Often, individuals and companies will hire a public relations firm to place media coverage on their organization or company with traditional media outlets. While obtaining national coverage is a big win that will move the needle, launch a new business, raise visibility for an existing business, and bring in local customers. If used correctly and amplified through a strategic social media campaign, this coverage will provide maximum opportunity. As the traditional media landscape shrinks, television remains the top outlet that garners the largest numbers, especially with older demographics.
What is most important about media coverage is less about the story in the media outlet and more about how the coverage is used following the media story. This is where social media usage is very important. Leveraging the story on all social media outlet platforms and boosting the coverage provides an opportunity to significantly grow social media audiences and also expand the base of visibility. It’s an opportunity to easily grow social media audiences and gain more followers.
The goal with social media is to build a quality audience that will then either become a patient or refer patients to you. Social media is time-consuming, so the best way to get the most out of it is to understand the demographics and proceed based on your patient demographic. Facebook still has the most people involved and the greatest engagement; however, it skews toward older adults (50 to 70+ years old is the larger portion of the audience). Instagram reaches younger (mostly women) followers, and Snapchat reaches a very young audience.
Bloggers should also be part of your plan. There are “Mommy bloggers” who are key if your patients include children or adolescents. There are also community bloggers who write about top events in your community. Bloggers often require paid advertising but the rates are usually low and the return is typically high, as long as you have the right message. Advertising packages often include online ads that can click through to your website (so you can track them), as well as editorial (make sure it’s relevant to the blogger audience).
You should also have your own blog. It is necessary that you write at least one article a week for the blog, but it doesn’t need to be lengthy. One or two paragraphs is enough—quality over quantity. It can be “five tips” on how to know if your hearing is impaired; “five tips” on how to protect your hearing; “five tips” on how to tell a loved one he or she should have his or her hearing checked, etc.
A blog platform is just a tool that allows you to post your article, photos, and/or video so that you can pull it onto other social media platforms.
YouTube and LinkedIn are two platforms that can provide significant engagement and traction in securing new patients as well as keeping current patients and ensuring referrals.
For LinkedIn, it’s worthwhile to purchase a larger membership, at least initially. This will allow you to reach out to potential referring contacts (physicians, area health clinics, nurses, health-care workers, pharmacists, etc.), as well as potential patients.
LinkedIn is a platform that allows you to pull in those blog articles. It is more business to business, but all of those executives and professionals are also potential patients and/or people who can send you referrals. You can tweak your blog posts, or write specific blog posts that are germane to the office—“five tips” to tell your co-worker to have his or her hearing checked; how to tell if you’re having hearing issues in the office; how hearing loss can impact business, etc.
With traditional media, you will pitch a story to a reporter (or your public relations firm will pitch a story) and then you’ll all hope that it turns out as you’d like. With social media, you have an opportunity to actually be the media and place the article that you’d most like to see. Just make sure that the article is not a sales or marketing piece. If it’s a heavy-handed marketing piece, it will be a turn-off to potential readers and engagers. What you most want is for your audience to read the article and then share it. You have an opportunity to pay to get it in front of more readers as well. This is a very efficient way to gain more followers.
Social media researchers have stated that social media posts with videos get the most engagement, followed by posts with still photography. Make sure that all of your posts have at least one photo, even if you have to buy a stock photo.
Infographics are often extremely helpful as well. If you have the chance to video someone taking a hearing test in your office; demonstrating safe ways to remove ear wax (or why you should not remove ear wax); demonstrating how hearing aids are fitted, how they work, etc.; those videos should become your YouTube channel and should be pulled into your blog and your social media channels. Videos don’t have to be expensive. They just have to be short, succinct, and informative.
If you’re successful at growing your social media platforms, you’ll have a quality audience that is far more valuable than if you did a local television spot. For instance, the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC (a major media market), has 25,000 viewers on morning television. These viewers tune in randomly and are not necessarily your target audience. While you can go on the TV station and do a story on audiology, and then successfully leverage it on all of your social media platforms, you can also create your own content. Run it on your prime social media platforms and boost the reach of those platforms by paying a reasonable fee and selecting the audience demographic and geographic criteria.
The perfect communications campaign will implement traditional and social media and will use blogs. No matter the vehicle, however, social media is an important component in echoing the story, raising visibility, and growing your patient and referral base.
You can also find several resources including a Public Relations Tool Kit, press release templates, and more on the Academy’s website (www.audiology.org/get-involved/public-awareness).