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!

Make Your Media Event about People

Transcend the Photo Op with Human Stories

Every organization has media events, and everyone thinks theirs is special, different, or worthy of news coverage. The truth is, journalists have seen many of these happenings before, covered them ad nauseam, and maybe even ignore them altogether.

One way to entice cameras, of course, is creating a really great visual, something that they just can’t live without. But sometimes there’s nothing you can add visually, and some photo ops just don’t get reporters excited because they’ve been there, done that. That’s when it’s helpful to turn to the human story inside of your media event to generate great health system PR.

That party for underprivileged children? Not a big deal to jaded editors, but imagine if one of those kids is reunited with a military parent on leave during the party? We’ve seen these stories time and again, but there’s always interest because of the emotions involved.

Take a deep look at not only WHAT is happening at your media event, but WHO it is happening too. In any group, there’s usually one or two participants for whom the event is most meaningful. If you can find those people, and learn their backstories, you can more easily sell your event, because now it’s not merely a “photo op” but a human interest story.

A Love Story…Broken

Take our health system client’s recent “virtual dementia tour,” for example. This is a recurring opportunity for caregivers and family members to literally walk in the shoes of dementia patients, such as Alzheimer’s sufferers, seeing what they see and experiencing what they feel through special goggles, gloves, headphones and shoe inserts. The virtual dementia tour is provided by a handful of companies around the country, which contract with hospitals, hospice companies, nursing homes and other organizations to deliver the experience to those with an interest.

In our research, we found that TV stations and some newspapers have covered virtual dementia tours when they’ve occurred in other markets, and one or two even covered a prior event in this health system’s service area of Philadelphia. On the one hand, that meant there’s proven interest in the topic among the media. On the other, it’s not particularly new. So how could we excite the media for this latest tour?

Upon learning that one woman signed up for the dementia tour because her husband, a patient at our client’s assisted living facility, had Alzheimer’s and wanted to see what he was going through, we were sold, and we thought we’d be able to entice the media with it too. We were told she’d be happy to talk with a reporter, and even accompany one through the dementia experience for the cameras (within the constricts of what the tour provider allows, for proprietary reasons).

This couple had been married for 65 years, and the husband has been suffering from dementia for the past nine. This was her chance to better understand what goes on inside his head, particularly since he is no longer able to speak. A local television health reporter was intrigued, and she determined early in the process that her story about the virtual dementia tour would be focused on this woman. The reporter even requested still photos of the couple in better times, which the wife was happy to bring along.

Coverage was not only assured, but it was now a highlight of that evening’s newscast. While most photo ops might, at best, merit a 45-second voiceover, now that this was about people, rather than a high-tech, visual event, the result was a nearly three-minute feature story.

Build People into your Media Event Planning

When planning outreach for your media event, build into your plans the people who will be attending. Attempt to learn the following:

  • What motivates them to be there?
  • Why is this important to them?
  • What is their “backstory” as it relates to this event?
  • What will happen to them after the event, or how will things be different?

Not everyone’s going to have a relevant story, let alone one that might be newsworthy, so you might have to speak with several people, or staff or organizers who know some of them personally. But you’ll find it’s usually worth the effort.

It’s academic to say that all news is about people, but if you have a human face and a great story to complement an otherwise ordinary activity, your event becomes much more than an event.

Great Stories = Great Earned Media

Seek Human Angles, Community Activity

It’s the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

There are many ways to argue it of course. At its most basic, sound is vibrations in the air and whether or not there are ears there to hear it is irrelevant. But this blog is not about arguing the merits of old philosophical dilemmas. Rather, it’s about bringing attention to your organization’s events. And some might argue that if you have an event and no one is there to witness it, it really wasn’t an event at all.

But how do you go about getting the media to your events? It is incumbent upon you to get inside the mind of the viewer and the journalist and think about what’s newsworthy. We know the more salacious the better, and if anything bad or controversial occurs rest assured they’ll be out in force, possibly with helicopters. But if we’re being honest we also know that the media generally seek balance and will engage with a story that is interesting or has “feel good” value. These qualities, along with community outreach initiatives and technological breakthroughs can elevate the reputation of your hospital, health system or facility, and draw in journalists, so start by focusing your efforts there.
The Plan of Attack

A recent SPRYTE example illustrates this approach. Responsible for the promotion of the 2017 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Philadelphia Marathon, SPRYTE employed two of our tried and true tactics, the media advisory and the story pitch, to gain a tremendous amount of media coverage over five months, culminating with the AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend Nov. 18-19.

Media advisories were used for pep rallies and announcements, and pitches employed for feature stories. These included the story of U.S. Army Sgt. (Retired) Earl Granville, an Afghanistan vet and wounded warrior who ran the Dietz & Watson Half Marathon Nov. 18 on a prosthetic leg. It was a powerful story that begged for media coverage…and received it, from NBC10, CBS3 and Fox29.

Breandan Lyman also got media loving for his two unlikely paired hobbies: distance running and competitive eating. The frequent Philadelphia “Wing Bowl” competitor was featured in Philadelphia Metro the week leading up to the Marathon. These are just two of the many powerful and quirky stories that have value. You can view these and other Marathon earned media results at this link.

 

The Best Laid Plans…

Alas, it is possible to work everything just right and still miss out on media engagement. For instance, your charitable fundraiser can easily get bumped by another story such as a house fire or local scandal. That’s the nature of the beast. You can’t count on the coverage until you see it on air or in print.

 

Media is Not the Enemy

As we alluded to above, it’s easy to think of the media as that ogre that shows up to call attention to something bad, but this thinking is limiting and not altogether true. The fact is, media want newsworthy content. Giving them what they crave helps them as well as you. Once your story gets covered, it is free and, via social media, possibly viral publicity, ready to be merchandised and shared through your own social channels and other communications tool, as discussed in last week’s Insights blog.

The “Afterlife” of Earned Media Hits

Extend Reach by Marketing the Marketing

If there’s one thing SPRYTE is good at, it’s generating great earned media results for our clients. But what becomes of those terrific stories after they appear?

In days gone by, an article would run in a paper or magazine, (hopefully) be seen by thousands or maybe millions of readers, then get relegated to the recycling bin or bottom of the proverbial birdcage. The agency or client might add the clip to a digital archive, to trot out when someone asked for it down the road. More savvy organizations might get reprints made and add them to their marketing materials.

With the advent of the internet, however, those once-fleeting media “hits” have found an extended afterlife. Those wonderful stories live online, potentially in perpetuity, to be found by consumers, prospective employees and journalists researching your organization. (Unfortunately, so do negative ones, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)

As those stories accumulate, your SEO results will likely increase too. If you’ve read our prior blog on getting backlinks, you’ll have had success in getting journalists to include links to your organization in the online version of stories. According to Google, a whopping 99.2% of sites that show up in the top 50 search results have at least one external link. The more earned media hits you receive, the more valuable links back to your site from legitimate news sources…and the more your credibility will rise in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

SPRYTE, like most agencies, has always merchandised our media results for clients, but our clients have become more and more interested in merchandising them to their own audiences, whether those are patients and prospective patients, employees/doctors, prospective partners and affiliates, franchises or the general public.

And we’re very happy to help, by providing new introductory copy, writing social media posts, or securing digital reprints.

 

Beyond the Birdcage

Here are some ways we recommend taking that glowing media story “beyond the birdcage”:

  • Post the article on your organization’s website, either on your dedicated “In the News Page” if you have one, or your home page if the story merits marquee treatment. You can include a thumbnail, a link to the original source, or a readable image.
  • E-mail a PDF of the article with a cover note to your marketing list, or consider snail-mailing hard copies with a cover letter or handwritten Post-It note (“I just wanted to make sure you saw this great article…”) to particularly hot prospects.
  • Include the article link or the entire article in your organization’s internal newsletter.
  • Share the article link on all your social media channels, and encourage your employees or employee-ambassadors to share or post it on their personal feeds as well.
  • If you’re a franchisor, like a home care company, provide your franchise owners with a ready-to-use blog or paragraph and link that they can use on their microsites, if available.
  • Prepare copy for each of the main social media channels, making posting a turn-key process for franchise owners or affiliates. (Remember, you now have 280 characters to boast on Twitter!)
  • Make hard copies of the article for hand out at trade shows or expos, or to include in leave-behinds. Enlarge and mount the article on foam board for display at your booth or table.
  • Broadcast stories can be edited together and added to the website, played on a loop in waiting rooms, or shown during expos.

One SPRYTE client was so thrilled with the breadth and quality of coverage we generated that they revamped their lobby wall to create a “Wall of Fame” featuring our greatest hits!

 

Run with it, but Play by the Rules

A word of caution: check with the article rights holder before mass distributing any story. Linking to the original source is acceptable in most cases, and the Fair Use Doctrine may apply in many others, but as some stories reside behind paywalls, written permission and/or a fee may be required. Many publications also provide official reprints, including the masthead, at a cost.

Even if you’re not redoing the décor to highlight media hits, positive articles about your organization should become another arrow in your marketing quiver. Fortunately, there are many avenues to prolong the afterlife of great publicity!

When Media Worlds Collide

Specialization is Great, But Integration is Better

By Lonny Strum, Strum Consulting Group

I grew up in the industry in the late 70s and 80s at BBDO/New York. Just post-Mad Men era, though not too far removed. For its many flaws, BBDO/New York was a truly great agency. BBDO and its clients knew what it was—a TV shop for big brands which were looking to build their image through TV advertising. Not print, not radio—TV. In that era, BBDO was second to none.

My career moved to Philadelphia in the 90s where I ran two large local agencies—Earle Palmer Brown and later the Star Group—though much of what I learned about the power of TV advertising remained in my soul. Nonethetheless, I gained a deeper appreciation for “other marketing disciplines”—PR, Yellow Pages Advertising, Direct Response and later some early Web Development. BBDO had none of these other disciplines. It didn’t have to. There were other shops in the BBDO network and later the Omnicom Diversified Agency Services (DAS) network that did that “other stuff.” And in the 70s and 80s, the other stuff was myopically viewed as secondary.

Changes happened along the way, some subtle others not so. Even before that information superhighway thing took off (and I thought it was a fad—oops), the growth of “below the line” functions—promotion, DR, PR – grew faster than general advertising. Then media shops were spun off into separate companies, leaving the big ad shops as largely strategic/creative firms. Then all hell broke loose as digital shops grew and continue to grow. While traditional ad spending still is the dominant form of spending, I foresee the day in the not too distant future when general advertising is “below the line.” Truth of the matter is the line has now been blurred, and today there is no line at all.

Today the three media worlds—paid, owned and earned– are experiencing a convergence.  To be clear the three media worlds are:

Paid media is media you buy—TV ads, radio, outdoor, print, display advertising, paid search, TV spots, outdoor advertising, etc.

Owned media is as it says-you own it. Your web site, blog, YouTube Channel, social media pages, etc. The company controls the horizontal. The company controls the vertical. (see The Outer Limits)

Earned media is typically what people thought of as PR but which now has a broader application. From traditional  articles/mentions and word-of-mouth to new social media chatter, likes, reviews, links,  etc. — basically what people are genuinely saying about you digitally or not, that you didn’t pay for or control.

This convergence is kind of like a Vulcan mind meld and you need to have the wisdom and knowledge of Spock to orchestrate it properly.  Here’s the real challenge:

In this complex marketing world, marketing discipline specialization is so important. It is a full time job mastering the detail and gaining a deep and full understanding of a marketing discipline/media type particularly when layered with the digital implications that never even existed in yesteryear. Despite the need for specialization, there has never been a time where integration of those disciplines is more important. Said simply,

Specialization without orchestration yields no integration

(overuse of the “ations” I know, but you get the point)

My point is this: Never has there been more marketing specialization in distinct areas—traditional advertising, PR, media planning/buying, social media, search, SEO, digital advertising. Each element overlaps the other. In yesteryear specialized disciplines were handled by separate “departments” of ad agencies. Today they are handled by separate agencies.

So where is the integration happening? Mainly at companies by smart digitally focused, analytic-centric, renaissance marketing people. This integrator needs to be incredibly smart, versatile and visionary.

For those who are entering the marketing field, you should aspire to ultimately be that person. The person with the vision of how the pieces really work together. My advice is always try to learn about disciplines outside of your specialty, figure out how they work together, and then go to the head of the convergence class.

Timing is Key for Student Volunteers

Earned Media Can Build Enthusiasm

Many healthcare organizations rely on volunteers. Often they are a bulwark in the ongoing challenge to provide care and comfort to patients in need. Finding and recruiting great volunteers requires a well-planned effort that should include earned media outreach.

In the U.S., the importance of volunteering and the underlying commitment to service and community remains strong. Services provided by volunteers are of considerable importance not only to individual patients but to the health care system in general. In the world of hospice, for example, Medicare rules require providers to have at least five percent of their services delivered by volunteers. That’s why it’s vital to have a steady supply – earned media can help draw new volunteer applicants.

Timing is Critical

If you are looking for student volunteers who can offer a long-term commitment (e.g., several days a week for several months) then the summer months – after spring term final exams are finished – are ideal. But don’t wait until then to begin your outreach program. Students who are serious about landing a preferred summer position likely will begin investigating their options right after winter break. (And frankly, students who display such a conscientious commitment will likely make the best volunteers.)

When we undertake earned media campaigns specifically to attract student volunteers on behalf of our healthcare clients, we typically begin in February. That gives us time to cover our bases – including PSAs for local radio and TV, if appropriate; outreach via the community or local news sections of local papers; hyper-local news sites such as Patch, or Topics. Social media also plays a key role – Facebook and Twitter feeds are ideal avenues for reaching interested followers who can alert would-be volunteers or make recommendations. In addition, specialized websites such as VolunteerMatch.com can be a catalyst for attracting new volunteers to your organization.

Targeting Volunteers

Particularly in healthcare settings, organizations require that volunteers be at least 16 years old; pass a criminal background check and drug screening; and be able to show proof of immunizations, PPD shots, flu shots, and undergo orientation and training.

Student volunteers of high school or college age can be a tremendous source of energetic and enthusiastic helpers.  But how do you reach them?

  • Understand what’s most important to them. Typically, student volunteers will have a high level of curiosity about healthcare professions, an interest in learning how to be of service to a healthcare provider or a community organization, or perhaps they are looking to satisfy community service requirements required by some schools. Understanding their motivation will help you craft a more effective outreach message.

 

  • Tell Them What’s Expected. In crafting your outreach message, it’s important to be upfront about what is expected in terms of time commitment and what kinds of duties they will be fulfilling. Our hospice client asks students to be willing to donate as little as 45 minutes per week. But what they will get in return is generally much more valuable (a theme emphasized in the earned media effort) – the ability to fulfill community service hour requirements, hone their social abilities, boost self-confidence and develop new skills. Often, volunteers are simply asked to be present with patients – sharing favorite activities like reading, card games, playing music, or arts and crafts. Volunteers can also handle vital but often overlooked duties such as running errands and providing respite for family members.

 

  • Make It Easy. In today’s web-based world, you should make as much information as possible about the volunteer experience – including an online application – available in an easy-to-find location on your organization’s website. Be sure to include the links in your news releases and PSAs. This will also help drive traffic to your website as well as provide the media with a reason to provide link-backs to your site. Also make sure to provide the name and contact information of an individual who can respond promptly to questions and provide additional details that a would-be volunteer may have.

Volunteering can be a rewarding experience – for both the volunteers and the organizations that sponsor them. Attracting the best volunteers is similar to attracting great customers. To be successful, you first need to understand their needs, and develop a creative and comprehensive outreach program that fully exploits earned media to attract them to what hopefully be a mutually rewarding relationship.

Published September 19, 2017 by Spryte Communications in Public Affairs