The Power of Personnel Announcements

How to Tell Your Organization’s Story Through Personnel News

Smart business leaders know that any organization’s greatest asset is its people. Employees are the force that brings mission statements and balance sheets to life. When it comes to telling your story, promoting their successes can make for a most compelling lede.

The classic personnel announcement is one tried and true tactic. Announcing new hires, promotions and awards, and other achievements burnishes your organization’s brand and distinguishes it from your competitors.

Just as importantly, personnel announcements can enhance collegiality and corporate culture by sending a clear message that employees are valued and their accomplishments are worth celebrating. As such, they should be a key element of any internal communications strategy.

Getting Creative

That being said, it can be a bit challenging these days to leverage personnel announcements through earned media. Many media outlets – from local newspapers to national healthcare industry trade publications — that used to run “Personnel News” and business announcement columns now charge fees to run personnel announcements. The cost can make it prohibitive for non-profits and others with limited marketing budgets to share their news.

That’s when it pays to dig deeper to find interesting story angles that will turn a simple personnel announcement into a bigger story – something we did for client Home Care Associates’ (HCA) announcement of its new CEO, Tatia Cooper. In fact, we wrote a blog post previously about how we wove details of Ms. Cooper’s life and her family’s deep community involvement into our outreach for the announcement, which helped us tell a more meaningful story about HCA that local media outlets truly wanted to cover.

By finding those interesting angles – and leveraging them through an integrated earned, owned and social media campaign – healthcare communicators can make an otherwise straight-forward personnel announcement truly sing.

Putting the Pieces Together

SPRYTE recently was called upon to help a long-standing national client, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, announce two senior leadership promotions. Crossroads is a leading provider of comprehensive hospice services to people with life-limiting illnesses and their caregivers. Headquartered in Tulsa, OK, Crossroads serves patients in their homes and long-term care facilities in 11 sites in seven states in the Midwest and Pennsylvania.

DeAnna Looper, one of Crossroads’ original employees at its founding in 1995, was named Chief Compliance Officer for Carrefour Associates, Crossroads’ management firm. In this newly created role, she oversees all clinical, legal and regulatory compliance operations across all 11 Crossroads sites.

Danny Cox, who joined Crossroads in 2011, advanced to Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, the role previously held by DeAnna. Having successfully led the complex implementation of a new hospice-specific electronic medical record platform for all 11 Crossroads sites across two time zones, he is now responsible for the enterprise-wide integration of all clinical operations.

Both DeAnna and Danny are nurses by training and nurse educators with more than five decades’ combined experience in healthcare, education and administration. The basics make for an impressive personnel announcement, to be sure. Digging deeper revealed details that strengthen the internal message.

Crossroads is committed to continually innovating and shaping the way end-of-life care is viewed and administered. Having worked their way steadily through numerous positions over the years, building and growing the organization, both DeAnna and Danny are the embodiment of this mission. DeAnna, in particular, started as Crossroads’ first nurse and literally crafted the clinical model from the ground up alongside the founder and CEO.

Elevating these two longtime team members who were instrumental in making Crossroads the hospice leader it is today sent a powerful internal message that the company values the contributions of all employees, finds their achievements newsworthy, and lives its mission statement.

Rollout and Response

True to Crossroads’ promise to put its people first, SPRYTE activated its campaign with a personal message from the CEO to all employees. Across the system, every employee at every level was “first to know” the exciting and important news.

The official announcement was sent to a targeted list of regional business, newspapers and other media outlets, and earned coverage in national hospice industry and nursing trade publications.

DeAnna and Danny were each profiled on Crossroads’ popular blog, where employees, patients and families, the referring physician community and industry colleagues frequently turn for the latest news. Here they learned that Danny first felt his calling to the hospice philosophy of care when his own father was dying and no hospice services were readily available. And when DeAnna isn’t busy sorting through the complexities of hospice regulatory compliance, the lifelong Beatles fan can be found singing loudly and off-key to her grandchildren McCartney, Jett and Jade.

Capping off the campaign, the blogs and other communications were amplified across all of Crossroads’ social media channels, where they engaged an even wider audience.

The Takeaway

For healthcare communicators, the moral of the story is to think creatively. Beneath the simple personnel announcement, there are often stories that bring the corporate mission statement to life. By sharing them, you’re not only burnishing your brand, you’re sending a strong message internally that employees are valued and celebrated.

Saluting Our Veterans

Begin Planning Now to Honor Those Who Served

Each year, on or about the eleventh of November (Veterans Day), organizations of many different stripes sponsor special ceremonies to honor our nation’s veterans.

It’s a time for solemn remembrances, heartfelt dedications, colorful flag presentations, and other kinds of patriotic demonstrations of support for those who served.

For many healthcare organizations, particularly those who provide medical care and other support services to aging veterans, the Veterans Day observance can provide irresistible opportunities to win community recognition and earned media coverage for planned ceremonies to honor those who served in the military.

Early Planning

As with any military-related operation, careful planning and logistics are in order.

One of SPRYTE’s national clients, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, has been sponsoring veterans’ recognition events for many years. While many of the regional sites host observances that take place throughout the year, often keyed around appropriate patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Flag Day or Independence Day, the entire organization comes together for an extended Fall Campaign centered, appropriately enough, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11th.

The actual planning begins in early August, when regional Executive Directors assign key staff (often chaplains) to coordinate Veterans Recognition efforts for their respective sites.

Throughout the year, Crossroads’ professional staffers serve clients in a variety of places – in their homes, in hospitals, and in long-term care or nursing facilities. (Hospice is a service, not a place.)

The Logistics of Veterans Events

Crossroads’ chaplains coordinate with respective locations to work out the logistics for Veterans events that they may host. (Some Crossroads sites may sponsor more than 50 such events during a Veterans Recognition campaign period.)

The specifics of the events can vary depending on the size and circumstances of the individual service site.

  • How many veterans are present at the site?
  • What about elsewhere in the community? (Crossroads typically opens up their recognition events to any veterans who want to participate, not just their patients.)
  • How many friends and family members might be expected to attend?
  • Are there local veterans’ groups (VFW, American Legion) that might want to help or participate in some way?
  • What about local officials or celebrities who might be interested in attending or saying a few words of gratitude and encouragement?

Enticing the Media

Local media outlets will also have certain views that need to be addressed if they are to be enticed to come and cover the ceremonies.

The simple idea of paying homage to heroes who defended their country during time of war is a timeless story. But even that can be enhanced, depending on the event.

For example, how many of your local veterans served in World War II? According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 558,000 American veterans from the war were estimated to still be alive in September 2017. Their numbers continue to dwindle. So there is an urgency inherent in efforts to recognize their service and valor. As we’ve often said – it’s about the story.

But it’s also about the visuals. Especially for television news. What kind of visual excitement and color can you bring to the events?

High school bands and color guards are often available to lend some musical accompaniment for a rousing rendition of the national anthem or other patriotic songs. Local scout troops can be enlisted to perform flag folding rituals for special presentations to individual honorees. Local VFWs, American Legion posts or other veterans’ groups are often only too happy to provide a color guard or other ceremonial contingent for a flag dedication or salute, or to otherwise lend support to their brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Even the simple presentation of lapel pins and/or certificates of appreciation to honored veterans can provide a heart-warming visual presentation for both onlookers and TV cameras.

It’s also about the timing. When we do veterans events, part of our goal in luring media is to minimize competition. That’s why we advise clients who are planning Veterans Day-related observances to hold them a week to 10 days prior to the actual official date of Nov. 11th. It often pays to beat the rush.

Details, Details

But don’t overlook the little things. One must always be cognizant of individual privacy. Is the facility where the event is being held comfortable with having media and cameras present? Make sure to check and confirm consent.

Also, as best you can, make sure to pre-plan some photo-op set-ups for the TV cameras as well as local print media photographers who may come to cover the events.

Some institutions may have rules for photographing residents or patients. Where possible, work with staff at the facility beforehand to arrange for specific willing individuals to be subjects for news photographs, and arrange for them to sign-off on photo releases.

If you’re planning on sending your own photos to the newspapers, make sure there aren’t too many people in the shot (five or fewer is best). Keep everyone close together and be careful that there’s nothing in the background to distract from the focal point of the picture. Also, make certain that everyone’s name and title are listed in the caption.

All in all, the Veterans Day season can offer a wealth of opportunities to pay well-deserved respect to men and women who have served their country. Doing so is not only the right thing, it’s also something likely to be remembered fondly within the surrounding community and among your patients and family members.

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.

Volunteers Want to Know Their Time is Valued

Don’t Overlook a Simple Thank You

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

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

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

Taking Advantage of a Volunteer’s Generosity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Day Was His Last Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lisa Simon.

 

Recognizing the Wonderful Work of Caregivers Each February

National Caregivers Day recognizes the wonderful work of caregivers who tirelessly give of themselves for others.

Last Friday, National Caregivers Day was observed, as it has been, on the third Friday in February, since it was created just four years ago in 2015 by the Providers Association for Home Health & Hospice Agencies.

SPRYTE was lucky to be introduced and retained by a wonderful national home care company, Griswold Home Care, by mentor and friend of the agency Lonny Strum. He’s our guest blogger this week. Lonny’s blog in appreciation of caregivers is very personal but it also sheds light on the huge numbers of individuals receiving care in our country.

Read Lonny Stum’s Blog here.

The Media Advisory is a Critical Tool

Healthcare Providers in Pursuit of TV Coverage Need to Nail Them

What we refer to as a Media Advisory at SPRYTE Communications is also sometimes called a Media Alert or a Calendar Alert. Whatever you call it, the Media Advisory is a critical media relations tool for encouraging television news coverage of a single event or function.

For many healthcare communicators, in large and small media markets alike, winning television coverage can be elusive.

You have to think like a producer and succinctly present the opportunity for the cameras to shoot very strong visuals, the kind you see every night on TV news. The following factors are also important and can make or break a TV opportunity:

  • Day of the Week: SPRYTE likes a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.
  • Time of Day: We like mid late morning.
  • Proximity to News Station: If it’s more than a 30-minute drive, that adds challenge.

Here are some of the shortcomings of Media Advisories I’ve seen written at SPRYTE over the years:

  •  Visuals aren’t mentioned.
  •  Headlines lack creativity.
  •  Dispassionate.
  •  A specific time for the main “moment” isn’t given.
  •  Longer than one page.
  •  Written like a News Release.
  •  Lacking parking and entrance instructions.

We do a lot of Media Advisory training actually, more than I would have expected for both seasoned and more junior pros with media relations responsibilities. The reasons these folks need training?

  • Don’t ever watch television news.
  • Don’t sell it.
  • Value print over broadcast coverage.

When You Hear the Anchor Use Your Words

When the TV Anchor uses your words to accompany the video their cameraperson shot at your event from the anchor desk, you know you wrote good ones.

That was the case in December when SPRYTE reached out to televisions news assignment desks in pursuit of their coverage of an intimate and humble graduation ceremony for a large faith-based social service agency it represents in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Two adults completing Episcopal Community ServicesRISE Initiative were celebrated at a non-traditional recognition ceremony.
SPRYTE’s Media Advisory  enticed Philadelphia’s number one rated local television news station, 6 ABC, to send a cameraman to cover the program.

The resulting television news segment included favorite local anchorwoman 6 ABC’s Monica Malpass including words from SPRYTE’s Media Advisory headline.

Part of our earned media strategy for Episcopal Community Services includes attempting to win coverage of key milestones in their program year including RISE Initiative completion recognition programs for the following reasons:

Reasons to Pursue TV News Coverage

  • Shows (rather than tells) their great organization in action.
  •  Simplifies a multi-faceted mission by focusing on one great, visual moment.
  • Covers a wide geography.
  • Affirms donors’ good decision to support you.
  • Boosts morale of program participants and staff alike.
  • Builds the organization’s brand in the community in a visible way.

Remember sometimes the cameras don’t show up to even the most inspiring, visually-charged and meaningful events. We all know that can happen. But if we think there is potential for a great TV story that will be enjoyed by viewers throughout our media market, we will try at all costs to get the coverage again next time too.