We read and hear a lot about public relations campaigns and strategies, and effective ways to promote our brands, but one thing we too seldom talk about is what public relations means to consumers and why it is important that rural hospitals engage in ongoing public relations program.
Large companies and educators often say that public relations focuses on closing the marketing credibility gap and builds brand equity. Though this language sounds exciting, it doesn’t get to the heart of what we are talking about.
For that information we need look no further than the plain meaning of the words public relations, which simply mean communicating and building relationships with people—the public. Simply put, it involves almost every way your hospital interacts not only with patients but also with the community as a whole—in addition to advertising!
Why is public relations so important? Because without our patients, we wouldn’t be in business! That may seem like a no-brainer, but some hospitals are losing sight of this reality.
As rural hospitals continue to feel the financial pinch, they are quick to axe outreach initiatives. This misstep causes more harm than good.
Advertising increases people’s awareness of your facility, its programs and its services; public relations engages your community in greater depth.
A news release is a PR tool that is not used much these days, but it offers an opportunity for your hospital! Not only do news releases provide your local newspaper with much-needed content, but it also disseminates important content that your community needs. In addition, news releases can be posted to your hospital’s website, where it reaches a new audience and becomes part of an integrated marketing communications program.
The point I’m making is that a coordinated public relations program is often an initiative that most rural hospitals lack. It’s a low-cost way to really connect with and educate their communities. People expect more of you these days, which is why now—more than ever—it is so important to work on public relations strategies.
I encourage you to think about how you are reaching out to people—not just through advertising but also through every other aspect of your business. If you would like to learn more about how strategic communication programs, including public relations, can contribute to your hospital’s business plan, feel free to call me at 214-528-5775.