A recent article from Irish Times reported €730,000 being spent on PR in Irish hospitals and affiliated facilities. If these facilities did not already have in-house PR and publicity departments and experts, it might not be such a big deal. But they do. So the question begs an answer – is the expenditure justified?
For the most part, good PR is worth its weight in … well, you name it. The better your PR, the better your balance sheet is likely to be – at least if your service measures up to all the hype. If it doesn’t, watch out – “Falling rocks ahead!” But, if you already have a PR department, keeping an outside agency on retainer at the cost of several thousand a month, the added expense could backfire. Many of the Irish hospitals are spending around €100K per year for the outside services. In fact, the group as a whole spent €730,000 last year on public relations not including their in-house PR and press divisions.
So, what should those hospitals expect to receive for their investment?
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There are some efforts that can easily be handled by the PR or press department at a medical facility and should probably not be sent to the higher-priced outside “experts.” Some of these duties would be creating internal publications and brochures, dealing with calls from the media, and promoting health fairs or other patient-based events sponsored by the hospital or groups within the facility. Press releases of local happenings, if an employee accomplishes something noteworthy, or specialty events such of free screenings or clinics are a perfect fit for in-house specialists.
Those who have years of experience in the specialty area of healthcare PR and also the wider field of PR can help create a master plan and strategy for what the hospital wants to accomplish each year and even longer-term such as a five or ten-year plan. For large-scale professional events, such as conferences, training in new medical procedures, treatments, or medications, the outside expert may once again be the best choice to oversee the process while utilizing in-house staff for the various tasks involved.
For both types of PR help, those with a strong mix of science/logic and creative thinking will fit these positions best. If you find someone who deals easily with people and also loves watching those documentaries about surgery or treatments for illnesses, you may have found a great person to hire.
Ultimately, no matter who does the PR, if your facility is not up to snuff, they won’t be able to save the day. But when the good PR expert mixes with a facility doing superior work – it’s well worth the expenditure.