Preventative Medicine: Health and Healing in Wake County
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Preventative Medicine: Health and Healing in Wake County

WakeMed, a not-for-profit health care system based in Raleigh, N.C. is competing in one of the toughest hospital markets in the country.

Paul Holmes

WakeMed, a not-for-profit health care system based in Raleigh, N.C. is competing in one of the toughest hospital markets in the country. RF&A was tasked with preparing a competitive media relations program that would promote WakeMed’s position in the Raleigh-Durham and Eastern North Carolina areas as the leader in providing top-quality health care, regardless of the ability to pay.
WakeMed was originally known as Wake County’s public hospital, intended to serve only those who could not afford to pay for health care. The health system shifted its focus in 1997 and became a privately-owned, not-for-profit organization. RF&A was tasked with continuing to battle this outdated public perception from local consumers, while also positioning the hospital as a leader amidst local competing health care organizations such as the UNC Healthcare System and Duke University Medical Center.
UNC Healthcare System is a state-supported, research organization that recently purchased WakeMed’s largest competitor, Rex Healthcare. Similarly, Duke University Medical Center has a strong national reputation, is supported by a large endowment, and owns two local competing hospitals. Duke and UNC’s research institute is constantly developing studies and new medical research, providing a wealth of media angles, giving these organizations a competitive media advantage.
WakeMed faces UNC and Duke encroaching on their most profitable service line, heart care, during the next decade. It is imperative that WakeMed continue to be the leader in hearts to continue to be able to serve the county’s poor and uninsured. RF&A’s challenge was to capitalize on WakeMed’s service offerings to reach health care decision-makers (mostly women) and pursue an aggressive media relations and community awareness campaign that would provide positive public perception and increased media recognition.
Before developing WakeMed’s media relations program, RF&A conducted competitive media research, reviewing local media coverage of all major market players. After developing an in-depth knowledge of WakeMed’s strengths and challenges, RF&A was able to develop a successful media relations program that would position WakeMed as the leader in top-quality health care in the area.
Learning the service offerings of each competing health care provider in the area, RF&A was able to differentiate WakeMed and highlight its unique niche in this overcrowded marketplace. The agency also utilized the Leap Frog Group’s Healthgrades.com (compares hospitals’ outcomes by service-line per market) to determine areas of expertise and opportunity. This competitive research allowed the agency to develop the concise objectives necessary to achieve community awareness and positive consumer perception of the organization within the North Carolina target market.
RF&A developed an aggressive media relations program, complemented by creative marketing tactics in support of WakeMed’s corporate awareness goals. The agency’s goal was to develop relationships with local media and to serve as a partner to help disseminate important public health information to local residents.
RF&A developed a plan that would put WakeMed in front of the local media every month, with unique pitch angles of specific interest to WakeMed’s target markets. The agency’s relationship with local media on behalf of WakeMed is strengthened by an effective media response system, allowing the account team to respond quickly and accurately to all media inquiries. Through the pursuit of media and community relations programs, RF&A helped position WakeMed as a community partner and a leader in the health care industry.
RF&A targeted local and regional media to build awareness of WakeMed and its unique service offerings among its target market to position them as the leader in top quality health care.
The firm developed extensive relationships with local health care reporters, writers and editors by disseminating newsworthy, credible and accurate media advisories and press releases to keep WakeMed in the minds of those who control local media.
RF&A promoted WakeMed’s new facilities and service offerings to local residents, putting the privately-owned hospital ahead of all local competitors in the eyes of consumers.
The firm also developed a “Heart Healthy Cooking Demonstration” program, partnering with local restaurants to provide local residents with cooking classes designed to promote a healthier lifestyle. This program was created to promote WakeMed’s cardiac expertise and top quality Heart Center among its target audience.
The one-year public relations program secured the following results:
· Generated an estimated 156.3 million print media impressions and more than $1,338,000 in earned PR value.
· Generated an estimated 14.3 million broadcast media impressions and more than $663,000 in earned PR value.
· Secured several front-page editorial features on the front page of the largest local newspaper, The News & Observer’s.
· Garnered comprehensive coverage of each unique aspect of WakeMed’s service offerings, including WakeMed’s Heart Center, Children’s Center, Women’s Center and Rehabilitation Facilities.
· Generated other local and regional news coverage, including major city dailies across North Carolina, suburban newspapers, local magazines, business journals and all local broadcast television networks.
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