Use Personnel News to Showcase Your Organization

Who Personnel Are Often Reflects Who You Are

When it comes to telling your story, one of the most overlooked – or under-appreciated – opportunities is the classic personnel announcement.

Many times, personnel announcements end up falling into the “we’ll get around to it” category of priorities. After all, healthcare organizations often expend a great deal of time and energy (as well as expense) in attracting and landing top-flight professional staff to help them move forward.

Why not take the opportunity to tell the world (or at least your key clients and industry colleagues) about the exciting new developments taking place and the new people that are joining your healthcare organization?

Points of Distinction

What is the story you’re looking to tell? Is it solely about a new hire, or is there something more to say that can help brandish the image of your organization and distinguish it from your competition? At the very least, that’s a point you should consider whenever such opportunities arise.

Recently, SPRYTE reunited for a special project with a client that we’ve worked with off and on for the past 20 or so years. The opportunity brought back a lot of warm memories about past campaigns and projects, so we were thrilled to get the  call to help Home Care Associates (HCA), a prominent Philadelphia based agency providing in-home respite and senior care to clients throughout the city and region. One of the things that makes HCA unique is that it is a women-owned business and worker-owned cooperative that has received national recognition as a welfare to workforce model. (In fact, more than 60 percent of HCA’s employees formerly received public assistance.) In addition, it is certified as a socially-conscious B Corp.

Back to the Future

The new project involved the announcement of a new CEO. The retiring CEO was well-known throughout the Philadelphia region as community-involved, politically-connected and every effective leader. HCA wanted to make sure they were hiring the right person. So a national search was conducted.

After several months of searching, it became apparent that the best candidate for the job had been there all along.

Tatia Cooper had begun at HCA in 1994 as a job coach.  She’d held numerous positions at HCA in a steady rise up the organization’s ladder and was considered for the CEO role even as the national search began.

The Company You Keep

HCA leaders readily understood the message that Ms. Cooper’s appointment would send. Even after a national search, the qualified and capable candidate turned out to be an individual who had steadily worked her way through the organization, learning the various aspects of the company and earning her promotion to the top job.

In fact, Ms. Cooper personally developed a number of professional tools and approaches that directly impact HCA workers’ success, including supportive approaches to housing, health, transportation and child care challenges.

For a company that prides itself on being a woman-owned, worker-owned model, it would be hard to imagine a better example to reflect the values and the commitment of the organization as it moves forward.

Rollout and Response

Regional business, newspapers and other media outlets were quick to pick up the story, highlighting Ms. Cooper in an assortment of “Personnel News” and business announcement columns.

As part of the follow-up, we concentrated on Ms. Cooper’s personal story – in particular the fact that her family story of community commitment is one that goes back generations. Her grandmother, for example, was a well-known and highly-respected advocate for economic and social justice who served many years in the Pennsylvania Department of Education looking out for the interests of students.

Her mother, meanwhile, is a widely-respected community activist in her own right, was one of the original staff members and later became Executive Director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women.

In addition, her aunt is President of the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation in Philadelphia and has been working for years to restore and renovate this famous North Broad Street community venue.

All in all, it’s an impressive story about a very impressive family of community leaders.

The angle has led to one local radio interview appearance, with other opportunities in the works.

For healthcare communicators, the moral of the story is to think creatively. It may sometimes seem that personnel announcements are a necessary chore that simply need to be disseminated in a timely fashion.

It often pays to look deeper. Is there a more meaningful and relatable story that can be told that will advance the interests or the image of your organization?  At the same time you’re sending a message internally, that a promotion or new hire is in fact newsworthy.

You might have to dig a little deeper, but very often the extra work will be worth the effort.

Writing is the Common Denominator for Healthcare PR and Content

Don’t Forget You Blog to Generate Business!

When SPRYTE Communications was launched early last year, we also launched our Blog, SPRYTE Insights and we’ve been very disciplined about posting new content every Tuesday morning ever since.

The depth of our content bank is impressive.  SPRYTE Insights’ “editorial approach” is to delight healthcare communicators with practical information they can use in their everyday professional lives in the healthcare provider space.

Of course, those same healthcare communicators and their managers, investors and owners are also our prospects for business development.

We have to remind ourselves that a more focused sales and marketing platform was one reason we relaunched a general agency, Simon PR in to SPRYTE Communications, a healthcare specialist.

But the PR DNA that makes us outstanding at healthcare earned media and influencer engagement isn’t always our friend as we advance as content marketers.

And anything we dedicate time to for ourselves has to be a best example of our work as we try to win more healthcare digital and social business.

Here are some of the SPRYTE Insights’ shortcomings we’ve noticed as we plan to evolve and decide what to put on our Agency to do list moving forward.  Perhaps  other healthcare communications bloggers out there are also experiencing similar sentiments.

The Granular Shortcomings of Our Weekly Blogs

Visual Imagery: We will prep an incredibly compelling written piece and then illustrate it with poor imagery, totally undervaluing the need and opportunity for strong art.  As writers we’re enamored with words but to be successful in content we need strong words and visuals.

Headlines and Subheads can be so pedestrian.  Our blogs are often truly original and pithy to boot but then we’ll put pedestrian headlines on them that do nothing to invite readership or build our brand.  We can do better!

Embracing SPRYTE’s Brand Voice: The SPRYTE Insights blog is an owned media property of SPRYTE Communications.  As a relaunched agency, we have a highly articulated brand voice, well defined service lines and five known target healthcare industries: hospice, home care, hospitals & health systems, medical practices and social service agencies.  Our content needs to build our brand as it’s defined not as a make it up as we blog or as an individual soapbox for issues near and dear to the author.

Paying for It: The PR DNA typically doesn’t include a gene for paying for exposure.  We are so attuned to earning media that it’s extremely difficult for us to pay for it.  We aren’t natural boosters and we don’t really know how much to spend on boosting.  But just posting and not boosting SPRYTE Insights’ Blogs on SPRYTE’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter channels is a very big missed opportunity to reach more healthcare eyeballs, the ones that might hire us!

So now that we’ve identified where we need improvement, how will we advance as content marketers supporting the SPRYTE brand and what will we be doing differently or additionally?

How SPRYTE Insights will Evolve:

  • Archived SPRYTE Insights Blogs Will be Better Illustrated with Improved Imagery and Reposted.
  • A Healthcare Guest Blogger Program Will Debut. (Note:  We are accepting blogs written by proven healthcare communicators for consideration.)
  • Blog Archiving Under Our Five Target Healthcare Industries: Hospice, Home Care, Hospitals & Health Systems, Medical Practices and Social Service Agencies Will Be Added to the SPRYTE Insights Page on the SPRYTE Communications Web Site.
  • A SPRYTE Communications Branded Annual Blog Editorial Calendar Will be Designed and Deployed.
  • A Meaningful Plan and Budget for Social Media Boosting Will Be Established.

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” While complimentary visual and creative skills are required, like public relations, content marketing is rooted in good writing.  SPRYTE is ready to up our game as we grow with our SPRYTE Insights Blog.

 

Timeless Stories Break Through Any Clutter

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

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

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

A Case in Point

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

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

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

Honoring a Beloved Veteran

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

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

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

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

Family, Friends and Media

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

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

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

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

The Moral

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

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

Find out more about SPRYTE’s Media Relations services.

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.

11 Ways to Maximize Your Earned Media on Social

You Scored a Great Hit, Now Comes the Easy Part

Congratulations, you’ve earned a great TV story, newspaper article or bylined thought leader piece in a trade publication! Now what?

Share that success via social media marketing! By doing so you can:

  • Get more eyeballs on the story, thus expanding the audience for your organization’s messages;
  • Further enhance your physicians’ expert reputations in the eyes of patients, consumers and journalists following you on social media;
  • Keep internal audiences, including administrators, star doctors, partners and off-site staff, in the loop on the great work your public relations department is doing;
  • Improve SEO, as the online version of the article (frequently containing a link to your organization) gets shared;
  • Build relationships with reporters by sharing their work (something they’re often judged on);
  • Highlight your agency’s work for prospective new clients.

Social media marketing of client hits is part of SPRYTE’s DNA, and should be part of yours too. And it should go beyond just a link, or a canned “Share This” from the original website. This is your opportunity to hype the story with advance notice if possible, short accompanying text, and even behind-the-scenes photos from the event or interview.

Make the Most of Your Success through Social Media Marketing

Here are some more tips for marketing your results online:

Share the clip promptly, preferably within 24 hours of its appearance. Sometimes links go stale as articles are removed, and some publications put their content behind a paywall after a certain amount of time.

Don’t include the entire text of the story in your post; an introductory sentence or two, along with a link to the original site where the story appeared, is sufficient, will respect copyright, and is preferable for SEO purposes.

Break up the story into short snippets of information, to share in the days after it originally runs, especially if it contains useful tips. Be sure to include the link to the full article each time.

Use one or two relevant hashtags, along with handles for the organization, physician, reporter and any third parties involved in the story.

Highlight the story’s presentation if desired (for example, if it appeared front page, above the fold), by including a photograph or snip with the media outlet’s logo, along with the article link.

Encourage your staff to like and/or share the post on their personal social media channels (and do the same on yours).

Be mindful of paywalls. If the article isn’t free on the original website, you can still quote from it or include an image of the headline and first paragraph or two without stepping on toes, under the Fair Use Doctrine. Don’t include the entire article without written permission of the publisher.

Keep it professional. Linkedin isn’t the place for breathless excitement and exclamation points. Highlight a useful business or communications angle for your description if possible, to make it relevant for that audience.

Pay attention to photos. Facebook will grab a default image from the linked page, and you can no longer change this. If there’s no photo, or you don’t like the default, remove the link, add your own photo (you must do this step first), then paste the article URL in the text box after the blurb. The photo will appear under the post, and the URL will remain in the text box.

Punt if necessary. Not every story is available online, particularly TV or radio clips. If there’s no link, get creative. Use a screen grab or the outlet’s logo, or attach a photo you took at the interview to accompany your post.

Say thank you. It’s never a bad idea to enthusiastically thank the reporter or media outlet for doing the story in the text accompanying the link. This can strengthen the relationship. Just include handles, so they can find it – and hopefully share or re-tweet it.

You likely worked hard and put in significant time to secure that great earned media hit, but leveraging it with social media marketing is under your complete control. Making this part of your standard practice will extend the life of the clip and let others know about your great work!

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!

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.