There’s Still Time to Make Changes for 2019

Take Stock. Break Bad Habits & Do Better

In 8 Bad Habits to Avoid in Healthcare Marketing this week’s guest blogger, Rob Rosenberg of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, warns “Avoid defaulting to old habits that weaken your position, both personally and professionally.”

Do you agree that the poor practices Rob advocates you change are often present in today’s health system marcom operations?

They reminded me of my first position in provider healthcare. My title was Public Affairs Staff Associate and I worked in the market’s dominant three hospital health system. I was one of three in the department. We had all the health system service lines divided among us. Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever present at a business discussion. But I did perfect my newsletter skills. –Lisa Simon

Click here to read the Guest Blog

 

Partnering Makes Healthcare PR Less Lonely

Collaborate to Share Work and Celebrate Success

Public relations can be a lonely function, especially when we bear the weight of delivering earned media for healthcare provider clients in major markets.  It requires high doses of adrenalin and drive, assuming your material is newsworthy on its own merit.

Recently at SPRYTE we’ve been enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare communicators because the physicians we support are themselves collaborating with innovative partners.

Our portfolio includes work for both independent doctors in private practice and non-profit hospitalists.

Relievus and NeuroFlow Advancing Management of Pain Patients

Dr. Young Lee, founding partner of Relievus, a multi-location pain management specialty medical practice, collaborated with local Philadelphia start up NeuroFlow to test a mobile software platform that patients check in with daily.  NeuroFlow gives providers daily insight into patients’ mental health – a key indicator for care plan adherence.

In mHealthIntelligence,  a mental health and telehealth online publication targeted to healthcare practitioners, Dr Lee said, “We used to document (a patient’s mental status), but we didn’t do anything about it. Now we’re paying attention to mental health and we’re realizing that pain is not just a physical issue. This is a physical and mental issue.”

Our clients at Relievus asked SPRYTE to work with NeuroFlow to help their experienced public relations consultant deliver earned media about their platform.  NeuroFlow needed real life examples of doctors using NeuroFlow in the field and Dr. Lee was an early adopter and an enthusiastic partner to NeuroFlow.

As can be imagined, our biggest challenge was finding time in Dr. Lee’s schedule for media interviews.  The opportunities had already been sourced by NeuroFlow and they were good ones.  We just had to step in and deliver the doctor.  So, in addition to the placement in mHealthIntelligence, Dr. Lee and Relievus’ use of NeuroFlow were also featured in the Camden Courier Post the daily newspaper serving the practice’s flagship headquarters location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Of course, doctors in private practice aren’t the only ones pursuing collaborations that positively impact patient care.

AirXpander®  Revolutionizes Patients’ Preparation for Reconstructive Breast Surgery.

Our longtime clients at Holy Redeemer Heath System asked us to support Chief of Surgery Dr. William Scarlett and his use of an innovative approach to preparing a patient for reconstructive breast surgery, the use of a new medical device, AirXpander®


In this case, SPRYTE’s collaboration was directly with the manufacturer, AeroFlow  The marketing team was delighted by the potential for consumer earned media and available and helpful every step of the way.

First, they confirmed Dr. Scarlett was the first and only physician using AirXpander® in the greater Philadelphia market.  And we needed that confirmation to make the claim.

We were also supplied with great imagery and solid explanations of the product to expand what Dr. Scarlett shared with us.

But what Holy Redeemer delivered was key to the success of our consumer media outreach, a wonderful and satisfied patient spokesperson who was thrilled with Dr. Scarlett and her AirXpander experience.

Patient Miriam Dougherty’s willingness to be interviewed on camera with Dr. Scarlett was critical to SPRYTE’s delivery of a television feature segment on Philadelphia’s number one rated local network 6ABC 

So, in these two SPRYTE examples, public relations wasn’t so lonely.  In the case of Relievus, we saw another communications pro work his magic but he needed Dr. Lee to deliver a solid story to both consumer and trade media.  SPRYTE’s advocacy for Relievus and our expert coordination and facilitation skills led to two excellent earned media placements for both businesses.

With Holy Redeemer we secured the earned media opportunities and worked with the physician and patient spokespeople with the enthusiastic support of the device manufacturer.  

Most collaborators will tell you that communication among partners is critical to success and we agree.  Clearing up any blurred breakdowns of responsibility is job number one.  When they work, collaborations are truly a beautiful thing.  Pursuing client goals with other healthcare communicators and delivering results together is energizing and those earned media placements are a great way to stoke doctors’ continued interest in earned media, highlighting their successful approaches to patient care in the most credible way while building the brands of their healthcare provider organizations.

The Media Advisory is a Critical Tool

Healthcare Providers in Pursuit of TV Coverage Need to Nail Them

What we refer to as a Media Advisory at SPRYTE Communications is also sometimes called a Media Alert or a Calendar Alert. Whatever you call it, the Media Advisory is a critical media relations tool for encouraging television news coverage of a single event or function.

For many healthcare communicators, in large and small media markets alike, winning television coverage can be elusive.

You have to think like a producer and succinctly present the opportunity for the cameras to shoot very strong visuals, the kind you see every night on TV news. The following factors are also important and can make or break a TV opportunity:

  • Day of the Week: SPRYTE likes a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.
  • Time of Day: We like mid late morning.
  • Proximity to News Station: If it’s more than a 30-minute drive, that adds challenge.

Here are some of the shortcomings of Media Advisories I’ve seen written at SPRYTE over the years:

  •  Visuals aren’t mentioned.
  •  Headlines lack creativity.
  •  Dispassionate.
  •  A specific time for the main “moment” isn’t given.
  •  Longer than one page.
  •  Written like a News Release.
  •  Lacking parking and entrance instructions.

We do a lot of Media Advisory training actually, more than I would have expected for both seasoned and more junior pros with media relations responsibilities. The reasons these folks need training?

  • Don’t ever watch television news.
  • Don’t sell it.
  • Value print over broadcast coverage.

When You Hear the Anchor Use Your Words

When the TV Anchor uses your words to accompany the video their cameraperson shot at your event from the anchor desk, you know you wrote good ones.

That was the case in December when SPRYTE reached out to televisions news assignment desks in pursuit of their coverage of an intimate and humble graduation ceremony for a large faith-based social service agency it represents in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Two adults completing Episcopal Community ServicesRISE Initiative were celebrated at a non-traditional recognition ceremony.
SPRYTE’s Media Advisory  enticed Philadelphia’s number one rated local television news station, 6 ABC, to send a cameraman to cover the program.

The resulting television news segment included favorite local anchorwoman 6 ABC’s Monica Malpass including words from SPRYTE’s Media Advisory headline.

Part of our earned media strategy for Episcopal Community Services includes attempting to win coverage of key milestones in their program year including RISE Initiative completion recognition programs for the following reasons:

Reasons to Pursue TV News Coverage

  • Shows (rather than tells) their great organization in action.
  •  Simplifies a multi-faceted mission by focusing on one great, visual moment.
  • Covers a wide geography.
  • Affirms donors’ good decision to support you.
  • Boosts morale of program participants and staff alike.
  • Builds the organization’s brand in the community in a visible way.

Remember sometimes the cameras don’t show up to even the most inspiring, visually-charged and meaningful events. We all know that can happen. But if we think there is potential for a great TV story that will be enjoyed by viewers throughout our media market, we will try at all costs to get the coverage again next time too.

5 Tips for Healthcare Marketing to Hispanic Audiences

Investing in Cultural Competence is Key

It sounds simple. In order to communicate with someone effectively, it’s best to speak to them in their own language. That’s a marketing axiom. For healthcare marketing, it’s vital.

When reaching out to audiences with a different ethnic or cultural background, it is important to appreciate exactly how those differences might impact your message – or your intended message.

For example, in conjunction with the observance of Juneteenth, SPRYTE posted a special blog telling about the history of the holiday and noting how African Americans may have different attitudes and perspectives in regard to certain healthcare services (we focused on hospice) and healthcare professionals, due largely to different life and culturual experiences.

Whether your target audience is African American, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Russian or an other nationality or culture, it’s important to understand the nuances that can affect how your message is received.

Our colleagues at MTM LinguaSoft, a language services company that specializes in helping businesses communicate effectively with multilingual audiences, posted a blog that offered some important insights: “5 Tips for Healthcare Marketing to Hispanic Audiences.”

We think you will enjoy it! Read!

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.

Timeless Stories Break Through Any Clutter

A Veteran’s Last Flight Brightens a Labor Day News Cycle

For many professional communicators, using some kind of angle to tie your message to an upcoming holiday probably comes almost as easily as falling off a bar stool.

Sometimes, however, the story is so timeless that it will transcend the routine patter that often guides holiday-related earned media pitches.

A Case in Point

One of our national clients, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, has created a wonderful patient-focused  program called “Gift of a Day.” The premise is fairly simple. A local social worker or volunteer coordinator asks a hospice patient what their idea of a perfect day would look like. Then they try to make it happen.

Late last summer, over Labor Day weekend, Crossroads staff working out of the eastern Kansas regional office (based in Lenexa), arranged for a very special Gift of a Day for a patient, a military veteran who had served his country through three wars.

The gift involved a 91-year-old local Crossroads patient from Ottawa, KS, who had served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II (where he also served on the USS Beatty), then another 23 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserves amidst the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Honoring a Beloved Veteran

His love of airplanes and flying had never ebbed. His last request – to take to the air one more time and have the chance to fly over Kansas’ colorful scenery and gaze down upon his beloved home state – would be a dream come true.

The staff at Crossroads was determined to make it happen. To help make it a reality, they reached out to the Commemorative Air Force, Heart of America Wing, which is based at the nearby New Center Airport of Olathe, KS (the old Olathe Naval Air Station).

It was a touching moment when the hospice patient was introduced to his special chariot for the day – an authentic vintage biplane, a PT-13 Kaydet, an iconic American training aircraft from World War II. In fact, it brought tears to his eyes.

But how would it play for the media? Remember, it was Labor Day weekend. Most stations were down to skeleton crews. And the overriding theme for the weekend would naturally be demonstrations, parades and other tributes to the American labor movement.

Family, Friends and Media

Not to worry. Even in suburban Kansas City, in the midst of rural fields about an hour away from local TV stations, the story of a final tribute to a proud veteran who had served his country through three wars was too alluring to resist.

The hospice patient’s daughter and family friends surrounded him as he was strapped into his seat. A local Fox4KC news crew captured the fun as the patient bantered with the pilot and talked about his memories serving in the Navy and Air Force before taking off into the blue Kansas skies.

The story and the visuals proved irresistible. Not only did the story make the local Kansas City evening news cast, it soon went national, and was picked up by Fox News national programming as well as CNN, Accu-Weather and a host of other news sites across the nation.

All told, this little “feel good” story out of suburban Kansas City was picked up by more than 70 media outlets across the U.S.and earned more than 63.8 million individual impressions.

The Moral

Just because you’re timing happens to be attuned to a specific holiday, doesn’t mean you should bend over backwards to try to make some obscure connection. People enjoy stories that take them back to happier times.

Stories that honor veterans and patriotic service are almost always sure-fire ways for winning hearts, minds, and earned media.

Find out more about SPRYTE’s Media Relations services.

Patriotic Symbolism Helps Promote a Timely Cause

What do July 4th and the Opioid Crisis Have in Common?

Tie-ins to patriotic holidays are a time-tested avenue for promoting a product or business.

How many times have we seen Presidents’ Day promotions for Lincoln lounge suites or Washington white sales? (Far too often, I think you’ll agree.)

Getting Serious

But from a public affairs standpoint, despite the all-too-common campy come-ons, there is still value in the patriotic connection strategy – if it is done in a way that respects and pays homage to the historical precedent.

Anyone who has read a newspaper or watched the TV news is aware that opioid abuse has reached epic proportions across the United States. Our client, Relievus, a physician practice specializing in pain management, wanted to enhance its brand reputation in a way that reflected a commitment to the communities it serves.

SPRYTE recommended a letter to the editor campaign encompassing community newspapers throughout Relievus’ service region – including 15 locations across South Jersey, as well as Philadelphia’s Mainline, Northeast Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. To emphasize the local connection and maximize impact, the doctors’ offices in each respective community were correlated to individual local papers.

The theme was Independence Day and was timed to land right as the Fourth of July holiday took place. 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 proved to be a popular message, as the letter to the editor was picked up by newspapers throughout Relievus’ New Jersey and Pennsylvania footprint:

Toward a New Independence Day

Dear Editor,

On July 4th, millions of Americans will come together to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, an historic testimonial against oppression that still inspires people around the world.

Today, millions of Americans are confronting another kind of oppression – opioid addiction. At Relievus, we see the effects of this horrible epidemic every day. It has destroyed families, ruined lives and even led to an historic decrease in lifespan among sectors of the U.S. population.

According to recent reports,  in 2016, 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids, while over 42,000 died from an opioid overdose. Roughly 40% of those deaths involved a prescription opioid. But the impact isn’t limited to opioid abusers. Another report puts the economic impact of each opioid overdose death at approximately $800,000.

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.

Weaning patients off opioids is an important step. But managing pain takes an intense, multi-faceted approach. Most need social support, behavioral therapy and/or individual counseling. They cannot do it alone. It will take a united and coordinated front.

On this Fourth of July, let us reignite the spirit of American courage and community. Let us work to create a new dawn of independence from the oppression caused by the abuse of opioids and other drugs.

Young J. Lee, MD
Relievus

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Moral of the Story

Even in our current, often-divisive times, a message of community and concern for the greater good can still resonate widely. Perhaps today, more than ever, it’s important to look back to those positive themes that helped establish and develop our nation and use them as a guide as we create our future. As hallowed forefather Benjamin Franklin observed just before signing the Declaration of Independence: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Find out more about SPRYTE’s Public Affairs and Media Relations services.