All posts by Rachel Dill

Recap: How the Cleveland Clinic Turns Healthcare News into Compelling Stories

By Scott Tennant, APR, Vitamix

Cleveland ClinicOne could argue that, given the size of its staff and the vast resources to which it has access, there may be little to learn from the Cleveland Clinic corporate communications team. After all, most of us are working with budgets a fraction of the size of the Clinics.

But to say that is to ignore how Eileen Sheil and her group have created a scalable blueprint for the corporate communications department of the future. Sheil and Co. have combined the best of the traditional PR and digital worlds to effectively tell the story of one of the world’s largest academic medical centers.

Sheil, executive director of corporate communications at the Clinic, brought four of her colleagues to the Sept. 13 PRSA event “How the Cleveland Clinic Turns Healthcare News into Compelling Stories” at the House of Blues. Sixty or so local communications professionals turned up to hear a presentation that was originally given as part of PRSA’s national “Case in Point” webinar series.

Joining her on stage were Erica Foreman (senior manager and head of the Cleveland Clinic News Service), Jennifer Guerrieri (manager of digital news content), Kyle Michael Miller (lead of digital news content strategy), and Michelle Decker (social media producer).

The Clinic is truly massive, with more than 58,000 “caregivers” – which is how all employees are described – most of whom work on a 170-acre main campus, along with 10 regional hospitals, 19 family health centers, and hospitals in Toronto and Abu Dhabi. Cleveland Clinic London is scheduled to open in 2021, which is also the Clinic’s centennial year.

Sheil says her team’s mantra is “digital, measurable, and mobile,” but they still feel that traditional media matters. To supplement that media outreach, the corporate communications team runs the Cleveland Clinic News Service, an in-house television and radio production agency that has been in existence since 2002.

The News Service proactively creates and distributes 20-25 health stories a month to hundreds of media around the U.S. These patient-centered packages each includes a script, a web article, video clips, and audio clips for radio use. It is content that is given away for free, and there is no requirement that the Clinic even is mentioned when a media outlet picks it up.

This type of relationship-building has been crucial to the Clinic’s communications success, particularly during the recession when so many national networks were forced to cut budgets and were starved for interesting stories. As a result, many journalists go to the Clinic first when working on a health or medical story – and even when they have more famous hospitals like the Mayo Clinic in their backyards.

The team also recently launched the @CleClinicNews Twitter handle, which is distinct from the main Clinic Twitter account. @CleClinicNews targets a list of 750 journalists (with many others following on their own), a full 70% of whom say they consider it their most reliable social tool for information gathering. The Clinic uses the handle to pitch physician experts for comment on breaking news, as well as providing a media daily download. The download includes the #AmNewsers hashtag as a way to target morning show producers, in particular.

Still, the hospital does not rely exclusively on earned media channels. A case in point was the Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill, which was introduced on a Friday afternoon in September 2017. It prompted then-Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove to visit Sheil’s office and ask, “What are we going to do about this?”

Sheil knew it was unlikely the team could draft an op-ed in time to place it in The New York Times or Washington Post before the bill was voted on the following Tuesday. Instead, the group wrote the op-ed voicing the Clinic’s opposition to the legislation, quickly had it approved by Cosgrove, and distributed it nationally via Twitter.

Engagement and amplification were immediate and widespread. Retweets came from members of Congress as well as a host of healthcare leaders and influencers. Journalist Chuck Todd called Sheil after the op-ed was released, and less than 48 hours after the bill was introduced, Cosgrove found himself on “Meet the Press” talking about it.

Agility, flexibility, and proactivity – all are crucial for the communications function of the 21st century, Sheil noted.

The same is true for the ability to convey impactful stories in a way that is meaningful for stakeholders. The Clinic got the chance to show off its storytelling chops last year when it performed a total face transplant on the youngest patient ever to undergo the procedure. The patient’s journey from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to face transplant was long and emotional, and the Clinic allowed National Geographic unfettered access to chronicle it.

The relationship with National Geographic stemmed from a longstanding connection to Susan Goldberg, the magazine’s editor and former editor of the Plain Dealer. It turned into a cover story that was widely read, as well as a Clinic digital feature that also had a significant impact.

Sheil and team ended with a word about PR measurement. Just as the Clinic’s patients progress from awareness to consideration to conversation, the Clinic’s corporate communications team has taken its metrics from simple measures of quantity to gauging the quality of placements – all with the goal of increasing patient conversion.

Sheil urged audience members to work toward better measurement of their efforts; a more integrated approach to paid, earned and owned media; more engaging storytelling; and the realization that social media is only of many channels available to the modern communicator.

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When the Editor Tells you How to Pitch a Story; Take the Advice.

By Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA and VP Programming Cleveland PRSA

Media RelationsIf any of you scroll down over the collection of blogs we host here on Greater Cleveland’s PRSA website, you’ll see a prior note I penned that referenced a column by Crain’s Cleveland Business Editor Elizabeth McIntyre with some of the finer points regarding pitching stories to the publications’ editors and section reporters.

This week she follows up with a more extensive Editor’s Column:  “More ways to make the best story pitch.”

It features some really good points if you’re looking to get a story placed, including tips like:

  • Email is better than a phone call
  • Get straight to the point
  • Follow up only once
  • You’re ON the record
  • We live in a visual world
  • No prior review

For more about these pitching tips and additional narrative, read on in today’s Crain’s Opinion page.



By Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA Falls Communications and PRSA Cleveland Programming Chair

As this year’s Program Chair for the Greater Cleveland chapter of PRSA, the goal is to bring our members unique, valuable experiences in programming We recently met up with members from the Akron PRSA chapter for our first ‘field trip’ to the Goodyear Airship Center in Mogador, Ohio.

And what a trip it was. Many of us probably didn’t know—or heaven forbid, have forgotten—that one of the, if not the ultimate, brand marketing icons has been parked right in our own backyard. The Goodyear Blimp has set out from its Wingfoot Lake hangar since 1925. It’s an icon synonymous with its great brand namesake.  We were lucky enough to see it up close and personal. PRSA members in attendance also received an advance SNEAK PEEK of the latest addition to the fleet, a semi-rigid airship now nearing its final construction phase. It will be christened in just a few short weeks.

Joining us to present this grand experience was Emily Cropper, Sr. Manager of Airship Communications for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

She manages a team of six with oversight of all PR, Community Relations and Communications across the three Goodyear bases. She recently led all aspects of a Blimp Christening event that resulted in 530MM impressions across numerous communications channels.

Through careful planning, Emily works with management to ensure the blimp program is consistent with corporate strategies. She also manages the implementation of this strategy to deliver and grow targeted value across media, PR, customer integration, charities and community partners. And the latter categories is how I guess we at PRSA all fit into the equation when we asked her about ‘Can we come down to visit?’

Emily also manages the blimp’s aerial coverage of live, televised events– so that same evening, as we finished our tour, the existing ship, Wingfoot One, moored just outside the hanger headed off to Cleveland to cover the Game 3 of the NBA Finals. (And as we all know, the most exciting thing about that night might have been watching the blimp take off.) Pilot

During Emily’s presentation prior to our blimp tour, she provided a terrific presentation of the brand’s entire airship program, demonstrating how Goodyear uses the Blimp program to Engage, Spotlight and Reward its various audiences. These elements work to increase consumer awareness of Goodyear’s brand while driving customer engagement and loyalty. “More Driven”, indeed

Some 80+ PRSA attendees had a chance to get up close and personal with the Blimp, and yes, the selfies were flying, too. Of note, Goodyear was kind enough to donate two ‘seats’ to an upcoming flight of the new airship. Congratulations to our lucky winner: Ann Ream of Summit County Children’s Services.

We hope to continue to provide our members with high-value (and equally high-flying) strategic communications-inspired programming in the year to come!

I Love My Special Sections


By Ed Stevens, APR

I have been a member of PRSA since 1992. While my roles on the boards of the Greater Cleveland and NW Pennsylvania Chapters were fulfilling, my membership in a number of special professional interest sections was just as rewarding and more closely allied with the clients and industries I serve. Besides frequent section events in conjunction with PRSA’s international conference, the sections also produce valuable standalone conferences, workshops and seminars.

Travel and Tourism. Since my firm represented so many organizations in the food/food service category, the travel and tourism section was a natural fit. We visited outstanding restaurants, culinary institutes and exchanged war stories from Chambers and entertainment centers across the United States. I found these people to be some of the most engaging personalities in PRSA.

Counselors Academy. If you want to push the needle in your firm or organization, this is the section for you. You learn from great speakers in fantastic locations and from each other. If you want to measure your mettle against others in the PR community, join the Counselors Academy.

Health Academy. I got very close to PRSA’s NYC headquarters staff and healthcare professionals with awesome credentials. Very impressive. Working as a co-chair for a health academy conference, I learned how exciting it is to be part of a PRSA section with professionals who really care about both the health of America and the PR environment.

Technology. This section seemed to have some challenges. However, the workshops our firm attended or webinars we chose were very valuable. I was least active with this section. Which leads me to say this about participation with any section – as well as PRSA itself – is that you get out what you put into your section.

PRSA itself is sometimes its own best-kept secret. Open the door to all PRSA offers. Hit the website.

My Salute to Hill Lighthouse Young Award Winners


By Ed Stevens, APR

L-R: David Gilbert, Barbara Paynter, Julie Miller

The John W. Hill Award is presented each year to the chief executive of a Greater Cleveland area organization who provides outstanding leadership and support for internal and external communications.

The Lighthouse Award is presented each year to recognize the career accomplishments and community service of a senior public relations professional who is a member of Greater Cleveland PRSA.

The Davis Young Award for Exceptional Mentors is presented each year to recognize a professional who excels in mentoring students and young professionals through hands-on instruction and support.

If you have ever served on the Hill Lighthouse Young Awards committee, you quickly became aware of the great amount of scrutiny that accompanies the selection process.

After all, we are looking for an executive who exemplifies leadership where public relations plays a key role. It would seem there are many nominee possibilities, but that is seldom the case. There are many reasons, but building a list of prospective Hill Award winners is often a daunting task.

It is easier to identify candidates for the Lighthouse Award. If you have been an active member of PRSA, you probably have done many of the right things in terms of service, professional development, leadership and more.

Being a PR mentor seems to be a slam dunk. But in today’s world, professionals don’t take the time to train, encourage and position younger professionals to succeed as in the past.

This year’s HLY Award winners are perfect choices. Each has achieved a special place among Cleveland’s PR deity. Each has left an indelible mark on our public relations profession as corporate executive, public relations professional or mentor.

The 2018 John W. Hill Award was presented to David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland as well as president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. David has made Cleveland shine as the venue of choice for sports, music and conferences.

The 2018 Lighthouse Award was presented to Barbara Paynter, APR, Fellow PRSA, president of Paynter Communications. Barbara is a good friend and one of our region’s best communicators and PR professionals.

The 2018 Davis Young Award was presented to Julie Miller, APR, associate professor and director of public relations programs at Baldwin Wallace University. Julie has touched so many students to help them excel as new professionals. We want more of Julie’s students.

I am thrilled to blog about the Hill Lighthouse Young Awards. They are the Greater Cleveland PRSA Chapter’s way of saying “thank you.” As a recipient of both the Lighthouse and Young Award, I know how humble and touched I was to be recognized. I am certain this year’s winners had a similar experience.

Why not take the time now to start thinking about the professionals you would like to see on stage next year to receive one of these prestigious awards. Could you be a candidate one day?

Business & The Media Comes Early This Year!


By Chris Lynch, APR, Fellow PRSA Falls Communications and PRSA Cleveland Programming Chair

News MediaEvery year here at the Greater Cleveland PRSA chapter, we feature a program called ‘Business and the Media.’

If often features an interactive panel with leading business beat editors, reporters, and/or bloggers about how we, as PR practitioners, can better work with, pitch story ideas, and in general, collectively do our media relations jobs, better.

Well, this year you don’t have to wait until October folks; Elizabeth McIntyre Publisher/Editor @ Crain’s Cleveland Business, just came out with a pretty straightforward primer in her column on how we all can, and should, be doing our jobs to when pitching business stories.

It includes some pretty obvious thoughts (but, if Ms. McIntyre needs to point it out, that means a lot of folks aren’t doing it!), such as:

Know what you’re pitching and to whom: Identify what your news is. Maybe you recently made an acquisition, or named a new CFO, or are noticing a noteworthy trend in your business. Then, figure out the best reporters and editors to share the information with.

That’s where some PR people drop the ball by carpet-bombing hundreds of reporters and editors with the same generic mass emails, which damages their credibility as a source of information.

Yes, many of us are probably guilty of ‘send out as much stuff as possible and see what sticks’ tactical planning and execution. But Ms. McIntyre also notes that if you do your homework, and approach the right media contact, with the right story, for the right audience of that media platform, then it’s likely to be a win-win scenario:

We both need each other: Don’t get discouraged if nothing comes from a story pitch. Keep pitching. You and your company are on the frontlines of your industry and often recognize trends before we do. You provide us with interesting story ideas and sources that can give life to our stories. We help you by spreading awareness about your company and clients.

For the entire column, please click here!