Innovators break the mold and stray from the status quo. In this edition of Innovators @ Innovaccer, we caught up with Rich Levin, a content marketing pioneer who is always looking for the hook. A veteran brand journalist who’s led at, and served for some of America’s top healthcare organizations, he understands the impact and value of telling a compelling story. Having created one of the first healthcare content marketing programs, his journey started on the other side of the keyboard—as a computer programmer. Hear in his words why he chose to join Innovaccer.
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I got my start in the early ‘80s when I convinced my father’s business partner that if he bought me a PC, I could write programs that would help them run their business. There was just one problem: I had no idea how to code. When he bought me the computer, I had to teach myself to program the 6502 CPU, with only 48K of RAM to work with, and an 88K single-sided floppy disk drive for storage! There were no PC hard drives back then.
I loved coding and eventually started developing and selling programs commercially. When one of the first computer viruses came on the scene, I wrote one of the first antivirus programs, called Checkup. About the same time, John McAfee released his first antivirus program, Scan. We were competitors for a while, and obviously, McAfee won that competition. I also wrote one of the first social networks, called BBSX. We called them bulletin board systems back then, but it was the same idea. It supported multiple simultaneous users, which was considered leading edge at the time for an MS-DOS solution.
My antivirus program led to writing one of the first books about computer viruses for McGraw Hill—The Computer Virus Handbook. I wrote more books about computers, landed a talk show about computer tech on CBS Radio, and became the first tech reporter for the CBS news radio station in Philadelphia. That led to a senior editor position at InformationWeek, where I covered the application development and database beats, among others.
After the dot-com bubble burst, I went to work for a large PR agency in Philadelphia and built one of the first content marketing practices in the industry. After ten years there, McKesson Health Solutions came calling, and I built their first content marketing program and carried that forward after MHS merged with Change Healthcare.
I worked with Dr. Nace and Andy Burtis at McKesson, and they reached out to me to see if I would be interested in joining Innovaccer. I had great conversations with Abhinav, Sachin, Ashish, Deep, and several other people. Every conversation was transparent and invigorating. I was super impressed with Innovaccer’s technology and the demand generation operation—I’d never seen anything so effective. It seemed to me that Innovaccer had cracked the code of interoperability and data activation. Many other companies had been promising to do this for years, but in my experience, it felt like those companies weren’t delivering.
I’m the VP of content marketing. We produce most of the external content the company publishes, and we have a hand in much of what we don’t produce in terms of strategic advisory, editing, proofing, rewriting, and so on. We’re essentially the content operations team.
We call ourselves “The Scribes.” We have a substantial writing team in India and a smaller U.S. editing team. We work on literally hundreds of projects every quarter, in coordination and alignment with the product marketing, customer marketing, partner marketing, and PR teams, as well as with the executive leadership team.
All of our content is for external consumption, including materials such as press releases, blogs, articles, white papers, eBooks, research reports, and so on. We also support the digital, web, and other teams with copywriting, reviews, proofing, and brainstorming.
I don’t know if there is a typical day. Every day is an adventure. I do the best I can to plan ahead, but I always expect the unexpected. This is a fast-moving company that lives and breathes moonshots. Of course, we’re working across multiple time zones—the India team tends to be busy and active before I’m even online in the mornings. That tends to taper off between noon and 2 p.m., but then the West Coast team is active.
Working across multiple time zones is interesting and different. As a writer, I often like to budget time late in the afternoon and evening, when things get quiet. That allows me to focus and ignore email and other distractions (other than walking the dog, who’s my constant companion in my home office). That’s something I’ve done for years, and it’s when I do some of what I consider to be my best work. It’s how I get into the zone. The teams are very respectful of my creative process and rarely book time on my calendar that’s reserved for writing.
The first thing I say when people ask me what sets Innovaccer apart is that the company has cracked the code of healthcare’s Achilles’ heel. I honestly think if nothing else was right, Innovaccer would still be incredibly successful because the company has solved healthcare’s No. 1 problem: how to quickly bring all the data together and put it to use in the service of patients.
Fix the data, and you fix healthcare. I argue that fixing the data—getting to what we call “data readiness”—should be job one for everyone in every healthcare organization, including providers, payers, and so on. Do that first, and you can meet every other transformational objective more quickly.
You should join Innovaccer if you want to be with a company that truly delivers what it promises to customers. You should join Innovaccer if you want to be in a fast-paced environment where you’re challenged every day. You should join Innovaccer if you have a passion for fixing what’s broken in healthcare, which is pretty much everything. You should also join Innovaccer if you want to work with a bunch of incredibly smart people who are supporting your role and your team in addition to their own teams.
My family is my No. 1 accomplishment. My wife, Ellen, and I have two daughters and a son, and I work every day to be a better husband and father.
My professional accomplishments include writing one of the first books on computer viruses and having one of the first computer talk radio shows in the country. I’ve won awards for my industry coverage at InformationWeek. I’m among the first generation of content marketers who helped define the practice. I’ve won multiple awards for content marketing campaigns over the years. And my most recent accomplishment is winning this role at Innovaccer, getting my arms around the business, and being able to work in an environment that’s brimming with some of the smartest and fastest-moving people I have ever worked with.
I’m proud of the content team we’re building. We work really well among ourselves and in close partnership with the other marketing teams at Innovaccer. We produce a very high volume of quality content across a wide range of topics, which perform well in the wild. We’re building great relationships across a matrix of other marketing teams, so we’re all working in sync and toward the same common goals—one team and one mission to improve healthcare as one.
Personally, that would be my wife, Ellen, who has always believed in and supported me as I took on new risks and adventures.
Professionally, that would be Melanie Marcus, who’s now the CMO of Surescripts. She gave me a wide berth when I arrived at McKesson to establish content marketing and innovate, which enabled me to build a small but very effective team. I learned a lot working with Melanie.
Last but not least would be my father. I started working as his marketing guy when I was 12. I was hand-drawing advertisements and running them off on an old-school Xerox machine. Then I’d handwrite the mailer. So I was doing demand generation at age 12. I worked with him for years, and he was a big influence on my life.