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When is a Roadmap also a Report Card?

By: Stephen B. Weinstein

Stephen B. Weinstein is an account supervisor with Blue Horse Inc., a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based advertising marketing and public relations agency. With offices at 839 North Jefferson Street in Milwaukee, the agency employees 35 individuals and has capitalized billings of $29 million.

Consider these scenarios:
  1. Your public relations people send out a media advisory inviting reporters to cover an open house at your facility. It’s an important event - one that you want to use to position your facility as taking a leadership role in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Because the advisory was sent to all the right people, the open house should attract the print and broadcast media, and that should help generate interest and curiosity seekers from the community. However, no reporters show up, and the only coverage you receive is a calendar mention. It is possible that your advisory was received too late to make it in the newspaper?
  2. It’s Alzheimer’s Disease Month and a respected radio talk show personality hosts a program that includes a discussion on helping patients, families and caregivers - a specialty of your facility. But, your colleagues - experts in the field - are not asked to participate. After hearing the show, the CEO walks in and asks you, “Why weren’t we included?” or, “Why do you think we weren’t invited to be on the show?” Your face turns red with embarrassment. Could it be that the talk show host didn’t know about your facility’s expertise in the field?
  3. A local newspaper reporter is writing a story on stress management for his weekly column. Your competitors are invited to a round table discussion with the reporter and to be quoted in the column as experts. The column is published without input from your facility’s medical professionals. Is it possible that you didn’t even know the discussion was being held and the column was being written until the newspaper landed on your desk?
The result in all three scenarios is that your public and community relations efforts come up far short of your expectations. And valuable opportunities for earned media coverage were lost.

It’s frustrating. But, because of the enormous volumes of paper that cross the desk of a broadcast assignment editor or a print reporter, information important to your hospital or clinic - can easily slip through the cracks, never appearing in print, on the evening news, or on a local radio talk show.

In many cases, the odds of gaining coverage are certainly against you. So, your strategy for gaining placement better be a good one.

One way to map out your communication efforts and improve your odds of gaining coverage is with a SEPO program. SEPO, or “Special Editorial Publicity Opportunities,” is a road map designed to help your public relations efforts find their way to the right place at the right time.

In strategic terms, a SEPO is a plan of attack. It researches and outlines editorial opportunities, and it promotes your expertise in healthcare to the media before it’s needed. Taking that step of making the media aware of your expertise, before they need to look for someone with your credentials, will endear you to them simply because you’ve just made their job a lot easier.

A SEPO can also identify and help with your facility’s community relations efforts. When done correctly, a SEPO will contain media that can be given advance information about your observance of national health awareness days and weeks.

It’s that kind of “big picture” advance planning that gives you a jump on your competition. It allows you to schedule activities and identify specific media opportunities, as well as to offer your hospital’s physicians and administrators as experts on local broadcast programs ahead of others in your same market.

How do you know when those opportunities are going to occur?
  • By maintaining close contact with broadcast assignment editors, print reporters and others that may pique the interests of your markets;
  • By reading and noting, in advance, the editorial calendars of those publications important to you;
  • By positioning your administrator or CEO as an expert who is first to be called to comment on healthcare issues when they arise;
  • By identifying national health observances and specifying local story angles that correspond with them; and
  • By being prepared to provide the local response to national articles on medical breakthroughs and practices - showing how your programs and practices correspond with the national picture.
By advance planning and using the SEPO program, you can take advantage of editorial opportunities that your competition might not be aware of until it’s too late. This all as the result of a sophisticated editorial mapping program that constantly monitors the pulse of the various media most important to your interests.

The SEPO Program doesn’t end after you make contact with the editors or after your stories are published. At the end of the year, the SEPO should also serve as a report card. If the job was done right, and if editorial placements were achieved, it should spell success in generating news coverage that helps position your hospital and its representatives as authorities and leaders. And, because of its usefulness it will also enhance your position with the media as a reliable news source.

In short, at the end of the year, the SEPO provides the springboard to show management what was planned - and accomplished.

It’s a heads-up management tool that will earn high grades for your efforts. At the same time, it’s a solid media relations tactic to guide and give direction to responding editorial needs.

Combine the report card and the road map and you have the SEPO program.

© Copyright 1999, Stephen B. Weinstein, Blue Horse Inc.

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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