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

Local Office Location
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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.”

Leverage Patient Case Studies to Launch New Services

Patience Pays When Rolling Out That Shiny New Thing

Earlier this year, we shared a blog on how making your healthcare event about people can draw in the media. But the same goes for the launch of a new technology or service: framing your offering in human terms, and attaching a great patient case study, can turn a dry pitch into a must-do story, or elevate a three-inch business brief into a front-page feature story.

But be advised: it might take patience and discipline from all involved. Your CEO, lead surgeon, or department head might be anxious to let the public know about an expensive new piece of equipment. The marketing department or office manager might feel pressure to let people know about that new service or surgical technique so it can start returning the time and financial investment required to bring it on line. It’s up to the communications professional to rein in those impulses and help develop a plan that makes sense from both a business and media relations point of view. The payoff for waiting can be big.

Patient Case Study Sells “Air Expansion”

In October, 2017, a breast reconstruction surgeon for 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 candidates. Dr. William Scarlett, also the health system’s interim chief of surgery, was currently the only physician in the region using the system, called AirXpander.

The urge to shout about this was strong; no one knew for sure how long Dr. Scarlett would have exclusivity with AirXpander. But we knew the first thing just about any reporter would ask would be “Can I talk to a patient?” The problem was, patients were initially few and far between. Additionally, as the process takes an average of seven weeks to complete before permanent implants could be installed, there’d be no success stories to talk about until late fall, at the earliest.

So we waited. By early 2018 he had several successful “air expansions” under his belt, and more importantly, was still the only surgeon in the Philadelphia area using it, according to the manufacturer. It was time to strike, and fortuitously, Dr. Scarlett had the perfect patient case study.

Miriam, a 69-year-old former Philly 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 the reconstruction surgery, and was making occasional trips back north for follow-up appointments and to visit family and friends. She was also the adoptive mother of three Asian daughters, now adults, and was using her journey as a teachable moment for them. Along those lines, she very much wanted to let other women know about the technology, which she felt significantly eased the reconstruction process. No one could’ve asked for a better patient to offer the media.

The local ABC station, to whom we’d offered the story exclusively, loved Miriam and promptly scheduled interviews to coincide with her next appointment in May at the doctor’s Bensalem office. In June, eight months after we first had a demo of AirXpander, the station ran a three-minute feature story. We are currently pitching AirXpander elsewhere.

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, it’s worth biding your time until you can find one or more who have been treated successfully and can proselytize about your new equipment or service. It’s always more effective to tell stories about people, rather than about machines, and if you can get patients to tell their own stories, better yet.

Waiting doesn’t have to be passive; you can use the time to gather more information, hone your pitch, or tease reporters with information, and the prospect of connecting them to a “great patient whose life has changed.” Offer an exclusive to one particular outlet in exchange for their forbearance.

You might not always be first out of the gate, but if you can present an exceptional case study, you’re more likely to inspire media to cover your shiny new thing.

Happy 36th (Wait, What?) Anniversary!

An Unexpected Pitch Can Pay Off

Conventional wisdom in public relations goes you should only bother promoting a company anniversary if the year ends in zero or five; nothing in between matters to anybody but employees (and even when it ends in zero or five it’s not necessarily newsworthy to outsiders).

So how did SPRYTE score a front-page-teased feature story in a local daily newspaper about their home care client’s 36th anniversary? Easy, we pitched it!

Earn Media by Doing the Unexpected

It’s a case study of how going against the grain can sometimes help with your reputation marketing campaign, and even generate earned media results. In this case, we benefited from the fact no one was expecting a story about an off-year celebration.

Griswold Home Care had neither a special logo nor a year-long marketing campaign to mark its 36th year, especially after celebrating its 35th in 2017. What it did have, however, was a big party for staff, caregivers and partners. Local politicians turned out too and delivered remarks. So why was this party special?

After more than three and a half decades, Griswold Home Care still embraces the vision and values of its founder and matriarch, Jean Griswold. The business wasn’t begun as a moneymaking enterprise; it was sparked by one woman who wanted to ensure no senior was left vulnerable in their home as they aged, even if they lived alone. This mission, company leadership believe, is worth celebrating annually.

That’s the story we strived to tell to the local media. This wasn’t so much an anniversary but an annual thank you to the caregivers and employees who fulfill Jean Griswold’s ideal every day. It was about boosting morale, not celebrating a number, and there’d be more such celebrations in the future, each year on April 26th, zeroes and fives be damned.

This unapologetic approach drew attention in a raised eyebrow kind of way, leading one reporter to seek an interview with Griswold’s CEO. The journalist was already familiar with the locally based home care franchise company, having written about it the prior year…on the occasion of its 35th anniversary.

Don’t Overlook Great Photos, People Stories

To add more human interest to the pitch, we highlighted one particular caregiver who’d been with the company since its first year, and who was saluted during the event.

It also didn’t hurt that we offered good photos of company leadership and caregivers with the county commissioner and Pennsylvania state legislators. As is often the case, good quality visuals can help sell the story.

The resulting article, titled “Griswold Home Care plans ‘morale booster’” topped the newspaper’s business section five days after the anniversary. The lead of the story noted that Griswold simply didn’t want to wait four more years for another occasion to honor its compassionate employees. The story also included a paragraph about the longtime caregiver, Allegra Chaney.

Clear Messages Help in Reputation Marketing

Anniversary stories in general are valuable as they convey that the organization is enduring. This article in particular added the messages that Griswold has long-term, caring employees and is a good place to work – traits that are appealing to prospective patients, clients and staff, and which healthcare organizations should always try to include in their reputation marketing campaigns.

This event and the result illustrate that when it comes to media relations, the number of years in business is less significant than the people you employ, and how your organization stands out from others. Don’t overlook opportunities to mine what you’re doing that’s different or contrarian for press attention.

Mark Your Calendar!

Using Community Calendars to Promote Your Healthcare Event or Fundraiser

There’s a pivotal moment in the classic baseball movie “Field of Dreams” when Kevin Costner is standing in the midst of a cornfield and hears a voice say: “If you build it, he will come.”

With the support of his loving wife, played by Amy Madigan (and despite many questions about his sanity), he builds a baseball diamond on his cornfield and is soon visited by the incarnations of long-dead baseball greats reuniting to play ball.

As a healthcare communicator, you may need to have as much diligence and perseverance in promoting your healthcare screening, charitable fundraiser or community recognition event in order to achieve maximum interest and attendance.

As you are devising your earned media strategy, don’t overlook the value of good old-fashioned citizen journalism. Community calendar listings can be a  free and practical way to reach your targeted community supporters.

Do Your Homework

It sounds simple. Go online. Locate a website. Post your information. Those are the basics. Of course, there’s a bit more to it.

In other words, you’ll need to do some homework.

As with any marketing effort, you will first need to define your audience. Who are you targeting? Are you segmenting by geography? By demographics? By topic/interest? By income? Clearly establishing who you want to reach will help you decide on the best way to reach them.

Next you will want to determine the range of calendar listing opportunities that are available to you. Start with your local mainstream media. Local daily, weekly and independent community newspapers and broadcast television and radio stations often maintain community calendars on their websites that consumers can access and post to. (Note: We are seeing a growing trend in which websites require users to select a permanent User Name and Password in order to access calendar posting applications. Make sure to keep a running list of the sites, the User Name you select and your Password for future use. Or you can utilize a reliable Password app. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble.)

If there isn’t a special community calendar, you might try sending in your information as a news tip. Often there is a special “newstips” email listed under the contact section. Or you can try to look up the local community news editor, if there is one.

Audience Interests

Who are you trying to reach with your message/event?  People interested in health or fitness tips or information? Senior citizens? Mothers or mothers-to-be? Parents with school age children? Family members of patients with cancer, cardio-pulmonary or other illnesses?

See if there are local support or special interest groups aligned with your topic or interest that might consider posting your information or making it available to their members.

One way to get a quick idea of what’s out there is to do a Google search: Type in “Community Calendar” and your relevant zip code.

The Message

The main thing, of course, is to make sure your target audience is getting accurate up-to-date information. For community calendar listings, it’s easy to put together a basic message containing the Who, What, Where and When that can be copied and pasted for the various sites.

Depending on the site, you may have to spend some time inputting specific information, particularly if your event or program runs over multiple dates. Make sure you have the proper times and locations, as well. (The simplest details can be the easiest to overlook.)

Also, make sure to provide a contact where interested persons may obtain additional information or clarification of details. Ideally you’ll have one person designated as your information contact, along with their name, email and/or phone number.

As a final touch, make sure to include your logo or some other visual that reflects your organization (or brand) or graphically supports the message and theme of your event.

Event planning is no field of dreams. Just because you’re willing to stage a special event doesn’t automatically mean people will come. You still need to make them aware of the event and why it’s important for them to attend.

In a lot of ways an effective community calendar program is like playing “small ball” baseball.  You’re not swinging for the fences. You’re bunting, running, singling and scoring by doing all the little things right. But that still takes preparation, alertness and the determination to get the job done.

Make Your Event Photo Count

Landing Earned Media’s a Snap with Great Images

The media won’t always be able to cover your organization’s event or happening. Sometimes they might lack the staff, have competing priorities that day, or in the case of some hyper-local newspapers, simply don’t generate their own content, relying instead on submitted material like yours.

Whatever the reason, your photo and messages can still find placement if you can provide a great photo after the fact. Unfortunately, many clients and organizations don’t plan for this, and as a result, the photography comes up well short of what newspapers are looking for.

 

Best Practice Makes Perfect

The are plenty of resources and tips for great photography just a click or two away, so we’re not going to get into the basics of great image-making here, but there are some things your front-line event people, social media staff, public relations personnel and franchise offices or ambulatory care centers should keep in mind to elevate their results, and increase the chances of landing a photo in the local paper.

High-Resolution Rules. Print publications need images to be 200 x 200 ppi at the bare minimum in order to reproduce sharply, but higher is preferable. High-resolution is a minimum of 600 x 600 dpi. Make sure whoever is shooting photos has their camera set to the highest resolution setting. This can’t be overstated.

Make Sure Your Camera’s Up to It. It used to be a hard-and-fast rule to avoid taking photos for press purposes with a cell phone, because the quality was usually poor. That’s changed with newer, more photo-friendly phones, so if you’ve got the goods, flaunt them. Of course, a digital SLR remains a great choice. Either one, in reasonably skilled hands, will get what you need. And be sure to send or upload the image at the highest resolution.

Go for an Interesting Element or Angle. Try to capture people doing something active or expressing emotion whenever possible. But even cliché photos such as check or award presentations can be made more compelling with a great background, an end-user beneficiary, or when shot from an unusual angle, or with a wide-angle lens. Look for color, such as flowers or shrubs or artwork, to add life to your photos too.

Focus on the Subject. Frame your photos to get in tight on the subject – whether it’s a physician or inanimate object such as a new medical imaging machine. The fewer walls, ceiling tiles or electrical outlets in the photo, the better.

Identify. A great photo is virtually useless to a newspaper if you don’t have the names and affiliations of every person prominently featured. This isn’t necessary for everyone in a candid group shot, but those whose faces are easily identifiable should be identified. And get their home towns too, particularly if you’ll be submitting the photo to hyper-local publications.

Remember HIPAA. You’ll need to get a signed photo release from each person in the picture, possibly even staff, and be cautious to not include any sensitive medical information in the image or caption if a patient doesn’t provide consent. A patient undergoing a specific procedure, for example, or being treated by a particular doctor or even in a specific room could provide health information they’d prefer to keep private.

Strike Fast. Newspapers want news, so send your photos as soon as possible. This might mean while the event is unfolding, but certainly the same day or within 24 hours. Weekly papers generally have more flexibility, but check their deadlines so you can get them photos for the next edition when possible.

Avoid Large Attachments. You’ve got a great picture, in high-resolution, but many journalists are wary of opening attachments, or have servers that will slow them down or reject them entirely. Unless you’ve made prior arrangements to send a large file, upload your images to Dropbox or a similar site, or a proprietary file-sharing platform if you have one (SPRYTE’s is called Docco), and provide a link to download instead. As a bonus, you’ll often be able to see whether said file has been downloaded, and possibly by whom.

Not every photo you send to newspapers will be used in print or online, but you can stack the deck in your favor by giving editors what they need, in the form they want, in a timely manner.

Letter Rip: Send That Letter to the Editor

Research, Customization will Increase Your Odds of Success

The letter to the editor, alongside its big brother, the op-ed, is a tried-and-true earned media tactic. And for good reason: letters are reader-contributed, run the gamut of topics that are news-based and “evergreen,” and are generally short, which means they get read. On top of all that, newspapers publish several every day, and as a result have a solid appetite for good ones.

Frequently appearing in hyper-local markets, letters can be a significant consumer marketing tool. They are effective for a variety of reasons:

  • Educating the public (or correcting the record) about a specific health concern, issue or controversy
  • Creating/enhancing name/brand recognition within the target area
  • Establishing the client’s reputation as an authority on the specific topic or issue
  • Reinforcing the client or organization as a caring and concerned member of its local community(s)

Establish Goals, and Don’t Self-Promote

SPRYTE has had great success with well thought-out, well-researched letter to the editor campaigns on behalf of various clients, frequently publishing the same letter in a number of newspapers across the country, under different bylines, where clients have local offices or franchises, for example.

But the letter to the editor isn’t low-hanging fruit. Success hinges on several factors, not the least of which is the skill of the writer. While the urge is to get your organization’s or client’s name out prominently and positively, editors will see right through letters that are too self-promotional. Writers need to constantly ask the question, “What will the paper’s readers get out of this?” More precisely, what public good can we provide, or what useful or compelling information can we share? What important topic or viewpoint can we open readers’ eyes to?

As with just about all earned media tactics, it’s useful to lay out your goals first, then let them inform the content of your letter. If your goal is to inform readers, make sure to include facts and/or statistics. If you want to thank or bring attention to a group, highlight the problem the group or individuals have helped to solve, and what they’ve accomplished. And if your goal is to weigh in on a subject that’s being widely covered and thus gain thought-leadership credibility, be sure to base your argument on established facts and logic.

Best Practices for Your Letter to the Editor

Here are some more tips from SPRYTE’s playbook for leveraging letter to the editor campaigns:

Avoid high-traffic times of year. Saluting mothers on Mother’s Day, or veterans on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day will put your letter into intense competition for space. Same with the winter holidays (resist that New Year’s resolutions self-help letter). Instead, if you’d like to peg your letter to a significant or recurring event, set your sights on less prominent days, such as an obscure anniversary, a lesser-known holiday, or an organization milestone that no one else can claim. In recent years, SPRYTE has jumped on Peace Officers Memorial Day, “Juneteenth,” POW-MIA Recognition Day, and National Caregivers Day, generating dozens of published letters.

Move fast. If you want to respond to a published article, or give your take on a topic in the news, waiting even a few days can make your letter to the editor stale. Monitor media coverage that’s relevant to your organization’s expertise, and get the wheels spinning for a letter the day the story runs. Submit it the next day or within 48 hours. And don’t forget to reference the specific article in your letter.

Follow the rules. Many papers have specific guidelines for letter writers, so read them and follow them. Words might be limited to 200 or even 150, so make every word count. (In general, shorter letters or more likely to be used in any case.) Some publications require you to e-mail your letter to a specific department or editor, and others have online submission forms. Submit in the prescribed format to give your letter to the editor the best chance of being used. And some papers specifically state they don’t run general “thank you” letters, or letters that don’t respond to a specific article that was published, so make note of those restrictions too.

Customize your letter. If you’ve gone to the trouble to write a letter to the editor, take the time to adapt it for every newspaper/market you’re submitting it to. Include the local office location and healthcare professional’s name, for example, rather than the CEO of the national organization. Name the city and reference the local issue if applicable. This will greatly increase the chance of your letter getting used.

Be available. Just about every paper has a letter verification process to ensure validity, and that might include a phone call or e-mail to or from the letter writer confirming contact information, city of residence and organization. Make sure the person who signs the letter to the editor is aware they might be contacted, or might proactively have to call a number to verify.

Manage expectations. Even if you get a canned e-mail that says your letter to the editor is being considered for publication, you’re only at second base. Your letter might be pushed out due to lack of space, competing, more timely topics, or a more insightful (or entertaining) letter on the same subject. Then again, if your letter is more of an evergreen, it could run days or even weeks letter when you’re not expecting it.

Letters to the editor can be a powerful tool in the healthcare communicator’s arsenal. They can build your reputation, influence public opinion, spur changes in behavior, and, as part of a bigger campaign, possibly even influence public policy. So letter rip!

 

Beware the Pay-for-Play

Is that PR Gold in that E-mail, or Iron Pyrite?

No doubt you’ve received that pay-for-play e-mail: a breathless offer to feature your organization on television, or interview your CEO or a doctor on a major healthcare podcast or website.

One such offer recently came to us through our home care client, inviting their participation in a segment on solutions for seniors aging at home. This was for a familiar TV lifestyle program on a well-known basic cable channel, owned by an even bigger entertainment company. At first read, it sounded legitimate; we’ve all seen these types of programs, and they interview people and gin up the latest innovations all the time. There were multiple follow-up calls and e-mails. But closer inspection revealed this was nothing more than pay-for-play…with a hefty five-figure “pay” element attached.

 

Avoiding the Nefarious Quid-Pro-Quo

This quid-pro-quo is nothing new. As mentioned above, we’ve all found them in our inbox, or maybe the junk mail folder. And there’s nothing particularly insidious about a programmer seeking money to say good things about your organization (or allow you to say good things) in front of a large audience. The trouble comes in the level of transparency, or lack thereof.

Even reasonably intelligent people might not quickly discern the offer’s true nature right away, especially when it involves a recognizable or even a household name. We’ve even seen offers to interview a client’s CEO on a national news network, only to learn it’s a freelance former cable journalist who produces the video, then promises to place it – for a four-figure fee – on that network’s sub-site for citizen journalism.

At first glance, such offers are appealing. But then that “too good to be true” skepticism kicks in. Why us? Why now? How’d they get my name? Unfortunately, by the time you find out there’s payment involved, some staffer has wasted time vetting the opportunity, or making a phone call with a long-winded “producer” or “programming assistant.” The proliferation of online media outlets continues to blur the line for both healthcare communicators and consumers themselves as to whether what they’re seeing is earned media or paid-for content.

 

An Issue of Reputation

Worse yet, for all the short-term eyeballs, regularly engaging in pay-for-play opportunities could have a negative effect from a reputation management standpoint. Who among us bestows the same credibility on an advertorial as an earned media placement in a well-known media outlet?

Conversely, some offers are, in fact, legitimate PR opportunities, so turning a skeptic’s eye on all of them might result in a missed golden opportunity. So what’s a harried communications professional to do?

Read the e-mail closely. They might be a few paragraphs down, but you may find the words “symbolic payment,” “stipend,” or “small honorarium” involved. It may ask you to simply subsidize a production fee. But frequently, there will be no mention of remuneration anywhere in the initial outreach, as was the case with the cable lifestyle program.

Look for an “Unsubscribe” link. A true journalist request won’t have one at the bottom, because it’s not needed. Only mass e-mails have to include an opt-out option. This isn’t a sure sign, however, as some savvy companies will send a personal, hand-crafted e-mail, and others simply ignore the law.

See what others are saying. It won’t take much effort to find other professionals’ feedback on this company or that program. Those who’ve been misled or victimized are often quite vocal in online forums about their experience. When in doubt, solicit peers’ opinions on Linkedin or similar site.

Remember, some offers might be worthwhile. That major online interview isn’t necessarily a scam, as you’re paying a professional to conduct a television-quality piece, edit it, then do the legwork of placing it, where it potentially will be seen by many people. Happens all the time, and some organizations find value in this kind of arrangement, particularly since many viewers aren’t aware they’re watching advertorial content (e.g. an infomercial), especially when it’s running in a medical practice’s waiting room. But again, it comes down to the level of transparency, and at what point the fees are revealed.

Inform your front-line people. Make sure they aren’t dismissing true opportunities simply because they’re not familiar with the outlet, or the person making the request. You don’t want to throw out the golden wheat with the chaff.

In a perfect world, pay-for-play come-ons would show their true stripes from the outset…but that’s probably not effective for their marketers. As healthcare communications professionals, it’s on us to vet such opportunities and counsel our clients before a C-level executive or star doctor gets visions of instant fame and easy national exposure in their head.

Hospital Eagles Pep Rally Scores

SPRYTE Earned Media Attention with “Littlest Fans”

“If it bleeds, it leads.”

That’s an old adage in journalism, but add this corrollary: “If it bleeds Eagles green, it leads.”

Such was the media environment in our hometown of Philadelphia in the two-week runup to Super Bowl LII, featuring our underdog Birds. Trying to grab the media’s attention for anything other than Eagles-related stories was as futile as trying to dribble a football. Now – and we write this with a broad smile on our faces – all the talk has turned to The Return, and The Parade. In the City of Brotherly Love, there are no other stories of interest.

So when our client, Holy Redeemer Health System, told us soon after Philadelphia punched its ticket to the Big Game about two volunteers including a housekeeper who were furiously knitting Eagles caps for newborns in the maternity ward, we immediately launched a PR blitz. Just think of the earned media potential…a bunch of babies in the nursery sporting handmade green and gray caps. We’ve written here before about the appeal of old people, kids, and animals. The combination of wrinkled babies and underdogs in the city of Rocky was tailor made for cameras.

Not only that, the plan to deck out maternity staff and new parents in Eagles colors turned this into a wonderful morale boost for hospital employees, something different and a great way to let them show off their fandom while reaping attention for their compassionate work year-round.

 

Running the PR Playbook

One camp in the hospital eyed Super Bowl Sunday for the rally, but we called an audible on that, knowing the media would be far too focused on day-of coverage in Minneapolis to notice our rally, not to mention the lack of afternoon news shows on the weekend. We chose the Thursday before the Super Bowl, late morning, to maximize coverage.

Holy Redeemer set about lining up parents to participate, with signed release forms. SPRYTE, meanwhile, developed a media advisory, which we shotgunned to area press two days before the event. The event was dubbed the “Littlest Fans Pep Rally,” and we noted that “Eagles fans don’t come any smaller than this!” We offered interviews with new parents, maternity staff and one of the two cap makers, an 80-year-old woman whose son and daughter both work in the system.

The other cap maker had a personal contact with the local Fox station, and they were immediately on board, planning a live segment for the Good Day Philadelphia program. Despite the fact the “official” rally was planned for 10:30 a.m., maternity staff scrambled to corral resources for the 9:30 segment (and the 9:15 live teaser). This also gave a wider berth to other media attending later…and a chance for the babies to rest in between.

 

Carrying the Campaign into the End Zone

The Good Day piece came off without a hitch, and the reporter did a second stand-up for another story during the afternoon news. There were around 17 babies on hand, including a few from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. One turned out to be the progeny of a Patriots fan, so on-the-ball staff scrambled to craft a New England cap and onesie.

“I suppose we have to love him, because he was born this way.” — Jenny Joyce, Fox Philadelphia.

That poor outlier became a highly prized part of every story. And there were many. We re-set at least three more times that morning, for a daily newspaper whose coverage area accounts for a large portion of births at Holy Redeemer; for two more TV stories (one station arrived conveniently late, so nobody butted heads); and for in-house video to be shot and fed later to yet another network affiliate that couldn’t attend. Our parents, no doubt bleary-eyed and still recovering in the hours after their blessed arrivals, were great sports, happily showing up each time with their game faces on.

The story aired on all four Philadelphia network affiliates between 4:30 and 6 p.m.; most included an interview with the octogenarian cap maker, and every story mentioned Holy Redeemer Hospital by name.

 

Local Babies, National Attention

But the images were just too cute to not “snowball” from there. Fox News national ran a story with photos online. ABC World News included video in its segment on Eagles fandom the night before the game, in the context of team loyalty being passed “from generation to generation.” CNN ran a story, which was picked up by at least one NBC affiliate in Eastern Iowa as part of their Super Bowl coverage.

While the pep rally was a manufactured media event, it wouldn’t have been possible if volunteers weren’t already knitting caps. But once we knew about it, our special teams took the field, ran the playbook, and scored terrific coverage. The smiles are still plastered on our faces, and those of parents and nurses.

E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!

Earned Media Fueled SPRYTE’s Launch

But we’ll Endure with Digital

Think about it: when a public relations agency has its own news, there’s inherent pressure to obtain earned media coverage.

Why? So, we can enjoy the credibility that comes with a third party agreeing that our corporate action is newsworthy, and so we can be our own example of the power of publicity.

That was the case a year ago, when after two years of planning and investment, Simon PR, a general PR firm of more than a quarter century, became SPRYTE Communications, a healthcare marketing specialist.

Tomorrow is SPRYTE’s one-year anniversary. In addition to our firm’s new web site, search engine optimization (SEO) investment, social media channels and automated marketing strategy, generating earned media was central to our launch.

And the resulting earned media campaign gave the news of our new brand credibility while creating buzz and spreading the word.

With an exclusive, the Philadelphia Business Journal broke our news on January 23rd. Because of the preparation we did for the interview, the feature length online story included our key launch messages. But it didn’t stop there. We were delighted that reporter Ken Hilario continued to reference SPRYTE’s launch in stories about other agencies throughout the year.

Our agency news was also placed in a variety of print and online media outlets including special interest and grassroots targets like the newsletters of the many associations we belong to and the hometown newspaper of the CEO. We attempted to leave no stone unturned even though, as with any earned media campaign, there were disappointments. Please check out the results from the SPRYTE Communications launch earned media campaign. How do you think we did?

The New Communications Marketplace

We’re the first to admit that we come from a conventional public relations tradition where the primary deliverable is earned media. We thrived in this world for nearly three decades and will continue to up our proficiency as we grow with our clients. But it was clear years before our launch of SPRYTE that we’d better embrace digital marketing, and pronto!

Actually, one of the drivers behind the rebranding was our opportunity to start with a fresh canvas and to offer services that we weren’t known for but were increasingly proficient in, including social media management and digital content marketing.

Most of all, we weren’t known for healthcare public relations even though more than 35 percent of our business has always been in healthcare and we’ve worked on many award winning campaigns with highly notable healthcare brands.

Our team also has experience working in-house in health systems, at big agencies on large healthcare accounts and in big pharma corporate communications bureaus. It makes sense! We are headquartered in Philadelphia, a healthcare capital, with a satellite office in New Jersey, along the life sciences corridor.

While we’ve continued to knock our clients’ socks off with enviable earned media results as SPRYTE, we’ve also:

  • Grown with healthcare automated marketing. We edit several e-newsletters for highly-regarded physician practices. We invested in learning about federal anti-spam laws and patient privacy. This work plays to our strengths as writers and project managers.

 

  • Also playing to our strengths as writers and project managers is our growing proficiency in managing and populating healthcare providers’ social media channels. We also invested in a social media management dashboard to better serve our business in this lane.

 

  • Writing blogs targeted to the healthcare practitioner as part of healthcare providers’ content marketing strategies is a skill we’ve been perfecting as SPRYTE with very seasoned pros on our team who also have life experience and sensitivity to the topics at hand.

As we reflect on a year as the new us, there’s a lot to celebrate at SPRYTE. There’s also a lot to be humble about as the marketplace increases in fragmentation and competition. We’ve been blessed with excellent opportunities in healthcare and we don’t take them for granted for a minute. With as much business experience as we have, we know we must continue to impress while showing passion for the healthcare industries we serve and embracing all the new tools we must deploy to achieve our clients’ business goals.

Here’s to another successful year as SPRYTE Communications!

Twitter Tactics to Reach Reporters

Building Relationships Still Key to Success

It’s often said that it takes work to make a marriage work. Melding two lives, lifestyles and families is a constant challenge. Business relationships are more transactional, working best when each party has an understanding of the others’ specific needs and they can strive together toward a common goal.

Media relationships are somewhere in between – often having the transactional nature of the business relationship, but based on a somewhat more intimate level of understanding between the parties involved. It’s through that more intimate level of understanding that you can build a closer connection – in general, and especially in social media.

From a media relations standpoint, SPRYTE has found that Twitter offers an excellent avenue and opportunities for achieving a closer connection with print media targets via social media.

 

Understand the Reporter’s Needs and Interests

Being able to build such connections, of course, is part of the PR playbook.

To do that, you need to understand a reporter’s needs and interests. What motivates him/her? The best way to start? Simple. Follow them. Spend several days (or weeks) getting to know what topics and stories interest them. What are they writing about?  What else are they reading – and sharing via their Twitter feeds? What do their comments tell you about how they think? Maybe you’ll be able to identify some personal characteristics or interests that will come in handy later.

Make sure to share articles they write (especially if they involve you or your client), and to accompany the share with a favorable comment of your own (if warranted, naturally). Don’t forget to include to mention “@YourBusinessHandle” in the messaging.

More and more media outlets are using social media analytics to gauge the popularity and impact of their news talent, so there can be some real value from their standpoint. Be active, but don’t be obsequious.

Direct messaging, of course, can be a great advantage if you and your target reporter follow each other. And once you’ve established the rapport, you can follow-up with email, if it’s more convenient.

 

Seeing it in Action

Often, a simple “heads up” about an upcoming event can be enough to spur interest. Not long ago, one of our hospice clients was planning a special Gift of A Day (perfect day realized) for a patient – our client had rented out an old-time movie theater for a special screening of “Singin’ In The Rain” for her and her family. There was also a limo, a red carpet, a professional singer and greeters in yellow raincoats to help lend excitement.

Our target journalist was a community reporter for a Northeast Ohio daily newspaper. Based on her Twitter feed, it was evident she favored “human interest” type stories such as this. A Twitter message intrigued her enough to follow-up:

The Tweet led to a series of back and forth emails through which we set her up with interviews with family members and client staff, as well as the owners of the theater hosting the event.

The result was a huge feature story in the Akron Beacon-Journal on the front page of the community section, complete with color photos of the patient, family, limo, red carpet and raingear-garbed attendants.

Could we have done it without Twitter? Probably. But Twitter gave us the ability to quickly review our target, ascertain her interests, and deliver a short, enticing message designed just for her.

Twitter can be a time-saver as well as a strategic tool. But like any tool, you need to spend some time and experiment with it in order to become an expert craftsman.