Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Earned" media

Some of my colleagues at my previous job used to fret over newsroom layoffs, because it meant fewer reporters to whom to pitch their stories. But a Boston hospital correctly sees this phenomenon as an opportunity:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center doesn’t have a lot of extra money to spend, but lately it has gotten a lot of bang for its buck by pitching to short-handed TV stations and Web sites in Boston.

“They don't have any reporters anymore,” said Rhonda Mann, Beth Israel’s director of marketing communications, at the recent Mayo Clinic-Ragan Social Media Summit. “In Boston, everyone has laid off writing staff, but they still have columns to fill or airtime to fill, and they need content.”

Mann has used that reality to her advantage: She’s given stations much-needed health content in return for the hospital’s name mentioned on the show.

It's dogged, old-school media relations, and it's good to know it still works. On the other hand, if you're a journalist reading this, you just might want to weep at all the free advertising this hospital is getting:

For example, Beth Israel’s hand surgery numbers had been down, so Mann pitched a four- to five-minute segment on carpal tunnel syndrome, making one of the hospital’s surgeon available to talk about the condition. Now, every month or so, the station brings in someone from Beth Israel to present common health tips. Doing so fills time and gives anchors a topic to promote for the next day.

“They’re looking for good health content. There’s a need for health because a lot of the first people laid off covered a beat, health in particular,” Mann said.

To fill that void, Mann pitches health topics of general interest—such as back pain, headaches, heartburn—and boils them down into five easy-to-remember tips or facts. She also makes it easy for the station by offering to do the work.

“Make it easy,” Mann said. “Say to the producer, ‘Would it be helpful if I sent a lead in?’ or, ‘I'll send five things, so you can do a graphic with bullets.’ The producer says, ‘This is great, I don’t even have to think.’ ”

Who says journalism is dead?


Cope said...

Wow...posted this on my blog and will be using your post in both my Intro to Journalism and Intro to PR classes...thanks for an interesting if not someone sad read.

Jonathan Potts said...

Thanks. Unfortunately, the source material for this post is now behind a pay wall.