Juneteenth – America’s Other Independence Day

Patient Experience Relies on Understanding Diverse Perspectives

Americans love their Fourth of July holiday. After all, it’s America’s birthday – the day we traditionally set aside to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of a free nation where “all men are created equal.”

But for many, those hallowed words proved hollow. Hundreds of thousands of slaves throughout the young United States – especially in the South – would need to wait almost another century before their rights to equality were officially recognized.

Another View of History

On July 5, 1852, famed African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, delivered an impassioned speech spelling out the irony inherent in the July 4th celebration:

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” Douglass said. “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim…”

It would take another 13 years, hundreds of thousands of lives, and a Civil War that tore apart the fabric of the American nation before four million African-American slaves would get their own taste of freedom.

Juneteenth – Freedom Reborn

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, military commander of the defeated Confederate state of Texas, read aloud General Order No. 3, telling the populace of Galveston that: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Spontaneous celebrations among the newly freed African American population quickly erupted across the South as Juneteenth was born. African-American communities across the U.S. soon adopted Juneteenth as their own holiday, using it as an occasion for celebrating freedom with public events, picnics and church gatherings.

Understanding Leads to Compassion

Once we understand the history of Juneteenth and how it came into being, it’s easier to appreciate why many African Americans consider Juneteenth to be a day to celebrate not only the vision of freedom President Lincoln described in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation but also the original promise of the Declaration of Independence.

Since our childhood, we’ve been told that America is a melting pot, comprised of people from all over the world, representing a multitude of religious backgrounds, races, cultures, customs, languages and lifestyles.

Healthcare providers face the everyday challenge of understanding how these differentiating factors may affect individuals’ or families’ attitudes toward illness, pain, coping and death. It is important to appreciate why these attitudes are held, because they can significantly influence their willingness to explore various treatment options. Hospice, in particular, can be an especially touchy discussion topic.

For example, according to statistics, African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but they make up only 7.6% of hospice patients. Ironically, African-Americans have a disproportionately higher rate of cancer and heart disease, which are among the top hospice diagnoses.

Researchers point out several reasons for this incongruity. As a rule, African-American families tend to be less trustful of the American healthcare system. In addition, because medical decisions tend to be made within the family, there may be a reluctance to consult with a new, unknown healthcare professional or someone outside the home. Finally, statistically speaking, African Americans tend to be especially reluctant to cease life-prolonging procedures such as tube feeding, organ donation, and palliative care in the hospice setting – because extending life is generally seen as something to be preferred.

Honoring Differences

Healthcare communicators need to recognize that their messages may be perceived very differently by diverse audiences and adjust accordingly to ensure positive patient experience.

As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve to one that is more population health-oriented and patient-centered, there is a growing need for healthcare providers to educate patients, families and the general public about what they can do to stay healthier, as well as the nature of specific healthcare challenges and treatment options.

Understanding their emotions, how they think, and the reasons behind these different perspectives is vital to helping patients and families make treatment decisions that are most appropriate for their individual situations.

It’s not unlike coming to appreciate the Juneteenth holiday. The better we understand the history and background of our patients, the better we can understand and honor the views and emotions that influence their decisions and actions.

-Thomas Derr

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

The Right CMS Amplifies Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Picking One Takes Time

The New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO) is one of the professional associations SPRYTE belongs to.  We love the Monthly healthcare communications webinars.

February’s webinar “Thinking Big: How Small Marketing Teams Can Maximize Their Digital Efforts,” focused on Content Management Systems (CMS.)

According to the presenters, new, less traditional content management systems allow healthcare providers to expand brand awareness as they send hyper-targeted messages in the most streamlined ways. A good CMS is a tool that will help you build long-lasting, real growth strategies.

Choosing the Best CMS for Your Healthcare Organization

There are a lot of CMS vendors out there, as you know.  It takes time to find the one that aligns with your goals.  Here are some key questions to consider.  Does the CMS have:

  • The ability to easily connect with different platforms?
  • A customizable content library?
  • Voice search?
  • A straightforward user interface?

The best CMS platforms enable healthcare marketing teams to reuse and repurpose content seamlessly.

Have You Heard About Headless CMS?

Headless CMS is newer software that manages information based on the premise that published content should be used for more than website tagging.  With Headless CMS, content is seamlessly shared with mobile apps.  For content authors who want to publish in different places on demand, it has proven to be very easy to use, according to the webinar presenters.

Content Libraries and Digital Signage

The CMS should also include a customizable content library that allows healthcare providers to keep all of their information managed in one place.  We know that physicians and medical conditions are highly searched categories.  This data should be refreshed frequently, with medical credentialing.

Other content assets like videos, taxonomy, ratings, and publications can be integrated into the library, and this relatable data is then linked up and shared.  This is all driven by title tags that automatically push users to pages.

Authentic Patient Stories Resonate Digitally

Website personalization is also a fast-growing trend in healthcare, with patient stories popping up more frequently on provider sites. We all know real patient testimonials resonate with readers and they do drive patients to contact providers.  The webinar presenters said emerging voice search can be especially effective here.

In any case, real time updates and selection tools also make it easier for patients to locate your healthcare providers and services.

Ease of Use Should Increase Over Time

Once a good CMS system is set up, it should be easy to use and manage. They usually take a few months to set up, so don’t be shocked.  But after the grueling initial investment, the possibilities are unlimited.

Why Local TV News Isn’t Dead

Securing Coverage on Local New Stations is Still an Important Part of Healthcare PR

By now, most of us have heard the popular doomsday prediction about how online news will cause the inevitable death of local broadcast news in the near future.

Despite these claims, a recent survey by Pew Research paints a very different – and positive – picture about the state of local TV news. According to the survey, 44 percent of Americans considered TV as their preferred platform to get their news in 2018, compared to 34 percent who preferred the internet.

In the world of healthcare PR, local broadcast has continuously proven to be one of the most valuable types of news coverage for our clients. If you’re still wondering just how worthwhile securing local TV news is for your organization, below are three reasons why we think it’s still just as important as ever:

Establishes emotional connections with patients.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and TV coverage is not an exception to this rule. When covering human interest stories, the visual aspect of TV news segments has the ability to convey emotions that people can relate to more than written articles can. This is especially impactful when it comes to telling patients’ stories.

One example of this is a segment we secured for client Holy Redeemer about a dog parade that was held for residents of its assisted living community, Holy Redeemer Saint Joseph Manor. By physically showing how happy the residents were while visiting with the dogs, viewers are able to see the emotional, caring side of healthcare – something they’ll remember when they’re looking for a provider in the future.

Humanizes physicians.

As we’ve mentioned in a few of our previous blogs, patients often prefer seeing doctors who they feel they can trust and build a connection with. Having physicians featured as expert resources in local TV news stories is a great way to help them build relationships with both current and potential patients beyond the doctor’s office. Not only does this type of coverage establish them as thought leaders in their respective practices, but it also helps patients put faces to their names, making them feel less like strangers.

 Reaches a broader demographic.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for all organizations, regardless of the industry, to rely on one platform to reach all of their target audiences. While maintaining an online presence is important for engaging with all different types of consumers, healthcare brands that focus solely on digital media will end up missing one important group of patients who aren’t as active online – seniors. Including local broadcast as part of your organization’s media strategy will ensure that your messaging will reach patients of all ages.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, many will argue that local TV news is on its way out. However, we think that local broadcast is still an invaluable media platform for healthcare organizations that is here to stay.