How OhioHealth increased their newsroom coverage by 889% in one year
The healthcare organization's editorial philosophy and communications workflow is a stellar example of how to run your organization's online newsroom.
Two years ago, OhioHealth, a not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Ohio, switched their newsroom over to PressPage. Within the first year, their total viewership jumped from 11,588 visits in 2015 to 114,697 visits the next full year on their new PressPage newsroom. That is a meteoric 889% increase!
While we would love to say our platform empowered OhioHealth to achieve such numbers, the real secret lies in the way their team restructured their PR workflow and the subsequent editorial philosophy they adopted for their newsroom.
Finding traditional news media harder and harder to reach in the modern age, OhioHealth saw an opportunity to showcase their internal communications stories alongside their media relations efforts to truly create a one stop shop brand journalism website. We spoke to Missy Gleason, the managing editor of the OhioHealth Newsroom, and Mark Hopkins, director of Media Relations to learn their secrets.
Your team won an award from PRSA this year for best online newsroom. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Missy Gleason: Our local PRSA had a call for entries. Since our newsroom with PressPage was a year old, Mark and I sat down and looked at how much our newsroom had grown from the old site to the new PressPage newsroom. It’s kind of insane how much it grew.
Mark Hopkins: With our old newsroom there was a total of 11,588 hits in 2015. And we didn’t know what that meant - we just said “alright is that good, is that bad?” We didn't know.
In the following calendar year, with our new PressPage newsroom, we had 114,697 hits. So from 12k to 115k – that's how big it was. 889% increase in hits to be exact.
Missy: So what we really wanted to share for that PRSA entry, was the thought that went behind this. It wasn’t only that “we need a new newsroom.” The mission truly was to start brand journalism at OhioHealth.
Can you tell us a little about your old system of doing things before you built the OhioHealth newsroom?
Mark: This whole process goes back four years. Our team was doing all the traditional things that media teams do – pitching stories and writing news releases. Slowly we were starting to see that the news media was changing. They had fewer resources and the world was going to the digital side. And we just had all these great stories but we ran out of places that could run them. You know there’s only so many reporters, there’s only so many news stations. So we started talking about developing our own content and videos while still pitching our stories.
But that’s kind of where we ran into trouble. We didn’t know what to do with it. So when we came across PressPage, that really was when the lightbulb went off and we said - we have this idea for content, and now we have an easy to use, attractive looking digital platform for our newsroom.
With our old newsroom there was a total of 11,588 hits in 2015. And we didn’t know what that meant - we just said “alright is that good, is that bad?” We didn't know.
What is your approach to publishing content?
Missy: We have taken the newsroom and tried to make it a good gathering of different type of news that we have created ourselves. The number one source of content is still stories in traditional news media. We’ve just found a way to keep it more engaging and keep our viewers on our website. So as opposed to sending them away to a TV station’s website to watch the story, we are now able to embed those video links on our PressPage site, keeping our audience on OhioHealth.
The second thing we’ve done is utilize our own media relations team to produce content that might not have gotten placed in the media, or even stories we felt we could tell better than news media. The media team got trained on how to shoot videos, so when we come across a situation where a story didn’t get picked up, or we can give a little more context and flavor, we’ll produce our own version of that story as well.
And then we also have an internal newsletter, which used to just go out within our hospitals. But there were stories in there that were well worth sharing beyond our hospitals. So we now share those stories as well.
Mark: So stories that we can push out about our culture, about the things that we do aside from all the clinical stuff are valuable to us as well. And we’ll prepare it in a brand journalism way that doesn’t sound salesy or hokey. Media relations people are often told "just go get this in the news", but it is not always that easy. But we now have a platform where these stories can live and our associates can tell their grandma, "Hey go to OhioHealth's newsroom and see me in that story".
How does social media play into this?
Missy: Well this approach gives the social media team a lot more content that is produced by us and drives people back to our website. We have very, very strong associate engagement on social media. So whenever we’re able to share something about what we’re doing here at OhioHealth, that pride factor is so high with our associates, that they share it too. So our reach on social media goes much farther too.
We have very, very strong associate engagement on social media. So whenever we’re able to share something about what we’re doing here at OhioHealth, that pride factor is so high with our associates, that they share it too.
Do you ever run out of content for the newsroom?
Missy: It’s our goal to publish something every day, Monday through Friday. Along with brand journalism, we have a service called HealthDay that provides news coming out in the healthcare world from current clinical studies. We find if there is something in the news that is drawing a lot of attention, but we at OhioHealth don’t have the time to turn a story around on it, we can still get that content from HealthDay.
Mark: The reality is that there are some days in there where you run out of stuff. So it really is a good way to supplement your other content.
What kind of stories do your viewers share the most?
Missy: They really run the gamut. We just posted a really cute story on our Facebook page about a sewing guild at one of our local hospitals that made superhero capes for NICU babies, and within an hour we had upwards of 70 shares. So it’s babies in capes. It’s ‘tug at your heartstrings', but also the pride factor of ‘we love what we do for our patients’.
But it's also big news like opening a new hospital, or clinical advancements and new treatments that we’re doing. There’s no silver bullet to what kind of story does well. It really depends on the strength of the story.
Do you find yourself focusing on stories that pull at the heartstrings a little?
Missy: I don’t think we focus on it more. I think it's something that comes naturally to us. We are an organization that cares for our patients and their entire family. So I don’t think it's a deliberate strategy. Though we do joke about the old adage of ‘puppies and babies’ get great play. So you always know that you’re going to have a winner if you have a puppy or a baby in the story. But it’s not like we make it a strategy.
Mark: Actually, we’ve also used the newsroom as a mechanism to get news out that may be negative for us. We had an incident at one of our campuses, where our security officers were seen on camera during an altercation with a visitor. It looked really bad and we investigated the situation. It was a very big story here locally for a while. And we used the newsroom as a platform to share the messages from the president of that hospital. It was very effective being able to provide information in an open, honest and timely way that we could drive people to.
It sounds like you really treat your online newsroom like a news site.
Missy: I have a background in broadcast journalism. I would say that as the editor of the OhioHealth Newsroom, I really try to look at it from the perspective of - if this page was a news show, what would we want our audience to see? Sometimes it is stories that are important that we share and don't have to be specifically uplifting or emotional. It may be important that we either make our stance known on it, or it is something that will better serve our community, or it is news that they need to know.
My biggest driving factor is the benefit to the reader or viewer – it’s really the ’what’s in it for me’ factor. It’s not us tooting our own horn, it’s truly trying to find out what our audience is going to want to know.
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