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!

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.

Pointing Out Oppression on July 4th

Letters to the Editor Amplify the Topic

With the 4th of July holiday rapidly approaching later this week, we’ve been reflecting back on the awesome Letter to the Editor campaign SPRYTE conducted in conjunction with observance of the patriotic holiday last year.

Our work was for Relievus, a specialty pain management medical practice with 17 locations in Southern and Central New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The analogy of patients struggling to overcome opioid addiction as a modern-day fight against oppression and the need to band together for a common good was a popular 4th of July inspired message, as proved by our nine Letter to the Editor placements in prominent daily and weekly newspapers.

People Who Abuse Opioids are not Inferior

Authored by Managing Physician, Dr. Young J. Lee, in the Relievus Letter to Editor, Lee wrote, “It’s important to understand that people who abuse opioids are not weak or inferior.  They simply are people trying to deal with their pain.  Eventually this pain becomes difficult to manage until it begins affecting their quality of life.”

Dr. Lee continues, “managing pain takes an intense, multifaceted approach. It takes a united and coordinated front.”  His message resonates with the community at large.

That’s why placing a Letter to the Editor by a single author in multiple locations is one of SPRYTE’s favorite high impact, hyper-local earned media tactics.  And a Letter to the Editor campaign delivers beautifully when a healthcare provider has multiple locations covering a wide geographic footprint served by a variety of local media outlets.

Juneteenth – America’s Other Independence Day

Patient Experience Relies on Understanding Diverse Perspectives

Americans love their Fourth of July holiday. After all, it’s America’s birthday – the day we traditionally set aside to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of a free nation where “all men are created equal.”

But for many, those hallowed words proved hollow. Hundreds of thousands of slaves throughout the young United States – especially in the South – would need to wait almost another century before their rights to equality were officially recognized.

Another View of History

On July 5, 1852, famed African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, delivered an impassioned speech spelling out the irony inherent in the July 4th celebration:

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn,” Douglass said. “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim…”

It would take another 13 years, hundreds of thousands of lives, and a Civil War that tore apart the fabric of the American nation before four million African-American slaves would get their own taste of freedom.

Juneteenth – Freedom Reborn

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger, military commander of the defeated Confederate state of Texas, read aloud General Order No. 3, telling the populace of Galveston that: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Spontaneous celebrations among the newly freed African American population quickly erupted across the South as Juneteenth was born. African-American communities across the U.S. soon adopted Juneteenth as their own holiday, using it as an occasion for celebrating freedom with public events, picnics and church gatherings.

Understanding Leads to Compassion

Once we understand the history of Juneteenth and how it came into being, it’s easier to appreciate why many African Americans consider Juneteenth to be a day to celebrate not only the vision of freedom President Lincoln described in his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation but also the original promise of the Declaration of Independence.

Since our childhood, we’ve been told that America is a melting pot, comprised of people from all over the world, representing a multitude of religious backgrounds, races, cultures, customs, languages and lifestyles.

Healthcare providers face the everyday challenge of understanding how these differentiating factors may affect individuals’ or families’ attitudes toward illness, pain, coping and death. It is important to appreciate why these attitudes are held, because they can significantly influence their willingness to explore various treatment options. Hospice, in particular, can be an especially touchy discussion topic.

For example, according to statistics, African-Americans comprise approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but they make up only 7.6% of hospice patients. Ironically, African-Americans have a disproportionately higher rate of cancer and heart disease, which are among the top hospice diagnoses.

Researchers point out several reasons for this incongruity. As a rule, African-American families tend to be less trustful of the American healthcare system. In addition, because medical decisions tend to be made within the family, there may be a reluctance to consult with a new, unknown healthcare professional or someone outside the home. Finally, statistically speaking, African Americans tend to be especially reluctant to cease life-prolonging procedures such as tube feeding, organ donation, and palliative care in the hospice setting – because extending life is generally seen as something to be preferred.

Honoring Differences

Healthcare communicators need to recognize that their messages may be perceived very differently by diverse audiences and adjust accordingly to ensure positive patient experience.

As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve to one that is more population health-oriented and patient-centered, there is a growing need for healthcare providers to educate patients, families and the general public about what they can do to stay healthier, as well as the nature of specific healthcare challenges and treatment options.

Understanding their emotions, how they think, and the reasons behind these different perspectives is vital to helping patients and families make treatment decisions that are most appropriate for their individual situations.

It’s not unlike coming to appreciate the Juneteenth holiday. The better we understand the history and background of our patients, the better we can understand and honor the views and emotions that influence their decisions and actions.

-Thomas Derr

Why the Media Loves Crossroads’ Gift of a Day

Positive Coverage Resonates

Leading the daily duck parade at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis in celebration of her 100th birthday.  A final fishing trip with a best friend to a favorite nearby lake.  A ride in a vintage WWII bomber like the one he flew in the war.  A roaring throaty road trip on a Harley.  These are all examples of Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s Gift of a Day patient program.

Inspired by the 2007 Jim Stovall book, The Ultimate Gift, the initiative is based on the idea of creating a very special, personalized day for patients receiving end of life care from Crossroads.  The gifts are created and implemented by caring teams of professionals that include social workers, chaplains, event planners and volunteers.

SPRYTE has been supporting the Gift of a Day program at Crossroads’ 11 locations in seven states for more than 10 years.  We may have 100 under our belt but two recent Crossroads Gifts of a Day reminded us how special and how fruitful, from a public relations perspective, the program is.

A Carriage Ride Around Liberty Park Lake

The first one was for Merry Schlobohm of Sedalia, Missouri.  Pulled by horses Red and Ted, Schlobohm was treated to a carriage ride around the lake in Sedalia’s Liberty Park in a donated antique English carriage with her husband, daughter, son and brother.  A life long horse lover, it was a chance for Merry to get up close and personal with the horses and spend a special day with her family.  The heartwarming gathering, with permission from the Schlobohms, was covered by the local daily newspaper, the Sedalia Democrat.  Actually, it was the cover story.

World War II Veteran Charles Leist of Springfield, Ohio, was the second recent memorable Gift of a Day.  On his 90th birthday, Ohio State Representative Rick Perales joined Leist’s friends and family to celebrate his milestone birthday and thank Leist for his military service long ago.  The small intimate gathering led to big earned media coverage, with two Dayton TV stations (WBDT and WRGT) running multiple segments throughout the weekend.

Many organizations would value this type of positive exposure if they could secure it.  Keep in mind, it doesn’t just happen because enterprising reporters are looking for good stories.  It starts with the initiative. Crossroads’ Gift of a Day is the there there.

Public Relations Reinforces a Competitive Advantage

And PR is just one of the disciplines in Crossroads’ multilayered, integrated marketing program.  Do you agree that earned media coverage of a Crossroads’ Gift of a Day shows rather than tells Crossroads’ point of differentiation as a hospice provider in an endearing and credible way?

So what is the value of this type of earned media?  Here are some top-level benefits Gift of a Day newspaper articles and TV segments deliver Crossroads:

  • A Positive Third-Party Endorsement of the Crossroads Brand
  • Prospective Patient Families Learn About Crossroads Through Gift of a Day Media Coverage
  • Earned Media Placements Delight Crossroads Patients and Their Families
  • Crossroads Professional Staff are Validated by External Exposure

We are always so impressed by the creativity displayed by the professionals who bring Gifts of a Day alive for Crossroads families.  It’s a pleasure to support the program each time SPRYTE is activated.  And when our efforts to entice the media don’t deliver earned media to Crossroads for a multitude of reasons?  We repurpose our pitch materials into Blogs for the Crossroads web site.

How Are You Celebrating Volunteer Week?

At SPRYTE, We’re Blogging

It would be hard to find anyone in the nonprofit arena who doesn’t know this week is National Volunteer Week. Our country’s tradition of service to others is truly something to be proud of and it dates back to Colonial Times, according to VolunteerMatch’s article “Volunteering: History of An American Value”.

Back in the day, on behalf of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit clients, we used to publicize outstanding volunteers and their good deeds and contributions to charities and society in local weekly newspapers during National Volunteer Week.

Does anyone remember the Ambler Gazette’s “Citizen of the Week?” column? Even daily newspapers used to have more real estate for feel good stories about people doing extraordinary selfless deeds for others.

We know those happy days are over. As SPRYTE survives a commoditized marketplace with less real estate for earned media placements, we’re increasingly suggesting that we put our outstanding interviewing and writing skills to work by contributing high-level, high-energy digital content to our clients.

Starting with last year’s National Volunteer Week, we suggested that our client Episcopal Community Services (ECS) showcase a different volunteer (Rosalie RudegeairMary Kate FahyAmy Coburn, Avyanne Osbourne, Josh Bartek) for each business day of the week, five in total on their Blog.

The assignment was delightful on a number of levels:

It was an honor to represent ECS and its fine programs.

  • It was engaging to hear firsthand, on behalf of our client, why their volunteers do what they do and what they gain from it.
  • We had the opportunity to learn about our client and their professional team from a different voice.
  • We implemented a successful, valued tactic that wasn’t earned media.

As SPRYTE progresses with digital communications, we welcome the opportunity to flex our writing muscle on behalf of clients. And if we ever uncover a kernel of an idea that has high earned media potential in our quest to create content, you can rest assured we will escalate it and ask permission to reach out to the media to win coverage every time.

The Right CMS Amplifies Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Picking One Takes Time

The New England Society for Healthcare Communications (NESHCO) is one of the professional associations SPRYTE belongs to.  We love the Monthly healthcare communications webinars.

February’s webinar “Thinking Big: How Small Marketing Teams Can Maximize Their Digital Efforts,” focused on Content Management Systems (CMS.)

According to the presenters, new, less traditional content management systems allow healthcare providers to expand brand awareness as they send hyper-targeted messages in the most streamlined ways. A good CMS is a tool that will help you build long-lasting, real growth strategies.

Choosing the Best CMS for Your Healthcare Organization

There are a lot of CMS vendors out there, as you know.  It takes time to find the one that aligns with your goals.  Here are some key questions to consider.  Does the CMS have:

  • The ability to easily connect with different platforms?
  • A customizable content library?
  • Voice search?
  • A straightforward user interface?

The best CMS platforms enable healthcare marketing teams to reuse and repurpose content seamlessly.

Have You Heard About Headless CMS?

Headless CMS is newer software that manages information based on the premise that published content should be used for more than website tagging.  With Headless CMS, content is seamlessly shared with mobile apps.  For content authors who want to publish in different places on demand, it has proven to be very easy to use, according to the webinar presenters.

Content Libraries and Digital Signage

The CMS should also include a customizable content library that allows healthcare providers to keep all of their information managed in one place.  We know that physicians and medical conditions are highly searched categories.  This data should be refreshed frequently, with medical credentialing.

Other content assets like videos, taxonomy, ratings, and publications can be integrated into the library, and this relatable data is then linked up and shared.  This is all driven by title tags that automatically push users to pages.

Authentic Patient Stories Resonate Digitally

Website personalization is also a fast-growing trend in healthcare, with patient stories popping up more frequently on provider sites. We all know real patient testimonials resonate with readers and they do drive patients to contact providers.  The webinar presenters said emerging voice search can be especially effective here.

In any case, real time updates and selection tools also make it easier for patients to locate your healthcare providers and services.

Ease of Use Should Increase Over Time

Once a good CMS system is set up, it should be easy to use and manage. They usually take a few months to set up, so don’t be shocked.  But after the grueling initial investment, the possibilities are unlimited.

Why Local TV News Isn’t Dead

Securing Coverage on Local New Stations is Still an Important Part of Healthcare PR

By now, most of us have heard the popular doomsday prediction about how online news will cause the inevitable death of local broadcast news in the near future.

Despite these claims, a recent survey by Pew Research paints a very different – and positive – picture about the state of local TV news. According to the survey, 44 percent of Americans considered TV as their preferred platform to get their news in 2018, compared to 34 percent who preferred the internet.

In the world of healthcare PR, local broadcast has continuously proven to be one of the most valuable types of news coverage for our clients. If you’re still wondering just how worthwhile securing local TV news is for your organization, below are three reasons why we think it’s still just as important as ever:

Establishes emotional connections with patients.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and TV coverage is not an exception to this rule. When covering human interest stories, the visual aspect of TV news segments has the ability to convey emotions that people can relate to more than written articles can. This is especially impactful when it comes to telling patients’ stories.

One example of this is a segment we secured for client Holy Redeemer about a dog parade that was held for residents of its assisted living community, Holy Redeemer Saint Joseph Manor. By physically showing how happy the residents were while visiting with the dogs, viewers are able to see the emotional, caring side of healthcare – something they’ll remember when they’re looking for a provider in the future.

Humanizes physicians.

As we’ve mentioned in a few of our previous blogs, patients often prefer seeing doctors who they feel they can trust and build a connection with. Having physicians featured as expert resources in local TV news stories is a great way to help them build relationships with both current and potential patients beyond the doctor’s office. Not only does this type of coverage establish them as thought leaders in their respective practices, but it also helps patients put faces to their names, making them feel less like strangers.

 Reaches a broader demographic.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for all organizations, regardless of the industry, to rely on one platform to reach all of their target audiences. While maintaining an online presence is important for engaging with all different types of consumers, healthcare brands that focus solely on digital media will end up missing one important group of patients who aren’t as active online – seniors. Including local broadcast as part of your organization’s media strategy will ensure that your messaging will reach patients of all ages.

As the media landscape continues to evolve, many will argue that local TV news is on its way out. However, we think that local broadcast is still an invaluable media platform for healthcare organizations that is here to stay.

At SPRYTE Healthcare Communications Means Consumer PR

Hyper Local is So Credible and Rewarding

When you say healthcare communications agency in Philadelphia or New Jersey, the assumption is that you’re focused on pharmaceutical or life sciences companies.  We’ve met so many successful local niche consultants serving those industries at every stage of their business cycles.  And the increasingly visible publicly-traded global holding companies have also located their robust healthcare agency brands in Philadelphia in recent years to be closer to their clients.

Well, SPRYTE Communications specializes exclusively in healthcare too but we support healthcare providers.  Not in a business-to-business capacity.  Our strength is in consumer public relations.

Here’s an example of a campaign we conducted on behalf of Holy Redeemer Health System, a client since 2006, last week.

Holy Redeemer Opens 5th Outpatient Medical Center in Bucks County

When Holy Redeemer opened its fifth Bucks County outpatient medical center, consumer public relations was the only external communications function deployed.

The brand new 18,000 square foot ambulatory care center provides primary care, obstetrical and gynecological care, orthopedic care and rehabilitation services, professional counseling, physical therapy and radiology services.

The opening of Redeemer HealthCare at Richboro is of interest to individuals and businesses living in its vicinity for a variety of consumer and economic impact reasons.  That’s why there was wide pick up of our news release by local daily and weekly newspapers.

But the ambulatory care center’s opening was also of interest regionally where the highly competitive healthcare provider industry is widely covered.  John George, the Philadelphia Business Journal’s healthcare writer, conducted interviews with Holy Redeemer’s senior leaders and wrote the most comprehensive article about the System’s continued expansion in to new geographies in Bucks County.

Finally, Holy Redeemer’s expansion was also of interest to the trade media, with Becker’s covering it with three highly flattering “Insights.”

Many healthcare providers think that paid advertising is the only way to build their visibility in a local marketplace.  Of course, it certainly won’t hurt.  But think of the brand battles out there on billboards, radio and TV.  In Philadelphia, it seems the biggest advertisers are our many outstanding healthcare providers.

But don’t overlook the power of public relations and the credibility delivered by news media covering your healthcare provider brand in action.  Do you agree that the consumer earned media coverage of Holy Redeemer’s Richboro expansion is solid proof of its newsworthiness?

There’s Still Time to Make Changes for 2019

Take Stock. Break Bad Habits & Do Better

In 8 Bad Habits to Avoid in Healthcare Marketing this week’s guest blogger, Rob Rosenberg of Springboard Brand and Creative Strategy, warns “Avoid defaulting to old habits that weaken your position, both personally and professionally.”

Do you agree that the poor practices Rob advocates you change are often present in today’s health system marcom operations?

They reminded me of my first position in provider healthcare. My title was Public Affairs Staff Associate and I worked in the market’s dominant three hospital health system. I was one of three in the department. We had all the health system service lines divided among us. Thinking back, I don’t think I was ever present at a business discussion. But I did perfect my newsletter skills. –Lisa Simon

Click here to read the Guest Blog