World of Opportunity for Healthcare PR

Podcasts: Find Them and Pitch Away

Public relations pros of a certain ilk celebrate any and all new opportunities for earned media.  Of course, conventional mass media is often the most highly-valued target for our efforts.  But, have you ever thought about pitching a podcast?

That’s what SPRYTE did recently on behalf of Relievus, a 17-location specialty pain medicine medical practice in Southern and Central New Jersey and suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. SPRYTE’s engagement was focused on the practice’s reputation in the marketplace among consumers and future business partners and investors. 

So, Select Greater Philadelphia’s “Growing Greater” podcast was naturally a good fit. An organization housed within the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Select is the region’s business attraction organization. Select’s mission is to “highlight greater Philadelphia’s unique business assets to national and global audiences with the ultimate goal of growing the economic vibrancy of our collective community through attracting new businesses and new jobs to an 11-county region.”

The “Growing Greater” podcast “uncovers personal and professional successes and challenges with academic, business, and civic leaders from organizations large and small across diverse industries.”  Deep in to its second season, “Growing Greater” already claims “thousands of listeners around the corner – and around the world.”

While the bulk of SPRYTE’s work on behalf of Relievus focused on innovative patient therapies and approaches to pain, storylines of interest to prospective patients, the “Growing Greater” podcast also offered an opportunity for Relievus Managing Partner Dr. Uplekh Purewal and Chief Operating Officer Ron Saltiel to share the practice’s business success story.

The 30-minute interview provided an opportunity to shine a spotlight on:

  • Relievus’ rapid geographic expansion to 17 locations.
  • The practice’s steady stream of top clinical talent, graduating from the region’s many medical and allied health schools.
  • The most innovative and contemporary approaches to managing patients’ pain.

Podcast Listenership is Climbing

Over the past several years, the public’s interest in podcasts has grown rapidly. Gene Ely, a contributor to Forbes who covers digital media, wrote in his article about podcasts last year: “There are now some 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes. Listenership is climbing; almost half of Americans 12 or older have listened to a podcast. So is advertising. Ad spending is forecast to grow from $326 million in 2018 to $534 million in 2020.”

Podcasts’ growing influence on consumers is undeniable – something that our team has kept an eye on regularly. In fact, SPRYTE has blogged about podcasts in healthcare twice before. In both cases, we focused on podcast production, because let’s face it – in today’s world, who doesn’t know an individual or organization who has a podcast?

Just like any other news platform, podcast producers are often hungry for solid material, especially within the confines of their niche topics. Yours just might be a great match, and an even better way to expand your earned media results!

SPRYTE Communications Revives College Internship

Analyzing Three Important Building Blocks of a Successful Internship Program

College Interns. Ask 10 different agency pros for their take on them, and you’ll get 10 different opinions. Throughout our long history as a firm, we’ve had many different experiences, both good and bad. Now, after years of dormancy, SPRYTE is reviving its college internship program this fall.

Our team is excited to bring back this program for college students looking to gain healthcare PR experience. From refreshing our internship application and creating a website tab for the program to rearranging our office workspace, we are working hard to prepare ourselves for recruiting and hosting college interns this fall and beyond.

So, what approaches will we take with our college internship program to ensure the program’s success? Below are some important steps to help provide the best experience possible for both our full time employees and future interns:

Appropriate Expectations: When hiring college students as interns, oftentimes we’ll forget that they are, in fact, still students! No matter how talented they are, PR practitioners need to remember that they’re still just learning the ropes. Our goal for SPRYTE’s internship program is to help introduce them to healthcare public relations – we know they’re not going to master the consulting business and become mini account managers in one semester or summer. Likely, they will build a small portfolio of professional work by assisting with various projects, including research, writing, imagery, media outreach and administration. (Note: This is straight from our new SPRYTE Communications College Internship Overview!)

Paying Interns: While unpaid internships are becoming a thing of the past, some organizations still don’t pay their interns. Even though they help to save money in the short term, unpaid internships often cause students to feel expendable and less driven to work, which will cost more time and money in the long run. We want our interns to feel valued and eager to learn – and paying them for their hard work will help to ensure that.

Careful Management: Balancing how much time employees spend on managing interns can be tricky. Providing interns with too little or too much oversight can lessen what students learn during the internship and create more work for employees, which will cost an organization both time and money. Our team will work together closely behind the scenes to make sure interns receive the right amount of guidance without adding too much additional work to employees’ plates.

As the years have passed, many of our previous interns have kept in touch and gone on to build successful communications careers. Some have secured in-house positions with prominent, well-known organizations, while others are thriving in consulting or agency environments. We’ve also had a few follow in SPRYTE’s footsteps to specialize in healthcare communications for providers and life sciences companies.

We all know that each generation comes with its own set of work styles, interests and pressures. At SPRYTE, we’re looking forward to getting acquainted with students who are currently in college and helping them develop their skill sets. Most of all, we’re looking forward to the energy and ideas they will bring to SPRYTE. We may even be celebrating one or two before the beginning of 2020!

Reflecting on Tennis Injuries, Urgent Care and Thought Leadership

How Brand Spokespeople can Inspire Confidence in Urgent Care Centers

My ladies’ doubles tennis team had its final match of the summer last week, and it turns out that my opponent was one of the same opponents I had three summers ago when I broke my wrist during my first match of the season.

Fortunately, we were able to play two sets this time. After the second set, she asked me if I once was injured at the beginning of a match a few years ago. I confirmed that was me who had an epic wipeout running for a ball that June in 2016.

I remembered I had blogged about the brand battle I had that day, driving around with one arm trying to figure out which urgent care center to go to.

Well, it’s been two years since that blog was posted. As I was re-reading it, I kept thinking about how much SPRYTE could contribute to a multi-location urgent care brand.

That’s because we’re hyperlocal healthcare PR experts. We’ve had a blast and done a great job building the reputation of Holy Redeemer Health System’s single Pediatric UrgiCare Center. And, we deploy a favorite consumer public relations strategy that other urgent care brands should consider: the Brand Spokesperson.

One example of this is our work to leverage Dr. Avi Gurwitz – a pediatrician at Holy Redeemer and medical director of its Pediatric UrgiCare Center – as an expert resource for local print and broadcast journalists. His extensive pediatric experience has made him a great go-to expert for a variety of health-related stories, including a Q&A segment on KYW-AM about spring sports and concussion prevention.

Additionally, Dr. Gurwitz has provided tips for families traveling during vacation season in an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and discussed cases he has seen in the UrgiCare Center to warn against trending risks like Lyme disease and the dangers of heavy backpacks.

So, what type of impression is made on Holy Redeemer’s potential pediatric patients when they see and hear knowledgeable, articulate and warm Dr. Gurwitz interviewed by broadcast and print healthcare journalists? We think it’s a very positive one that can make kids and their parents feel confident about the pediatric care they’ll receive from Dr. Gurwitz and his team.

While many people aren’t naturally-gifted spokespeople like Dr. Gurwitz, urgent care organizations should utilize this consumer marketing tactic as part of their integrated marketing strategies whenever possible. Large, brightly-lit signs and billboards don’t always build this type of confidence in your patient care team.

5 Tips for Healthcare Marketing to Hispanic Audiences

Investing in Cultural Competence is Key

It sounds simple. In order to communicate with someone effectively, it’s best to speak to them in their own language. That’s a marketing axiom. For healthcare marketing, it’s vital.

When reaching out to audiences with a different ethnic or cultural background, it is important to appreciate exactly how those differences might impact your message – or your intended message.

For example, in conjunction with the observance of Juneteenth, SPRYTE posted a special blog telling about the history of the holiday and noting how African Americans may have different attitudes and perspectives in regard to certain healthcare services (we focused on hospice) and healthcare professionals, due largely to different life and culturual experiences.

Whether your target audience is African American, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Russian or an other nationality or culture, it’s important to understand the nuances that can affect how your message is received.

Our colleagues at MTM LinguaSoft, a language services company that specializes in helping businesses communicate effectively with multilingual audiences, posted a blog that offered some important insights: “5 Tips for Healthcare Marketing to Hispanic Audiences.”

We think you will enjoy it! Read!

Social Workers Bring Help and Hope

For Them, Caring is a Calling

“Never, never, be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What is it that makes social workers tick? With March being National Social Work Month, we at SPRYTE thought what better time to delve into some of their motivations and inclinations?

For healthcare communicators, who are often tasked with showcasing the conscience of their organization – whether through corporate social responsibility programs, employee communications, or thought leadership initiatives – understanding how and why social workers do what they do can help shine a bright light on the path ahead.

For Episcopal Community Services’ Neibert Richards, MSW, LSW, it was always about caring and people.

“I originally went to school to major in nursing, but soon after I arrived, the school decided to phase out the major,” she recalls. After that, she was undecided as a major. That’s about the time she was introduced to the opportunity presented by social work.

“The biology and all the other classes just weren’t fitting with what I wanted to do,” says Richards. But the idea of helping others was clearly a guiding force.

 

A Caring Tradition

Those roots run deep. Her father was a minister. Her mother, a teacher. There were four children in all. The family moved to the U.S. from Guyana when she was eight.

“Family was always a huge factor for me,” Richards says. “I was always longing for connections, wanting to know who my cousins are. I was the one who always had an issue when someone couldn’t come to be with the family for the holidays.”

Soon after getting her Master’s in Social Welfare, she joined Episcopal Community Services (ECS), where she signed onto the foster care program. Today, 22 years later, she is Director of Permanent Housing at ECS.

 

Changing Times

Over the years, there have been many changes in the way social workers are viewed, she says.

“I think the career path is better organized. Social workers are viewed more as true professionals.” she says.

Hopefully, that view will supplant what Jeanne Morrison, MSW, Support Services Director for Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care in Philadelphia, says is probably the biggest misperception people have about social workers.

“Lots of times, people use the term ‘social worker’ for someone who is actually a caseworker,” explains Morrison. “Especially in child welfare situations, there is a belief that it’s the social worker who is there to take the child away.  The reality is that the social worker’s goal is to keep families together whenever possible.”

 

Looking at Strengths

Morrison notes that social workers are trained to evaluate clients from a strength standpoint – whether it’s the family, an individual, or a group dynamic. The initial goal is to identify existing strengths that can be built upon to help address certain issues that the client is facing.

She says the effort is a true collaborative partnership between the social worker and the client.

To do that effectively, it’s important “to meet people where they are,” she says. “In order to identify their hopes and plans, you need to understand things from their standpoint. You can’t expect people to come to you. If you do, you’ll get nowhere fast. But if you can understand and meet them where they are, you can start identifying their hopes and dreams from that stanpoint.”

 

Next Generation of Social Workers

Emily Blumenthal is a student at the George Warren Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis currently working toward her degree in social work.

She says the holistic perspective that social workers are trained to utilize is one of the things that led her in this direction.

“As a social worker, you’re trained to look at the environment the individual is in – you need to pay attention to who they’re surrounded by, family, friends, whatever is going on. It’s important to get the whole perspective,” she says.

Blumenthal is currently in the midst of a practicum with Perinatal Behavioral Health Service working with pregnant women with mood disorders or depression, doing screenings and providing information in a clinical setting. Following this, she will move on to another practicum (focus to be determined) that will last about a year. The experience will provide her with a broader base of training and insights that will assist in a future career decision.

She says her ultimate goal is to go into counseling, perhaps working with young adults, couples, and young famiies. But she’s confident that her background and training in social work will enable her to choose from a number of options.

 

Remembering what’s Important

For ECS’ Neibert Richards, that diversity of opportunity is one of social work’s greatest strengths.

“Social workers are a lot of people who care about helping others, giving someone a helping hand to advance to the next stage of life so they can move in a positive direction,” she says.

“They’re the ones, walking the streets, counting the homeless every year for HUD,” Richards explains. “They’re the ones who have no problem going into a home that’s drug-infested, letting someone know that we have a bed here, the kids can come. They’re trying to get them to think beyond this life that they’re in. It isn’t easy for them. Social workers do it because they care.”

For healthcare communicators, when you’re telling your story, caring and people are usually good places to begin as well.

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.