The Changing Role of Healthcare PR and Communications

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Technology in the hands of businessmen

Photo credit: Depositphotos

By Eric Fischgrund

PR and communications functions are nothing new to healthcare organizations, a very broad genre indeed. Whether biotech or life sciences, healthcare facility, medical equipment provider, or other – most healthcare companies do have a target audience they wish to communicate effectively with. 

In 2021, executives must understand that there are more mouths to feed, meaning there are more audiences they must engage aside from potential customers and industry partners. This expansion for communications is a direct result of the many events over the last couple of years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and global social justice conversation.

Simply put, companies should expect to be publicly and privately scrutinized, criticized and applauded and are well-advised to prepare by putting PR and communications programs in place now.

Engaging employees. There was a time where employees punched in on Monday and out on Friday for years and even decades at the same employer. Maybe they were treated OK, maybe they weren’t, but they were grateful for the paycheck, and turnover and displeasure was low.

Those times are gone. Now, Glassdoor tells us what we really need to know about a perspective employer, using star ratings and sometimes aggressive, anonymous insults. Further, employees are no longer (rightfully!) as accepting of the status quo and want to work at a place where their feedback is valued, sure, but also where there exists a mental health and wellness balance, a productive and comfortable working environment and socially conscious leadership.

Following the pandemic’s onset, leaders of healthcare organizations were sought to provide guidance on healthy workplace environments, mental and physical health support for employees, and countless other challenges faced by the sector in 2020. Expect that to continue in 2021 as vaccine distribution, public advocacy for/against vaccines and continued scientific discourse takes place.   

Healthcare organizations benefit from internal communications and marketing programs where company leadership explains the state of the business, anticipates next steps, endorses healthy programs for employees, and most importantly, demonstrates transparency in doing so. Email marketing programs, virtual events, public accolades and other communications tools are effective.

The community. More than just employees are watching. Entire communities are often made up of a healthcare organization’s employees and their families. The local businesses and governments are dependent on the job creation and economic boost provided by the organization being open. This ripple effect is easily reflected in small cities where large hospitals, healthcare clinics, manufacturers, etc. are the primary economic driver. 

A business is bigger than just itself. We learned this last year when many companies were put in public crosshairs for words said or unsaid regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent protests. Organizations were not just advised to make statements and contribute to the conversation, they were expected to. This comes in many forms, of course, including making statements on social media, changing hiring practices, sponsoring educational seminars, charitable giving and more. 


What is the best way for an organization to effect change in their individual communities? The answer is for it to take the time to examine its internal ways of working, be transparent about its findings and processes, and implement subsequent action items to create meaningful change. A company can use PR efforts, specifically media relations, to reach out to local journalists at daily newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, to share what they’re doing and how it positively impacts their community.

The industry. This one is relatively straightforward, and probably not unlike what most healthcare companies and organizations are doing. Effective communications with an organization’s own sector is important for more than just attractive channel partners and referrals, but also for greater brand positioning and results. For example, if a healthcare company wants to rank well for Google search or be “top of mind” when their niche sector is discussed among their peers, they should invest in a corporate blog, LinkedIn Company Page and possibly an email newsletter. These are all relatively free and easy to do on a consistent basis.

The role of communications and PR is changing for healthcare companies, even for those considered institutions. By adopting communications and PR programs now, companies get a head start on what will soon be considered merely “accepted” for companies of their kind.

Eric Fischgrund is the founder and CEO of FischTank PR, a leading healthcare PR firm