Thousands of locals gathered at a pep rally in Western Connecticut one evening in summer 2008, but it wasn't in support of a nearby sports team. They were rallying in support of the Heart Center of Greater Waterbury, which the government was threatening to close.
The Heart Center, which was a joint operation between Waterbury Hospital and Saint Mary's Hospital, opened in 2005 on a trial basis and was charged with meeting a certain number of procedures to attain permanent status. Connecticut Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) officials notified hospital executives in August 2008 that the Heart Center was scheduled to close for not meeting that quota.
"This was a life-and-death situation because closing it down would create a further distance that people have to travel to get immediate critical care," says Gary Griffin, director of PR at Avon, CT–based Adams & Knight, Inc., an advertising agency that worked with Waterbury and Saint Mary's to keep the Heart Center open. "The first people we needed to inform was the community."
So hospital marketers worked with their agency to create an integrated campaign to save the center. A key to the campaign's success in saving the Heart Center was the amount and consistency of the media coverage it received.
"From the day the pep rally started, all news stations and newspapers were out there covering us," says Heather Tindall, director of PR, media relations, and marketing at Waterbury Hospital. "The media just threw themselves behind this as well because they too saw this would be a travesty if this place closed down."