Willis-Knighton Health System has turned to public relations for the duration of its existence, finding this conveyance method to be a worthy communicative mechanism when deployed properly. Several facets associated with public relations have motivated its continued use in efforts to engage current and prospective patient populations. These strengths are described as follows.
Deploying public relations as a marketing communications device is perhaps motivated most intensely by its cost efficiency. As it relies on the unpaid use of mass media, healthcare establishments are not burdened with costs associated with buying air time, space, or any other associated media expenditure. The newsworthy nature of public relations conveyances effectively gives news media firms the ability to grant these presentations free of charge. Depending on the media source and the size of its audience, such allotments can be extremely expensive, representing a major cost savings for healthcare institutions which successfully secure coverage through public relations [7, 8, 22,23,24,25,26].
Of course, in many contexts, public relations is not exactly free, as the activities and events which make items newsworthy (e.g., free medical screenings, presentations by medical experts) carry costs associated with their provision. Without coinciding mass media expenditures, however, the cost factor is diminished considerably. Of course, cost-free avenues are possible, depending on the nature of the newsworthy matter. Press releases announcing staff member accomplishments, for example, are virtually cost free, as such accolades typically are pursued without public relations intentions and do not require additional investments (e.g., hosting an event). Public relations efforts of this sort when carried by news media outlets certainly could be considered to be free of any meaningful cost associated with the given conveyances. Regardless of whether cost free or merely cost efficient, public relations offers significant value [7, 8, 22,23,24,25,26].
Since public relations announcements successfully accepted for publication by news media organizations are ultimately conveyed as news pieces, audiences naturally view them to be highly credible, with the given stories being elevated by the reputations of the presenting news entities. Many consumers are skeptical of commercial conveyances, such as advertising and direct mail, as these are funded by the promoting parties. However, when activities, events, accomplishments, and the like are presented by news media firms, skepticism diminishes, positively influencing audience receptivity and potentially generating greater attention and awareness than that afforded by paid marketing communications applications [7, 8, 22,23,24,25,26].
The credibility factor associated with public relations carries significant weight, especially when health services organizations follow Willis-Knighton Health System’s formula for deployment. To illustrate a routine scenario, assume that a particular award for excellence was achieved by the institution. Strategy associated with communicating this accomplishment would be formulated via discussions between Willis-Knighton Health System’s Office of the President and the Department of Marketing and Public Relations. Typically, receipt of a prominent award would call for public relations, advertising, and direct marketing (notably including direct mail and social media). The institution also would promote the accolade via other promotional channels, such as digital billboards owned and operated by the system. Assuming that news media organizations decide to carry the associated story, the credibility afforded by such can be leveraged further by the paid communications methods which are deployed, offering synergies which amplify and reinforce the news announcements. As such, it is advised that health services organizations seek to use public relations in tandem with other communications avenues whenever opportunities for such emerge, as doing so can tap into the spillover effects generated by the credibility of associated news stories.
Public relations is especially effective at guiding health services organizations in developing and advancing narratives which present efforts benefiting given communities. In order to attract and secure media coverage as newsworthy occurrences, submissions must indeed supply information that is of interest and benefit to audience members [7, 13]. Simply presenting an advertisement as a news story is unacceptable and almost certainly will result in an automatic rejection by news media outlets. This newsworthy mandate forces healthcare providers to view their activities and accomplishments from the perspective of stakeholders in the marketplace, notably ascertaining how the item or items supplied in accounts will positively impact individuals and communities. This also is a good test as to whether the given story is acceptable for public relations conveyances or better suited for other methods of communication.
Stories which are unacceptable should not be submitted as newsworthy events, as doing so can erode the credibility of healthcare institutions, diminishing chances of acceptance and circulation of stories which actually do have value to audiences. However, those stories which indeed are newsworthy certainly should be directed through public relations channels, accordingly. Many accomplishments and initiatives offered by healthcare providers afford significant community benefit, but sometimes institutions neglect to present these as such, opting for an overly commercial tone. A public relations mindset can be immensely helpful in framing stories, ensuring that opportunities to express accounts of benefit to the community are not inadvertently overlooked.