How PR can shape the mental health conversation

Despite the fact that mental health disorders are rising in prevalence around the world and will cost the global economy 16 trillion by 2030, mental and behavioral health services are frequently stigmatized. In stark contrast, Millennials ranked mental health issues as their number one concern in this year’s annual health report by Blue Cross Blue Shield. Among the top 10 conditions ranked by adverse health impact affecting Millennials were major depression, substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, and hyperactivity.

The fact is, millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues. The National Alliance of Mental Health reports that one in five adults in America experiences mental illness in their lifetime. Currently, it is estimated that nearly 10 million Americans are living with a serious mental disorder. The most common mental disorders are anxiety disorders, major depression and bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, mental health disorders do not just impact the adult population; they also affect the health and well-being of children and adolescents. It’s reported that 20% of young people will suffer from a mental disorder that inhibits daily functioning at some point in their lives. These statistics support the real-life fact that mental and behavioral health services are needed across a wide spectrum. There is a vast and growing need for mental health professionals to provide preventative care and early and on-going treatment to people of all ages. Unfortunately, mental health symptoms are still viewed as threatening and uncomfortable. There are attitudes within most societies that view symptoms of psychopathology as threatening and a topic to avoid. These attitudes foster stigma and discrimination toward people with mental health problems. Such reactions are common when people have the courage to admit they have a mental health issue or concern. This can often lead to various forms of exclusion or discrimination within the family circle, social circles and the workplace.

The social stigma associated with mental health problems has numerous causes. People with mental illness have been treated differently, excluded and even brutalized throughout history. Often times the mistreatment stems from misguided views that people with mental health problems may be more prone to violence or are just somehow “different” but none of these beliefs are rooted in facts. The media also plays a role in perpetuating stigmatizing stereotypes of people with mental health issues. Cinematic depictions of schizophrenia are often stereotyped and characterized by misinformation about the disorder, symptoms, causes and treatment, which in turn reinforces biased beliefs and stigmatizing attitudes toward people with mental health disorders. 

All of the above sets the stage for working with a mental health client and navigating the challenges they face day to day. One of the obstacles during the course of the Pinnacle Treatment services campaign was to destigmatize the treatment of substance use disorders and people struggling with addiction while preserving the integrity of the PTC brand and elevating its visibility.

When Pinnacle Treatment Centers held its first call with THO, they had specific goals in mind, with aspirations of expanding their treatment services into several southern states and beyond. The question they had was how do we get there and can PR help?

The THO team delineated how a strategic public relations campaign would help significantly raise brand recognition, position executives and key clinicians as leaders in the field of mental and behavioral health and drive potential patients to the website. In truth, an effective PR campaign does quite a bit more. Through inserting the brand/company into the news cycle with relevant stories, commentaries and solutions, the visibility and credibility of the brand and spokesperson receive a measurable boost. The more targeted the campaign, the better the results.

First and foremost, Pinnacle Treatment Centers wanted to garner media coverage in key markets in the southern United States in order to drive the company’s ultimate goal of a nationwide expansion. One of Pinnacle’s goals was to address the growing need for accessible and affordable Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment in rural and traditionally low-income communities and to establish PTC facilities as community resources. Based on that goal, the outreach involved a multi-market strategy.

Step one was to establish optimal spokespeople for each region, to cite an example, at one facility the spokesperson was an experienced psychiatrist who was able to speak to numerous health and mental health issues already trending in the news and digital media. Naturally, topics varied, but THO successfully put Pinnacle spokespeople front and center to address the latest headlines including: the opioid epidemic in the U.S., Purdue pharmaceuticals role in the American opioid crisis, the importance of access to quality care in impoverished and rural communities, the vaping epidemic, the landmark pharma opioid settlement, Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT,) pain management, and much more.

As segments and interviews went live and articles published, they were posted on social media in an effort to maximize Pinnacle’s return on investment in the campaign. Building on the success of the public relations campaign in each market, Pinnacle would then take the next step in their expansion plan, into a new state/region where PR efforts once again would highlight clinicians, treatment modalities and evidence-based care. During the course of the campaign, a few things became paramount when working with a treatment and recovery/mental health client.

  • Language is everything- It is not what you say but how you say it. With a sensitive population in recovery, the proper verbiage is key. So, client messaging in all marketing, social media and press materials needed to align with that.
  • Us vs. I– It was incredibly important to make sure that we were functioning as one unit. The goal being to offer affordable, evidence-based care to those in need of treatment and to position Pinnacle Treatment Center facilities as community resources.
  • Listening– Always listen to clients’ expectations, goals and concerns and open a dialog whenever you think they can benefit from your expertise. Oftentimes, clients do not know what they need…they have an idea of what they want but the reason a PR firm is brought on board is so they can benefit from your expertise in the field of media.
  • Navigation, and by that, I mean understanding how to navigate your client to seeing the bigger picture rather than an immediate goal. If the larger picture is a nationwide expansion, then being able to convey the value of each step, each placement and key markets is paramount.
  • Partnership– Perhaps I’ve already touched on this in Us vs. I, but I cannot emphasize enough, how important it is to be a partner to your client. Once they feel you truly understand their bigger picture and goals you will both soar.

THO

Building Brand Awareness for a Medical Center’s New Service Line

  • Industry

    • Healthcare
  • Services

    • Brand enhancement and awareness
    • Public & Media Relations
    • Thought Leadership
    • Message development
    • Media training

Building Brand Awareness for a Medical Center’s New Service Line

How can a major medical center effectively add a new service line to its roster of services? When Torrance Memorial Medical Center (TMMC), a long-established, well-respected health provider, acquired a home health & hospice agency, integrating it into the existing brand was critical. THO was charged with setting the stage to make sure this merger was seamless and successful.  

The Challenge

The Hoyt Organization (THO) was charged with merging and enveloping the home health company that was acquired into the TMMC brand. The goal was to raise awareness of the new Home Healthcare & Hospice services and develop a plan for merging the brand into the parent company’s group of services.  

The Solution

THO developed a PR program focused on two equally important sides that included:

  • Implementing an intensive media relations program targeting physicians and the consumer to communicate the availability of the new service

 

  • Developing an integrated marketing plan designed to 1) reach local physicians and 2) provide a process for a smooth re-branding and integration into the parent company’s established brand

 

This two-pronged campaign involved a direct mail program designed to reach more than 350 physicians who could then become potential referral sources, coupled with significant general media outreach.

Patients and their unique situations became case histories for the human-interest stories. TMHH&H executives and medical staff personnel by-lined numerous articles in health-related journals, which were used as reprints for the physician referral program.

Results

During the first year alone, more than three million impressions were generated, not including digital and broadcast coverage. The direct mail campaign generated a great deal of buzz for patient referrals and Third party endorsements like, “I’ve heard about your program,” added to the tremendous outpouring of responses. Referral sources increased overall and continue to do so.  

Today, the TMMC Home Health & Hospice program is fully integrated, not only into the Center’s offering of services, but the community itself. With various “give-back” fundraising events involving local patients and families, along with full support and care through difficult times, TMHH&H has solidified itself as an integral part of the community.  

Takeaways

When looking to expand, brand and/or create awareness for a company or new division due to company growth, especially in an industry like the medical field where sensitivity and trust are paramount, involve the surrounding community where possible. Provide a personal touch, whether in the marketing outreach, or the actual facilities itself, and let potential key persons and partners in on the forward-thinking progression and growth of the company. Organic market saturation and awareness will continue to build.  

The Hoyt Organization

Putting the Focus on Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services

  • Industry

    • Healthcare
  • Services

    • Brand enhancement and awareness
    • Public & Media Relations
    • Thought Leadership
    • Message development
    • Media training

Mental health has become an increasingly important focus as more and more of our population struggles with addiction and other mental health issues.  New Vista Behavioral Health (NVBH), a family of addiction and recovery centers, turned to THO to not only raise their visibility but position their clinical staff as well-respected professionals in a very complicated field.

The Challenge

Our program began with careful research.  First, we interviewed NVBH clinical staff to determine who not only would be the best representative for the organization, but who also had compelling stories to share. Critical to our outreach was the confidentiality that was paramount in their practice.

The Solution

We created a strong media relations platform which allowed New Vista Behavioral Health’s voice to be a part of stories that were already discussing the path to addiction and recovery. We employed a variety of tactics to promote the centers’ events like special mental health and addiction days, along with health and wellness lecture series. We also positioned their key clinicians as experts in the industry on various talk shows, before print media, and in various speaking engagements. In addition, we invited key media to experience specific activities, such as a ‘sound bath’, one of the treatments that can be used to help those suffering from mental illness. We then developed and activated a quarterly plan based on the hot topics we knew would be in the news for that specific time period.

Results

In just a three-month period, we secured over 30 million media impressions, with an editorial value of over $900,000 across leading media outlets, positioning New Vista Behavioral Health and its clinicians as leaders in the field. As a result of this coverage, the company saw a spike in their organic search patterns, as well as keyword searches which directly linked to their operations.

Takeaways

By the very nature of what it is, addiction and recovery is very confidential, and must be handled and addressed sensitively. By carefully crafting our outreach and focusing on messaging that these issues impact almost everyone, we were able to position the NVBH recovery and addiction centers as total family health and wellness centers known for their caring and compassion while maintaining strict confidentiality.

The Hoyt Organization

Changing the face of healthcare in a Los Angeles community

  • Industry

    • Healthcare
  • Services

    • Public & media relations
    • Thought leadership
    • Special events
    • Marketing & brand development

South Bay Independent Physicians Medical Group, Inc., (SBIP) a physician owned, preferred provider organization wanted to raise its visibility within the South Bay community and build credibility within the local medical industry.

The Challenge

THO’s challenge was to establish and entrench South Bay Independent Physicians Group within the community as not only a go-to doctor’s group for patients, but a resource of local medical importance.

The Solution

The first step was crucial; THO needed to create awareness surrounding the importance of the organization within its existing membership. THO developed a monthly newsletter detailing the PPO’s success on behalf of its physicians. The newsletter reached and engaged the existing member base continually, keeping SBIP top-of-mind.

To promote SBIP within the community, THO planned a series of annual healthcare symposiums, presenting major line-ups of political and healthcare experts from around the country. The success of the annual symposiums generated other community events which also grew quite successful, like the annual “Pop ‘n Doc” walk, a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser which was designed to link the community with the local physicians.  

Marketing materials were developed, and a comprehensive media relations campaign completed the program. These components provided SBIP visibility within the medical arena, in addition to the general South Bay community.

Results

Between the success of the yearly healthcare symposium events and the other community events that arose organically due to these interactions, SBIP grew their membership, community credibility and overall visibility. Attendance at the annual healthcare symposiums increased an average of 20 percent each year. The sixth annual symposium had over 200 attendees and included administrators from every local hospital, along with local politicians and community members. Likewise, the first “Pop ‘n Doc” event attracted more than 700 people, accomplishing THO’s goal of providing a forum for physician-community interaction on a personal level while enhancing the cohesiveness of the actual group.

Takeaways

A strategic and comprehensive media relations program which engages not only the client, but its surrounding community is often the best, quickest way to build brand visibility, client credibility and necessity. THO took a three-pronged approach to developing SBIP’s reputation as a viable “go-to” physician group in the Los Angeles community.

The Hoyt Organization

How Can We Help?

Make us your first call if you’re launching a new product or service, re-branding or encounter a need for media relations or crisis communications. We’re here for you:

  • Targeted PR
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  • Social & Digital Media Strategies
  • Crisis Communications
  • Marketing & Design
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