You’ve organized a diverse series of marketing events to draw a range of constituencies to your facility. From case managers, to physicians, the general community, family members, to specialists and other potential referral sources, your schedule of events runs the gamut. Perhaps it’s a monthly lecture series on non-health care topics, combined with a community-wide health fair, a spa day for case managers, CEU programs, a senior picnic, and maybe even a chocolate-making workshop or pet psychic presentation to draw people who would have never otherwise step foot inside a nursing home.
Now, how do you get the most bang out of your buck and achieve an outcome that will make all the time and energy exerted planning these events worth it? In fact, in my experience, this is precisely where some buildings drop the ball, leading to a poor turnout and total loss of enthusiasm for the value of such marketing activities. As a side note: even when one of these events doesn’t meet expectations (in turnout, referrals, etc.), it must be used as a learning experience. A cohesive marketing plan is far too critical for a building to give up on.
For a facility to get the most out of its marketing activities, it needs a clear marketing process that is followed consistently for each and every event. Fortunately, in getting the word out about your events, there are more ways than ever to reach your target audiences. Social media tools, particularly on facebook, allow you to describe your event, create an event page, invite individuals who may be interested in attending, and distribute your materials generously. For some health care organizations, entering into the realm of social media is long overdue. The fear of receiving negative feedback via social media has left many health care organizations with their hands tied without the incredible opportunity to deliver all the positive messages to the communities they serve.
However, in spite of the various new ways of distributing your information, one thing hasn’t changed. You still need to do the basics. Write a press release, create a flyer, and do some footwork. It seems all so simple, but these steps must be taken because it sets the foundation for the outreach that everyone in your building has the opportunity to contribute to in the effort to make your event a success. From there, word of mouth is a powerful tool – galvanize your staff to tell their friends and colleagues about it. Distributing the press release to the local newspaper of record should happen a few weeks in advance, and don’t forget the free weeklies and monthly publications. Come up with an entire list, get the emails and other contact information for the managing editors. Don’t forget radio and television outlets, online news outlets, and any place that will post or announce your press release.
There are various nuances to understand and act upon that will increase your chances of getting your event mentioned in print and on-the-air, which unless you have a full-time media relations professional on your staff, you likely won’t have the time and energy to master. However, with proper follow-through you will get a sense of what works and doesn’t work. Also, there are no real tricks in getting something published. Typically, following up with phone calls and good communication with the appropriate reporter and/or editor is best way to achieve results.
The second level of PR includes highlighting the event via a feature piece in print, a radio or television story, interviews on radio or TV, or any other media highlight that moves beyond a simple mention of the press release. This is a step that also takes more than simple follow-up with a media outlet, it often takes the ability to walk a little in a journalist’s shoes and understand what is important to him/her. That’s the subject of an entire post for another day – we’ll get to that in Part 6.
I’ve found that for events that should draw 25-75 people, following-through with solid PR strategy should be enough to capture that audience. Again, a full PR strategy means zero dollars in paid advertising, but fully utilizes your staff and marketing team in distributing flyers throughout the community, stoking word of mouth, and potentially contributing to extras like being a clinical expert on a radio interview.
For a larger event that needs to draw hundreds (500-600 or more), like an open house in an independent or assisted living community, I would recommend consulting a professional firm to ensure excellent results. A firm like OneEighty Media will provide a range of additional direct marketing services, including phone banking and postcard mailers to age and income qualified individuals within the target geographic market. This practice has not only achieved excellent results, it has also proven to be extremely cost-effective in generating leads, prospects and move-ins.
The additional benefit of the PR campaign associated with each event is the halo effect, providing exposure far beyond the people who actually attend. A solid plan that covers all the bases and gains exposure in all forms of media, word of mouth, directly marketing to particular constituents (targeted referral sources), produces consistent top-of-mind marketing and the clear message of energy and enthusiasm within your building. The reputation booster through the PR campaign is difficult to measure, but is likely underestimated on many levels – including, but not limited to, a public perception standpoint and in your staff’s morale.
Getting to the second level media coverage that I alluded to earlier in this post, we’ll get to that in Part 6.
President of OneEighty Media, Inc., John Krol serves as Director of Accounts and lead communications consultant for this full-service marketing, communications and advertising firm. John’s extensive experience in journalism, broadcasting, public relations, government relations, SEM, community outreach and marketing provides a unique perspective for businesses looking to re-energize and diversify their marketing efforts.