Hospital’s digital newsroom boosts press coverage, interest

Shepherd Center, which specializes in spinal injury, finds greater ease in posting stories, photos, and video. And the media are biting.

Shepherd Center, a private hospital in Atlanta, wanted to call attention to a trend: It was treating increasing numbers of younger people who had suffered strokes.

The hospital, which specializes in brain and spinal cord injuries, published a package of information on its PressPage platform: videos, infographics, photos, and a story about two young people who had experienced strokes in their 20s.

Shepherd pitched the story to the press. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a piece that was picked up as far afield as Seattle and Mayo Clinic’s hometown of Rochester, Minn.

PressPage—a Ragan Communications partner—is a digital publishing platform that makes it easy to post articles, imagery, videos, and infographics, and then push it all out through social media.

“We are able to deliver it at the right time to our audience that we are building as far as coming to visit the newsroom on a regular basis,” says Jane M. Sanders, associate director of public relations at the hospital.

Since launching the platform six months ago, visits to the news site have quadrupled, to 500 per day. Visits from there to the rest of the website have also gone up. The center’s Facebook page has grown by 16 percent, with a 52 percent increase in reach.

Reaching the referrers

Shepherd occupies a niche among hospitals. Patients tend not to phone up to book a procedure or arrive in an ambulance from a crash site. Referrals typically come from a hospital, a physician, or caseworkers. These professionals are an important audience for Shepherd.

“Having all that content packaged for a particular project makes it very easy and digestible for the very busy health care workers who are making referrals,” Sanders says.

In the case of young stroke victims, Shepherd highlighted two patients who made full recoveries with few lasting symptoms. One was a young man who had played defensive end for the University of Central Florida football team. He suffered a stroke and a seizure as he was going out for an evening with friends in Atlanta.

Another was a 24-year-old school teacher who had a stroke in the shower. Emergency department personnel initially thought she was pregnant because she seemed too young to suffer a stroke.

At Shepherd, where the average age of patients in the stroke program is 31, a physician quoted by the Journal-Constitution attributed much of the increase in young patients to Americans’ sedentary lifestyle.

PressPage allows Sanders greater freedom to provide information to her audience, such as educational materials that medical professionals at other institutions can hand out to people diagnosed with a stroke.

“Over time that builds a relationship, and they begin to see that we’re a trusted source of information,” Sanders says. “We already have great outcomes.”

Shepherd’s timely information

PressPage is important for those involved in content marketing or brand journalism, adds Sanders, a former journalist. The platform helps display photos, videos, and articles in a form that appeals to reporters and editors.

“I feel that the reporting is newsworthy,” she says. “We’re not beating somebody over the head with a pitch. I think it comes across as more credible.”

The process of uploading content and pushing it to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn goes much faster, too.

Shepherd tends to update its newsroom three days a week. These include not only the videos and stories, but also blog posts. Stories can then be reused in its 36-page quarterly print magazine.

“Having an online newsroom gives us more ability to immediately put out news and blogs, rather than the quarterly magazine, which is still important, particularly for the older segment of our constituency,” Sanders says.

The hospital also responds to timely news stories. When a snowfall last winter paralyzed fair-weather Atlanta, Shepherd staff kept hearing about people falling on the ice. Such a spill could result in a severe head or spinal cord injury.

Weather-pegged pickup

The hospital pushed a story from its news center titled, ” Spinal Cord Injuries Caused by Falls Are Increasing Among Aging Baby Boomers ,” scoring coverage in media such as Atlanta’s Fox News affiliate. The center also offered preparedness tips for disabled people, which generated many downloads.

Although Shepherd has had good coverage in the past, Sanders said, its digital newsroom has increased media coverage by making it easier for reporters to find all the pieces they need in one place.

The platform particularly boosted the pitch to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the most important pickup of the coverage on the young stroke victims. Due to staff cuts, the AJC has become extremely choosy about the stories it picks up, Sanders says.

With all the text and visual elements on one page, she sent the reporter a link and offered additional URLs to stories showing stokes were a trend among younger patients. She also provided a local statistic—that in Georgia, almost as many stroke victims are under 65 as over 65.

“The newsroom was the anchor of that pitch,” Sanders says.

Without PressPage, she would have pitched the story, but wouldn’t have been as successful, she adds.

As for the return on investment, that’s a harder nut to crack, given the way Shepherd’s patients tend to come through referrals. But Shepherd can track increased downloads of infographics, and case managers and physicians are calling for more information.

Sanders adds, “Anecdotally, I know that it’s working.”


Topics: PR

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.