December 22, 2010

Hospital media relations Part 1: Go for the gold

Make your healthcare story gold

You’re a hospital public relations professional and you want to get on the evening news. And you will — because you have Dr. McDreamy saving lives in your OR and Elmo visiting patients in your cancer ward. And yet, at the end of every news-crew-coordinating day, your executives demand a completely different level of recognition.

The C-suite wants gold: the CNN interview with the highly sought-after surgeon they just hired. A 60 Minutes story about the new hunk of technology the board just agreed to pay for. Even if you’re a seasoned and connected PR professional, these are elusive goals. So what do you do?

Ask yourself what rates as news. Think like an editor, reporter and producer — or better yet, like a reader or viewer. Is this a story you would tune into? Never pitch a story that is not newsworthy — it will keep you from the gold.

Focus on who — not what — makes miracles happen.
Acquiring the latest technology has to be about more than flexing muscles in a competitive environment. The new doohickey must be saving or improving people’s lives.

Be creative. In the sea of new media, find the most effective vehicle for the story. The award and accreditation story may be best told via trade media. The health clinic and expert panel may be best told in a social media outlet. The sensational patient story is best on the evening news, while the issue-related medical ethics story is best for a print outlet. Be aware of your venues and use them wisely.

With media calling on one line and your executives on the other, you need to go for the gold, but keep a level head and steady stride.