Reaching out to media regarding hearing loss prevention, audiology awareness, and the importance of seeing an audiologist has been an exciting and eye-opening experience for our communications firm. Since we began working with the Academy to assist with media relations a few months ago, we have called on media across the country to pitch stories on hearing loss prevention and audiology. Just over the past few months, it has been an amazing and educational task. Media are excited to learn about audiologists and we’re excited to explain the profession, as well as hearing loss prevention and the growing numbers of those experiencing hearing loss and how its impacting multiple generations, not just the aging. It’s a case where the challenge has become the opportunity, as many top medical reporters don’t really know what audiology is or what audiologists do.

We’re on the tip of an iceberg and we need your help. While you may be extremely busy with your practice and may not think that one person can make a difference, you can. By helping to educate the tens of thousands of reporters across the United States, this will, in turn lead to public awareness and education as reporters begin to spread the word.

Social media has demonstrated the impact that sharing information can make as stories go viral across various social media platforms. It is possible to have an impact with social media and reach more people than traditional media ever has. As media moves from print to online, the lines between social media and traditional media have blurred with reporters blogging, Tweeting, and posting links on Instagram and Facebook.

Media stories don’t typically just happen. Often, they are inspired by a pitch, a press release, or by a reporter hearing about something from friends, family, a neighbor or through other media channels. Proactive outreach to media is a key component to gaining story placement, brand awareness and positioning. Just one person reaching out to a reporter can make a tremendous difference. And, local media prefer to hear from those in their community. Your business, occupation and patient stories are of great interest to everyone around you, including the media.

One of the best ways to build awareness about you, your practice, and/or patient base is through story placements in local media outlets. This is not advertising, it’s editorial which has 10 times more credibility than an advertisement, depending on how you measure—even in this era of “fake news.”

As National Audiology Awareness Month approaches in October, you should leverage the opportunity to promote your profession, your business, audiology, and hearing health. The Academy has developed a public relations tool kit that includes fact sheets and information on media outreach as well as templates that you can customize and edit for your own market. Local media typically prefer to cover businesses and experts within the community. These are outlets that are also most likely targeted at your prime stakeholder base.

To develop a successful campaign, first draft a plan. Decide what you’d like to accomplish with media outreach and plan to execute your strategy well in advance. Online outlets need two to three weeks, print magazines and monthlies need anywhere from three to nine months (start now for 2018 coverage if you’re targeting longer lead print magazines). Fortunately, many magazines also have online coverage and that can happen quickly (allow two to three weeks lead time as a courtesy).

If you want to be most effective, think beyond media and social media coverage and consider partnering with an entity in the community and holding a special event or providing hearing checks for a population of the community that is in need. This may be a senior citizens center, a school, a local church, or synagogue. You may want to give a talk at a local school or community center on hearing loss prevention. If you’re giving a talk, you might want to have a patient or two join you and tell their stories. If you decide to hold an event open to the public, let the media know well in advance so they can publicize it. You’ll want to provide a “Calendar Release” that has all of the details—who, what, when, where (exact address location of event), and any other details. You can also make it an event on Facebook and track how many people are attending.

If you do hold an event, invite the media to attend (be sure to get permission from the location where you’re holding the event and any participants). This is to get actual media coverage of the event and is different from sending out the calendar listing information above. To get media to attend, you’ll want to send a media advisory. Just like the calendar listing, a media advisory contains the information for who, what, when and where. If patients are involved, make sure they’re willing to speak with media and let media know that you’ll have patients. You can invite local health and wellness reporters and writers. Invite local television and radio outlets that have news. You may also want to pitch your local TV stations to see if any of them will have you in-studio as an interview guest. If so, you can talk about National Audiology Awareness Month, the importance of seeing an audiologist, the profession and hearing health.

Even if you don’t have an event, you can pitch the TV stations to see if they’ll take you as an in-studio guest. Pitch them 2–3 weeks ahead of when you’d like to go on. Pitch local radio too, if they have news segments. Many markets have all news stations, NPR affiliate stations and local outlets that will do interviews. Some television stations have health reporters. If your local station has a health reporter, call him/her and see if they’d be interested in visiting your practice and doing a story on hearing health. In this case, the reporter would come out and tape a segment. Call your local health print and online reporters to see if they’d be interested in coming out and spending time with you to do a hearing health feature story. Between aging baby boomers and the wave of millennials—all dealing with hearing loss, there is greater interest in telling the story. Use statistics to get media interested and emphasize the growing number of those living with hearing loss. You can then tell your story and provide solutions for the public.

Patient stories are always of interest so be sure to line up one or two patients who are willing to speak with media and let the media know that they’re available when you pitch them. If you specialize in one particular sector (infants, children, etc.), gear your pitch around your area of expertise. Because most coverage winds up online no matter what its initial format, the benefit in providing search engine optimization when potential patients are searching for hearing loss prevention or solutions is significant in bringing those needing help to your door. Be sure to post good information on your social media channels as well. As coverage comes in, use it on all of your social media channels to further broaden the audience reach.

Remember that it takes more than $50 million annually to launch an effective national consumer campaign and become a “household word.” Without those types of resources, a grassroots campaign can be as effective if we all work together. 

You can also find several media resources including a Public Relations Tool Kit, press release templates, and more, on the Academy’s website.