Networking – Healthcare PR

As an Advertising and Public Relations major at Grand Valley State University, all I ever hear is network, network, network. The importance of networking is emphasized in all of my CAP classes. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”. Since this activity is so important within the field of public relations, I am not only expected to, but, required to take part in networking.

One networking “event” I attended was a meeting of GVSU’s PRSSA chapter. PRSSA is an acronym for Public Relations Student Society of America. As a member of the organization, and also a committee member of the APR Alumni Relations Committee, I have been to every meeting. At the most recent meeting on Wednesday, November 30th, I heard Rick Jensen and Michael Yoder from Spectrum Health speak about healthcare and public relations. From this event, I learned about how structured public relations is within the healthcare system. The two talked about how it is very conservative field to be working in. They emphasized the fact that PR within healthcare is very different. Something that was found humorous during the meeting was Rick Jensen’s loathing for the photo release forms.

He described the photo release form as being one of the biggest pains of healthcare PR. This form is a piece of paperwork that must be filled out by any person in a picture that may be released for public relations purposes. This means that any time Spectrum Health posts a picture on Twitter, in a newsletter, or some form of advertisement, they must have written consent from every person in the picture. Furthermore, media relations specialists  must be cautious when taking a picture in a hospital, taking careful steps to avoid accidentally releasing private patient information. The picture I took, with noticeable difficulty, below would have to be combed over to see if there is any information that could not be released. I would even have to get permission from the other two in the picture, Rick Jensen and Hunter Burin, to post this picture!

Clark, E. K. (n.d.). [Evan Clark, Rick Jensen, and Hunter Burin at PRSSA]. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
Another point that was expressed by the two was messaging. We’re not talking about texting or DMing, but rather the message that your content is attempting to portray. Michael Yoder stated that learning and knowing the tone and voice of your message is critical. Healthcare is a sensitive subject which, in turn, makes the content itself sensitive. Knowing what to say and how to say it is detrimental when releasing content. Healthcare PR is not the place to post a quick picture to Facebook or send out a simple tweet. Overthinking what you’re about to post might not always be a bad thing.

All in all, I learned a lot from these two speakers. I never thought that I would be interested in this field of public relations, though, you never know where the road may take you. During this meeting, I even posted a tweet myself wondering if this is a career path I could see myself taking. Gaining this knowledge from people who have experienced it first hand is extremely helpful and one of the many reasons that networking is key.


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