Friday, April 27, 2012

Architect's Innovative New York School Designs

 The New York City school system is the largest in the nation with 1.1 million students packed into 1,700 schools.  Here, land is rare and real estate is the coin of the realm.  Architectural firms are challenged to create exciting designs on space-tight lots.  But, one firm I worked with parlayed this challenge into becoming a thought leader in urban school design.

How did we do this?  Through innovative public relations.  With the senior K-12 school architect, I reviewed dozens of schools the firm had designed in the past few years, and we identified themes about planning compact schools.  One was to combine separate small schools in one building; another was to share library and science lab spaces in these combined schools; another was to use the basements of city schools for gymnasiums (and first floor windows as clerestories).  The list went on.  For k-8 schools, architects can design auditoriums with lower ceilings (the children are smaller) which can make room for extra classrooms on the floor above.

We then identified one $60-million K-8 school facility that seemed to embody all these challenges in planning, designing and building urban schools, and I sent a pitch letter and spoke on the phone with the editors of several national design and construction magazines that focused on education.  One editor got back and said she wanted to do a Q&A on urban school design, which resulted in a several page interview on the challenges and solutions of urban design -- with photos of the one school.  

Lessons learned?  If we had focused only on one project and had not approached the editor with the more universal themes, the opportunity for positioning the firm as a thought leader and pioneer in urban design would have been missed.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

PR Revs Up Opening of Hospital Outpatient Center

When physician groups and hospitals gin up marketing campaigns to win new outpatients and open a suite of offices, then publicity – in tandem with direct mail, website and social media – can successfully kick off the campaign to build awareness in the community and among referring clinicians.  Repeated positioning of the strengths of a clinical practice in all communications, and telling a compelling story to targeted audiences brings solid results.

Here’s the practical 1-2-3 guide to how I planned for the opening of an orthopedics center at a teaching hospital.  Placements included 4 newspapers, 2 TV stations, a radio station and multiple Internet outlets.  Simple checklists can bring success.

·      Advanced planning – Meet with the chairman of the department and the hospital’s marketing director several months in advance of the opening.  Tie down the exact date and time, who the specific target audiences were (don’t forget community leaders!), and what collateral material was needed (brochure, web page), what mailing lists exist/ are needed.
·      Positioning --  We determined how the offices differed from competitors and focused on strengths (largest in the region, breadth of specialists,  standard and specialty care, high technology such as digital x-ray units).  These points were made in all brochures, emails, news releases, on the website – and were made into talking points for the chairman for his upcoming interviews.
·      Site Tour -- Two weeks before the event, I visited the site of the orthopedic center and with the administrator, scouted out the best sites for giving the media a tour of the patient areas and technology spaces that made the new center unique.  
·      Advising the Media -- We wrote a media advisory, documenting the “who, what, where, why and when” of the event.   A week before the opening, we emailed the advisory to all local media in the hospital’s catchment area.  The day before the event I emailed the advisory again and left a phone message, with my cell phone number for the “day of” contact.    (If your opening is large enough, alert AP Daybook, as well).
·      Opening Day -- We met all TV, radio and print reporters at the site.
o   We made available to them a press kit, including a news release
o   We arranged personal interviews with the chairman of the department or the president of the hospital
o   We had reporters remain for the brief opening ceremonies
o   We gave a tour of the facilities (for guests and media), carefully giving each reporter individual access to senior staff who could explain the technology.
o   We had a staff photographer to take photos (no video) and sent these with captions to all media who did not make the event. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How To Get on "The Today Show"

According to the New York Times, Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards and student debt is topping $1 trillion for the first time.  The bitter irony is that many high-school students are enrolling in colleges and, after graduation, instead of landing a job are landing in the poor house.

One way students can reduce debt is to chose a quality public university where tuition can be one-fourth that of a private one.  But how does a public school lure away students who are attracted to a brand-name private college? Here's how.

Working with an affiliate PR firm and the associate dean at a public university, I identified several dozen recent transfer students from private universities.   They were all contacted via email to see if they would participate in a story about how transferring from a private to a public school  helped their debt situation and proved to be a good academic fit. 

Three students (10%) replied that they were willing to work with us.  One was a computer science major, another an economics major and the third was a voice/opera major.   All had transferred to take advantage of the lower tuition and the public university’s academic excellence and small size.

When I pitched the story to a variety of national reporters and TV producers who specialized in education, the producer from the Today Show, who wound up doing a feature story on one student, told me that she was really not interested in the computer science or economics majors.  What caught her eye was the voice major and the possibility of entertaining video and audio – voice lessons and singing in an opera that would tell a visual story etc. – along with how she had reduced her debt.

If I had not conducted thorough research on all the possible students, and not developed profiles on three (vs. one) students, then we would not have achieved a spot on The Today Show.   The pitch also triggered a post in a nationally read education blog in The New York Times. At the core of this success was the original research, which allowed us to offer the producer choices.  And, we triggered a story that we hope helped many families struggling with student debts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

About The Buzz From Bang

NM Insight, a Neilson/McKinsey company, says that in 2011 they were tracking over 180 million blogs around the world. So, why would anyone in his right mind want to start another blog?

For a couple of reasons.   First, the conviction that there is a small niche not being filled in the blogosphere.   Second, because it’s more fun to be a participant than a rubbernecker.  Or, as Seth Godin, the original “permission marketing” author said in a recent blog post about social media: you can be a bandit (who takes from others) or a philanthropist (who sees it as a platform for giving).  Why be a bandit?

This blog is intended to reach out to professionals and institutions – doctors, architects, engineers, hospitals and colleges -- who want to learn from and share new (as well as tried and true) ways of promoting their services through public relations, marketing, business development and social media.

And, in the spirit of quid pro quo, it is intended to encourage other PR and marketing folks to share their case studies of success for small businesses, professional firms and academic institutions.

Hats off to those who are already successful at blogging in these areas, such as archidose and arch daily and SMPS Boston (architecture), Howard Luks and Kevin Pho (physicians), Seth Godin (social media), John Jantsch (social media for small business) and Roger Johnson of Linked-in’s PRWise forum (educators, others).

For more information and a website link visit me here.