Archive for the 'Media Relations' Category


The White House Communication Policy: Social Media (Thankfully) Enhances Press Conferences

We found out this week that the White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, is out to allow for some fresh air in the press room. I read a lot of comments online about his skills, or his lack there of, with the press. Regardless of your personal preferences for Gibbs, as a PR professional I know he had an intense job. However, C.J. Cregg, he was not.

With the departure of Gibbs, I started wondering about the White House Communications in general. Barack Obama, as a presidential candidate, was a highly active participant in social media (or he hired really great people who were highly active users). Two years ago, Obama for President was a great story about how online marketing and social media can effectively raise money and gain exposure. His communications programs were exceptionally well executed, innovative, highly targeted and easily accessible to mass audiences. It was one seriously good way to help win a presidential campaign. And the story continues…

President Obama did not leave his social media savvy behind when he moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I was a bit surprised to find the White House is all over social media. There has been a lot of criticism of President Obama about whether or not his promises for transparency were real. One thing you can’t criticize is the appearance of accessibility. Twitter feeds, Facebook and MySpace channels, Flicker and Vimeo feeds and a LinkedIn group. There is even a White House blog. I had no idea. If you want information that deals with the White House, you can find it with little effort.

I especially like the White House YouTube Channel. The West Wing Week series is a nice recap of the presidential happenings. And the weekly mailbag is interesting. Some questions have answers that are more entertaining and better delivered than others than others, but hey, a question or two gets answered weekly by someone who knows something. Honestly though, I can’t bring myself to watch eight hours of forum presentations. Honestly, I can’t even bring myself to watch eight minutes of it.

Kudos to the White House Communications team for their focus on social media. Keep it up.

Do you think the White House Communications team is doing enough or not enough to keep the country informed? Tell us what you think about their efforts here or on our Facebook site and keep up with all of our blog postings on Twitter.


Meeting with the media

At the Wednesday, May 26, Colorado Healthcare Communicators breakfast, Denver-area media members shared tips, tricks and thoughts on how best to communicate with them. Media members at the breakfast included:

  • Justin Jimenez –
  • Misty Montano – CBS 4
  • Tim Ryan – 9News
  • John Romero – Fox 31
  • Daniel Smith – Your Hub
  • Clayton Woullard – Your Hub
  • Natasha Gardner – 5280 Magazine
  • Jill West – Entercom Radio: KOSI, Alice, 99.9, KEZW
  • Amber Johnson – Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas
  • Mike Cote – ColoradoBiz Magazine

Meeting with the mediaThough these exchanges happen on a fairly regular basis with many different organizations, there is always something for attendees to take away. From this meeting, the media panel emphasized that increased workload and multiple platforms are keeping them very busy. With shrinking staff and increasing content to be created (several outlets talked about new newscasts that are being added and increased frequency of newsletters), media need to do their jobs faster and better. To cut through the clutter and get coverage in a crowded space communicators have to understand the media and help them get the content they need when and how they need it.

By crafting a story to a specific media outlet and showing the contact why this story matters, communicators can help the media to cut time reading through information not pertaining to their outlet or audience. Once the media expresses interest in a story, communicators can further assist by telling the story in the same way that the media tells it. If you are trying to get a story covered by:

  • Television – explain the compelling visual images that could accompany the story.
  • Radio – describe how the story translates to sound including what sound bites are available.
  • Print – identify the most important facts and make clear why the readers of that specific publication would be interested.

At the end of the day, trying to get the media to cover a story means you have to think like the person on the other side of that email, phone call, conversation, Facebook message or Tweet. Why do they care and why will this story interest readers, viewers or listeners?


If you are about to make a lot of people mad, consider your message and how you deliver it

When you really, truly need to hire a PR person….

I have a hard time believing the advice of Tiger Woods’ publicists has been “make a statement on your Web site and say nothing else to anyone, anywhere.” But that has been Woods’ mantra the last two months. And this has resulted in Woods receiving a lot of negative press, not just for his self-titled “indiscretions,” but also for his complete lack of communication with any media outlet.

Vanity Fair seized the opportunity (very quickly) to write a cover story about the situation in the current issue that exploited some Woods’ early, and quite frankly crude and rude, sexual remarks. If Tiger had come out and made a public address, would things be different? I don’t know. Maybe. But this is now a crisis-communications-gone-bad case study.

Woods has hurt the golf industry. His sponsors and the PGA TOUR will lose money over this scandal. A lot of people will lose money over this scandal. Woods would have done himself well to have been more publicly cognizant of the ripples of his actions.

But just “speaking to the media” will not get the job done. Take this weeks’ example of the ex-Tennessee football coach, Lane Kiffin. He abruptly resigned after 14-months on the job. If you know SEC football, you know the passion that exists with alumni and fans for their teams. Kiffin ignited a furry of passion on Tuesday night when he resigned as head coach for the Tennessee Vols and took his top staff members with him.

The PR problem he made only got worse when, in his hastily-called press conference, he made no apologies for leaving, he was arrogant in his statement and he refused to take questions. See the press conference for yourself:

His comments to the press sparked riots in Knoxville and ignited a flurry of online hostility. An article in American Chronicle illustrates that the online reaction to his departure included videos, tweets and Facebook pages.

Among the Facebook pages created in Kiffin’s departure is one called, “Dear Lane Kiffin, We hate you. Love, the Vols.” It has 36,402 members.

Another is, “I was betrayed by Lane Kiffin.” It has 12,904 members.

The lesson we need to learn from Kiffin and Woods is when you are about to make a lot of people mad, try to be humble in doing it. Try to show compassion. Try to act human. If we have learned nothing from politicians, it is that you can make mistakes and people will forgive you – if you admit the mistake, if you are regretful and if you promise to try to do right by your constituents. Many people don’t know how to craft these types of messages. And it is OK to admit you need help, because sometimes you really should just hire a good PR pro to do this type of work for you.


finally, a good reason to be pulled-over

Kalona, a rural town in Iowa, is making the national spotlight for a recent public relations campaign that involves pulling over unsuspecting out of state drivers.

The Chamber of Commerce and the town’s sheriff began pulling over out of state drivers last week. Once to the side of the road, the drivers are approached by the town’s sheriff and asked if they have about 20 hours to spend with us here in Kalona.

Drivers are then given a gift basket full of goodies from local Kalona businesses, a free night’s stay and a T-shirt that says, “Ask me about Kalona, Iowa.”

I think this is an interesting approach at stimulating tourism in rural America. However, it does raise a few questions regarding what happens in certain situations. For example, what happens if the driver they pull over has been drinking or has a warrant out for their arrest?

I’m not trying to be nit-picky and I’m sure the town has thought through all the details. These are just the first questions that come to mind.

But I’m from rural Minnesota, and I completely get what they are trying to do here. I’m sure Kalona is a nice family friendly place where everyone knows your name.

Cheap Cheers reference 🙂


does your franchise have what it takes to be published in Franchise Times?

Getting published

What franchisor wouldn’t like to have their story published in a trade magazine like Franchise Times? Seemingly everyone would like to have their story published but few stories are ever chosen for publication. How can you set your franchise apart and make your story more appealing to an editor?

Franchise Marketing’s Sean Kelley interviewed the managing editor of the Franchise Times, Nancy Weingartner, in March. The interview was primarily focused on answering the question: How can franchisors improve their chances of getting their story published in trade magazines like the Franchise Times?

Three useful tips from the interview:

•    Editors are attracted to companies that are engaged in innovative activities.

•    Ease up. Avoid being pushy in your attempts to create a relationship.

•    When you have a story idea, send a short e-mail with attached background information.

Below I have included one question and answer from the interview. I found Nancy’s response to be very helpful. I hope you enjoy it as well.

“SK:  What’s the best way for a franchise company to “pitch” their story to Franchise Times?  What format and method should they use to submit their information (Email?  Fax?  Mail?)  Should they follow up?  How often?  What can they do to increase their chances of success?

NW:  The best way is to send a short e-mail message with a file attached with background information. Tell us why you’re different or how you’ve solved a problem others could learn from. While a follow-up phone call is good—it puts a real person behind the e-mail—be careful not to bug too much. Sometimes the lead time on stories is immediate, other times it may take a couple of months for an editor to decide to follow up on something. Always be polite and respectful of the editors’ time and acknowledge that you know he or she receives a lot of requests. One thing to definitely not do is to get snippy with editors or demanding. Remember people like doing business with people they like, and that goes for editors, too—we like writing stories about people we like. So be yourself.  Don’t try to force a relationship.  I’ve had people call me every month with an update on their pitch, and, in many cases, I got around to doing the story because they captured my imagination.”

To read the full interview, click here.


How Sarasota Memorial Hospital is leveraging social media to build better relationships. Q&A with Shawn Halls.


Recently, Weise Communications sat down with Shawn Halls of Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) to discuss social media’s impact on SMH and the way in which they communicate with the community. Below is our Q & A session.

Weise: How long has Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) been using Twitter?

SMH: We registered the site in November 2008 and promoted a $49 cardiac disease assessment special we were offering in December. But we didn’t start actively posting or following anyone until March 2009.

Weise: How has SMH’s Twitter account been able to add value to your patients’ experience?

SMH: When we first started we were like a lot of organizations, just trying to figure out how, or even if, Twitter could be part of our larger communications strategy. We tweeted our hospital promotions and a few stories from patients who had called to praise our care.

Then in April we were contacted through Twitter by a former patient. She had a somewhat negative experience while in our care, but actually had more of a negative experience trying to figure out who she should contact to discuss the issue.

Suddenly, Twitter, and social media in general, became not just a platform to communicate to patients, but a tangible way for our community to communicate directly with us as well.

Since that first patient contact, we have been Direct Messaged through Twitter by other patients with various questions. In our experience, more often than not a patient’s frustration is not about the care they received but the challenges associated with navigating healthcare.

Many people still prefer to call us directly, but increasingly customers are using Twitter and other social media platforms to initiate contact. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Most recently we had a patient’s family member find us on Twitter and ask for the name of a local florist so they could send flowers and ensure delivery prior to the patient’s surgery. This was a really easy one to handle, and we were able to communicate back to him within 10 minutes of his initial contact.

(SMH’s Twitter account)

Weise: Were there any reservations about using Twitter to communicate with the general public? If so, how did you overcome/justify establishing an online presence?

SMH: We did encounter resistance, because there are still a lot of unknowns about Twitter and other social media platforms as they relate to business. All social media platforms are blocked in our healthcare system, so we had to petition the chief information officer to allow our team access to Twitter. There is a valid concern that spending too much time online may distract employees, but we believed a balance could be struck. An organization with quality managers who engage their employees on a daily basis greatly reduce the risk of distraction. Certainly there are some who might abuse the privilege, but there are ways to prevent abuse that do not include a blanket policy to block access for all. Remember the era of codes to access copy machines? The idea was companies would lose too much money if employees had free access. Copy codes seem absurd in 2009, but we’re facing a similar issue with social media access today.

Weise: Do you think all healthcare providers should establish an online presence via social media? Why?

SMH: We do believe it’s important to have a social media presence. While social media won’t replace other avenues of communication, it’s important for providers to encourage communication through avenues people are using. With 200 million people on Facebook and nearly 10 million on Twitter, healthcare providers are missing an opportunity if they do not have a social media presence. Increasingly, healthcare is about building relationships with our customers. In this era of choice, patients choose which doctor to see, which outpatient lab to use, and certainly which hospital they choose. Social media helps us foster relationships with our customers by humanizing the healthcare system. We’re not just Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, we are 4,000 individuals who are part of our larger communities, and we enjoy communicating with our customers because they’re also our neighbors and friends. Certainly there are challenges for healthcare providers in establishing their social media presence, but we believe the benefits outweigh the challenges.

The one caveat, I’d say, is don’t create a social media presence if someone is not directly responsible for maintaining that presence. As effective as social media can be, an unanswered contact or an infrequently updated Facebook page could have n opposite effect, leaving prospective customers wondering if other aspects of their care would be hit or miss as well. At a fundamental level, social media is an extension of your healthcare brand, so it’s important to treat it with the same level of attention as other communication strategies.

Weise: SMH also has a Facebook fan page. What value is your page creating for the hospital and your community?

SMH: Hospitals and healthcare providers are brands people typically prefer not to interact with. Most of the time, people only use our services when they are sick or otherwise vulnerable, and healthcare is one of the few brands that can literally have life and death implications.

As I mentioned above, increasingly healthcare is about fostering relationships, and while Twitter is excellent for communication, Facebook allows for a more intimate interaction with our community. We are able to post photos of community events and share information that may not necessarily be hospital business but impacts the community in which we live and operate.

We recently posted information about eight students who received educational scholarships from us because they are going into the healthcare field. There isn’t really another format where we could have communicated that information, but it’s perfect for Facebook.

(SMH’s Facebook page)

Weise: Does SMH have any plans to adopt more social media into their marketing strategy? Perhaps, creating a YouTube channel to show video testimonials, events, interviews with doctors etc.?

SMH: Each market is unique, and Sarasota is no different. What’s splashed across the media today may not be the same next year. Since social media is so dynamic, we let our customers dictate which platforms to use based on their adoption of it. We are in the process of coordinating our first Twitter surgery broadcast – an amazing brain mapping procedure where the patient is awake during the entire procedure – and we’ll use YouTube to archive it. We’re also actively developing our Flikr, MySpace, and Delicious accounts and believe there are tremendous opportunities in those applications to help with patient education.

Weise: If you had one piece of advice for someone new to Twitter, what would you offer?
SMH: Don’t be afraid to bring a little personality into your tweets. It’s a lot more engaging for your followers and a lot more fun for you. ☺

About Shawn:

Sarasota Memorial’s Twitter feed is managed by Shawn Halls. Shawn is the market research manager at Sarasota Memorial and is responsible for measuring and communicating consumer insights throughout the organization. Before joining Sarasota Memorial, Shawn knocked ‘em dead at the University of South Florida as a senior statistician who had the unusual skill of being able to communicate complex statistical findings to statisticians and non-statisticians alike. Shawn holds a master’s degree in applied sociology from the University of Central Florida, proving you can actually get a job with a sociology degree.


Does your business need a jump start?

I just returned from a compelling conference in Palm Springs, Calif. One of the keynote speakers at the event was Steve Mckee, author of the new book, “When Growth Stalls”. His presentation was an overview of general business and marketing issues that may derail your company or prevent your company from growing. I recommend anyone who is concerned about his or her business growth stalling, or wants to prevent that from happening, consider reading Mckee’s book.

Below are the highlights, based on my point of view, from Mckee’s presentation:

You company will cease to move forward when any of the following four things occur:Steve McKee, Author of When Growth Stalls

1.    Your business suffers from a lack of consensus – Your board of directors, executive team and managing personnel need to be in agreement on where the business is going and how you are going to get there. Any break in that unity will derail your plans.
2.    You lose focus on your business model – This concept should be taken to heart, especially in our current economy. Remain true to your core business model. Sure, you might need to tweak it some – you should be doing that regularly anyway. But trying to do everything for everybody just to get business…? You won’t do anything right or well if you take that approach.
3.    You lose your nerve – This issue can arise in many areas of your business, but most importantly in your pricing. Mckee said it takes two minutes to cut your rates and two years to get them back.  I recognize that many companies are currently reducing fees to gain sales, but be careful how you market the reduced rates or you could suffer the consequences when there is more money to spend down the road. Remember, don’t sell your service or product short just because you are afraid.
4.    You are inconsistent in you business and in your communications – From a marketing and public relations point of view; remember to make sure your message is integrated and consistent so that your target audience hears you loud and clear. If your current campaign is working, don’t make big or random changes to it. Make sure your public relations message and your marketing message are integrated – consumers don’t differentiate between a message they hear in paid placement (advertising) versus earned placement (public relations), so make sure you are consistent in what you are telling them.

Regardless of the size of your business or the type of product or service you are selling, you might want to consider if one ore more of these issues exist within your company and if it is holding you back from reaching your growth potential. McKee stated that recovery begins when you figure out where you are failing and you fix it. If your growth has stalled, how are you going to jump start it?

Share The Side Note

Facebook Twitter More...

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,099 other followers

Weise Twitter