Quality improvement professionals put a great deal of work in improving quality of care and patient safety, with projects both grand in scale and small but significant. But once an organization achieves success, how do leaders make sure the right people know about it?
Improving quality is its own reward, of course, but it is a valid goal to want immediate supervisors, the organization’s C-suite, and maybe even the general public to know about these successes. Making that happen can require a specific strategy, because just hoping anyone notices is not a plan.
Promoting work internally requires an understanding of the organization’s culture, says Kris Ruby, CEO of Ruby Media Group and Medical Practice PR in White Plains, NY. It is a legitimate goal to make others aware of quality improvement successes. However, when publicizing success at work, there can be a fine line between receiving credit and showboating.
“At some hospitals, there can be a lot of politics involved with this. They don’t necessarily like the idea of someone getting a lot of attention for their work,” Ruby says. “One way around this is to tout this as the success of your department or program, and all the people who worked on the project, so you avoid making it look like you’re trying to get a lot of attention for yourself.”
Moreover, the achievement can be positioned as an accomplishment for the hospital or health system, making it a point of pride for everyone. The quality improvement department still will be remembered for the success.
Ruby advises working closely with the hospital communications department to feature achievements in internal newsletters and other outlets.
Rules for External Publicity
External publicity for healthcare professionals may require some caution. Most hospitals and health systems have put rules in place that require employees to work with the communications or public relations department for any kind of interaction with external media. Always let a supervisor and the communications department know before agreeing to an interview with an external media outlet. “If you work at a hospital, you can’t go spouting off on Twitter without making sure you have corporate approval before you do a media interview. I have seen too many doctors ignore what they sign in their employment contract on the media/PR clause. Ultimately, it can cost them their good standing at the hospital,” Ruby says. “It can even result in being put on notice if they have repeat offenses in this area. Pay attention to what you signed before doing media interviews.”
Play within the rules of your organization. When there is quality improvement achievement, publicize it to the community as well as within the hospital.
“I believe that patients expect an improvement in quality as a baseline. You want to let patients know about things like new technology, new procedures, new services offered,” Ruby says.
Two Steps for External Publicity
When it comes to external publicity, such as a story in the local newspaper, Ruby says there are two steps. First, gain the publicity. Second, publicize the media attention. If an organization achieves step 1 without moving to step 2, that is not successful self-promotion.
“If you got featured in a local newspaper or magazine or on your local television news, and nobody sees it, it’s almost like you never got the coverage at all,” Ruby says. “People get featured, and they assume everyone in the world is going to watch the show live, read that interview, listen to that interview. That’s just unrealistic in the world we live in.”
This means securing copies of the television news spots or the newspaper coverage, and providing those to the people the organization wants to see that success. That might mean forwarding a copy of the newspaper article or a recording of the news segment to the management team, or passing it on to other news outlets that might be interested. Ruby notes online material can be fleeting. A user may bookmark a page that highlights a quality improvement program on a news site. Six months later, that material may be gone. For that reason, she advises printing the material or taking screen shots to preserve it.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone depend on a link, and then when they go there later the link is gone. It’s like the whole thing never happened,” Ruby says. “Screenshot the coverage because that may be the only copy you ever have of it. It’s a real shame when you’ve been featured and you’re proud of that publicity for yourself and your colleagues, and then it’s gone.” For healthcare professionals, Ruby says the best way to make the news public is to position oneself as a subject matter expert in the field. Thus, when the media is looking for an industry expert to speak on a topic, they think of that expert first.
“Because social media has changed the media landscape, some items that were traditionally put out over the wire can now be replaced by a tweet or long-form blog post instead,” Ruby says. “If you want to get news to the public, first look at what news the public is interested in, and then share your point of view on it.”
- Kris Ruby, CEO, Ruby Media Group and Medical Practice PR, White Plains, NY. Phone: (914) 268-8645. Email: email@example.com.