AAOS Bulletin - June, 2006

Achieving unity through communications

Sending a clear, consistent message is key to AAOS mission

Richard F. Kyle, MD

Unity can only be achieved through communication.” You have heard me say it before. Unity is mission-critical for the survival of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. How we communicate who we are and what we have to offer will dictate how we are perceived by our members as well as by our patients and the public. All AAOS efforts are centered on providing the highest quality musculoskeletal care for our patients.

This core mission is central to all of our continuing medical education, advocacy and research efforts.

Effective communication of these efforts is the only way we can accomplish this mission. Our message must be clear and consistent.

At the Board of Directors’ Spring Workshop in April, we focused on three aspects of communication—the AAOS brand, internal/member communications and external/public, patient and media communications. Analysis of these areas has been ongoing during the past year and, based on what we learned from this workshop, we have made some decisions about our communications activities. The new efforts in communication will help unite all aspects of the Academy and send a consistent message to patients, public and government about the effectiveness of orthopaedic surgery and the high quality of care that orthopaedic surgeons bring to their patients. We are now working to consolidate our CME efforts with specialty societies and developing a unified advocacy agenda.


Over the past year, Landor Associates—specialists in helping organizations develop and strengthen their brand identification—has been gathering information from various AAOS constituencies (including residents, candidate members, fellows, staff and the public) about what constitutes the AAOS brand. Landor defines a brand as “a promise to all constituents based on a specific set of attributes that results in a consistent, repeatable experience.”

The AAOS has a recognizable brand image, although not one that was consciously defined or planned. In break-out sessions during the workshop, all participants agreed that the current AAOS brand reflects an organization of “meat and potatoes”—hard working, strong, reliable and a respected authority. The break-out groups proposed a different future image for the AAOS, one as an inclusive, visionary leader.

We, as orthopaedists, want to be perceived as being approachable, dynamic, innovative, active, adaptable and actively involved in all aspects of orthopaedic care that will provide the highest quality of musculoskeletal medicine to our patients. We are willing to partner with government, industry, health care providers and other organizations to improve overall musculoskeletal health in the United States. Getting from here to there will require considerable effort and involvement in the coming months.

A new graphic look for the Academy will be introduced this fall and should be very visible at next year’s Annual Meeting. Once the brand is developed, it will be consistently applied to all AAOS communication vehicles. The consistency of the brand will help identify your Academy as the ultimate source of musculoskeletal knowledge for our members, our patients and the public. The AAOS will be the go-to source for information on the care and treatment musculoskeletal injuries and disease.

Member communications

During the workshop, the Board also focused on the full range of print and electronic AAOS member communications—from the Journal of the AAOS and the AAOS Bulletin to Headline News and the Washington Office Legislative Update. Hart Associates, a marketing communications firm, was charged with conducting an audit of both AAOS member communications programs and our public education and media relations programs.

Using research and key metrics, Hart evaluated the overall effectiveness and relevance of AAOS member communications. Hart also conducted a similar evaluation on competing orthopaedic publications. Among the measures used were frequency and scope of readership, reader engagement, content, channel frequency and design. Finally, they conducted communication audits with three other medical specialty organizations in order to benchmark AAOS programs within the medical field.

I am pleased to report that Hart found that the AAOS offers the broadest and most formal member communications program among the three specialty societies, and that our practice management and business education efforts set the standard for other organizations. In addition, Hart found that our publication goals are closely aligned with our long-term program goals.

However, we did uncover some areas for improvement in member publications, including the Bulletin. Watch for changes to be implemented over the coming year to make AAOS member communications more engaging, readable, topical and focused on ways to help you succeed. In addition, we will be looking at ways to make AAOS publications the go-to sources for information on orthopaedic advocacy, practice management, clinical information and volunteer opportunities. Some of our vehicles will be reformatted and consolidated to ensure that they are engaging and easily navigated. We will seek your input with ongoing research to ensure that all of our member communication efforts remain up-to-date and informative on topical subjects. A new initiative to target your areas of interest will reduce the volume of information you may receive about areas that don’t interest you.

In addition, a new project team headed by Kristy L. Weber, MD, will reach out to orthopaedic residents to address their communication needs and encourage greater involvement with the Academy.

Patient and public communication

Patient and public communications—including patient education, press releases, public service announcements and other efforts—give credibility to the Academy, orthopaedic surgeons and our profession. These efforts are aimed at enhancing the public’s image of orthopaedists, increasing awareness of what we do and establishing orthopaedic surgeons as the experts on musculoskeletal care and treatment. This also advances our advocacy efforts and sends a clear message to government agencies that the need for high-quality musculoskeletal care is essential for the mobility of all U.S. citizens.

Hart’s audit of these AAOS activities found that we have one of the most active and effective public outreach programs of any like-sized medical association. In addition, the AAOS takes a more scientific approach to goal development and tactics measurement than other associations, and is “a step above” in the level and scope of media training provided to members.

We know that our public relations efforts drive patients and other members of the public to our patient education Web site, Your Orthopaedic Connection. We will continue these efforts to make sure that the public sees the AAOS and its members as their go-to source for knowledge on musculoskeletal conditions. This will also help to address member concerns about direct-to-consumer advertising.

Media placements, such as a recent feature on the “Today” show on “boomeritis” and injury prevention, generate a spike in visits to our public Web sites. Over the next few months, you will see increased efforts to target all placements to make people more aware of who orthopaedic surgeons are and what we do. Patient stories and experiences with pain relief and increased mobility will also be told.

Going forward

A number of recommendations about the Academy’s communications programs came out of the workshop, including:

Member Communications

• Conduct global readership research on what you want from AAOS in terms of information and how you would like it delivered.

• Identify ways to make content more useful to orthopaedic surgeons.

• Allow you to choose what you receive in terms of member communications from the Academy.

• Monitor the effectiveness of our communications programs.

• Continuously improve the design and availability of member communication vehicles consistent with our members’ needs.

External Communications

• Conduct additional research to determine which programs are most effective.

• Increase public awareness of the contributions made by orthopaedic surgeons to public health and mobility.

• Increase the media’s understanding of orthopaedic surgeons’ expertise as total musculoskeletal care givers.

• Review the overall AAOS communications structure to ensure consistency in addressing external audiences.

The goal of our new communications program is to deliver a consistent message to you, our patients and the public. That message is: the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is the go-to source for expert knowledge and the highest quality of musculoskeletal care delivered to patients based on evidence-based medicine.

At the end of the workshop, two project teams were established—one on member communications, headed by Frank B. Kelly, MD, and Matthew S. Shapiro, MD, and one on public education and media relations, headed by Joseph C. McCarthy, MD, and Alan S. Hilibrand, MD. These teams were charged with evaluating and prioritizing the workshop recommendations. The results of their efforts and a plan on how to proceed will be presented at the June Board meeting. I will update you on the progress of these efforts in future columns.

Richard F. Kyle, MD

AAOS President

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