Unexpected Consequences: the Power of Media Relations
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Posted by: Catherine Roman
By Margaret Ann Hennen, APR, Fellow PRSA
If Media Relations is part of your Public Relations practice, you know the drill. You mine your organization or your client’s organization for stories. You look for an angle or hook. You determine the best media targets and you pitch the story. Once the story is picked up, you probably count the inches or minutes devoted to it. Sometimes you might dive deeper into evaluation and note which key messages were part of the story. Or if your targeted media ran the story. Or the story’s tone. Or any number of other criteria.
How often do you consider consequences? How often do you think a story might help save a friend’s life?
Such was the case when an Allina Health story aired on WCCO-TV during the winter of 2015-16. The story touted a CT calcium scan which grades the condition of patients’ arteries and their risk of heart attack. This scan is a simple procedure; Allina was an early local adopter. Pitched by Gloria O’Connell and supported by her boss, David Kanihan, this media story changed my life.
Because my mother, who looked like the least likely person to suffer a fatal heart attack, died from clogged arteries, this story caught my attention. My primary care physician ordered the test.
And so begins my gratitude to Gloria and David. In one of the few tests of my life, achieving a zero meant success. The good news is my arteries are calcium free. However, the scan picked by a 2.3 cm nodule (at 3 cm it becomes a mass) on my left lung. A biopsy identified the nodule as a malignant tumor which, along with the lower lobe of my lung, was removed. As a life-long NON-smoker, lung cancer was never something I worried about. I had no symptoms. Finding this lung cancer was a fluke. A side effect of worrying about my arteries and my mother’s death. And a direct result of good media relations work.
I’ve learned lung cancer is one of the silent cancers; the symptoms are fairly generic until it reaches advanced stages. I’ve also learned chemotherapy is a complex treatment that took my body into places I never wanted to go. After months including 16 weekly chemo treatments, my prognosis is good. The care teams at HeathEast – both at St. Joseph’s Hospital following surgery and St. John’s Cancer Center – were compassionate and caring and played big roles in my recovery.
But there would likely be no positive prognosis or recovery without the unexpected consequences of good media relations work. To the Allina Media Relations team and to all media relations professionals, keep doing what you do so well. You do make a difference. Sometimes you even save lives.