Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another press release diet case study: Seattle Children's Hospital blogs news

(Editor's note: Here's a report on the progress of Seattle Children's Hospital in starting the press release diet, my effort to get you to use blogs to issue news, rather than clutter up reporters' inboxes with press releases. Public relations specialist Mary Guiden provided this update.) 

When I joined the Public Relations team at Seattle Children’s in November 2011, a plan was already in place to launch a news blog.  Seattle Children’s had already demonstrated success with blogs, the most popular being Seattle Mama Doc, which provides perspectives on medical news and related tips for parents from a pediatrician and mom. 

We know that reporters don't have as much of a need for the standard press release, that their inboxes are full on a daily basis with news pitches and we wanted to provide a new way of sharing our stories with reporters (and, by extension, other audiences, including the general public).  

We worked on building up a bank of content before officially launching the blogOn the Pulse, and it took off on its own in May 2012, thanks to our young adult cancer patients, one of whom had created a video in the hospital with patients, families and staff lip-synching to Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger.”  To date, the video has more than 2.9 million views.  When the video and a related blog post went live in May, our content was picked up by nearly 90 outlets, including ABC News, The Washington Post, New York Daily News, USA Today, CNN and other national and local broadcast, print and online news organizations hungry for a fresh angle and information.

On the Pulse has readers in 117 countries.

Internally, our researchers and physicians like the concept and the fresh approach to reporting on a study, since the blog provides a chance to have a dialogue via the commenting feature. One recent example is a patient-related story foresearch on the importance of social networks for parents of children diagnosed with trisomy 13 and 18. The piece led to media coverage by our local NBC affiliate, KING 5 and also sparked dialogue among patient families via the blog’s commenting feature.

A blog post on a petroleum barge named after one of our researchers led to two stories—including the cover of an annual medical guide—in the Salem Statesman Journal.  The barge story is a great example of a piece that may not have worked as a standard press release. We also used Twitter to reach reporters with this news.  

We are still in phase one for developing the blog and acquiring reporters’ interest.  We have a related Twitter handle (@pediatricpulse) and a new social media expert on our team with time dedicated to growing our audience and followers.  In recent weeks, we’ve devised a strategic plan for Twitter and national and local reporters have started to follow or RT @pediatricpulse. 

In tandem with our blog and Twitter launch, we also redesigned our “For Media” webpage to make usability easier with the integration of our new social media properties. With the new tools in place and in use, we have a successful start to the “diet” and hope to see even more success in the future. 

If you go to the hospital's media page, you'll see press releases shown alongside blog posts. Are they still issuing releases, and in the same numbers? Are blog posts expanding what the hospital puts forward for coverage? Guiden sent this clarification, which I think will be helpful to many:

Our use of the blog has drastically reduced the number of press releases we are sending to reporters, though we are pitching our blog posts in a similar manner until we reach a more substantial following via social media. And while we’re still pitching from a traditional sense, the blog has helped us to develop more of a targeted approach (not as many mass email blasts). The blog expands what we’re covering – a great example is the barge naming post that helped with media attention that led to stories down the road. We’re also currently working on a post related to the flu season and our Lab Medicine department and its rapid testing and use of technology. 

This report's unusual for another reason: Data suggest that just a fraction of hospitals are using blogs as communications tools. See the data and my suggestions for making it easy to blog in my session notes for a talk I gave earlier this year to the public affairs and marketing network of NCI-funded cancer centers.

Want to see all the posts on the press release diet? Click on the tag by the same name, below.

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