Sourcing the Perfect Spokesperson for Earned Media Takes Time
When a healthcare provider launches a new service line or therapy, it can benefit from framing its new, novel offering in authentic human terms. Think about winning news coverage by leveraging the face of a willing patient who has benefitted from your care. In many cases, you can turn a dry pitch or introduction in to a must-do TV segment, or elevate a three-inch business brief in to a front-page newspaper feature story.
But be advised: it will take patience from all involved especially when your CEO, lead surgeon, or department head is feeling pressure to let prospective patients know about that new service or surgical technique so it can start returning the time and financial investment required to bring it on line.
A Happy Patient Illustrates Breast “Air Expansion”
Last October, Dr. William Scarlett, a breast reconstruction surgeon with our client Holy Redeemer Health System, began pioneering a new, noninvasive way of expanding the breast cavity for post-mastectomy implants.
The technology, involving bursts of CO2 delivered via remote control at home through clothes, instead of weekly saline injections in the doctor’s office, was both game-changing and visually friendly, as the manufacturer had provided samples to help explain the procedure to prospective patients., Dr. Scarlett was currently the only physician in the region using the system, called AirXpander®, according to the manufactuer AreoFlow.
The urge to talk about AirXpander® was also fueled by the the fact that it was unknown how long Dr. Scarlett would have exclusivity with AirXpander® in the Philadelphia region.
We knew the first thing a consumer reporter would ask is “Can I talk to a patient?” But initially patients were few and far between. Additionally, as the air expansion process takes an average of seven weeks to complete before permanent implants are placed, there wouldn’t be any immediate success stories.
So we waited. By early 2018 Dr. Scarlett had several successful procedures under his belt, and more importantly, he was still the only surgeon in the Philadelphia area using it, according to AeroFlow. Meanwhile, Dr. Scarlett had the perfect patient case study to showcase.
Miriam, a 69-year-old former Philadelphia resident now living in Florida, had resisted implants until learning of Holy Redeemer’s offering through a friend. She had beaten breast cancer and had just completed reconstruction surgery. She was making occasional trips back for follow-up appointments and to visit friends and her three grown daughters. Miriam wanted other women to know about air expansion, which she felt had significantly eased her reconstruction process. Miriam was truly an excellent patient spokesperson.
The local ABC station, to whom we’d offered the story exclusively, loved Miriam and promptly scheduled interviews to coincide with her next follow up appointment with Dr. Scarlett. In June, eight months after we first had a demo of AirXpander®, 6ABC ran a three-minute feature story. It was the first in an ongoing earned media campaign.
Tell a Great Story, Even if You Have to Wait to Tell It
While not every patient case study will be as perfect as Miriam’s, it’s worth biding your time until you can find one or more patients who have been treated successfully. It’s always more effective to tell stories about people, rather than machines, and if you can get patients to tell their own stories, that is even better.
Waiting doesn’t have to be passive; use the time to gather more information, hone your pitch or entice reporters with information and the prospect of connecting them to a “great patient whose life has changed.” Why not consider offering an exclusive to a top rated media outlet in exchange for their forbearance.
You might not always be first out of the gate like Dr. Scarlett and Holy Redeemer Health System, but if you can present an exceptional patient case study, you’re more likely to earn the media’s coverage of your story.
SPRYTE Insights previously published this Blog on July 31, 2018. We are re-posting it in recognition of October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.