, and this new feature is sure to encourage even more sharing.

Big picture, we’re seeing social media platforms evolve the way all marketing has in recent years – moving from broad purpose and general audiences to increasingly more specific purposes and targeted markets. Overall, users seem pleased with programs that are more convenient and  seem to intuitively “get” them, and brands are happy that users are engaging longer.

Remember, red balloon offers highly effective social media management, and it’s our job to keep up with all this change so you don’t have to. Have questions about anything in this post, social media or life in general? Contact me at jennifer at red balloon inc dot com

Cheers! Jenn ;)

Additional resources:
Mashable article about Facebook Messenger
Yelp Official Blog
Pinterest Messages Tutorial

Do you know the story behind the name red balloon?

I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life, I was operating from crisis mode but I was fearful of change. That’s when I surrendered to The Universe and asked for an affirmation that good things awaited me on the other side of change – a red balloon. You can read the full story here.

Since then, several people have shared their inspiring stories of also needing some encouragement and asking for their own red balloon, a meaningful sign that we are part of something greater than ourselves.

I’m excited to share the first in a series of posts with you, from a woman I admire a lot – TV personality and food writer Robin Miller.

What was the situation you were experiencing?

“I decided to look for “my” red balloon for personal reasons. I was just at a crossroads in my life and I needed some “sign” to help me decide which direction to choose. Decide with confidence and without looking back.”

Do you normally consider yourself a spiritual person? Is guidance something you regularly ask for?

“I consider myself a pretty spiritual person – I hope, wish and pray for things all the time. I don’t typically ask for guidance, I just ask that my family be looked over and taken care of. I’m never sure who might be listening, but I feel hopeful every time.”

Tell us your red balloon story.

“I asked for my red balloon on a Wednesday – and discussed the concept with my two sons. That Sunday, we were walking into a restaurant, just as the doors were opening for the day, and as we entered, my one son accidentally kicked something at his feet – A RED BALLOON! He kicked the balloon up in the air, it hit my other son and then bounced back to me. If that wasn’t a true sign, I don’t know what is!”

What made you feel that particular red balloon was for you?

“I knew the balloon was for me because it was the only one in the entire restaurant! It was half deflated on the ground, just waiting for us. The red balloon literally found ME, I didn’t find IT!

TV Personality and Food Writer Robin Miller

Robin has been a TV personality, food writer and nutritionist since 1990 and she is the author of ten books, including Robin Takes 5 for Busy Families, Robin Takes 5, and the New York Times bestseller, Quick Fix Meals. Her popular show, “Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller”, now airing on Great American Country, aired on Food Network for 5 years. Learn more about Robin at

Do you have a red balloon story to share? Email me at and you may be featured in an upcoming blog post or our forthcoming compilation.