Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dulles South Hospital Status - StoneSpring Medical Center Update

We've all here in SoLoCo been patiently waiting (well, not without some ole-fashioned, rancorous debate over the past few years) for modern, substantial Dulles South healthcare facilities to arrive within a 30 minute drive-time radius...The new StoneSpring Medical Center by HCA is now in the detailed planning stages, having cleared the necessary approval phases - or is it? We put some questions to the very busy HCA PR team, and got some good questions answered...

GLC: How do you feel the new hospital will drive economic improvement in the area, and when might this start? (...meaning, can we get going quickly? Would be pretty useful to start driving economic impact right now, even though the hospital isn't slated to open fully until "late 2015"...)

HCA: "Hospitals are strong economic drivers in communities, generating good-paying jobs, tax revenues, and downstream employment. In fact, studies show that every $1 in health care revenue generates an additional $1.30 of revenue in other industries, and every job created in health care creates a corresponding job outside of the field. In addition, the StoneSpring Medical Campus will join Capital Hospice and the Health South Rehabilitation Hospital on Route 50 to create a medical hub that will drive additional health care and commercial growth. During construction on the StoneSpring Campus, HCA Virginia will use many local contractors and purchase goods and services from local companies, stimulating Loudoun’s economy. And as a tax-paying health care system, HCA Virginia and its employees will fund important community services."

GLC: Are you expecting synergies with other local development going on? (i.e., will you drive some nifty new restaurants or help get the Rt. 50 traffic improved?)

HCA: "The StoneSpring Medical Campus, along with Capital Hospice (GLC: ...with offices in Leesburg) and the Health South Rehabilitation Hospital, will create a medical hub that should stimulate additional health care and commercial growth. Some of those growth opportunities are already planned and approved. In addition, commercial and residential developments adjacent to the medical campus will lead to significant road infrastructure additions to the corridor, thereby improving traffic flow for residents as wells as StoneSpring patients and visitors."

GLC: Do you anticipate a significant community outreach/involvement program, and when might we start seeing some of this start? (...beyond social media conversations through nifty blogs like this one! BTW, now's the time to start following @loudoun through the new twitter ID you'll likely set up, hint, hint...)

HCA: "As is HCA Virginia’s custom, we have worked closely with the community since the announcement of our plans for StoneSpring Medical Campus. We have held community information sessions, have met with local homeowner’s associations, and have sponsored local nonprofit community events, among related activities. Many of these activities continue. As StoneSpring enters the architectural and planning phases we will continue to invite stakeholders to review our plans and to help shape the campus and its facilities. Such dialogue will include EMS squads, physicians, and community leaders, as well as others. HCA Virginia facilities and management teams are always closely connected to the communities that we serve, and StoneSpring Medical Campus will follow this important standard."

GLC: What feedback or information would you want to collect, from local businesses and citizens? (i.e. lunch menu suggestions, ambulance route suggestions, soccer team sponsorship opportunities, etc.)

HCA: "It is important that we have a two-way communication with our neighbors along Route 50 throughout the planning, building and operation of the StoneSpring Medical Campus. We made changes to the StoneSpring plan continuously during the approval process with the county based on the feedback we were receiving from the community. As the StoneSpring development process unfolds, we will continue to seek input from many constituents, in much the same way as we did for Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, a 126-bed facility HCA Virginia opened in June. Our website – http://www.stonespringmedical.com/ -- will feature our ongoing progress and provide opportunities for the community to stay involved in the project."

...only 4 more years!

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Leesburg VA Restaurants - eGovernment Online Marketing

Fireworks Pizza, Leesburg VA
Leesburg VA’s website implemented an interesting capability recently, a directory of Leesburg VA restaurants. There are a lot of angles to consider regarding this foray by a local government into direct economic development and marketing, and it’ll certainly be interesting to see the ROI – which should be published after 6 months or so by the town. Are they off to a good start, in terms of providing value to the taxpayers and businesses? It’s a reasonable start, and well-intentioned, and there are several opportunities to improve.

The alphabetized directory of all restaurants within the Leesburg city limits, along with a Google maps-generator for finding directions is executed in a very simple, non-partisan manner. It can be updated in real time, unlike many towns who publish document-centric business directories just a few times a year. In terms of online marketing, there really aren’t included any of the typical promotional indicators you’d find in a commercial directory listing – like highlighting, descriptive meta and alternate text tags, good anchor text used with restaurant website links, text descriptions and reviews, restaurant-supplied imagery or advertisements, etc. In fact, the restaurant pages themselves are a wholly non-search engine optimized implementation. They won’t be indexed very often or helpfully by search engines like Google, especially with the “unfriendly” URL and the very duplicative nature of all the listing pages (aside from the restaurant name).

What this style of implementation delivers, therefore, is straightforward non-competitive “eGovernment” services to traditional constituents of government services, but very little additional online marketing value to the restaurants themselves. Local chambers of commerce tend to operate in the same way, mostly avoiding preferential treatment in their listings and not offering much in the way of truly optimized online exposure. “Traditional constituents” is used to indicate those people who are used to visiting the local government site for information – more current Internet users typically rely on search engines, themed-directories or social media to investigate and plan entertainment outings. So, the content from the Leesburg site won’t necessarily appear in those channels – but marketing of the restaurants via commercial directories and business services (along with their own efforts) will remain competitive.

Even if the intention of this directory implementation is to be as pure eGovernment vanilla as possible, every page of the site does, however, provide opportunities to promote the broader Leesburg visitor and economic development agenda – i.e. promoting the overall Leesburg dining experience on behalf of all restaurants. Using phrases in text, links and meta tags such as “great restaurants in Loudoun” might drive additional visitors to the directory and therefore Leesburg businesses (at the expense, though, of Hamilton restaurants – welcome to the new era of local government online marketing competition!).

This may be both a good and bad thing, depending on your perspective. On the one hand, the marketers, advertisers, owners and investors in sites like “Yelp”, “UrbanSpoon” and the new “TBD.com”, local Loudoun restaurant blogs and media with advertising, and of course restaurants with active marketing campaigns – all of these business owners have a vested interest in the de facto government (i.e. “dot.gov” domains) NOT entering the competition for Internet eyeballs. In Loudoun, there’s already some pretty stiff competition against commercial businesses for online tourism traffic with the emergence of “Visit Loudoun – DC’s Wine Country” (the Loudoun Convention & Visitor’s Association). Many of these business owners providing restaurant information and reviews have local interests, and their success contributes as well to the local economy – so if you’re a local restaurant blogger supported by local advertising, you’d rather the Government wasn’t competing with you.

On the other hand, searching for “Leesburg restaurants” in Google or YouTube is bound to highlight only those offerings with the best online marketing investments (or simply the most publicly popular restaurants) – rather than perfectly good and interesting ones that you’d like to see but that simply don’t market online.

The Leesburg restaurant directory does, however, deliver some third-party advertising that restaurants should understand. In using Google maps to provide directions, this comes with Google’s advertising and marketing techniques, which include reviews of the restaurant, similar ones nearby, and third-party ads which may or may not be competitive (and may not be in Leesburg). All local businesses would be well-advised to solidify their Local Business listing and profile with search engines like Google…

Classification and grouping of restaurants is a standard way to help visitors find or try new restaurants. For their dining directory, Visit Loudoun chooses a more tourism-oriented theming consistent with attracting visitors to both the area and establishments - ranging from “Afternoon Tea” to “Farm-to-Table” and “Market Fresh”. Leesburg sticks with basic directory categories that seem to cater more towards visitors and residents already in town (vs. considering a visit), like “Burgers & Other Fast Food”, “Ice Cream & Smoothies”, “Pizza” etc. Picking on a favorite, Vintage 50 Restaurant & Brew Lounge, it’s categorized as “American” on the Leesburg site, and under “Microbreweries” at Visit Loudoun…Leesburg might consider actually having two classification schemes, one more “government directory” oriented, and the other with some additional marketing panache.

The Leesburg restaurant directory, therefore, is a well-intentioned, reasonably benign implementation of useful online government services – but is also a solid entry into the very competitive online marketing world that the city needs to be intimately familiar with…for both the benefit of its constituents, and to avoid unintended or exclusionary competition with them.