Experience

Potomac River Media is the consulting vehicle established by George Linzer to leverage his experience in publishing, communications and marketing, and business development. He has been at the intersection of digital technology, business, design, and social mission for three decades, providing communications and marketing products and strategies to his clients in such diverse areas as education, healthcare, the environment, exercise and nutrition, and architecture. He has contributed to the creation of one global brand (Energy Star) and led the establishment of another (Lab Tests Online). He has also built two organizations from the ground up, always with an unwavering eye toward well-defined mission priorities and institutional sustainability.

While Potomac River Media is a solo consultancy, George rarely goes it alone, collaborating with his clients, their stakeholders and key team members as well as his own long-time partners who bring specific skills and expertise to projects as needed to deliver first rate results.

Publishing & Communications

The world is far more gray than black-and-white, a perspective that has guided our publishing efforts since I first produced a report for the US EPA (as a consultant) that explained that legislation, not science, was the root cause of the different methodologies applied to risk assessments and feasibility studies across the Air, Water, and Superfund offices. It’s not a viewpoint that is always conducive to offering simple answers to seemingly simple questions, but it is the right approach that demands we break down impenetrable concepts into more accessible pieces.

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Lab Tests Online (for the American Association for Clinical Chemistry)

In December 2000, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) approached me about a consulting role to launch a patient education website on laboratory testing. Instead, after we met, they decided to hire me in a full-time role to lead the launch of the site, despite my admission that lab testing wasn’t even on my radar. I started in January 2001 for what was described by one of the organization’s leaders as a one year “experiment”.

We launched Lab Tests Online in seven months with volunteers from AACC and four partner associations providing technical review and with $280,000 in sponsorship from six diagnostics companies. In our first month, we had 88,000 visits and by the end of our first year, we’d hosted our one millionth visitor. By the time I left nearly 14 years later, the site was averaging 2.5 million visitors each month, was supported by more than 30 association partners and corporate sponsors, and had won numerous awards and kudos as one of the premier health sites on the web. It had also spawned branded versions published by partners in 16 countries and 13 languages and had become a global standard for patient education.

The site’s success relied on a carefully considered user experience that fostered trust at every touchpoint and on the commitment of the staff and many volunteers who made sure we provided compassionately composed and accessible content needed by patients and their families at a time of high stress. Today, the site is ranked by Alexa.com among the 100 most trafficked health sites in the world.

In the words of a former AACC president, Lab Tests Online had become the third “crown jewel” of the organization, serving as a resource for patients and as a catalyst for increasing the visibility of AACC and the laboratory profession. The original site continues to thrive today, attracting more than three million visitors a month. It is ranked by Alexa.com among the 100 most-visited health sites in the world.

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Diagnostics Primer (for AdvaMedDx)

Building on our experience with Lab Tests Online, we developed a forward-looking primer on laboratory diagnostics technology for AdvaMedDx, the association of diagnostics manufacturers. The intent was to provide staffers on Capitol Hill as well as other key audiences with an easy introduction to the technology and its many roles in healthcare.

One of the key findings in our research suggested an important link between the current trend towards using wearable and implantable technologies to measure chemistry of bodily fluids within the body (also known as in vivo diagnostics) and a reduction in testing errors. As these new technologies replace more traditional laboratory tests that require a blood draw or urine sample for analysis outside the body (in vitro diagnostics), there will be fewer test samples to collect and process prior to the actual analysis. Since it is in this pre-analytic phase of handling and processing test samples where most testing errors occur, it follows that the number of errors will be greatly reduced as the technology makes this transition to in vivo capability.

The primer can be downloaded from the AdvaMedDx website by clicking here.

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Emergency Response Program (for the US Environmental Protection Agency)

Developed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the very early days when “the web” was still being called “the World Wide Web”, this site took full advantage of the multi-linear capabilities of the Internet to connect users to a breadth and depth of information on the topic of emergency response involving oil spills and hazardous substance releases.

Intended to be a portal for everything related to emergency response, the initial proposal for the site included development of discussion forums for professionals in and out of the government that would expand participation in the Agency’s legacy discussion groups, a proactive email program to keep interested users up-to-date on the latest emergency response news, and a mechanism for accepting and distributing public comment on proposed regulations.

Produced at a time when Congress threatened and implemented significant budget cuts, and when the public’s skepticism in the federal government was on the rise, the site was scaled back in its aspirations to serve primarily as an information resource and a demonstration that at least this federal effort has had a positive and life-saving impact at the local level. In the text and the photographs used, we emphasized the heroic efforts of front-line emergency responders and the federal and state infrastructures that support them, rather than the crises themselves.

The site has undergone many changes since it was first launched and my involvement with the site has long since ceased. Still, despite several organizational changes and facelifts, much of the original architecture remains online at https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response as a useful reference for the public as well as professionals in the field.

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In my own start up situations and through several consulting engagements, a common central focus has been the speed of technology change and its impact on the products and services of the business as well as the business itself. In work for a range of clients, our proposed strategies have sometimes been disruptive, designed to leverage new technologies in ways contrary to the existing business approach, and at other times, they have included recommendations for more evolutionary change. In all cases, though, our proposals are generated organically from what the landscape tells us, producing strategies and tactics that will, in our view, best move the organization forward.

My work has included development of online content strategies, branding, and integrated marketing plans as well as business development and stakeholder engagement in healthcare, education, the environment, and consumer media. My clients, engaged while working for Potomac River Media and other consulting firms, have included PBS Online, The Discovery Channel online, various programs at the US Environmental Protection Agency including its Energy Star program, US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels and Clean Cities programs, Western Governors University, and Design for Learning, a Gates-funded project of the American Architectural Foundation.

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From Start Up to Premier Site

My work on Lab Tests Online best exemplifies what we offer, as it reflects end-to-end involvement from start-up to establishment as a premier healthcare website and a global standard for patient education. As the founding executive producer, I established a strategic vision and executed a plan that achieved the following:

  • Generated sufficient traffic to the site to make it one of the most visited health sites in the world.
  • Engaged up to 20 laboratory-related professional societies as content partners and 25 diagnostics manufacturers as sponsors, and sustained their long-term participation in the original Lab Tests Online site.
  • Made labtestsonline.org a primary referral of the Food & Drug Administration’s website and NIH’s MedlinePlus for patients seeking lab testing information.
  • Penetrated the media infosphere, earning numerous kudos and mentions in national media such as the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, and Consumer Reports. Prevention magazine, the largest consumer health publication in the US, called Lab Tests Online one of “the smartest health sites one the web”.
  • Established Lab Tests Online as a global brand, increasing visibility of AACC, the parent organization, and the laboratory profession and expanding AACC’s relationships with professional societies and industry partners in 16 countries.
  • Generated new revenue through content syndication.

Working in a virtual environment across multiple states and countries for nearly 14 years, the Lab Tests Online team made the site a trusted resource and sustained it as a global standard for patient education. To celebrate the website’s 10th anniversary, we produced a booklet for the laboratory community that included highlights of the site’s first 10 years and acknowledged the many people who contributed to its success.

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We are currently at work on developing a proof-of-concept for The American Leader, a web-based news and information resource that focuses on the problems of civil society and, more importantly, on the solutions being pursued by business, government, and the not-for-profit sector.  The site will make it easy for the casual news consumer or time-pressed but concerned citizen to get up to speed on what progress is being made towards resolving the issues that appear and disappear from view in the daily media. It will also offer ideas to those citizen CEOs who are looking for tangible ways to become part of the solution rather than remain just an informed bystander. We invite you to visit the prototype site and give us your feedback.