Use Personnel News to Showcase Your Organization

Who Personnel Are Often Reflects Who You Are

When it comes to telling your story, one of the most overlooked – or under-appreciated – opportunities is the classic personnel announcement.

Many times, personnel announcements end up falling into the “we’ll get around to it” category of priorities. After all, healthcare organizations often expend a great deal of time and energy (as well as expense) in attracting and landing top-flight professional staff to help them move forward.

Why not take the opportunity to tell the world (or at least your key clients and industry colleagues) about the exciting new developments taking place and the new people that are joining your healthcare organization?

Points of Distinction

What is the story you’re looking to tell? Is it solely about a new hire, or is there something more to say that can help brandish the image of your organization and distinguish it from your competition? At the very least, that’s a point you should consider whenever such opportunities arise.

Recently, SPRYTE reunited for a special project with a client that we’ve worked with off and on for the past 20 or so years. The opportunity brought back a lot of warm memories about past campaigns and projects, so we were thrilled to get the  call to help Home Care Associates (HCA), a prominent Philadelphia based agency providing in-home respite and senior care to clients throughout the city and region. One of the things that makes HCA unique is that it is a women-owned business and worker-owned cooperative that has received national recognition as a welfare to workforce model. (In fact, more than 60 percent of HCA’s employees formerly received public assistance.) In addition, it is certified as a socially-conscious B Corp.

Back to the Future

The new project involved the announcement of a new CEO. The retiring CEO was well-known throughout the Philadelphia region as community-involved, politically-connected and every effective leader. HCA wanted to make sure they were hiring the right person. So a national search was conducted.

After several months of searching, it became apparent that the best candidate for the job had been there all along.

Tatia Cooper had begun at HCA in 1994 as a job coach.  She’d held numerous positions at HCA in a steady rise up the organization’s ladder and was considered for the CEO role even as the national search began.

The Company You Keep

HCA leaders readily understood the message that Ms. Cooper’s appointment would send. Even after a national search, the qualified and capable candidate turned out to be an individual who had steadily worked her way through the organization, learning the various aspects of the company and earning her promotion to the top job.

In fact, Ms. Cooper personally developed a number of professional tools and approaches that directly impact HCA workers’ success, including supportive approaches to housing, health, transportation and child care challenges.

For a company that prides itself on being a woman-owned, worker-owned model, it would be hard to imagine a better example to reflect the values and the commitment of the organization as it moves forward.

Rollout and Response

Regional business, newspapers and other media outlets were quick to pick up the story, highlighting Ms. Cooper in an assortment of “Personnel News” and business announcement columns.

As part of the follow-up, we concentrated on Ms. Cooper’s personal story – in particular the fact that her family story of community commitment is one that goes back generations. Her grandmother, for example, was a well-known and highly-respected advocate for economic and social justice who served many years in the Pennsylvania Department of Education looking out for the interests of students.

Her mother, meanwhile, is a widely-respected community activist in her own right, was one of the original staff members and later became Executive Director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women.

In addition, her aunt is President of the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation in Philadelphia and has been working for years to restore and renovate this famous North Broad Street community venue.

All in all, it’s an impressive story about a very impressive family of community leaders.

The angle has led to one local radio interview appearance, with other opportunities in the works.

For healthcare communicators, the moral of the story is to think creatively. It may sometimes seem that personnel announcements are a necessary chore that simply need to be disseminated in a timely fashion.

It often pays to look deeper. Is there a more meaningful and relatable story that can be told that will advance the interests or the image of your organization?  At the same time you’re sending a message internally, that a promotion or new hire is in fact newsworthy.

You might have to dig a little deeper, but very often the extra work will be worth the effort.

Saluting Our Veterans

Begin Planning Now to Honor Those Who Served

Each year, on or about the eleventh of November (Veterans Day), organizations of many different stripes sponsor special ceremonies to honor our nation’s veterans.

It’s a time for solemn remembrances, heartfelt dedications, colorful flag presentations, and other kinds of patriotic demonstrations of support for those who served.

For many healthcare organizations, particularly those who provide medical care and other support services to aging veterans, the Veterans Day observance can provide irresistible opportunities to win community recognition and earned media coverage for planned ceremonies to honor those who served in the military.

Early Planning

As with any military-related operation, careful planning and logistics are in order.

One of SPRYTE’s national clients, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, has been sponsoring veterans’ recognition events for many years. While many of the regional sites host observances that take place throughout the year, often keyed around appropriate patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Flag Day or Independence Day, the entire organization comes together for an extended Fall Campaign centered, appropriately enough, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th.

The actual planning begins in early August, when regional Executive Directors assign key staff (often chaplains) to coordinate Veterans Recognition efforts for their respective sites.

Throughout the year, Crossroads’ professional staffers serve clients in a variety of places – in their homes, in hospitals, and in long-term care or nursing facilities. (Hospice is a service, not a place.)

The Logistics of Veterans Events

Crossroads’ chaplains coordinate with respective locations to work out the logistics for Veterans events that they may host. (Some Crossroads sites may sponsor more than 50 such events during a Veterans Recognition campaign period.)

The specifics of the events can vary depending on the size and circumstances of the individual service site.

  • How many veterans are present at the site?
  • What about elsewhere in the community? (Crossroads typically opens up their recognition events to any veterans who want to participate, not just their patients.)
  • How many friends and family members might be expected to attend?
  • Are there local veterans’ groups (VFW, American Legion) that might want to help or participate in some way?
  • What about local officials or celebrities who might be interested in attending or saying a few words of gratitude and encouragement?

Enticing the Media

Local media outlets will also have certain views that need to be addressed if they are to be enticed to come and cover the ceremonies.

The simple idea of paying homage to heroes who defended their country during time of war is a timeless story. But even that can be enhanced, depending on the event.

For example, how many of your local veterans served in World War II? According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 558,000 American veterans from the war were estimated to still be alive in September 2017. Their numbers continue to dwindle. So there is an urgency inherent in efforts to recognize their service and valor. As we’ve often said – it’s about the story.

But it’s also about the visuals. Especially for television news. What kind of visual excitement and color can you bring to the events?

High school bands and color guards are often available to lend some musical accompaniment for a rousing rendition of the national anthem or other patriotic songs. Local scout troops can be enlisted to perform flag folding rituals for special presentations to individual honorees. Local VFWs, American Legion posts or other veterans’ groups are often only too happy to provide a color guard or other ceremonial contingent for a flag dedication or salute, or to otherwise lend support to their brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Even the simple presentation of lapel pins and/or certificates of appreciation to honored veterans can provide a heart-warming visual presentation for both onlookers and TV cameras.

It’s also about the timing. When we do veterans events, part of our goal in luring media is to minimize competition. That’s why we advise clients who are planning Veterans Day-related observances to hold them a week to 10 days prior to the actual official date of Nov. 11th. It often pays to beat the rush.

Details, Details

But don’t overlook the little things. One must always be cognizant of individual privacy. Is the facility where the event is being held comfortable with having media and cameras present? Make sure to check and confirm consent.

Also, as best you can, make sure to pre-plan some photo-op set-ups for the TV cameras as well as local print media photographers who may come to cover the events.

Some institutions may have rules for photographing residents or patients. Where possible, work with staff at the facility beforehand to arrange for specific willing individuals to be subjects for news photographs, and arrange for them to sign-off on photo releases.

If you’re planning on sending your own photos to the newspapers, make sure there aren’t too many people in the shot (five or fewer is best). Keep everyone close together and be careful that there’s nothing in the background to distract from the focal point of the picture. Also, make certain that everyone’s name and title are listed in the caption.

All in all, the Veterans Day season can offer a wealth of opportunities to pay well-deserved respect to men and women who have served their country. Doing so is not only the right thing, it’s also something likely to be remembered fondly within the surrounding community and among your patients and family members.

Palliative Care’s Patient Focus

Putting the “Care” Back in Healthcare

We live in a remarkable era of scientific and medical advancement.

The healthcare industry has developed a vast array of techniques and tools that can be used to treat patients. Surgery. Medications. High-tech things such as gene therapies.

There is so much more we can “do” to patients than ever before!

But is it always the right thing to do?

According to Dr. Timothy Ihrig, an internationally recognized authority on palliative care and Chief Medical Officer at Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care (Full disclosure: A SPRYTE Communications client), the answer is a resounding “NO!”

The Tao of Palliative Care

In his blog, What’s Wrong with Healthcare? It doesn’t Care (Part II), Dr. Ihrig suggests that as doctors have become more adept at fixing the physical ailments that patients suffer, they’ve grown less mindful of them as human beings, perhaps to the point of callousness in regard to how patients feel about the treatments being thrust on them. He believes the healthcare industry needs to do a much better job of educating patients about procedures, treatments, and the likely prognoses, so they can be part of the decision-making process.

“My experience is, the more we ‘do’ to patients, the more we risk negatively impacting the quality of their lives – and the more we risk actually decreasing how long they live, as well.  In addition, too often – almost always – we are not giving the patient an opportunity to choose HOW they want to live.” Dr. Ihrig says.

He believes palliative care practitioners are well-positioned to show the healthcare industry how best to engage with patients so they can participate in treatment decisions and establish goals that allow them to enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible. Read!

Published September 11, 2018 by Spryte Communications in Public Affairs

Creating a Winning Awards Strategy

Help Your Professionals Stand Out from the Crowd in Awards Competitions

With the 98th rendition of the Miss America Pageant, the country’s oldest and most renowned individual talent/interview competition squarely in the minds of fans across the nation, it would seem a fitting time to consider what lessons might be drawn to help position your healthcare organization’s candidates for success in regional business and community awards competitions.

Why Enter Awards Programs?

Business or community recognition programs are more than just beauty or popularity contests. They are an opportunity to showcase your best people or the most positive attributes of your organization.

The payoff should be obvious. The individuals chosen to represent your organization will be honored that they are held in such high esteem. And the positive contributions that they have made will reflect well on your organization as well as their own professional reputations.

Presented in the public eye, their nominations – and the positive stories that support those nominations (it’s all about story!) can help distinguish your organization in the eyes of consumers and the general public and burnish your brand as a friend of the local community.

Getting Started

One of the first things you will want to do is take an inventory of the potential “recognition awards” to consider shooting for. As noted, regional business media are frequent sponsors of such programs. (They help attract advertising dollars and interest in the stories that emanate from the programs, while also opening avenues for future sponsorships, story ideas and business contacts.)

Naturally, it will be necessary to review and assess how closely the individual recognition award opportunities correspond to your oroganization’s interests and strategic goals.

Some of the categories that we’ve helped clients pursue include:

And many more….

Doing Your Homework

After you’ve made your selections as to which awards programs to target, you will want to pay close attention to the specific requirements and information that the sponsor will be using to choose from among nominees.

For example, if you’re nominating an individual for a specific award, there may be an area requesting details about their participation in charitable or community activities. Even if your nominee is an outstanding professional in his or her line of work, a lack of a sufficient record of community involvement can doom the nomination.

(An old political saw holds true here – your candidate may look great from an existential perspective, but once they are up against an actual opponent, those original perspectives can be tossed out the window.)

Study the questions. Then look beyond them. Try to figure out why that specific information is being requested. Is there an apparent agenda underlying the questions that are being asked, or in the way they’re asked? Try to work out the puzzle, if it presents itself: This is what they’re asking, but what is it they’re really looking for?

What kind of story do they want to hear?

Research, Interview, Repeat

If you’re nominating an individual for a recognition award, you will want to take the time to interview them so that you can garner the information you need to fill out the nomination form. Get the facts. But not just the facts. Try to discover what motivates them to do what they do. See if you can create a personal story to supplement and animate the basic facts that are being requested. What drives them? What makes them unique? Why are they so good at what they do?

You might also interview people they work with, as well as patients, if appropriate (be careful about divulging inappropriate patient data, however). It’s not unlike writing a movie or TV script. The goal isn’t just to tell your audience why your nominee is a remarkable person. You should try to show them by showcasing the actions, motiviations and relationships that encourage them to excel.

The same idea holds true if you are describing, for example, why your organization should be considered among the “fastest growing” in your region. The numbers, of course, will be crucial. You will need to check with your accounting or financial experts in order verify quarterly or year-over-year results, for example. But again, the story of why the organization was able to grow so fast is likely to be key.

What is it about the CEO/President’s background and vision that made success possible? Is there something in their personal biography that set them on this path to success? What kind of goals have they set? What’s his or her secret sauce?

It’s All About the Story

It can be easy to look at business and community awards/recognition programs as being dry, data-driven, form-based efforts.

They can seem very mechanical. But in reality, they serve as opportunities to build your success stories – either that of the organization itself, or the stories of the gifted representatives who are part of your team.

Even if you don’t win, you’ll still have stories to share with your supporters in the community and in your healthcare organization – and, of course, in the larger world of social media.

If done well, in the long run, your organization and your nominees are sure to come out winners – no matter where they end up in the final award standings.