Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Agency Tour

On September 27, 2013 GV PRSSA had to opportunity to visit the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s campus on the first agency tour of the semester to hear from a number of communications professions. Upon arrival we were escorted to the Lack’s Cancer Center Grand Conference Room where cookies and beverages were provided for us, which we were all very excited about.

The agency visit kicked off with an introduction from Katie Halloran, the APR, PR and Communications Manager for the Grand Rapids market, who set up this amazing opportunity for us. She talked a little bit about the background of Saint Mary’s and their recent merge with Mercy Health Partners and we were shown a short video that was part of the internal communication efforts for the re-branding.

Kyle Pressley, Social Media Specialist for Mercy Health, talked about the role social media has played in the merge between the Saint Mary’s Grand Rapids and Mercy Health Muskegon campuses. Kyle manages all of the hospital’s social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. All of these outlets allow him to tell the story of the hospital and the stories of their patients. Since the merge with Mercy Health is still so new, Kyle said it has been a challenge combining the social media for all the various sectors but a change that benefits the brand overall.

Next Keri Kujala, who manages Special Events and Donor Relations, talked about what her job entails. Keri is responsible for all aspects of events from start to finish whether that is stuffing envelopes, moving tables or standing next to the CEO introducing him to donors. Although she is responsible for the event planning aspect of communications, she said that having a public relations background has really helped her writing skills when creating copy and invitations and allows her to have an understanding of how to maintain successful relationships with the various companies and donors she works with.

Angela Klinske, an integrated communications consultant, then talked about how she manages all the different aspects of communication relating to the recent merge. She said in the beginning she had to overcome some resistance to change in different aspects such as the logo and colors. She explained the difficulties that exist when two competing companies come together as one and stated that it is her job to help various audiences understand how the merge works best for both Saint Mary’s and Mercy Health and enables them to share their best practices and become a stronger brand. Angela also explained that in all aspects of health communication, “Story telling has become a big part of marketing.”
To wrap up the presentation Katie Halloran talked in more detail about her position. She explained her three main roles which include being the gatekeeper of information for both patients and media, being on call 24/7 to handle possible crisis situations and coordinating strategic PR initiatives from a regional standpoint. She is also responsible for the internal communications of the hospital which involves keeping and maintaining employee engagement. Katie said she enjoys working for Saint Mary’s and encouraged students that when they find a company that fits their own values and mission and it makes it all worth it.

GV PRSSA was interested in learning about the background of the professionals, what their day to day schedules looked like, and some of the things they struggled with when first starting off in their careers. The communications professionals came from varying backgrounds and degrees but Keri explained that going into any new position requires a lot of on the spot learning and as a young professional you just have to be able to roll with it. Overall, the agency visit was helpful and informational to all the GV PRSSA members and gave great insight into all aspects of health communication and public relations in a health care setting.

Written by: Stephanie Kotschevar and Jessica Hines