It takes a steady nature and a passion for advocacy to be a director of communications in the healthcare industry these days. John Merryman embodies these traits as Director of Community Relations at South Bay Family Healthcare Center. His work for the non-profit healthcare provider impacts more than 17,000 patients from underserved populations. As an IABC-LA member since 1993, John’s communications inspire trust in patients as well as stakeholders. Here, he shares his insight on what makes this possible.
Weirton, West Virginia
Redondo Beach, California
“Your inability to accept the fact that what you love will change is the cause of your unhappiness.”
—Attributed to Gautama Buddha
“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
—George Bernard Shaw
Three words that best describe me
Quick-witted. Dependable. Clever.
When I’m not working, you can find me
Reading, writing, doing family activities, and something athletic. Poring through/listening to my music collection—updating and refining my iPod playlists. (I have over 100.)
MY LIFE IN COMMUNICATIONS
The biggest communications challenge I have faced in my current (or previous) role was…
…one particularly difficult run of media and issues management situations during my time with a previous employer. In the course of several years, I had to address an on-campus shooting of a physician by a patient, two extensive cases of ID theft, and a case of alleged homeless dumping.
My favorite communications memory is…
…getting my second book accepted for publication. The first was published by Simon & Schuster (The Free Press). However, they declined the second. But, we (I was a co-author) refused to accept that it wasn’t a good idea, so we re-tooled the proposal and took it back out to market. And, we sold it again.
The most important communications or professional lesson I’ve learned is…
You can’t create a communication solution to a bad operational decision, policy, or leadership problem. It’s quite likely you’ll be asked to come up with one. You’ll have to try anyhow. Explain that next time you will need to be farther upstream in the decision-making process to really be able to develop a “communication solution.” Being clear in communicating a message and then confirming a message has been communicated successfully is better than assuming the message has been received.
Books I really find useful and recommend to other communicators is…
The Elements of Style, William Strunk & E.B. White
On Writing Well, William Zinsser
Anything else you’d like to share with your fellow communication professionals?
This is a situation similar to being given the office birthday card, with everyone expecting you to write something clever or witty, since you’re a writer. I seldom do and usually end up just writing, “Happy Birthday,” and passing the card along quickly. So, I’ll just say that I think I covered what I had to say.
OH, HOW FAR I’VE COME…
2008 – Present
Director of Community Relations
South Bay Family Healthcare Center
1993 – 2008
Regional Director, Public Affairs
1988 – 1993
Director of Marketing Communications