Events push need for positive PR

Monday, April 26, 2010

LAS VEGAS – Two receptions scheduled for Medtrade Spring will emphasize the critical importance of positive public relations in the fight to promote and protect the HME industry.

“Homecare Works!” is the theme of Medtrade’s welcome reception on May 12, a tie-in to the logo created last year by Medtrade, AAHomecare and other industry stakeholders. Those key players are encouraging providers to use the logo—which bears the messages “Better Outcomes,” “Cost Effective” and “Patient Preferred”—on letterhead, Web sites, ads and letters to members of Congress.

“We’re using (the welcome reception) as an opportunity to promote the concept,” said show director Kevin Gaffney. “The message is very simple, but we hope it will be effective. It’s not time to sit back and let things happen.”

Meanwhile, AAHomecare’s annual “Stand Up for Homecare” reception on May 11—which is primarily a fundraiser to support industry lobbying efforts—will also remind providers to pump positive messages about home care’s benefits into their local communities through PR and advertising. The organization provides template ads, sample articles and media tips to get providers started.

“We’ll have examples of what we’ve done and have our communications staff on hand to answer questions,” said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare’s vice president of communications and policy. “We’re trying to generate more grassroots and hometown coverage.”

That positive PR can be just as valuable as a strong lobbying effort, said John Gallagher, VGM’s vice president of government relations.

“They’re both important; you can’t do one without the other,” Gallagher said. “While we’re lobbying in D.C. on behalf of the industry, an integral part is also back in the district, creating awareness and trying to change the perception of the industry.”

Added Reinemer: “Members of Congress pay attention to the media. They are, for better or for worse, influenced by what the media says.”

Gaffney couldn’t quantify the number of providers using the “Homecare Works!” logo, but he said reaction to it has been enthusiastic since its fall roll-out at Medtrade.

Provider Scott Blume is one of those who jumped at the opportunity to use it. As distribution manager for Health First Oxygen and Home Medical Equipment in Richmond, Va., Blume produced large decals of the logo and now displays them on the back of his four delivery trucks.

“We immediately started talking about how we could incorporate this into what we do,” said Blume. “To me, that logo says volumes about what we do. It’s our way of saying, ‘We’re here, we make a difference.’”

Gaffney called the prospect of lobbying “daunting” for small local providers.

“We provide something they can use to show support even if they don’t have the time to go to the Hill,” he said. “At least they’re doing something to be heard.”