Don’t Overlook Professional Association Membership

Learn. Grow.  Test yourself

I’m a joiner.  I like belonging to things.  Clubs.  Museums.  Gardens. And, especially professional associations.

Back in the day when I worked in other people’s agencies, we were encouraged to join associations and, whether we were active or not, our annual dues were typically paid by the firm.

I was so enamored with the Philadelphia PR scene back then and I felt so lucky to have landed in it. Even as a junior pro, I made time to attend programs or work on committees and also get my work done.  I would just come in early or work late to stay on top of assignments.  Well, any one who knows me knows I’ve always liked to work in the quiet and calm of a weekend too.

Climbing a Leadership Ladder

When I was climbing the leadership ladder towards President of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA,) I chaired the membership committee several times and was Vice President of Membership at least once.

I would call people who hadn’t renewed their membership and often hear, “my employer isn’t paying my dues next year” so I’m opting out.

What?!  I couldn’t imagine, in the spirit of advancing their own careers and networks, why these individuals wouldn’t just pick up the tab themselves.  If you don’t spend your money on that, what do you spend it on?

But then I remembered as head of my own Agency, how many employees’ dues I paid in professional associations, often disappointed that the year would come and go and that they:

  • Didn’t attend programs
  • Didn’t join committees
  • Didn’t represent our Agency in the wider community
  • Didn’t take advantage of professional growth
  • Didn’t practice or develop their leadership skills

SPRYTE was recently engaged to support a substantial international happening in Philadelphia that took place last week.  We worked with many partners and competitors, ensuring its significant success.  I knew so many of the players personally, which made delivering against the project expectations much easier.  It was so rewarding and I was thinking about how I knew these individuals all these years later. Guess how? Through PPRA.  That’s what’s called a return on investment.

Building Your Broadcast Brand Takes Time

Know the Factors

Sometimes clients, both commercial and nonprofit, think if they hire an established PR firm with lots of earned media depth and achievement that they’re guaranteed broadcast TV coverage exactly when and how they want it.

But in our experience at SPRYTE Communications, that’s not always the case.  It can take time to build up your broadcast brand with the powerful, gatekeeping TV news assignment desks in a major market.

There can even be a few strike outs before you win a placement, even if the story meets the following critical criteria:

  • Scheduled in mid to late morning on a week day
  • Abundant visuals for good TV
  • Close proximity to news stations
  • A nonprofit or charitable partnership is prominent
  • Easy accessibility to the action

This first struck me back in our corporate social responsibility (CSR) days with the Rohm and Haas Company, a global specialty chemical company once headquartered on Independence Mall in Philadelphia.

This was before SPRYTE decided to focus exclusively on supporting healthcare providers and social service agencies.

In any case, the client took an eight to 10-year hiatus from asking our agency to support its annual Fine Arts Awards program for students graduating from elite local college fine arts programs such as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Moore College of Art.

For the 10 years before the hiatus, our efforts always drew TV cameras and the program was featured on most newscasts in the market.  But, back then, our earned media outreach was part of a consistent, ongoing and deliberate external CSR program.

And during our consulting hiatus, in the spirit of shareholder value and readying the firm for the block, most CSR activities were de-emphasized and the appetite for external earned media exposure for any that remained was, minimal.

So, even though we were activating to support a global company with deep community roots delivering an incredible boost to budding graduates of elite art schools, the media had no familiarity with Rohm and Haas at the time and wasn’t even confused, in a positive way, about why a chemical company would be supporting artists.  There was no TV broadcast coverage of the program that year we came back.

It Takes Time to Be Prolific in Earned Media

This is why it’s hard to accept high-pressure, short-term earned media assignments.  With experience you learn that it can take time to be prolific in earned media on behalf of a client.

Prolific might be an overstatement, but SPRYTE is very proud of the broadcast brand it is building for our client Episcopal Community Services (ECS) and its RISE initiative.

In a recent SPRYTE Insights blog, we talked about the demands of writing a broadcast media advisory using our success with coverage of the December 11th RISE recognition ceremony as the example.

Now, SPRYTE is using coverage of the April 26th RISE initiative recognition ceremony as an example of how we are building the ECS RISE brand with TV assignment editors.

Not only did 6ABC come back to cover the next RISE recognition ceremony with two segments, including one on the 6 pm broadcast with voiceover by anchor Jim Gardner, but FOX 29 TV and NBC 10 also covered it.

This is the fourth ECS RISE graduation SPRYTE has supported.  When you help deliver good TV for their broadcast viewers the assignment desk remembers you.  That’s why SPRYTE likes to be engaged to build a client consistently and deliberately over time.

So, will the TV cameras show up for the next RISE graduation?  We can’t guarantee it but, based on recent experience, we will feel confident that it’s very likely, unless there’s breaking news, of course.

-Lisa Simon

Why the Media Loves Crossroads’ Gift of a Day

Positive Coverage Resonates

Leading the daily duck parade at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis in celebration of her 100th birthday.  A final fishing trip with a best friend to a favorite nearby lake.  A ride in a vintage WWII bomber like the one he flew in the war.  A roaring throaty road trip on a Harley.  These are all examples of Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s Gift of a Day patient program.

Inspired by the 2007 Jim Stovall book, The Ultimate Gift, the initiative is based on the idea of creating a very special, personalized day for patients receiving end of life care from Crossroads.  The gifts are created and implemented by caring teams of professionals that include social workers, chaplains, event planners and volunteers.

SPRYTE has been supporting the Gift of a Day program at Crossroads’ 11 locations in seven states for more than 10 years.  We may have 100 under our belt but two recent Crossroads Gifts of a Day reminded us how special and how fruitful, from a public relations perspective, the program is.

A Carriage Ride Around Liberty Park Lake

The first one was for Merry Schlobohm of Sedalia, Missouri.  Pulled by horses Red and Ted, Schlobohm was treated to a carriage ride around the lake in Sedalia’s Liberty Park in a donated antique English carriage with her husband, daughter, son and brother.  A life long horse lover, it was a chance for Merry to get up close and personal with the horses and spend a special day with her family.  The heartwarming gathering, with permission from the Schlobohms, was covered by the local daily newspaper, the Sedalia Democrat.  Actually, it was the cover story.

World War II Veteran Charles Leist of Springfield, Ohio, was the second recent memorable Gift of a Day.  On his 90th birthday, Ohio State Representative Rick Perales joined Leist’s friends and family to celebrate his milestone birthday and thank Leist for his military service long ago.  The small intimate gathering led to big earned media coverage, with two Dayton TV stations (WBDT and WRGT) running multiple segments throughout the weekend.

Many organizations would value this type of positive exposure if they could secure it.  Keep in mind, it doesn’t just happen because enterprising reporters are looking for good stories.  It starts with the initiative. Crossroads’ Gift of a Day is the there there.

Public Relations Reinforces a Competitive Advantage

And PR is just one of the disciplines in Crossroads’ multilayered, integrated marketing program.  Do you agree that earned media coverage of a Crossroads’ Gift of a Day shows rather than tells Crossroads’ point of differentiation as a hospice provider in an endearing and credible way?

So what is the value of this type of earned media?  Here are some top-level benefits Gift of a Day newspaper articles and TV segments deliver Crossroads:

  • A Positive Third-Party Endorsement of the Crossroads Brand
  • Prospective Patient Families Learn About Crossroads Through Gift of a Day Media Coverage
  • Earned Media Placements Delight Crossroads Patients and Their Families
  • Crossroads Professional Staff are Validated by External Exposure

We are always so impressed by the creativity displayed by the professionals who bring Gifts of a Day alive for Crossroads families.  It’s a pleasure to support the program each time SPRYTE is activated.  And when our efforts to entice the media don’t deliver earned media to Crossroads for a multitude of reasons?  We repurpose our pitch materials into Blogs for the Crossroads web site.

Writing is the Common Denominator for Healthcare PR and Content

Don’t Forget You Blog to Generate Business!

When SPRYTE Communications was launched early last year, we also launched our Blog, SPRYTE Insights and we’ve been very disciplined about posting new content every Tuesday morning ever since.

The depth of our content bank is impressive.  SPRYTE Insights’ “editorial approach” is to delight healthcare communicators with practical information they can use in their everyday professional lives in the healthcare provider space.

Of course, those same healthcare communicators and their managers, investors and owners are also our prospects for business development.

We have to remind ourselves that a more focused sales and marketing platform was one reason we relaunched a general agency, Simon PR in to SPRYTE Communications, a healthcare specialist.

But the PR DNA that makes us outstanding at healthcare earned media and influencer engagement isn’t always our friend as we advance as content marketers.

And anything we dedicate time to for ourselves has to be a best example of our work as we try to win more healthcare digital and social business.

Here are some of the SPRYTE Insights’ shortcomings we’ve noticed as we plan to evolve and decide what to put on our Agency to do list moving forward.  Perhaps  other healthcare communications bloggers out there are also experiencing similar sentiments.

The Granular Shortcomings of Our Weekly Blogs

Visual Imagery: We will prep an incredibly compelling written piece and then illustrate it with poor imagery, totally undervaluing the need and opportunity for strong art.  As writers we’re enamored with words but to be successful in content we need strong words and visuals.

Headlines and Subheads can be so pedestrian.  Our blogs are often truly original and pithy to boot but then we’ll put pedestrian headlines on them that do nothing to invite readership or build our brand.  We can do better!

Embracing SPRYTE’s Brand Voice: The SPRYTE Insights blog is an owned media property of SPRYTE Communications.  As a relaunched agency, we have a highly articulated brand voice, well defined service lines and five known target healthcare industries: hospice, home care, hospitals & health systems, medical practices and social service agencies.  Our content needs to build our brand as it’s defined not as a make it up as we blog or as an individual soapbox for issues near and dear to the author.

Paying for It: The PR DNA typically doesn’t include a gene for paying for exposure.  We are so attuned to earning media that it’s extremely difficult for us to pay for it.  We aren’t natural boosters and we don’t really know how much to spend on boosting.  But just posting and not boosting SPRYTE Insights’ Blogs on SPRYTE’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter channels is a very big missed opportunity to reach more healthcare eyeballs, the ones that might hire us!

So now that we’ve identified where we need improvement, how will we advance as content marketers supporting the SPRYTE brand and what will we be doing differently or additionally?

How SPRYTE Insights will Evolve:

  • Archived SPRYTE Insights Blogs Will be Better Illustrated with Improved Imagery and Reposted.
  • A Healthcare Guest Blogger Program Will Debut. (Note:  We are accepting blogs written by proven healthcare communicators for consideration.)
  • Blog Archiving Under Our Five Target Healthcare Industries: Hospice, Home Care, Hospitals & Health Systems, Medical Practices and Social Service Agencies Will Be Added to the SPRYTE Insights Page on the SPRYTE Communications Web Site.
  • A SPRYTE Communications Branded Annual Blog Editorial Calendar Will be Designed and Deployed.
  • A Meaningful Plan and Budget for Social Media Boosting Will Be Established.

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” While complimentary visual and creative skills are required, like public relations, content marketing is rooted in good writing.  SPRYTE is ready to up our game as we grow with our SPRYTE Insights Blog.

 

The “Afterlife” of Earned Media Hits

Extend Reach by Marketing the Marketing

If there’s one thing SPRYTE is good at, it’s generating great earned media results for our clients. But what becomes of those terrific stories after they appear?

In days gone by, an article would run in a paper or magazine, (hopefully) be seen by thousands or maybe millions of readers, then get relegated to the recycling bin or bottom of the proverbial birdcage. The agency or client might add the clip to a digital archive, to trot out when someone asked for it down the road. More savvy organizations might get reprints made and add them to their marketing materials.

With the advent of the internet, however, those once-fleeting media “hits” have found an extended afterlife. Those wonderful stories live online, potentially in perpetuity, to be found by consumers, prospective employees and journalists researching your organization. (Unfortunately, so do negative ones, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)

As those stories accumulate, your SEO results will likely increase too. If you’ve read our prior blog on getting backlinks, you’ll have had success in getting journalists to include links to your organization in the online version of stories. According to Google, a whopping 99.2% of sites that show up in the top 50 search results have at least one external link. The more earned media hits you receive, the more valuable links back to your site from legitimate news sources…and the more your credibility will rise in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

SPRYTE, like most agencies, has always merchandised our media results for clients, but our clients have become more and more interested in merchandising them to their own audiences, whether those are patients and prospective patients, employees/doctors, prospective partners and affiliates, franchises or the general public.

And we’re very happy to help, by providing new introductory copy, writing social media posts, or securing digital reprints.

 

Beyond the Birdcage

Here are some ways we recommend taking that glowing media story “beyond the birdcage”:

  • Post the article on your organization’s website, either on your dedicated “In the News Page” if you have one, or your home page if the story merits marquee treatment. You can include a thumbnail, a link to the original source, or a readable image.
  • E-mail a PDF of the article with a cover note to your marketing list, or consider snail-mailing hard copies with a cover letter or handwritten Post-It note (“I just wanted to make sure you saw this great article…”) to particularly hot prospects.
  • Include the article link or the entire article in your organization’s internal newsletter.
  • Share the article link on all your social media channels, and encourage your employees or employee-ambassadors to share or post it on their personal feeds as well.
  • If you’re a franchisor, like a home care company, provide your franchise owners with a ready-to-use blog or paragraph and link that they can use on their microsites, if available.
  • Prepare copy for each of the main social media channels, making posting a turn-key process for franchise owners or affiliates. (Remember, you now have 280 characters to boast on Twitter!)
  • Make hard copies of the article for hand out at trade shows or expos, or to include in leave-behinds. Enlarge and mount the article on foam board for display at your booth or table.
  • Broadcast stories can be edited together and added to the website, played on a loop in waiting rooms, or shown during expos.

One SPRYTE client was so thrilled with the breadth and quality of coverage we generated that they revamped their lobby wall to create a “Wall of Fame” featuring our greatest hits!

 

Run with it, but Play by the Rules

A word of caution: check with the article rights holder before mass distributing any story. Linking to the original source is acceptable in most cases, and the Fair Use Doctrine may apply in many others, but as some stories reside behind paywalls, written permission and/or a fee may be required. Many publications also provide official reprints, including the masthead, at a cost.

Even if you’re not redoing the décor to highlight media hits, positive articles about your organization should become another arrow in your marketing quiver. Fortunately, there are many avenues to prolong the afterlife of great publicity!

SPRYTE Insights Blog Debuts

A New Energy in Healthcare Communications

Welcome to SPRYTE Insights, SPRYTE Communications’ new Blog, where we’ll offer advice and actionable recommendations for healthcare public relations.

The practical guidance we’ll share comes from 25 years of experience helping healthcare clients achieve their business goals and our deep experience in a variety of other industries. It will also spring from our active involvement as members of healthcare marketing and communications associations.

While we’ve always specialized in healthcare, we also have worked in the retail, manufacturing, financial, hospitality, arts & entertainment and consumer products industries. This broad insight helps us provide clients with different approaches to business challenges, which can be particularly advantageous in the increasingly competitive healthcare industry.

We will be blogging about current topics in healthcare public relations and reporting from the many healthcare marketing and communications association conferences, meetings & webinars we attend. The goal is to keep you in the know about what professionals are concerned with, what advice they’re offering, and the evolving nature of healthcare communications – indeed, communications across the spectrum.

Of course, since we’re driven everyday by the great results we get for our clients, from time to time SPRYTE Insights will shamelessly showcase our client work as examples of best-practice healthcare communications, and blog about successes in our five specialties: Media Relations, Reputation Management, Referral Marketing, Public Affairs and Digital Content & Social Marketing. We also hope to include insight from occasional guest bloggers drawn from the healthcare industry.

SPRYTE Communications is a new force in healthcare public relations. We look forward to sharing our insights with you.