PR Case Study – moving towards better health

For those out there who think public relations professionals only spin the “real” news, or think that all are a bunch of flacks, I wish they could have attended yesterday’s SC PRSA meeting.

The luncheon focused on how a healthcare public relations campaign is invaluable when communicating to appropriate audiences upcoming changes in the hospital that directly affects them.

A panel of four healthcare communications professionals from Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, discussed GHS’s use of integrated marketing communications for its Greer Memorial Hospital grand opening in August.

From existing hospital employees to the Greer community and from physicians to community leaders, there were a lot of key audiences to address. While each needed to receive a different message, the overlying factor – whether you are a patient, a family member visiting a patient, a receptionist or a physician – was that customer service is paramount to Greer Memorial.

GHS really focused on the importance of communicating the fact that the new hospital would be open and available to the public – and ready to be part of the community. This was achieved by advertising, billboards, community events, as well as media relations tactics for both feature stories and relevant health columns.

I was really proud to listen to the painstaking efforts GHS took this past summer when opening Greer Memorial, and I wish these kinds of stories would make headlines in industry publications, rather than focusing on those out there who simply churn out news releases and pitch irrelevant outlets non-newsworthy stories. There really are public relations professionals out there who work hard to implement strategic activities to serve their publics well while meeting the goals of the organizations they represent.

What is your “proud” moment in PR?

PR Diva Dish – Lyn Mettler, owner of Mettler PR and president of Step Ahead Web Strategies

All I can say is, “Wow!” Lyn Mettler is busy!

As a mother of two, owner of Mettler Public Relations and president of Step Ahead Web Strategies, she also has her own blog, a presence on Twitter and hosts a monthly podcast! 

Congratulations, Lyn, on all your success so far, and keep us posted on new developments with all your activities, especially any success stories you have with clients and Step Ahead Web Strategies. It’s always interesting to learn about how clients embrace social media and the results they’ve experienced because of it.

 

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do: Owner, Mettler Public Relations; President, Step Ahead Web Strategies – I run a traditional public relations firm specializing in media relations, as well as a company that helps clients leverage the latest social media and Web 2.0 technologies as PR and marketing tools.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry? I started out my career working in television news and quickly discovered it was not for me. The natural next step, which I could never have imagined in college, was to flip to “the other side”. I found I truly enjoyed reaching out to journalists; I just did not want to be one.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you? I am fascinated with the evolution of the Web and how it has become a crucial medium in any public relations campaign. I think we are witnessing one of the most dramatic changes in social dynamics in history and I’m excited to help my clients navigate these new waters.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
I am a member of the Public Relations Society of America and have found the independent practitioners group, as well as their publications and Web tools, to be very helpful as I grow my businesses.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry? Start using and learning about social media now in all its forms. This is going to be required knowledge for public relations jobs in the future and the better positioned you are in this area, the better chance that you will land a desirable job.

o What is the best thing about your job? My clients. They are all so interesting in different ways. I don’t limit myself to one industry, so one day I may be running a contest for the new ice cream flavor of Charleston for Circa 1886 restaurant and the next I may be out at a park working with journalists on a nonprofit to improve local parks. It never gets boring.

o What is the thing you like least about your job? I hate it when I’ve got a good story that gets preempted by breaking news. That’s always disappointing, of course to the client, but to me as well, and it’s frustrating because it’s out of our control. There’s nothing better than landing a spot in a big media outlet.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)? My Step Ahead Web Strategies company is inviting people to submit a video of themselves describing their favorite Web 2.0 (blog, podcast, myspace, twitter, etc.) tool as something fun for the summer. Visit our site at www.stepaheadwebstrategies.com/favorite-web-2.0.shtml for all the details and to see others’ videos.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life? I have two young children and so I have chosen to work from home to be with them as much as I can. It’s a juggle working around naps and mother’s morning out, but it’s extremely rewarding and I feel very grateful to be able to run two businesses and be with my kids, too.

o Anything else you would like to add? Feel free to check out my blog at www.newworldpr.blogspot.com where I discuss the impact of social media on PR and how to use these technologies as PR tools, and my Brand Bandits podcast at www.brandbandits.blogspot.com, where my colleague and graphic designer Ginny Carson and I monthly chat about branding topics from both a verbal and visual perspective.

A little customer service goes a long way

Just a little vent to start off our week….

Last night, I had to spend the night in the hospital with my two year old son, so he could be tested for sleep apnea. Now, unless you’re having a baby, which is probably one of the most glorious experiences you’ll ever have inside a hospital, most people are apprehensive about visiting and/or spending the night in one of these facilities, since you’re usually only there if you’re sick, or if you’re visiting someone who’s sick.

Nonetheless, our city’s hospital has the only pediatric sleep lab in the area, so off we went, with our overnight bags in tow. We go to the specified room, where the technician on duty that night grunted which room we were to be in. No introductions. No smile. Seeing as we were already apprehensive about being there, the night was starting off great.

We get my son settled in his pjs and go through his nighttime rituals. The technician again comes in and monotonously runs through his schpeel about how he would hook up about 100 sensors to my child so he could monitor his sleep and oxygen levels overnight. (Again, he never once looked at my son or even addressed him. They may be small, but toddlers are actual people, too, and understand more than you think).

We get my son to sleep, and the tech comes in and spends the next hour and a half hooking him up to a maze of wires and sensors. Miraculously, my son never woke up.

After a fitful night’s sleep for both of us (I can’t believe he slept as well as he did with all those wires on him), the tech came in this morning to unhook him. No good morning. No, “How did he do?” Just started taking these ledes off, which feel like ripping off band-aids. Except, again, there were about 100 of them.

My son was such a trooper and held it together. Except for one moment when he looked at me with this scared little face and his lip started trembling. One little tear dripped down his cheek, and you could tell he was so scared because this strange man was unceremoniously ripping these things off of him. It broke my heart.

When we left, there was no goodbye or mention when the test results would be in (although already knew that from our referring physician).

The moral of this rant is that a little customer service can go a long way. This technician obviously didn’t like his job, didn’t like children, or both. Especially in a hospital setting when people are already on edge, you would think medical employees would work to be a little more sensitive to people’s fears and concerns – and especially when there are young children involved.

And because you’ll always tell WAY more people are your negative experiences with a brand versus your positive ones, you can bet I’ll be telling anyone who’ll listen about how we were treated during my son’s sleep study. It may not make a difference, but it will make me feel better.

We have to wait three weeks to get the test results back, and unless it’s absolutely medically necessary, I won’t subject my son to that kind of treatment again.

If you deal with any kind of customer in your business, keep in mind how far a little good customer service can go. It might just be a the difference between someone raving about their experience with your brand, or telling the world about their terrible experience.

Now, I’m going to take a nap……

Do ‘pay for performance’ pricing models work?

Recently, GSABusiness covered public relations and advertising in a down economy in their regular podcast, “What’s All the Hype?” Publisher Francis Allgood interviewed Marsha Friedman of Event Management Services in Tampa, Fla. about how companies can maximize publicity opportunities when the economy is in a funk.

You can listen to the podcast here (it’s not long): http://gsabusiness.com/images/podcasts/Podcast%2007_30_08.mp3

Here’s a question I wanted to pose to the group that arose after I listened to Marsha talk about the business model she’s used since she started her PR business in 1990: Does pay for performance pricing work?

Marsha claims traditional retainer models are outdated and don’t give clients what they really want, which is ROI. She states her ‘pay for performance’ model means she only receives payment for media coverage she helps generate for clients (she didn’t discuss if she implemented other PR tactics, such as speakers’ bureaus, event planning, etc. or how she’s paid for those projects).

I think it’s important to distinguish that Marsha never claims to guarantee media coverage, rather that she’s only paid for media coverage she helps to place for her clients.

I’ve always told clients to be wary of any PR person or firm who claims to guarantee media coverage, since ultimately it’s up to the editor or producer to decide what’s newsworthy and what’s not for their audience. And ‘pay for performance’ pricing models have always seemed a little foreign to me, since how do you account for the media outreach you do that doesn’t result in a bonafide media placement? What about all the media calls, e-mails, research, etc. you do that may not lead to a story (but you still did the work, nonetheless)?

But I’ve always challenged myself to be open to new ways of thinking and as a (relatively) new business owner, I’m always interested in learning about successful business models.

What do you think about pay for performance pricing plans? Does your firm implement one? How does it work?

Or, are you sticking with the traditional retainer-based agreement that Marsha claims 95% of PR agencies still use? Do you think retainers are outdated, or is there still a place for them in this changing business landscape?

Listen to the podcast when you get a chance, and weigh in here with your insight. I’d love to learn some new ideas from the group.

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing

Liza and I have both had the pleasure of working with Kelly Davis, APR, president of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, on a variety of SCPRSA projects and activities. She is a great advocate for independent practitioners, and we’re glad she participated in the weekly profile with us! Read on to learn more and have a great weekend.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
o President of Davis Public Relations and Marketing, a full-service independent communications firm based in Columbia, South Carolina. We provide strategic public relations planning, branding, media relations, community relations and marketing programs to clients in a variety of industries with a special emphasis on health care and public policy.

o How did you become interested in the public relations industry?
o After majoring in English at Furman University, I took at job at a large corporation in Columbia, where I had a terrific mentor who encouraged me to pursue my master’s degree in journalism and a career in public relations. I knew that PR would be a great fit for my communications skills and my desire to connect companies with the communities they serve.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
o Independent practitioners now represent one of the fastest growing segments of the public relations industry. This fascinates me not only because I am independent, but also because of the success rates that I am seeing among independent practitioners. Success for each one of us means greater acceptance and greater understanding that small firms are just as competitive as large firms in pursuing big business and providing high quality, effective service to our clients.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
o I have been a member of the Public Relations Society of America and its South Carolina Chapter since 1997. I have been on the SCPRSA board since 2000, including serving as Chapter President in 2002, and currently serve as the Chapter Ethics Officer and the Chair of PRSA’s Independent Practitioners Alliance, a professional interest section with more than 200 members across the country. As the world’s largest professional association for public relations practitioners, PRSA has been vitally important to my professional development, networking and understanding of industry trends. Plus, I have made a lot of terrific friends!

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations industry?
o Take advantage of internships and part-time job opportunities. I encourage everyone to work or intern in the non-profit sector early in their career. Non-profits can be great places to learn and practice a lot of skills while being given actual responsibilities that make a difference in the organization.

o Please describe your experience in obtaining your APR. Was it different than you thought? How has it made a difference in your professional career?
o I began studying for the APR exam shortly after completing my master’s degree. At the time, you had to have five years of experience to pursue accreditation, so it was the perfect time to take the exam since I was still in a “study mode” from graduate school and still had all of the theory and history at the top of my mind. The APR process has changed since I took it, but in serving as a Readiness Review panelist and helping others prepare for the exam over the past few years, I now believe that the process is geared more to helping people succeed than it was in the past.

Before starting my own company, I was fortunate to work for other PRSA members who understood the value of accreditation, so it did help me in securing a raise when I passed the exam and in landing a new position for which APR was a desired qualification. Now as an independent business owner, I often explain to potential clients that working with an accredited practitioner means that they not only have PR counsel who fully understands the history and theory of public relations, but they also have one who is committed to ethical practice.

o What is the best thing about your job?
o I love the variety of working with different clients and being able to use different skills to meet each client’s needs. It’s rarely the same thing every day. I also take a lot of pride in helping my clients make a real difference in the lives of the people they serve. Working in the same community where I was raised, I feel that the work I do gives me a great opportunity every day to give back and to do my part in making South Carolina a better place to live.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
o I am most frustrated by the lack of understanding of the public relations profession, whether it is from people who equate public relations only with media relations or from those who accuse us of being “spin doctors.” The recent controversy involving a CBS News commentator who made disparaging comments about the public relations profession in general (and PRSA in particular) really illustrated the challenge we have on a daily basis to help people understand the full range of services that public relations encompasses as well as the duty we all have to advocate for our profession.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your own practice or one of your clients)?
o On July 2, Davis Public Relations and Marketing celebrates our fourth anniversary. I am very proud and excited about all that we have accomplished since taking that leap of faith four years ago. Every day brings new opportunities for personal and professional growth. I particularly want to express my sincere appreciation to my friends and colleagues who have been so supportive of my company and to all of the clients who have entrusted their business to our team.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?

o Being self-employed, I probably work longer hours now than I did working for someone else, but I’ve also learned to embrace the flexibility that owning my own business gives me. I make it a priority to spend time with my family and friends – those personal relationships are precious to me. I started working with a personal trainer this year, and my new commitment to regular exercise has really made a difference mentally as well as physically. Anything you can do to stay energized and refreshed will only make you better when you return to the office.

o Anything else you would like to add?
o I’d like to thank Liza and Kim for creating this terrific resource and meeting place for us Palmetto PR Divas!

Palmetto PR Diva Dish – Jessica Munday, president of Trio Solutions

I just finished a 4.5-mile run in Jetton Park on the beautiful Lake Norman! One of my friends is planning to run the marathon in Las Vegas this December and I told her I would run with her…After a week of more mileage I’m not sure if this 31-year-old can do another marathon, but I will try!

This week we are profiling Jessica Munday, president and founder of Trio Solutions in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Congratulations, Jessica, on the soon-to-be new addition to your family, and thanks for your insight on the importance of creating lasting relationships within the industry. After all, everyone wants to be treated with respect.

I’ve got meetings in Charlotte today and then am going to the Tom Petty concert tonight with some friends. Hope you have a great weekend, no matter what you have planned.

o Please provide title and a brief description of what you do:
o I’m Jessica Munday, president and founder of Trio Solutions Inc., a full-service marketing communications firm based in Mount Pleasant, SC. Our company specializes in marketing, event planning and Web development for nonprofit and health care organizations.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
o I knew when I was a senior in high school that I wanted to work in the communications field. My aunt worked for a large PR firm in Columbia, SC and I had an opportunity to go with her to a grand opening for one of her clients. Witnessing her pull together the media, VIP guests and overseeing all the logistics was enough to intrigue me. I went home and applied to USC’s College of Journalism. The rest is history.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
o Definitely the Internet. It’s fascinating, fast-paced and overwhelming all at the same time. Keeping up with, and understanding, all the new technology to communication professionals is quite a challenge but one I enjoy.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
o I have been involved with the American Marketing Association for several years and I frequently attend our local PRSA meetings. Because we specialize in working with nonprofits, I am also actively involved with the South Carolina Association of Nonprofits Organizations (SCANPO) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The biggest value I find from being involved with these groups is having the opportunity to meet and network with other industry professionals.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?
o Regardless of what you learn in school or read in a book, everything you do is dependent on relationships. Having strong relationships in this industry, whether it’s with your vendors, the media, your clients or your co-workers, is the most important asset you can have. Manage them carefully and with the utmost respect.

o What is the best thing about your job?
o Knowing that I am doing what I love to do and that through the organizations we work with, I’m making a difference. It’s very comforting and fulfilling at the end of the day.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
o Being in an industry where so many people think they can do what you do. Everyone thinks they know how to market themselves. You see it all the time with homemade brochures (Publisher, anyone?), logos designed with clipart and Microsoft Word Art, poorly written press releases, Web sites designed by 13-year-olds. Marketing and PR as a practice still have a long way to go before they are viewed as being as vital of a business operation as HR or finance but we’re making great strides.

o Are there any exciting announcements you’d like to tell us about (either with your company or one of your clients)?
o Well the most exciting announcement I have is that I’m excepting my third child this September. Obviously our family addition will add a new dynamic to my life as a working mom and business owner.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
o It’s a challenge but both aspects of my life are so fulfilling that I do everything humanly possible to ensure a balance and to be the best I can be as a mother, wife and business owner. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming and that’s when I remind myself to take each day as it comes and to put my faith in God that he would never give me more than I can handle.

o Anything else you would like to add?
o Yes, I think what Palmetto PR Divas is doing is awesome. Keep up the great work and I love the way you ‘pay it forward’ with each nomination. (Editor’s note: Thanks, Jessica!)

Ashley Sherry – Corporate Communications Specialist, First Citizens Bank

This Friday’s Palmetto PR Diva Dish focuses on Ashley Sherry, corporate communications specialist for First Citizens Bank.

I discovered that both her and Liza worked at Cookerly Public Relations, but missed each other by a few years! Read on to learn more and have a great weekend!

As Corporate Communications Specialist for First Citizens, Ashley handles public relations, media relations and a variety of corporate communications for the company. She serves as the managing editor of internal publication, First Citizenship. Ashley also develops, writes and pitches stories about topics relevant to the financial services industry and writes various corporate messages for executive management to deliver to internal and external audiences. In addition, Ashley manages internal and external corporate events.

Additionally, Ashley was recently selected as one of Columbia’s 20 Under 40 Rising Stars in Business. For all of her hard work, she was also the recipient of the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award from the South Carolina Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

o How did you become interested in the public relations/advertising industry?
I interned at Cookerly Public Relations in Atlanta when I was in college and loved it. I knew then PR was what I wanted to do.

o What changes have you seen in the industry that is the most interesting to you?
Just the rise of technology and the use of social media in PR. It is amazing to me to see the shift from “fact-based” articles in newspapers to the idea of viral marketing via text messages and Facebook. I think this type of PR and marketing is something everyone in PR needs to take note of and use, if is in the best interest of the client or company of course.

o Are you involved in any professional associations? If so, what are they and what do you learn by being involved?
I am actively involved in SCPRSA. I serve on the board of directors as Midlands Regional Director and membership vice chair. I also serve as luncheons chair for the Midlands. The organization has been a great way to get involved and further my professional career, as well as network with other professionals.

I am also involved with Columbia Opportunity Resource (COR), which has allowed me to become more involved with the City of Columbia and network. I also sit on the Healthy Learners Fund Development Board.

o What is the one piece of advice you would give students that are interested in pursuing a career in the public relations/investor relations/marketing industry?

Only one? Well, I would say to gain some internship experience. In PR, you can study all day, but you really need to learn hands on. The field has so many aspects to it, that internships are a great way to see it all. Also, try to intern on both the client side and the agency side.

o What is the best thing about your job?
The collaborative team environment is the best thing about my job. I also have a boss that is great at brainstorming and mentoring. I am able to use my talents and skills, but also learn more each day.

o What is the thing you like least about your job?
The research. It is necessary, but not my favorite.

o How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
I think this is one of my strengths. In prior jobs, I worked long hours and on weekends, but I’ve had to discipline myself to take time for myself, friends, family, and relationships. I leave work at work, but tend to it if needed past a certain time. I am very career-oriented, but I’ve learned that I can have a rewarding career and personal life. I also think that the people I choose to socialize with have similar concepts of work/life balance, so that helps. We are usually all busy at the same time or all together enjoying life.

o Anything else you would like to add?

PR is a great career. It has it challenges and its rewards and I can’t think of doing anything else.