Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Express-News Editorial in Error about PR

Yesterday, the San Antonio Express-News published an editorial, “BexarMet needs more than PR,” that frankly gives a pretty dim view of our profession. I have no issue with the headline. BexarMet does need more than public relations. We’ve long known that public relations campaigns cannot fix operational or leadership problems.

The editors are also right to question any expense taken on by the board. I wouldn’t argue that the BexarMet’s days are likely “numbered.” I don’t claim to know anything about the (non-San Antonio) PR firm or the contract it’s been hired to fulfill. And clearly, BexarMet’s history in the PR department has been – shall we say – questionable.

I grant the Express-News editors all of that.

In fact, let’s set aside that this is BexarMet at all.

My concern is the implication that public relations is singularly interested in making someone “look good,” or burnishing a “bruised public image” or casting someone in a “positive light.” I can honestly say, none of these goals are in my job description.

It is paramount that organizations be effective at communicating – especially those that serve the public interest directly. And communication is more complicated than it may seem. There's a whole body of knowledge are research in this area. Communication requires not just speaking, but listening as well. Organizations that are in trouble typically need counsel in this area. There is no shame in getting help where it is critically needed.

Naturally, as in all professions, a few bad PR apples have gotten the spotlight. But these don’t represent our profession by any stretch. If we’re doing our job well, our successes are our organizations’ successes.

Take a look at the code of ethics and professional standards that guides our work. All PRSA members pledge to abide by this code. Any PR practitioner worth his or her salt would of course counsel an organization to do things like, as the Express-News editors call for, end scandals, improve service where it’s been weak, and work with lawmakers constructively, among other things like being in dialog with constituents and customers. And I'm pretty sure that, deep down, the editors know this too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

PR News Round Up ~ December 14, 2010

From Social Media Examiner
How to Develop a Social Media Content Strategy
Do you have a social media strategy? Does it involve content? Should it? The other day I drove past a local convenience store that makes most of its profit from beer, Slush Puppies and beef jerky (not that there’s anything wrong with that). A big sign out front asked passers-by to Like them on Facebook. “It’s official,” [...] Read the rest of this article...

From Convince and Convert via PR Daily Newsfeed
6 new-fangled social media tools worth discovering
Social media strategist Jay Baer has a quick roundup of new social-media tools that haven’t hit the mainstream yet. All of these tools must meet the same criteria to become household names: Utility is always first — and these meet that requirement. “The torrent of new digital tools and gadgets makes Sharper Image, SkyMall, and Hammacher Schlemmer look like an Amish electronics store,” Baer writes. Of course, we'll see how many of them are around next year at this time. — Claire Celsi Related Harvard Business Review Edelman’s David Armano breaks down six social media trends for 2011. Read story.

From Mr. Public Relations via PR Daily Newsfeed
35 Twitter hashtags for PR pros
As a PR professional looking to extend the reach of your message, it isn’t enough to just talk the talk anymore. You’d better be able to tweet it, too. And perhaps one of the easiest ways to take advantage of the Twitterverse is through hashtags. But are you using the right ones? If you’re not sure, here’s a list from the blog Mr. Public Relations of 35 every PR pro should know. So now lets all say #Thankyou, Mr. Public Relations. Read story.

From Social Media Examiner
26 tips to spice up your Facebook page
Have you made Facebook an integral part of your communications strategy? If so, you married to a beast that needs constant tending and feeding. Can be a bit of a pain, can’t it? Social Media Examiner offers 26 ways to help you take care of the beast. Read story.

From All Facebook via PR Daily Newsfeed
11 Facebook pages PR pros should follow
This list from All Facebook blog features 10 pages; Ragan Communications’ Facebook page is not among them. That’s No. 11. Here’s the link. Take a look at the rest.

From PR Fuel via PR Daily Newsfeed
10 directories to list your blog
We all want to grow the visibility of our blog. A directory is a great way to help. Mickie Kennedy at PR Fuel has come up with his 10 best blog directories to help you increase your blog’s exposure. — Matthew Royse Read story.

From Higher & Higher via PR Daily Newsfeed
13 Twitter chats every PR pro should follow
“PR chats on Twitter are a helpful way to connect and communicate with PR specialists from all around the world, to build relationships and personal network, to meet new [and] interesting people, and to learn the current tendencies in the field,” Bulgarian PR pro Petya Georgieva writes on her blog. She summarized 13 PR chats every pro should consider following. — Jody Koehler Read story.

From Social Media Examiner
21 Ways Non-Profits Can Leverage Social Media
Like their for-profit brethren, many non-profits understand that using social media can help them reach and engage their audience, create momentum and build community. However, there’s uncertainty around how to create a sustainable social media campaign, although the tools are plentiful and often free. Here are 21 ways non-profits can leverage social media: #1: Use a blog to [...] Read article

From Tripwire Magazine via PR Daily Newsfeed
30 e-mail newsletter designs to inspire you
Thinking about redesigning your e-newsletter — or maybe launching one? Might be a good idea. “Many Internet marketers consider e-mail list building one of the most important elements of making business online,” Dustin Betonio wrote for Tripwire Magazine. “Reason is that once you have a large list of targeted subscribers you can generate traffic yourself and this means your business is less vulnerable to changes in Google rating algorithms.” Take your inspiration from these 30 e-newsletter designs, Betonio advised. Read article

From PR Daily
57 lessons and tips about PR agency life
What was life like when you couldn’t share lessons and tips as easily as you can today? I’m glad those days are behind us because we wouldn’t be able to collectively learn as much as we can today. Here are two great examples. The blog renaissance chambara has 27 lessons from agency life; Earlin’ PR Abuse has 30 ways to survive and thrive in PR. Together, they add up to 57 lessons and tips. Enjoy! — Adam Vincenzini Read story.

From The Comms Corner via PR Daily Newsfeed
11 (mostly) FREE social media tools to try in 2011
Adam Vincenzini, PR Daily Europe’s contributing editor, has spent the last few months testing social media tools. He created this list of the tools he plans to use next year. Best part is all of them are either free or offer a free version. Read story.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Media Relations and HIPAA

One of the major functions of my work in the communications department of a large health system is media relations. Although I’ve always worked in non-profit public relations, I had never worked in healthcare before my current job. I’ve been in this position for three years, and I love it, but it was a big adjustment for me.

We have fantastic stories to tell: new procedures that let patients stay close to home for care, physicians with specialties that are desperately needed in our area moving to town, new treatments that are literally lifesaving. And don’t forget the always fun First-Baby-Born-in-the-New-Year story! There are, however, a lot of stories that can be difficult to tell.

We are a faith-based health system, and we are very protective of our patients. Even if we weren’t protective, we are also bound by HIPAA to protect our patients. HIPAA is the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.” This rule offers protection of individually identifiable health information. The rule is written so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

Much to the frustration of many journalists, and to those of us in the healthcare field, “other important purposes” doesn’t cover giving out information on patients. Every patient has an expectation of privacy and, if they choose the option, we are often unable to even confirm that a person is a patient in our hospital.

Because HIPAA can be so restricting in the information I can provide a reporter (even on fun stories), I find it even more important to have a good relationship with my media colleagues. They have to understand – to really know – that I will tell them everything that is within my power to share. They have to know that when I don’t have information on a person that they *know* is in one of our hospitals it’s because that person has asked for privacy and not because I’m not being forthcoming.

The flip side of working with HIPAA is that if a health system is accused of misconduct by a patient or former patient, and permission is not given by the patient to discuss the case, the health system is unable to answer the accusations. The patient has all the freedom to discuss the situation while the health system can only talk in very general terms.

As a potential patient, I am very appreciative of HIPAA and the policies many hospitals have in place to protect the privacy of their patients. I don’t want anyone in my medical business! As a media relations person, it can be a frustrating policy; but, it has forced me to work on my relationship-building skills with journalists. Luckily, most of the moms of the New Year babies are happy to sign the consent form to have their photos taken and to do interviews on their happy day.

What challenges have you faced when working with the media & a delicate situation? Thoughts?

This is a cross-post from The Root Report.