Stephanie Burton

PRSA Health Academy: My thoughts about day one

By Stephanie Burton on May 3, 2013

Attending the PRSA Health Academy Conference has been kind of like meeting an old friend. She looks good, has lots to say and it’s so much fun to see what’s happened in the time I’ve been away. Here are a few of my thoughts about day one of the conference.

Engagement is where it’s at. Five years ago, “engagement” likely would have conjured up an image of a diamond ring, champagne and roses. The kind of engagement we’re discussing today carries similar implications – a commitment to understanding our healthcare audiences and inviting them to understand the organizations we represent in new, more intimate ways. “Richard Edelman doesn’t’ call it ‘public relations’ anymore, he calls it ‘public engagement,’” said Cathy Barry-Ipema, Thursday morning’s keynote speaker. We’re not “dating” our audiences anymore, we’re working toward a deeper level of mutual understanding and support.

Five years from now, service-line advertising will take a back seat to community building. According to Dan Dunlop (@dandunlop), a major part of the PR practitioner’s role today is to create space for patients to become stronger advocates of our brand. In fact, he suggested that five years from now, service-line advertising will take a back seat to community building. I hope he’s right.

Sometimes, you just need a buddy. When the team at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. developed and unveiled a web-content strategy, they knew they would face some opposition. So, what to do when faced with the well-meaning doc who still wants his very own website? Grab a buddy. The team was able to help support each other during sometimes difficult conversations. As a result, the web content today is consistent with the hospital’s strong brand.

PR practitioners cannot control messages. Sure, we can contribute to conversations and influence messages, but we cannot and should not try to control messages. If we do, we run the risk of tampering with the very authenticity we’re trying to establish. Trust me, it’s not worth the risk.

What were your key takeaways? Better yet, what is the one thing you will implement when you get back to the office Monday?


Stephanie Hungerford, APR, is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Creative. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @shungerford.