A Quick Guide to Effective Hospital Public Relations – Nico Hodel

For any hospital, imparting quality care to patients is always the first priority. Also important, however, is inspiring trust in patients and the public at large. An effective public relations strategy is a great way for a hospital to inspire trust and ensure that their brand is protected and enhanced.

As with any PR strategy, there are many tools and practices that can be used to relay important information to the press. PR work can also help to boost the visibility of a hospital by distributing and syndicating content across the web, as well as in print. Moreover, good PR can be used for crisis management to minimize negative publicity, and to boost brand equity.

Modern PR strategies work in tandem with digital marketing and content marketing efforts. They not only control what is written about by the press but also what forms of web content appears on the internet that features your brand. Content that is optimized for the web can help to define how your hospital is seen by the public.

There are many newswire services that can help to distribute press releases, content, and news stories to various high-authority publications. Newswires are automated platforms that send press releases or other kinds of content to a large database of reporters. Reporters are categorized based on what they cover.

Reaching out to individual reporters one at a time can be time-consuming. A newswire allows publicists to target hundreds or thousands of reporters of a certain type at once. Embedding rich media like videos or images into press releases that are distributed can help to boost engagement and make a release more likely to be picked up.

There are many newswires that offer distribution services. Cision, Business Wire, and Onepitch are examples of a few such services. Often, hiring a PR or content marketing agency that can employ these tools effectively is a good approach. Agencies often have a relationship with newswires that allow them lower prices when distributing releases.

Subtly integrating strategic keywords into a press release based on comprehensive keyword research can be a great way to drive organic traffic to releases that are published. Having these keywords appear in authoritative publications with links to your hospital’s website can also help improve the hospital’s search engine optimization. 

In this way, a modern PR strategy can help your hospital appear on more Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to drive more traffic to the website or simply to increase the visibility of the hospital’s brand. 

Effective PR efforts can also help to reduce ad budgets by increasing organic traffic and recognition of your hospital. According to Digital Authority, 70% of buyers or readers prefer to read an article rather than an ad when getting to know a company. Additionally, 71% are turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch.

A crucial part of crafting a hospital PR strategy that works is investing in medical teams’ customer service training. Poor customer service leads to dissatisfied patients, and can sometimes translate into negative publicity. Conversely, if patients have positive stories to tell about their experience in a hospital that can eventually lead to positive PR opportunities. 

Some patients that have had positive or negative experiences with your hospital will no doubt comment about or review the hospital online. Ensuring that your customer service team is well-trained will increase the occurrence of positive comments and limit negative ones. 

Moreover, other potential patients will read these reviews. According to HCW, 48% of patients say they value medical staff and ease of scheduling appointments over other information. It’s clear that patients care about the quality of customer service when making purchasing decisions in this sector.

Responding to any negative publicity, including any negative online reviews or comments is also an important part of modern PR. Even responding to positive comments by thanking the patient for their praise is a good best practice. When responding to anything negative, be sure not to respond in anger and instead take a compassionate, problem-solving approach.

The unfortunate truth of PR is that the media has become increasingly interested in inflammatory, sensationalized stories. According to a study that was conducted on the topic, journalists can often spin well-delivered answers from a hospital PR team into a damaging statement when taken out of context. This is why press releases, where the hospital’s PR representative can answer multiple questions at once is preferable.

Maintaining a CRM or similar software tool to keep records on relevant journalists is another important part of a hospital PR strategy. It’s important to do adequate research before pitching a journalist a story or addressing a story that has already been distributed. It’s vital to take the time to research the journalist’s past work to get an idea of their content specialty, tone, and popularity.

Be sure to employ the best CRM system for your business. Do the research to learn about different features of CRMs you’re considering. 

Doing proper research on journalists and recording that information into a CRM system will help to save precious time when executing on PR goals. Whenever possible, build a personal relationship with relevant journalists you’ve researched.

Always make sure to pitch a story, not the hospital. The pitch should focus on a compelling event or narrative and should not read like an ad for the hospital.

It’s important to understand that most journalists are overwhelmed by pitches by publicists every day. Anything a PR professional can do to provide a relevant journalist value and build a personal, preferably in-person, relationship with them will pay dividends. Journalists that have a personal relationship in place will be more likely to prioritize covering a release, and potentially even help to craft a release to increase its likelihood of it being accepted in a publication.

When submitting to any publication on behalf of a hospital, it is important to study and consider their editorial guidelines, past stories, and typical writing style. Doing so will allow the PR team to craft a pitch that is more likely to get picked up by the publication.

It is often advantageous to create newsworthy events or actively seek them out in the hospital when crafting a pitch. Newsworthy content that pertains to relevant local events that readers care about will also make publications more likely to pick up a story.

It’s clear that there are many facets to consider when developing an effective hospital public relations strategy. A systematic, concise approach will yield the most results when trying to meet specific goals. It may not be easy, but it is a worthwhile endeavor to ensure the positive branding, public image, and long-term growth of a hospital.