Start the Presses! Getting Press Attention to Your Medical Simulation Program
Do you have press knocking at the door to your Sim Labs? The benefits for working with the media are huge! In this article we will discuss:
-Why press coverage is so crucial for a developing Simulation program.
-How to secure media attention for your Medical Simulation program.
-Important steps to take when dealing with press and critical mistakes to avoid!
Although the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas is new and receives a lot of requests for press coverage from word of mouth referrals, maintaining a strong image in local, state, national and/or international media is an important component of a successful simulation program.
A strong public relations image helps to: educate the community about the innovations and importance of healthcare, demonstrate to administration the power of simulation to attract attention as well as the successes of your program, bring in potential donors, raise staff moral, and finally to create new partnerships with other groups.
Imagine an article about your Simulation Program going out to hundreds or even thousands of readers of a popular newspaper in your city. You never know just who will call after an article like the one goes out! For example, after the NPR article was published earlier this month our local Chamber of Commerce, a local hospital and a state assemblyman all called for a tour of this healthcare simulation center. Thus, new and permanent relationships with sometimes hard to reach key players can be easily achieved. You know the line “don’t call us, we’ll call you”?
Being interviewed is fun for staff and helps them to share all of the wonderful accomplishments they have been able to achieve. Sending press coverage to administrators and/or legislatures also helps them realize their efforts helped to create a fantastic new image for your institution – something they won’t forget next time the budget comes up!
And I have heard of several sim labs receiving HUGE donations after some media coverage went public. You just never know who else might understand what your simulation program is trying to accomplish.
How to get coverage? Build a “Press Kit” !
First you will need something to send potential media agencies. Create a small 1-2 page “press kit” highlighting the statistics of your lab. Include everything from who the learners are, what the lab usage is, what type of equipment you have, startup and annual costs involved, the number and types of staff your lab employs, the number of rooms you maintain and what they are used for. Include this information in bullet AND paragraph form, to make it easier for the reader. Also, take some professional looking photographs of your learners engaging in simulation. Learners can be staged as long as the image conveys realism. As well, I like to include a floor plan of the CSCLV as the shear size (31,000 sq.ft.) and scope of the space is impressive. (Your press kit can also be used to send to institutions or groups you would like to partner with in the future, and can quickly be used to entice them to take a tour, meet your staff, and hear your ideas for a partnership.)
With this packet zipped up or in a pdf, create an email template inviting 1-2 agencies a week to cover your sim lab space. Inviting more than that might bring in too much attention too quickly – and its best to secure one group every other month or so. Attach your “Press Kit” and direct them to find more information on your web page. Now they can scan about 2-3 pages of information and easily get a feel for what your medical simulation lab does and how interesting and unique a place it all actually is. Write that they can contact you at any time for any questions or requests. If they don’t write back or say they are currently too busy, write down their names for a follow up phone call a few weeks to a month from now.
Invite everything from local television news, newspapers, magazines, popular online blogs, to national publications like Nursing Weekly. The worst that can happen is that they can turn you down. Don’t forget about periodicals associated with your institution, although chances are they have already done a piece about the your lab.
Provide the tour… carefully!
Eventually you will get a request to come and tour the facility. Now the real fun begins. If you can, schedule the tour for a day when events are already planned for your sim lab. If you can’t, try to secure some additional learners to help demonstrate the equipment and the labs. Don’t forget to have the media agency as well as your administrative staff supply whatever waiver forms might be necessary for those ‘under the eye’. Create a ‘media safe’ zone before hand by doing a bit of spring cleaning in your lab and making sure all the tacky (yet effective) ways the staff runs the lab are put away for the day. Duct tape on a manikin for example should be replaced or fixed before press arrives. Tour the press through your facility and introduce to learners, staff, supervisors and/or faculty. If you can arrange for head administrators to be around it always helps for quotes as well.
Be sure to share the story of your sim lab, but be careful that ‘loose lips sink ships’. Everything you utter in the presence of a member of the press is considered fair game, and sometimes the worst thing out of your mouth all day is what is quoted for the story. So just remind yourself and everyone present for the day that everything they say ‘can and will be used against them’. This goes for all those fixes we mentioned before as well, every picture can tell a thousand words – and if your learners are not appropriately dressed the image you send out to the world will not be the best. Take the extra time to prep everyone and everything before the media arrive.
If you have time, get creative. Have your Noelle manikin girth birth and let the reporter name the Baby. Small touches like this bring the press into the feeling of “wow” that every sim center easily has.
Keep in touch…
Before the press has left, find out when the draft of the coverage will be complete (unless its live tv), and when the article will most likely air. Offer repeatedly to “fact check the article” for the reporter. Normally they will agree but never send you anything because they are worried you will try to drastically change things. Remind them that “you don’t want to make any edits or suggestions” but instead you just want to “check the numbers”. Nothing is worse than a magazine article that states you have two staff when you actually have eight.
When the coverage comes out make sure to send it far and wide so that everyone involved with any aspect of the center gets a copy. If you can post a link on your website to the coverage you can keep record of it for a very long time. Try to keep a copy of the coverage, either physically or digitally, so that your center can pull it up at a later date to show others.
Utilize the extra attention to thank staff and make requests of administration! Great press coverage puts everyone in a good mood!
Misquotes and blunders
Sometimes the press will make a mistake, quoting you incorrectly or creating a headline that reads unfairly. Just remember when dealing with press their will be some mishaps, and so by working diligently during the process you will know you have done your best to turn major flaws to minimal gaffs. And remember, the press are trying to grab attention from their audiences, and so sometimes they will have to “dumb down” or simplify headlines to grab reader attention quickly. Don’t be offended unless its so off base that litigation might be necessary!
Got other tips? Share them by posting below!
Lance Baily, BA, EMT-B, is the Founder & CEO of HealthySimulation.com, which he started while serving as the Director of the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas back in 2010. Lance is also the Founder and acting Advisor to the Board of SimGHOSTS.org, the world’s only non-profit organization dedicated to supporting professionals operating healthcare simulation technologies. His new co-edited Book: “Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice” is available now. Lance’s background also includes serving as a Simulation Technology Specialist for the LA Community College District, EMS fire fighting, Hollywood movie production, rescue diving, and global travel. He lives with his wife Dr. Abigail Baily in Las Vegas, Nevada with their newborn daughter and two crazy dachshunds.