Volunteers Want to Know Their Time is Valued

Don’t Overlook a Simple Thank You

April is National Volunteer Month and this year SPRYTE had the opportunity to interview amazing volunteers and spend hours writing blogs about them for our clients.

The majority of generous souls we talked to volunteered as companions to seniors.  Their dedication and compassion are humbling.  And, the amount of time they contribute and that they actually have to contribute, is substantial.

Unknowing organizations are too often shocked to know that many wonderful volunteers resign because of their interactions with professional staff and other volunteers.

Taking Advantage of a Volunteer’s Generosity

My own Mom abruptly quit her volunteer job a few months ago with no notice.

She was making an incredible weekly contribution to a respite program for spouses at her continuing care retirement community.  For two hours once a week, she led afternoon activities for a small group of elderly women suffering from dementia. Their husbands would drop them off for five hours total, which included lunch.

After lunch is when the fun began.  My Mom put a lot of creativity and planning time in to the sessions and the feedback all around was stellar.  The participants were fully engaged and the stretched-thin staff social worker was thrilled.  She got a lot of positive feedback.

But one day she accompanied the group to a musical program in a different location on the campus and a staffer ordered her to take one of the participants to the Ladies room.  That one simple, inappropriate request was a trigger.  It crossed the line.  Without belaboring it, my Mom resigned from the program.  What a loss to the participants. Instead of being engaged in well thought out group cognitive activities, their time will be more custodial until a new resource is found.

My Dad is quitting his volunteer job at the continuing care retirement community too.  A retired PhD think tank economist, he has volunteered for the IRS at tax time for nearly 20 years.  He helps seniors file their tax returns.

Apparently, the foreman at his volunteer location is a miserable bully.  He barks out people’s last names and requires the volunteer to trot up to his throne when called.  My Dad finds it demeaning and distracting when he’s trying to complete as many returns as possible for the helpless seniors.

Tax Day Was His Last Day

Anyway, the week before last my Dad was in the community bank branch as was the IRS volunteer foreman.  The gentleman ignored my Dad, he didn’t say hello, there wasn’t any gesture of recognition.  My Dad stuck it out through Tax Day but now he’s quitting because the volunteer environment is so toxic and besides a horrible volunteer boss, no one has ever thanked him.

SPRYTE’s Operations Manager Steve Ehrlich, a prolific volunteer photographer, said “Volunteers need to be thanked.  Volunteers do not work for money. They work because they believe in the cause.”

Steve shoots loads of community and charitable events.  He reminisced, “I just recently photographed a major event. I delivered the finished photos very quickly (event was Sunday night, photos delivered late Monday night.)  I did not get a thank you reply to my email.  I did get recognition in the program and my photos were posted on Facebook with a credit, I just did not get a personal thank you.”

Steve summed it up, “Most volunteers want to know that their work is appreciated after they have completed it.”

This is a good time to remember how the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations in 2019:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Non profit organizations and other industries like hospice that engage volunteers must remember that volunteers are an important public.  Their experience can contribute greatly to an organization’s reputation in the marketplace.  Many volunteers who contribute their time also contribute money to the causes they love.  Do you agree?  Volunteers’ experiences must be as positive as possible.  Anything less has potential to reflect poorly upon the organization.

-Lisa Simon.

 

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.

Creating a Winning Awards Strategy

Help Your Professionals Stand Out from the Crowd in Awards Competitions

With the 98th rendition of the Miss America Pageant, the country’s oldest and most renowned individual talent/interview competition squarely in the minds of fans across the nation, it would seem a fitting time to consider what lessons might be drawn to help position your healthcare organization’s candidates for success in regional business and community awards competitions.

Why Enter Awards Programs?

Business or community recognition programs are more than just beauty or popularity contests. They are an opportunity to showcase your best people or the most positive attributes of your organization.

The payoff should be obvious. The individuals chosen to represent your organization will be honored that they are held in such high esteem. And the positive contributions that they have made will reflect well on your organization as well as their own professional reputations.

Presented in the public eye, their nominations – and the positive stories that support those nominations (it’s all about story!) can help distinguish your organization in the eyes of consumers and the general public and burnish your brand as a friend of the local community.

Getting Started

One of the first things you will want to do is take an inventory of the potential “recognition awards” to consider shooting for. As noted, regional business media are frequent sponsors of such programs. (They help attract advertising dollars and interest in the stories that emanate from the programs, while also opening avenues for future sponsorships, story ideas and business contacts.)

Naturally, it will be necessary to review and assess how closely the individual recognition award opportunities correspond to your oroganization’s interests and strategic goals.

Some of the categories that we’ve helped clients pursue include:

And many more….

Doing Your Homework

After you’ve made your selections as to which awards programs to target, you will want to pay close attention to the specific requirements and information that the sponsor will be using to choose from among nominees.

For example, if you’re nominating an individual for a specific award, there may be an area requesting details about their participation in charitable or community activities. Even if your nominee is an outstanding professional in his or her line of work, a lack of a sufficient record of community involvement can doom the nomination.

(An old political saw holds true here – your candidate may look great from an existential perspective, but once they are up against an actual opponent, those original perspectives can be tossed out the window.)

Study the questions. Then look beyond them. Try to figure out why that specific information is being requested. Is there an apparent agenda underlying the questions that are being asked, or in the way they’re asked? Try to work out the puzzle, if it presents itself: This is what they’re asking, but what is it they’re really looking for?

What kind of story do they want to hear?

Research, Interview, Repeat

If you’re nominating an individual for a recognition award, you will want to take the time to interview them so that you can garner the information you need to fill out the nomination form. Get the facts. But not just the facts. Try to discover what motivates them to do what they do. See if you can create a personal story to supplement and animate the basic facts that are being requested. What drives them? What makes them unique? Why are they so good at what they do?

You might also interview people they work with, as well as patients, if appropriate (be careful about divulging inappropriate patient data, however). It’s not unlike writing a movie or TV script. The goal isn’t just to tell your audience why your nominee is a remarkable person. You should try to show them by showcasing the actions, motiviations and relationships that encourage them to excel.

The same idea holds true if you are describing, for example, why your organization should be considered among the “fastest growing” in your region. The numbers, of course, will be crucial. You will need to check with your accounting or financial experts in order verify quarterly or year-over-year results, for example. But again, the story of why the organization was able to grow so fast is likely to be key.

What is it about the CEO/President’s background and vision that made success possible? Is there something in their personal biography that set them on this path to success? What kind of goals have they set? What’s his or her secret sauce?

It’s All About the Story

It can be easy to look at business and community awards/recognition programs as being dry, data-driven, form-based efforts.

They can seem very mechanical. But in reality, they serve as opportunities to build your success stories – either that of the organization itself, or the stories of the gifted representatives who are part of your team.

Even if you don’t win, you’ll still have stories to share with your supporters in the community and in your healthcare organization – and, of course, in the larger world of social media.

If done well, in the long run, your organization and your nominees are sure to come out winners – no matter where they end up in the final award standings.

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.

Find out more about SPRYTE’s Public Affairs and Reputation Management services.

Shine a Light on Your Docs

Social Media Can Help Humanize Your Front Line Physicians

According to the National Institutes of Health, patients only get to spend a median of 15.7 minutes in consultation with their doctor during an appointment. It’s hardly enough time to forge a relationship, or even get to know the doctor outside a purely clinical context.

But, hey, doctors are people too, and health organizations that spend a little time portraying them as such can create fans, inspire loyalty, generate valuable feedback and remove much of the intimidation in the doctor-patient relationship. And social media marketing is an easy way to do that.

Posts highlighting your physicians, and even nurses, nurse practitioners and other frontline clinical staff will put a face with a name, remove some of the mystery, and essentially humanize them among your followers. And they can give a morale boost to those you feature, particularly professionals who aren’t used to being in the spotlight.

George Clooney in a Lab Coat

Just ask Dr. Lorenz Iannarone, a surgeon whom SPRYTE highlighted for client Holy Redeemer Health System on Facebook in May…and who garnered 176 likes and 56 glowing comments from past and current patients. A largely unassuming man, Dr. Iannarone was praised for being compassionate, gentle and a good colleague, and one fan even called him “the George Clooney of medicine.”

Such testimonials don’t simply make a doctor feel good; recommendations from others (in person or online) are a key driver of medical decision making, so organic, heart-felt reviews can be powerful from a brand management point of view. They help deliver the implied message that your clinicians are kind, caring and patient-focused – whether or not they’re the second coming of Dr. Doug Ross.

It pays to schedule in recurring practitioner posts in your social media calendar. Holy Redeemer simply calls theirs “Practioner Spotlights” and they are posted weekly. Other organizations might call them “Featured Doctor,” “Featured Provider,” “Doctor Spotlight,” or something else. What you name it isn’t as important as the fact you’re doing it.

Inform, but Make it Personal

Practioner Spotlight, which appears Wednesdays, includes a summary of the doctor’s specialty, a sentence about where they earned their medical degree(s) or served their residency, and a sentence about their particular area of passion, if they have one. These posts often include a sentence on what the practitioner likes doing off the clock – a large ingredient toward humanizing them.

Of course, a good photo is mandatory. This should be a professional head shot or a good quality staged photo in a clinical setting. Be selective. A poor quality image or a shot of the doctor with a scowl or neutral expression won’t cut it. Make sure they’re flashing their pearly whites.

Here are some more tips for making your physicians part of your social content marketing program:

  • Brand your posts. You can frame your featured practitioner in your organization’s colors or other brand elements. Reserve this framing exclusively for your recurring spotlights. If the clinician is wearing a labcoat, make sure the logo is visible.
  • Highlight new docs. Welcome them publicly by putting them front and center in your social media, to introduce them to followers and patients.
  • Give shout outs when appropriate. Put the spotlight on a practitioner who has been recognized with an award or accreditation. You can use this tactic for personal accomplishments too, such as completing a marathon or being recognized for their off-hours charitable activities.
  • Make it easy for followers. Include the practioner’s office number or website and the name of their practice, if applicable, to facilitate appointments.
  • Be consistent. Whether you highlight someone weekly or bi-weekly, be sure to stick with it so it can build momentum, and followers expect to see it regularly. If you pick a day of the week, keep posting on that day.

Your doctors and other practitioners are the faces of your practice or system. Social media is a great way to part the curtain to let patients and other fans know who they are beyond the name on your website.

Declare Independence from the Mainstream Media

Owned Media Lets Health Organizations Talk Directly to Consumers, Brand Loyalists

As we celebrate Independence Day, it’s worth looking at a great way for healthcare organizations to declare their independence from earned media: owned media and citizen journalism.

While that “third-party endorsement” can be valuable, so too can controlling your own messages, and speaking directly to those who are already interested or invested in your organization, such as current and former patients and community partners. Social media is the most visible and most recent tool to reach these audiences, but others have existed for some time and are just as useful for engaging and strenghtening the relationship with those who’ve benefitted from your services or have expressed interest in them.

Owned media simply refers to forms of mass communication you produce, or can control. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their ilk, owned media includes other forms of content marketing such as your very website, electronic newsletters, blogs, podcasts and online or print magazines.

Content is the Key

These tools, produced weekly, monthly or, more likely in the case of a magazine, quarterly or semi-annually, can help your practice or health system tell your best stories, share lifestyle tips and get out word of health screenings, blood drives, fundraisers and other events without going through media “gatekeepers.”

But just because you can control the content and the messages doesn’t mean you can put out just anything. Self-promotion, in small doses, is expected, but to get readers coming back and to create true fans, your owned media needs mostly to deliver content that is useful or educational, entertaining, compelling, or inspirational. Generally, the same techniques for gaining earned media apply to owned media: tell great stories, or provide something readers can’t get anywhere else. This applies to both print and online publications.

The stories you share, whether they are profiles of physicians and other staff, expert advice from your physicians, healthy recipes or the launch of new equipment or a new service (and how a patient has benefitted), can humanize your organization, send the message that it’s on the cutting-edge, or validate it as a source of valuable information, three key components of building loyalty.

Once you’ve established your format and have a consistent flow of content to feed it, you can repurpose those stories for other platforms, primarily your social media channels. Each post should link back to the mother publication or website to gain more eyeballs and more subscribers.

Citizen Journalism

Then there’s citizen journalism, a happy development that has only become more prevalent in recent years. Effectively complementing earned media, citizen journalism provides an opportunity to place your news, event, or other story online at third-party websites, with little or no filtering by editors.

These can include hyper-local websites like Patch.com, which has several thousand editions sprinkled in towns and DMAs across the country, and Tapinto.net, which is developing franchises at a rapid pace in the Northeast. Once you’ve registered, both sites allow you to submit content in the form of news releases, articles and event listings. Typically anything that’s not obviously objectionable and doesn’t violate site rules will see sunshine. Some online news sources will even let you post in multiple neighboring editions, or do it automatically for you.

Online calendars, either stand-alone like Eventful.com, or on traditional media websites (e.g. “6ABC Community Calendar”) are also a valuable way to promote the healthcare events, fundraisers and expos your organization might host or sponsor. Most, of course, give you the option to promote your event for a fee.

Personnel announcements, a frequent occurrence for health systems and practices, may also be submitted via online form to some publications like city business magazines, but more of them are now charging for placement, including your write-up and submitted photograph. However these can also be submitted as articles at the above mentioned hyperlocal sites.

The concept of media has expanded significantly over the past decade or so, and consumers have come to trust news they find online or in their mailbox from a growing variety of sources. By taking advantage of these new avenues, we can truly declare independence from media gatekeepers. Happy Independence Day!

Showcase Earned Media to Demonstrate Your Prowess

Attractively Merchandised Results Can Enhance Client Relationships

As healthcare communicators, one of our primary goals is to deliver high quality deliverables for our clients (or employers) in terms of earned media results: print, broadcast, online and owned media. In addition to simply informing our clients about terrific results, showing the results in a clean, crisp format and as quickly as possible – ideally before they happen to see it themselves – is a powerful way to demonstrate our effectiveness and professionalism while enhancing the client’s brand reputation.

The fact that we are able to achieve noteworthy placements and are willing to make the extra effort to keep our clients informed are critical aspects of any client relationship, and our client’s reputation management. We are continuously reminded that healthcare (and healthcare communications) is a competitive business, so we need to appreciate the urgency of demonstrating proven results – for our own benefit, but also for that of our clients.

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind when merchandising an earned media result.

In any merchandising effort, one needs to be cognizant of copyright restrictions. For a comprehensive discussion of what is allowed and not allowed, you can peruse the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index. Generally speaking, it is illegal to reproduce copyrighted material in its entirety for print, online or broadcast use without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

That said, there is also a doctrine of “fair use” that has developed over the years as a result of various court decisions (See section 107 of the copyright law). Even so, the distinction between fair use and infringement is not always clear and/or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may be used safely without permission. Citing the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Best bet – be selective in what you choose to reproduce. Try to provide a sense of how the story appears in the paper, on TV, or online, and what makes it significant. If the story appears online, provide a link to give the reader/client the opportunity to enjoy the full impact of the story.

Print

For print placements, scanning the article as a JPEG is a practical way to show what it looks like in “real life.” You can use Photoshop (or Word’s “Format Picture” option) to maximize the quality by lightening the background (newsprint generally appears grayish) and adjusting the contrast to minimize any “dirty” background when the article is presented. The photo can then be copied into a Word document for further editing.

Again, be aware of copyright restrictions. Rather than showing the entire article, strategically use enough of it so the reader can quickly get a taste of it. Provide a summary of the story that hits the highlights that are most important to your client. Then link to the full piece on the publication’s website. Make sure the media source and date are prominent, and if possible, provide information about the total circulation, audience, or other key demographics.

Online

Online earned media results can be handled in much the same way. The idea is to provide an overview of the story and its visual significance, along with a link to the story itself.  Whenever practical, we try to reflect the way the story appears online.

Broadcast

Broadcast stories can be tricky to merchandise. Again, the goal should be to give a sense of the story and what it’s about. Keep it to one page. If possible, perhaps insert a handful of screenshots from the broadcast video and laid in an attractive way that help to succinctly tell the story. Make sure to identify the station airing the story, the affiliate, the name/time of the show, the date, and, if possible, the audience reach.

Ideally, merchandising efforts will reflect the same high-quality attention and consideration that goes into achieving the earned media placement itself.  Merchandised placements should be powerfully presented, well laid-out, and legible so stories, dates and media sources are clearly discernible.

Make sure it’s legal. Make it interesting. And most importantly, make it attractive and enjoyable to read.