Thinking Small Gets Big Results

The Community Action Volunteers calendar is a local hit for Providence Seaside Hospital, one of numerous small-scale communications tactics helping change the facility’s reputation.When working on marketing or public affairs issues in small towns, using seemingly old-fashioned communications tools may work to produce surprising results.

A great example is the integrated communications program used by Patti Atkins, APR, public affairs and marketing manager for Providence Seaside Hospital. When Patti arrived at Seaside three years ago, the hospital suffered a reputation problem in the community.

Longtime residents held outdated views about the facility’s quality of care and professionalism, said Patti. Opinions are hard to change in the coastal community.

Being persistent and a traditional mix of simple marketing tools have made a big difference. In just two years, the public’s perception about the quality of care provided by the hospital improved 105 percent, from 20 percent to 41 percent, according to a survey conducted by CFM.

Simple tactics mixed with traditional tools

Traditional and sometimes spendy marketing tools weren’t hitting their target. Patti’s goal was to put fresh materials in people’s hands. She started adding new tools to the mix or expanding the use of other tactics, such as:

Basic earned media: The effort to place stories in the local papers, including the Seaside Signal, The Daily Astorian and other small media had not been aggressive. Patti stepped up the program with a personal hands on outreach.

Post office fliers: Something as simple as posting a flier on the bulletin board of the Cannon Beach Post Office helped spread the word about expanded services at a local clinic.

Refrigerator magnets: These simple giveaways also helped put messages in front of residents.

Sponsorships: Patti’s strategy was to get the hospital recognized as a placed that cared about the community. She stepped up the schedule of local sponsorships, such as the Fourth of July parade in Seaside. Many of the hospital’s employees walked the route. Rather than hand out candy as they marched, the gave away Band-Aids and sunscreen – carrying the smart healthcare message.

Guerilla marketing: An upcoming event will involve handing out mirror clings, simple mirror stick-on messages about common signs of stroke. “When you are sick, where’s the first place you go? The restroom. A sticker in the right place may save someone’s live,” reasons Patti.

Calendar a hit with the public

Something as simple as creating a calendar highlighting Community Action Heroes – volunteers with great stories – is proving to be a success. “No one does calendars any more,” says Patti. But her most recent one has drawn a lot of attention.

“You see it all over town – in homes, in businesses, in the newsroom at the local radio station – it’s even been covered by local media,” and she adds this is the first time she’s gotten media coverage on a communications tactic.

A former president of the Portland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Patti will be returning to the Portland area this summer to take on some new assignments for Providence Health and Services.