Leverage Charity Partnerships for Visibility
Not everyone has a newsworthy story, and even some events don’t have enough depth to interest media. Think through community charity partnerships and outreach that will generate visibility, give back to your community and interest media.
Strategically, it’s important that the partnership and event you create generates visibility that also promotes your business. For instance, if you do not treat children, it would be a miss to hold an event that provides hearing testing for children.
While it may seem exploitative, many community charities are looking for their own visibility and ways to generate media coverage. A partnership not only provides visibility to your practice, but it also provides visibility for the charity that can be leveraged for fundraising. Media are more likely to feature a business or event when there’s a charity component. You can partner with the charity’s spokesperson and pitch the two of you to local television stations for on-site (at your practice) or in-studio interviews on the event and/or partnership.
When you don’t have a good story to pitch, you can also create something that’s interesting enough to be newsworthy. Holding an afternoon of free hearing screenings and inviting media to participate, will provide an opportunity for them to see and report on the process. You can hold the event at your practice location or another location within the community. Partner with a school, library, church, synagogue, health facility, day care, veterans center, senior center, or other location/organization where hearing testing would be a valuable, and welcome, service. If you want to hold a large event but don’t have the resources, partner with other area audiologists. If there are audiologists in your area with different areas of expertise, it makes sense to work together and create a larger event.
If you have a charity partner and want to hold community screenings, you can hold them for free but ask for donations to the charity partner or, charge a lower fee and give all the proceeds to the charity.
If you decide to hold an event, the best way to determine the type of event to create is to assess the needs and demographics of your community and your customer base to determine the best demographic for the event. For instance, if you work mostly with seniors, look to do something at a community senior center. If many of your patients are veterans, look at holding a free hearing screening at a veteran center. Or, hold a public screening at your office with all proceeds benefiting a veteran organization and all veteran screenings are free. If your customer base is diverse, hold a community hearing screening at your local library or health care facility.
You could tie your event to an existing date—Veterans Day; October is National Audiology Awareness Month; May is Better Hearing Month, or any other related date.
You can also participate in existing local events although your opportunity for media coverage will not be as great. Local health fairs and community events provide an opportunity for participation, typically by taking out booth space. While it is still good exposure for your business, you’ll be lost in the multiple messages that attendees will receive that day. The focus will not be solely on hearing health. If you have literature on your practice along with information on the app, there is a better chance that you’ll get calls from attendees after the event. Giveaways (t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, etc.) are often helpful in keeping your information in front of people and good to have at events.
You could organize your own health fair but keep it solely on hearing health. If you have a large practice and can bring out individual experts for various conditions (tinnitus, etc.), you can set up stations with specific experts. Or, partner with other area audiologists.
Make sure you plan well in advance. Often, events are created with little time to promote them and they fail. It takes at least three years for most events to gain traction and a following. If you’re creating a community event, select a date that doesn’t conflict with other area events and can be held each year. If your resources allow for a smaller event, you can start small and build on it.
Invite media 3-4 weeks in advance to attend and cover your event. You’ll need to send something to them (a media advisory invites media to attend and cover an event), and then follow up with phone calls. A calendar listing should be sent out 3-6 months in advance with all the information on the event (where, when, additional information and the fact that if it’s free, or if there’s a charge, should be included). Call local television and radio stations two weeks prior to the event and pitch an advance where a reporter can come out and have an advance hearing screening or you’ll go to the station and talk about the importance of protecting your hearing. This should be a segment that promotes the upcoming event. Then, pitch media to come out and cover your event as well.
Be sure to promote your event on social media. You can boost it on Facebook and Instagram. Send an invite out to your patients so that they might bring their family and friends. Be sure to capture emails so that you can communicate with contacts after the event. This is particularly important if you participate in an existing health fair or community event. You might have a giveaway sign up to ensure that you get as many emails as possible.
If you’re on limited resources and holding an event is just not feasible, consider inviting media individually to come to your office and experience a hearing screening. Pitch local TV stations, particularly medical reporters at the TV stations (or general reporters, if you don’t have a designated health reporter), and invite them to come out and tape the experience. Take him/her through the process of getting hearing aids. Provide tips on how to clean ears—when you should remove wax and when you shouldn’t and when you should see an audiologist. It will give you an opportunity too to talk about what audiologists do. Whatever media outlets you choose to invite, always speak to the audience and be clear and understandable. Don’t use technical or medical jargon. Remember that, while a reporter is there, you can pitch additional story ideas. You may be able to interest him/her into doing a series on hearing health.
Even if you invite the media to your office, don’t take for granted that they may ask difficult questions—be prepared. Over the counter hearing devices are of great interest right now as their fully coming to market gets closer. Be prepared to speak on them.
Once you receive media coverage, whether it’s through a special event, a partnership or just a personal invitation to media who come to your office to experience a hearing screening, be sure to post any coverage to all your media channels. If you’re looking to grow your social media channels, boosting the coverage through paid social media opportunities will help. It’s an inexpensive way to grow your audience.
If you have a special event, be sure to hire a professional photographer to be there and take photos. Make sure you have photo releases available that attendees can sign so that you can use the photos. You can send 2-3 photos out after the event with a paragraph or two about the event to area media. Since most events will take place on weekends, when many reporters don’t work, they’ll appreciate receiving the information after the fact and many will run the photos and information. Be sure to post photos to all your social media channels as well.
If you’ve partnered with a charity, there’s an opportunity to do a follow-up check presentation and have a photo taken to send to area media after the event.
Vicki Bendure is president of Bendure Communications, Inc. If you have questions or need additional information, please e-mail Vicki Bendure at Vicki@bendurepr.com.
Find several resources including a Public Relations Tool Kit, press release templates, and more on the Public Awareness area of this site.