Public relations check-up

Most successful hospitals or healthcare organizations have a public relations plan that complements and supports their overall business objectives.

If properly conceived and executed, this plan can build name awareness, enhance a brand, shape an image, and engage target audiences in ways that help the organization achieve its goals. The right PR program should be both a gatekeeper and a welcome mat into the organization.

As the new year begins, now is the time to take a fresh look at your PR plan and where your resources are being applied. In doing so, here are nine questions to ask:

1. Is your PR plan reflective of your organization's mission and values, and does it work every day to enhance your brand positon? More than a clever slogan, a brand is a promise your organization is making to its patients, workforce and business partners. Protecting it should be central to your PR plan which should, in turn, harmonize with the organization's marketing and advertising objectives, messages and methodologies.

2. Does your PR plan reflect the changing marketplace and potential changes in your customer base or your competition? Are there new competitors in your community? Are old competitors now offering new products or services that may require you to rethink yours? Do these new realities force you to change your message or the mediums you are using to communicate? How creative are you being, or are you stuck in the past?

3. From a strategic standpoint does your PR program stress your areas of differentiation, and do you build your messaging and storytelling around that? That's what will attract customers and interest the media. What makes you different? What makes you special? What is your unique selling proposition? If your organization changed in the past year, has your plan and messaging changed along with it?

4. From a tactical standpoint, are you fully leveraging the power of online communications? Is your website contemporary, vibrant, animated and inviting? Are you properly engaging your audiences using appropriate social media tools? Are you leveraging analytics to know where to best place your efforts and dollars? What focus are you putting toward online reputation management?

5. Are you appropriately tapping into traditional media to help tell your story? While the internet has redefined the way many people get their news, traditional mass media still carries an inherent trust not found in self-publishing. And while numbers for conventional media may be dwindling, newspapers, radio, television and magazines all still deliver large numbers that many online outlets simply cannot match. For those reasons, conventional media must not be ignored.

6. Are you remembering that your most important "public" is your own workforce? Does your PR plan call for proactive, candid and timely employee communications in both good times and bad? Does it include a vehicle for two-way communications, and do you respond to input accordingly? Do you let your employees know first – before they read something online or in the newspaper?

7. Is your PR plan flexible enough to allow you to remain opportunistic as conditions change? Do you have the capacity to jump on breaking news and make it relevant to your company and your customers? Are you prepared to deal with an unanticipated crisis?

8. What are you doing to position your company's executives as thought leaders in their field? Are they being interviewed for the right industry or community trend pieces? And by the most desirable media outlets? Are they media trained? Are they speaking at conferences? Are they being published? Are they playing the appropriate role with trade associations or regulators, or other formal or informal influencers? How is your PR program supporting these efforts?

9. Is your PR plan built on a foundation of trust? Without that, nothing else matters.

Ross K. Goldberg is president of Kevin/Ross Public Relations and former chairman of the board of trustees of Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Southern California.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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