Readers Write

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders News , November 7, 2007
It's always a mystery to me which columns will generate reader responses and which ones will elicit a big yawn. My recent musings on MRSA? Nada. But I did get responses to my requests for your conference resolutions, my views on risky hospital fundraising tactics, my ponderings on press releases, and our story about Coco the colossal colon. Read on for your colleagues' (and my boss') take on these issues. And keep those e-mails coming.

Back in early October, fresh from SHSMD's annual conference, I asked readers to send me their post-conference resolutions. Sadly, the responses were so cynical that I was unable to convince anyone to let me publish them. One reader said her conference resolution was to find a place to dump all the handouts that she brought back from the conference--and noted that she was certain she'd never look at any of it ever again.

In another recent column I suggested that naming hospitals after a large corporate donor could put a hospital's brand at risk. One reader wrote that there's more to a hospital's reputation than the name over the door.
    The issue of whether to allow corporate sponsors to name hospital wings or buildings is not new. From the days of the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Fords (who were called robber baron, monopolist, exploiter of child labor, and union-buster, respectively), philanthropists and corporations have lent their names to medical institutions. The public is generally smart enough to know why healthcare institutions name buildings after wealthy benefactors or powerful people and families (i.e., the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital in Portland, ME). When it comes to their brand, healthcare institutions must maintain a reputation as a good citizen, a provider of high quality care, and a provider of care for anyone regardless of age, nationality, or economic situation. The image of many community hospitals suffered when Columbia HCA owned them and was charged with Medicare fraud, not because a corporate philanthropist ran afoul of the law. That said, it still behooves healthcare organizations to make sure that the benefactor's reputation is one it can live with. [But] I have yet to see the Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner Center Children's Hospital.

    Patrick Buckley
    President, PB Healthcare Business Solutions, LLC
    Pewaukee, WI

Last week I wrote about the right way to send press releases, which as a reporter and editor I tolerate, and follow-up phone calls, which I don't.
    Your article has some great tips to live by in hospital media relations and news release writing. I am, however, torn on your number one tip. Not because I necessarily disagree. I generally tend to be passive on news releases. However, my releases started to get more play only when I did a follow-up call. I started to get the impression that reporters dismiss many releases (with a softer news angle) until a pitch comes with it. Also, if you have a boss that is very demanding and you don't do a follow-up call then you get your tail handed to you.What do you think? Has a follow-up call ever swayed you to reconsider or does it just annoy you to the point you want to put it in file 13? I am in the middle of pitching a story about a Premier award that three of our hospitals have won and I am getting nowhere. Only 49 hospitals in the country were so recognized and I am definitely getting yawns from our local news [outlets].

    Tom Miller
    communications manager
    SSM Health Care
    St. Louis
HealthLeaders magazine editor Jim Molpus weighs in with this response to the issue:
    I actually think that the era of batch press releases ended years ago. They are basically useless now. Unless it is a specific pitch--i.e. an original piece of correspondence--it probably won't get opened. If I were in PR, I would question whether that time would be much better spent in crafting targeted pitches and learning about the unique needs of publications in your niche.

    Jim Molpus
    HealthLeaders magazine

Finally, we got a few funny e-mails about Kandace McLaughlin's story about an awareness event that featured a larger-than-life colon. "Intriguing story in marketing e-zine today about Coco the Colossal Colon," one reader wrote. "But what's next? Bosworth the Belligerent Bowel? Eleanor the Egregious Esophagus?" There was a third example that started with the name Arthur. Let's leave it at that, shall we?

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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