Employees are the Best Ambassadors

Enjoy Awareness, Credibility and Endorsement

This week, we are revisiting our previous blog post about why employees can be the best brand ambassadors for healthcare organizations.

The healthcare industry is governed by rules under a whole host of government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Health & Human Services (HHS). You’re already challenged with getting content approved for your brand or company’s own channels. Knowing the implications of a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation or FTC misstep, why would you consider asking your employees to advocate for your company?

The short answer? The right employees are the best brand ambassadors, providing the kind of awareness, credibility and endorsement for your company or brand that can’t be bought. Consider the following:

  • Increased reach: Employees can reach patients in their social graph who might not be considering your brand – and might never seek out your website or social channels. Employees’ social media posts reach 561 percent further and are re-shared 24 times more than the same posts shared by a company’s social and owned channels.
  • Authenticity and credibility: Today’s health consumers shop for healthcare services the way they shop for other expensive purchases. Regardless of how healthcare evolves under the new Presidential administration, consumers will continue to have a lot more choice in who provides their healthcare. They are researching healthcare the way they do other services – seeking information online and soliciting the opinions of others. Half of all consumer buying decisions are influenced by word of mouth and according to one study, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from people they know.
  • Engagement: Across all industries, consumers are increasingly less interested in what companies have to say, favoring instead the opinions of influencers and the people behind the brand. A study released last year by Altimeter Group found that 21 percent of consumers said they “liked” employee posts about companies — an engagement rate comparable to or better than other social advertising campaigns at a much lower cost.
  • Addressing risks upfront and providing clear guidance to employees considerably mitigates risk: The biggest question is how to manage risk. And it should be. Once management buys into an employee ambassador plan, your first step will be partnering with your legal and medical team to anticipate possible negative scenarios and developing guidance on how to handle each one. You will need to make sure, for example, that programs comply with FTC regulations by having employees include a hashtag in all posts to make it clear that they are employees. You also will want to develop clear direction on adhering to HIPAA guidelines.

Getting your employee ambassador program up and running will take some work. But once you create guidelines and identify and train employees, our hope is that you will find the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The Power of Personnel Announcements

How to Tell Your Organization’s Story Through Personnel News

Smart business leaders know that any organization’s greatest asset is its people. Employees are the force that brings mission statements and balance sheets to life. When it comes to telling your story, promoting their successes can make for a most compelling lede.

The classic personnel announcement is one tried and true tactic. Announcing new hires, promotions and awards, and other achievements burnishes your organization’s brand and distinguishes it from your competitors.

Just as importantly, personnel announcements can enhance collegiality and corporate culture by sending a clear message that employees are valued and their accomplishments are worth celebrating. As such, they should be a key element of any internal communications strategy.

Getting Creative

That being said, it can be a bit challenging these days to leverage personnel announcements through earned media. Many media outlets – from local newspapers to national healthcare industry trade publications — that used to run “Personnel News” and business announcement columns now charge fees to run personnel announcements. The cost can make it prohibitive for non-profits and others with limited marketing budgets to share their news.

That’s when it pays to dig deeper to find interesting story angles that will turn a simple personnel announcement into a bigger story – something we did for client Home Care Associates’ (HCA) announcement of its new CEO, Tatia Cooper. In fact, we wrote a blog post previously about how we wove details of Ms. Cooper’s life and her family’s deep community involvement into our outreach for the announcement, which helped us tell a more meaningful story about HCA that local media outlets truly wanted to cover.

By finding those interesting angles – and leveraging them through an integrated earned, owned and social media campaign – healthcare communicators can make an otherwise straight-forward personnel announcement truly sing.

Putting the Pieces Together

SPRYTE recently was called upon to help a long-standing national client, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, announce two senior leadership promotions. Crossroads is a leading provider of comprehensive hospice services to people with life-limiting illnesses and their caregivers. Headquartered in Tulsa, OK, Crossroads serves patients in their homes and long-term care facilities in 11 sites in seven states in the Midwest and Pennsylvania.

DeAnna Looper, one of Crossroads’ original employees at its founding in 1995, was named Chief Compliance Officer for Carrefour Associates, Crossroads’ management firm. In this newly created role, she oversees all clinical, legal and regulatory compliance operations across all 11 Crossroads sites.

Danny Cox, who joined Crossroads in 2011, advanced to Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, the role previously held by DeAnna. Having successfully led the complex implementation of a new hospice-specific electronic medical record platform for all 11 Crossroads sites across two time zones, he is now responsible for the enterprise-wide integration of all clinical operations.

Both DeAnna and Danny are nurses by training and nurse educators with more than five decades’ combined experience in healthcare, education and administration. The basics make for an impressive personnel announcement, to be sure. Digging deeper revealed details that strengthen the internal message.

Crossroads is committed to continually innovating and shaping the way end-of-life care is viewed and administered. Having worked their way steadily through numerous positions over the years, building and growing the organization, both DeAnna and Danny are the embodiment of this mission. DeAnna, in particular, started as Crossroads’ first nurse and literally crafted the clinical model from the ground up alongside the founder and CEO.

Elevating these two longtime team members who were instrumental in making Crossroads the hospice leader it is today sent a powerful internal message that the company values the contributions of all employees, finds their achievements newsworthy, and lives its mission statement.

Rollout and Response

True to Crossroads’ promise to put its people first, SPRYTE activated its campaign with a personal message from the CEO to all employees. Across the system, every employee at every level was “first to know” the exciting and important news.

The official announcement was sent to a targeted list of regional business, newspapers and other media outlets, and earned coverage in national hospice industry and nursing trade publications.

DeAnna and Danny were each profiled on Crossroads’ popular blog, where employees, patients and families, the referring physician community and industry colleagues frequently turn for the latest news. Here they learned that Danny first felt his calling to the hospice philosophy of care when his own father was dying and no hospice services were readily available. And when DeAnna isn’t busy sorting through the complexities of hospice regulatory compliance, the lifelong Beatles fan can be found singing loudly and off-key to her grandchildren McCartney, Jett and Jade.

Capping off the campaign, the blogs and other communications were amplified across all of Crossroads’ social media channels, where they engaged an even wider audience.

The Takeaway

For healthcare communicators, the moral of the story is to think creatively. Beneath the simple personnel announcement, there are often stories that bring the corporate mission statement to life. By sharing them, you’re not only burnishing your brand, you’re sending a strong message internally that employees are valued and celebrated.

World of Opportunity for Healthcare PR

Podcasts: Find Them and Pitch Away

Public relations pros of a certain ilk celebrate any and all new opportunities for earned media.  Of course, conventional mass media is often the most highly-valued target for our efforts.  But, have you ever thought about pitching a podcast?

That’s what SPRYTE did recently on behalf of Relievus, a 17-location specialty pain medicine medical practice in Southern and Central New Jersey and suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. SPRYTE’s engagement was focused on the practice’s reputation in the marketplace among consumers and future business partners and investors. 

So, Select Greater Philadelphia’s “Growing Greater” podcast was naturally a good fit. An organization housed within the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Select is the region’s business attraction organization. Select’s mission is to “highlight greater Philadelphia’s unique business assets to national and global audiences with the ultimate goal of growing the economic vibrancy of our collective community through attracting new businesses and new jobs to an 11-county region.”

The “Growing Greater” podcast “uncovers personal and professional successes and challenges with academic, business, and civic leaders from organizations large and small across diverse industries.”  Deep in to its second season, “Growing Greater” already claims “thousands of listeners around the corner – and around the world.”

While the bulk of SPRYTE’s work on behalf of Relievus focused on innovative patient therapies and approaches to pain, storylines of interest to prospective patients, the “Growing Greater” podcast also offered an opportunity for Relievus Managing Partner Dr. Uplekh Purewal and Chief Operating Officer Ron Saltiel to share the practice’s business success story.

The 30-minute interview provided an opportunity to shine a spotlight on:

  • Relievus’ rapid geographic expansion to 17 locations.
  • The practice’s steady stream of top clinical talent, graduating from the region’s many medical and allied health schools.
  • The most innovative and contemporary approaches to managing patients’ pain.

Podcast Listenership is Climbing

Over the past several years, the public’s interest in podcasts has grown rapidly. Gene Ely, a contributor to Forbes who covers digital media, wrote in his article about podcasts last year: “There are now some 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes. Listenership is climbing; almost half of Americans 12 or older have listened to a podcast. So is advertising. Ad spending is forecast to grow from $326 million in 2018 to $534 million in 2020.”

Podcasts’ growing influence on consumers is undeniable – something that our team has kept an eye on regularly. In fact, SPRYTE has blogged about podcasts in healthcare twice before. In both cases, we focused on podcast production, because let’s face it – in today’s world, who doesn’t know an individual or organization who has a podcast?

Just like any other news platform, podcast producers are often hungry for solid material, especially within the confines of their niche topics. Yours just might be a great match, and an even better way to expand your earned media results!

Pointing Out Oppression on July 4th

Letters to the Editor Amplify the Topic

With the 4th of July holiday rapidly approaching later this week, we’ve been reflecting back on the awesome Letter to the Editor campaign SPRYTE conducted in conjunction with observance of the patriotic holiday last year.

Our work was for Relievus, a specialty pain management medical practice with 17 locations in Southern and Central New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The analogy of patients struggling to overcome opioid addiction as a modern-day fight against oppression and the need to band together for a common good was a popular 4th of July inspired message, as proved by our nine Letter to the Editor placements in prominent daily and weekly newspapers.

People Who Abuse Opioids are not Inferior

Authored by Managing Physician, Dr. Young J. Lee, in the Relievus Letter to Editor, Lee wrote, “It’s important to understand that people who abuse opioids are not weak or inferior.  They simply are people trying to deal with their pain.  Eventually this pain becomes difficult to manage until it begins affecting their quality of life.”

Dr. Lee continues, “managing pain takes an intense, multifaceted approach. It takes a united and coordinated front.”  His message resonates with the community at large.

That’s why placing a Letter to the Editor by a single author in multiple locations is one of SPRYTE’s favorite high impact, hyper-local earned media tactics.  And a Letter to the Editor campaign delivers beautifully when a healthcare provider has multiple locations covering a wide geographic footprint served by a variety of local media outlets.

Different Cultures Understand Medicine Differently

Relevancy Builds Trust

In this week’s guest blog “Multilingual Patient Information Guides:  Living Beyond Cancer,” MTM LinguaSoft’s Jen Horner explains “Different cultures understand illness and medicine differently, presenting information in culturally relevant terms is essential for establishing trust and comprehension.”

Connecting people to trusted breast cancer information and a community of support, ensuring no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone is the mission of Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC,) a nonprofit organization.

LBBC  engaged MTM LinguaSoft to translate its information guide for newly diagnosed metastatic breast cancer patients into Chinese, French, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

“We could not take for granted that the patients were familiar with US healthcare jargon,” Horner says.  “We drew on our network for bilingual, bi-cultural experts on women’s health in immigrant communities.  Each consultant reviewed the English source text and recommended changes to make it more relevant.”

Click to read Jen Horner’s article.

The Recipe for Successful Media Coverage

Use These Three Key Ingredients to Make Your Story Newsworthy

While social media has become an increasingly popular way for people to get their news, traditional media is still considered the most trustworthy avenue for news coverage in the U.S. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual trust and credibility survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence, 65 percent of Americans trust traditional media as a go-to source for information, while only 34 percent have that trust in social media – highlighting earned media’s staying power.

Listing the Ingredients

Whether it’s a story in a local, trade or national publication, positive news coverage can help an organization enhance its reputation and build an authentic connection with its target audiences – something we at SPRYTE Communications have an endless appetite for.

Similar to cooking, there isn’t one set method for earned media that guarantees coverage. However, we’ve found that most successful campaigns include a “recipe” for newsworthy stories that uses three key ingredients: a human-interest angle, connection to the community and compelling visuals.

Following the Recipe

One recent article we placed in a local newspaper, Lumina News , on behalf of client Griswold Home Care is an excellent example of how this “recipe” can help generate successful media coverage.

In the beginning of May, the home care franchise’s Wilmington, NC office awarded a grant to local nonprofit Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM) through the Jean Griswold Foundation’s new “Griswold Gives” program. We included each ingredient in our feature news release about the grant to grab the reporter’s attention:

  • A human-interest angle – In the release, we detailed how WARM has helped low-income homeowners– many of whom are elderly and disabled – complete urgent home repairs and safety upgrades they couldn’t afford on their own. Stories about a person or organization working to solve issues that affect people’s everyday lives evoke an emotional response and keep people invested in reading more coverage – the ultimate goal for most publications.
  • A connection to the local community – In addition to how WARM helps residents in-need, we also discussed how the Foundation’s grant will help WARM provide its home repair services to the many families whose houses were destroyed by Hurricane Florence. By detailing how Griswold helped the nonprofit make an impact in the community, we made Griswold’s story more relevant for local readers and more enticing for local newspapers to cover.
  • Compelling visuals – Along with the release, we sent a photo of some key members of both organizations at the grant presentation event. Including photos or video of people in any written content helps increase the level of reader engagement and build a sense of familiarity among the organizations’ target audiences.

 Both earned media and cooking are more of an art than a science – there are many different strategies and tactics you can use to get a successful end result. However, this tried and true recipe for positive news coverage is an effective tool that can make almost any story a newsworthy one.

No TV at the Shoreham Inn

None of SPRYTE’s full time employees have televisions. They are of a breed that streams what they want on demand, including news.

I hope they stream local news because if they don’t and never see it, that puts them at a disadvantage for pitching broadcast news stories, but that’s another blog topic.

This blog is about TVs and watching local news.  My house has many TVs, large ones. And I have one in my office too that I watch all day.

I like to watch news all the time on TV, particularly local news. That’s because, in real time, I like to know what’s going on. Does anyone else out there have an insatiable appetite for headlines and breaking news?

Now, I know I can get breaking news on social media and I do, all the time, especially on Twitter. But, for me, it doesn’t compare to seeing and hearing live television.

At the Shoreham Inn in Vermont last weekend, I thought about this a lot. We weren’t camping so I was caught off guard by not having a TV in our room. Not only was there not a TV in our room, the “bird” room adorably decorated with bird houses and comfy quilts, there wasn’t even one in the first-floor common area/lobby.

Gadgets Don’t Make Up for It

It’s not like I wasn’t reading an amazing historical novel about India in the late 1920s, (Julia Gregson’s East of the Sun.) Or, that I didn’t have at least some of my gadgets with me for keeping in touch and reading daily newspaper digital replicas, my Samsung Galaxy S9 and my Mini iPad or my business reading folder, stuffed with printed out emails and public relations documents.

Still, it just felt like something was missing. Maybe I’m addicted to the white noise constant news talk provides.

In any case, when we got home to our casa of many TVs, I turned on the one channel I know has local news on Sunday nights at 6 pm, NBC 10.

It didn’t disappoint. Yes. I did want the weather forecast for the week and to be caught up on my hometown sports teams.

I also saw the mayoral candidates in the neighborhoods campaigning for the upcoming primary. Two past clients were also in the news, one in a negative way, one in a positive way.

That got me thinking about how we might reconnect and I made a note to reach out to them soon.

I could go on with a long, banal list of the thoughts I have as the owner of a public relations agency when I watch local TV news. I think you get the picture, or should I say are you getting the live digital video feed? -Lisa Simon

 

 

 

 

 

How Are You Celebrating Volunteer Week?

At SPRYTE, We’re Blogging

It would be hard to find anyone in the nonprofit arena who doesn’t know this week is National Volunteer Week. Our country’s tradition of service to others is truly something to be proud of and it dates back to Colonial Times, according to VolunteerMatch’s article “Volunteering: History of An American Value”.

Back in the day, on behalf of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit clients, we used to publicize outstanding volunteers and their good deeds and contributions to charities and society in local weekly newspapers during National Volunteer Week.

Does anyone remember the Ambler Gazette’s “Citizen of the Week?” column? Even daily newspapers used to have more real estate for feel good stories about people doing extraordinary selfless deeds for others.

We know those happy days are over. As SPRYTE survives a commoditized marketplace with less real estate for earned media placements, we’re increasingly suggesting that we put our outstanding interviewing and writing skills to work by contributing high-level, high-energy digital content to our clients.

Starting with last year’s National Volunteer Week, we suggested that our client Episcopal Community Services (ECS) showcase a different volunteer (Rosalie RudegeairMary Kate FahyAmy Coburn, Avyanne Osbourne, Josh Bartek) for each business day of the week, five in total on their Blog.

The assignment was delightful on a number of levels:

It was an honor to represent ECS and its fine programs.

  • It was engaging to hear firsthand, on behalf of our client, why their volunteers do what they do and what they gain from it.
  • We had the opportunity to learn about our client and their professional team from a different voice.
  • We implemented a successful, valued tactic that wasn’t earned media.

As SPRYTE progresses with digital communications, we welcome the opportunity to flex our writing muscle on behalf of clients. And if we ever uncover a kernel of an idea that has high earned media potential in our quest to create content, you can rest assured we will escalate it and ask permission to reach out to the media to win coverage every time.

Your Blog Could Easily be an OpEd

Repurposing Strong Content Yields Additional Results

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has a Blog these days?  If not, we should because by now we know that content rules.  Content is also what drives thought leadership earned media strategies.

Many Blogs are well-written and present provocative, timely ideas.  These Blogs can be repurposed as OpEds and placed in print media including newspapers, online e publications and trade magazines.

SPRYTE client David Griffith, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services, regularly blogs on his LinkedIn Blog Site Muddy Boots.

A blog Griffith posted in January was repurposed and placed in this week’s edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal.

It is the first OpEd in an ongoing series, “Poverty:  Finding Solutions in The Business Community.”  Griffith’s opinion article also introduces a highly-anticipated brand new Episcopal Community Services workforce development program, MindSet, “based on the most current brain science available that provides coaching and financial assistance to help individuals navigate the system and access opportunity that many of us take for granted.”

As the first cohort of MindSet reaches the mid-point of the first phase of the program, Griffith will continue to use his voice as a blogger and social services thought leader to encourage the business community to create the jobs that pull individuals out of poverty.  The readers of the Philadelphia Business Journal are an excellent audience for his platform.