Making A Difference
Special events such as health fairs, anniversary celebrations, National Medical Librarians Month, open houses and seminars, among others, can create opportunities for media coverage. You can create a special event on your own or participate in community events or events sponsored by others. The best thing about special events is that they allow you to make your own news.
Contact your institution's public relations department and find out if they are planning any special events such as health fairs, blood drives or nutrition seminars for diabetic patients. Offer to help by serving on a planning committee or creating special hand-out materials that can be distributed to people attending the special event.
If no special events are planned, suggest one! You might work with oncologists, nutritionists and other staff experts to create a seminar for chemotherapy patients' families on special dietary needs. You might support a new women's health department by preparing a short fact sheet on women's most frequently asked health questions and suggested references that physicians can give to their patients.
Here are some steps to consider when planning a special event:
There are a number of organizations or other professionals who might be interested in partnering with you on a special event or promotion. You will want to seek out those groups or individuals whose services complement medical librarians, such as public or school librarians, patient support group leaders, nursing schools, physical therapists or others whose target audiences are the same as yours.
For example, physical therapists have clients who may be in need of health care information about alternative treatments such as massage therapy. Partnering with other organizations or professionals allows you to gain referrals from your partners and also to reach a broader client base.
Partners could include:
Organization is the key to a successful special event. Listed below is a checklist for creating your own special event:
Once you have selected an event, there are a number of ways to generate publicity and attendance, and to encourage people to become clients following the event.
Most newspapers have calendar notices for upcoming events such as sports events, concerts, lectures and business meetings. You should find out the deadlines for your local publication calendars and send out your news release to the calendar editor in time to be included, generally three to six weeks in advance.
Most stories have several pre-event, event and post-event publicity possibilities, and an event such as a community health fair is no exception. In addition to being included in a newspaper calendar listing, the health fair would have news value if covered the week before and the day of the event in both print and broadcast media. You will want to talk to appropriate media about the opportunities before, during and after the event.
A human interest feature story could run after the event, in which participants are interviewed about coping with a family member's illness or simply being more discriminating readers of health care claims from manufacturers of products such as vitamin supplements, devices such as copper bracelets, body magnets or, even foods.
When planning pre-event publicity, you want to ask yourself if there are any photos that can be sent along with your news release announcing an upcoming event or be taken by a newspaper photographer or camera crew to have a visual preview of what's coming up.
If you send out photos yourself, you want to make sure you hire a professional photographer to take a good, sharp black and white photo to send to newspapers. A color snapshot is not good enough to be reproduced in a local newspaper. Most newspapers and TV stations will want to send out their own photographers.
It is important to alert media ahead of time of the "photo or visual opportunities." This is called a Photo Alert.
Let them know the logistics: the Who, What, When, Where and Why as well as How. Briefly describe in your photo alert what they will see if they come to take a photo. Or if asked, promise to call in to the photo desk of the newspaper or assignment desk of the TV station when the room is full and you have the best photo opportunity.
Posters/Fliers/Community Bulletin Boards
You don't have to spend a lot of money on advertising to promote your event if your local businesses are willing to post your announcements in their store windows and on their store and employee bulletin boards. You can put fliers under windshields or put stacks of fliers near the cash registers at local businesses or in the mail rooms of apartment complexes. It just takes legwork to spread the word about an upcoming event.
You want to make sure your posters or fliers are attractive and tell the most important information: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. You can print them on brightly colored paper, found at any copy shop, to attract attention.
In addition to daily and weekly newspapers, in-house newsletters also are good vehicles to announce your news to select publics. Most hospitals, churches, school districts and businesses publish newsletters that come out weekly, monthly or quarterly. Newsletter editors are more than happy to include your news as a service to their readers.
Local Access Cable
With the abundance of local access cable stations, businesses have more and more opportunity to be on television in their market with their message. Your local cable provider should be able to give you the phone numbers and channels of your local access cable stations. Watch the shows and see if there are opportunities for you to announce upcoming events or be interviewed by a local host.
Using Local Wire Services
Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters and Bloomberg News are all international wire services that may have bureaus in your area. A wire service bureau will have one or more reporters who write stories of regional interest and distribute them statewide, nationally or internationally over the "wire." The wire service editors of newspapers, television and radio stations subscribe to these services to receive their news on a continual and immediate basis, much the same way as e-mail is transmitted from computer to computer.
Your local wire service bureau may be interested in your news, so you should add them to your media list. However, you should send them only news that would have a statewide or national impact on readers or viewers, such as a speech about pending legislation being made at the State Capitol by an MLA officer.
Open houses are usually, but not always, "invitation only" events that include tours, refreshments, demonstrations and an up-close-and-personal look at your facilities and an opportunity to meet your staff. They can be held before work, during lunch, directly after work or later in the evening. They also can be held all day long.
If you hold an open house, you should think beforehand what you want your guests to do, see and experience before they leave, rather than depend on chance. For example, at a Grand Opening Open House you might want your guests to be:
Americans are becoming more and more accustomed to taking responsibility for their own health care and, increasingly, are seeking information on preventive or "well-being" care. You can offer informational seminars on topics such as "Childhood Vaccines" or "Cold or Flu? Tips on how to tell which is which and what to do."
As an ongoing "outreach" activity, you should make contact with groups that might find a seminar, speech or demonstration of interest.
Being a good neighbor, an active participant in your community, and a leader who is out and about at community events will build goodwill, interest and business.
You can be a participant in a variety of ways including:
Medical Library Association
Last Updated: 2007 July 13