Wick Communications

Building relationships pays off

In journalism on 24 Feb 2011 at 11:45 am

It’s worth noting that solid relationships with news sources come in handy all the time – not just when disaster strikes. Take a recent story from the Argus Observer in Ontario, Ore.

When Saint Alphonsus Medical Center announced plans to build a 30,000-square-foot expansion – a move that will bring more doctors and services to the area – hospital administrators told the local newspaper first. That didn’t just happen. It happened because Publisher John Dillon took the time to build relationships with people at the hospital – people he knew were newsmakers. Here’s what John told me about this story in an e-mail:

I came to the Argus in 2003 and started working on the relationship by volunteering on committees and groups where hospital employees were involved. Over time, things got better and I was able to get about $20,000 a year in advertising revenue and they were talking to reporters and giving us information.

I have kept a very good relationship with the marketing director and she and I have worked on an agreement that when they have an announcement she give us the information and as soon as they announce to their staff, we post as breaking news and get in the next printed publication. I have let her know that I will continue this until I start hearing the information on the street before we are able to break it…

This recent example is not the first time this has happened. Last fall, the hospital was purchased along with two other hospitals in our region by a Boise-based hospital. The marketing director made sure we had the information and broke it on the Web and in print before the other two much, much larger papers in the valley had it. Timing is key and the hospital knows our schedule and deadlines and always keep us in mind first.

The hospital is not really on anyone’s beat but they do get good coverage for being such a huge part of our community.

Newspapering is all about creating relationships every day. It’s a process that doesn’t always bear fruit today and in fact may never bear fruit like this. But it’s probably the most effective tool we have.



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