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Paul Levy on why CEOs should blog: 'Your job as CEO is to represent what's going on'

October 22nd, 2009

As many of you know, Paul Levy, CEO of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is an avid blogger who advocates for more transparency in healthcare (he even disclosed his own compensation package and asked folks to comment on whether they think he's overpaid).

Anne Zieger, FierceHealthcare's senior editor who named Levy as one of nine people to watch in healthcare, recently talked with Levy about how his views on blogging have evolved over the years.

FierceHealthcare: So what do you think has been the net benefit to the hospital--or you--with having this ongoing relationship with the blog?

Paul Levy: I'd be hard-pressed to say that it's had any benefit to the hospital, per se; at least it's hard to measure that kind of thing. My only hope in the blog is that it would be interesting for people to read, and that it would promote some debate and maybe educate some people as to the issues that are going on. That's all it is. It's kind of a news magazine from my point of view.

[More:]

FH: And you write all of it? Not your PR people?

PL: No, I don't let them near it. They read it when you read it. The first time they read it is when it's been published. I don't want to overstate what it is, it's a blog. There are, I don't know, 800 million blogs in the world. If people find it interesting and useful then they'll read it, if not, then they'll ignore it. I try to make it interesting, mainly by writing about things that are interesting to me--where I've learned new stuff, or I have strong opinions about something--and I guess there are enough people out there who think it's useful that they follow along, which is very nice.

FH: Do you think blogging is a good thing for hospital CEOs to do, generally?

PL: I think you don't enter into this unless you're going to be serious about it, in terms of writing on a regular basis and writing it yourself so it's in your own voice and people know it's you.

FH: So you don't have a particular strategic approach?

PL: No! This is social media! We're talking about blogging! This is not writing the great American novel. This is sitting down every day, or several times a week, writing something that comes to mind that you think is interesting and will be interesting to other people, and then it gets the immediate market test, where people out there either read it or don't.

If part of your job as CEO is to represent what's going on in your hospital and what it stands for to the public, why would you exclude a medium like this, where you can do that without being edited or filtered by reporters or editors at the newspaper or the TV station? It's a powerful vehicle if you choose to use it that way.

FH: Have you considered other forms of social media, like, say, having your own YouTube channel?

PL: No. I borrow videos from other people, but enough is enough. I don't have time to make videos. That requires real editing and the like. Blogging is fast. I mean, how long does it take to write 300 words? I enjoy it.

FH: You've been a prominent blogger--you've stuck your neck right out there. I really admired your candor in disclosing your own pay package and asking people if they approved of it.

PL: The pay of hospital CEOs is published every year by the newspapers, so it's not like I was disclosing something that wasn't going to be public. I thought it was important for people to think about how these salaries are actually set. You know, who sets them, and why, and what criteria they use; I think the public has a right to debate that kind of thing.

FH: You have to admit, though, that that's an unusual position, nonetheless.

PL: Apparently it is, for reasons I don't understand.

Next week: Read more from this interview with Levy.

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