Written by; Holly Silvestri, Principal, The Ferraro Group Public Relations & Public Affairs
Rather, successful public relations programs-particularly those within the non-profit healthcare sector-require a well constructed 'stew' comprised of multi-channel initiatives and skilled PR professionals, all working in sync to promote both good health and reputation management for the non-profit organization.
In Successful PR, The Foundations Still Apply
It's worth noting that even in the Internet age, where information is readily available on a 24/7 basis, many of the foundational aspects of successful public relations initiatives remain intact. For while approximately three-fourths of all journalists still seek out press releases as a primary source for information, there remains a substantial number of reporters who rely upon alternative-or additional-sources.
With the assumption that the Internet will continue to be the center of the 'Information Universe,' other online sources ranging from bloggers to "influencers" are now also important fountains of information for many journalists.
The Unique PR Challenges Facing The Healthcare Sector
While all organizations confront many challenges in achieving their PR goals, the non-profit healthcare sector faces some unique challenges in order to succeed. Although healthcare has always been an important topic for most Americans, in recent years the legislative changes to the nation's healthcare sector—most notably the Affordable Care Act (ACA)--have added a political aspect that further complicates any public discussion on this topic.
That is important because, by their very nature, non-profit healthcare organizations rely upon the goodwill of the populace while attempting to provide the best possible care for those in need of their services. Therefore, when constructing a PR campaign, it's important to keep in mind that the 'audience' will likely have varying views of what constitutes good healthcare policies, never more so than as we prepare to enter another national election year.
The Dos And Don'ts On The Road To PR Success
With that caveat in mind, there are a number of fundamental “dos and don'ts” that are important to consider when developing a PR plan for a non-profit healthcare organization.
DO: Outline Specific PR Goals & Objectives
The old adage states that “you can't get where you want to be if you don't know where you want to go.”
Every non-profit healthcare organization has unique assets-and challenges- depending on a wide variety of contributing factors (i.e. the organization's age, budget, size, client base, donor base, facilities, etc.)
Establishing specific timelines, benchmarks, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and related metrics is critical when constructing a PR plan. In order to achieve success, it's essential to understand what is, and is not, providing maximum ROI for your PR efforts.
DON'T: Don't Forget That, Now More Than Ever, Content Is King
The reality is that we live in an era when anyone with a computer or smartphone and some thoughts to share can call themselves a "blogger" or "content creator."
However, there's a big difference between a skilled, professional content creator and someone who lacks the acumen and abilities required to draft interesting, engaging copy. Not unlike their for-profit 'cousins', non-profit healthcare organizations are targeting audiences who are inundated with information at previously unforeseen speed.
If the goal is to inform, or solicit support from, a targeted audience, it is critical you proffer stories that are engaging--and copy that will hold the interest of the reader. Multiple studies confirm that audiences are engaged far more by high quality, informative and well-crafted content than by even the best designed paid advertisement.
DO: Provide Your Audience Useful & Practical Information
If the goal of your public relations outreach is to engage an audience, it becomes critical that the content proffered is not only of the highest quality but of the greatest relevance.
For example, everyone is all too aware that winter is "cold & flu season." With that in mind, a PR outreach that occurs either immediately before or during winter may wish to include helpful information about the prevention-and treatment-of colds and flus.
Although people are often open to learning information that may not be directly pertinent to their lives, you are far more likely to solicit an audience for, as the cliche goes, "news you can use."
DON'T: Choose The Wrong PR 'Channels' To Reach Your Target Audience
Once you have decided you want to implement proactive public relations for your non-profit healthcare organization, you should consider which method(s) will work best to reach your target audience.
Technology provides a plethora of choices in terms of how to proceed to reach the target of your efforts. Still, for some PR programs, traditional PR methods (including TV/radio, newspapers and print media) may serve as useful tools depending upon the demographics.
Although the magazine industry (and print industry in general) have experienced a steep decline in recent years, niche publications (i.e. those within a specific sector/industry) often thrive and can be among the more successful PR vehicles.
DO: SELECT A PR AGENCY/CONSULTANT WITH RELEVANT CLIENT EXPERIENCE
While it has always been important to select the correct PR agency partner, in today's fractured media marketplace the importance of picking a skilled agency with healthcare and/or non-profit experience is absolutely critical.
In 2020, the role played by "influencers" (industry-specific people/websites, with significant readership, seen as authorities in their field) can be important in achieving PR goals. Your agency should be able to identify which influencers (or bloggers, journalists) you should target for maximum ROI.
For example: our firm's experience in garnering PR success for non-profit healthcare clients includes a wide array of efforts, ranging from our work for Capability Health & Human Services (formerly Easter Seals Nevada); that effort included promoting their special events/fundraisers through various media entities; coordinating media meetings designed to reach the target media outlets; and recently establishing a video testimonial series to show true visual storytelling through clients' and relatives' own words.
Another resonant example of successful non-profit PR initiatives was our work on the Dog Bed & Blanket Drive that our agency coordinated for the non-profit Nathan Adelson Hospice. The initiative tied into the hospice's Pet Therapy Program, and as a result, thousands of items were subsequently collected and donated to animal shelters throughout Las Vegas.
Ultimately, the bottom line on the road to PR success is this: while mathematicians will always be able to deduce predictable outcomes, non-profit healthcare PR success is less precise. Still, your organization's PR success will be contingent upon utilizing just the right combination of ingredients-including healthcare industry acumen, technological PR skills and, of course, a team comprised of top-shelf PR-savvy personnel.