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What was your agency's "Christmas Story?"

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EMS Management Article

January 08, 2013


The PR Medic
by Josh Weiss

What was your agency's "Christmas Story?"

Now is a great time to begin thinking about positive PR for your agency for next December

By Josh Weiss

How many Christmas transports this Christmas were because of eye damage caused by red rider BB guns? How many transports were due to bad eggnog? What was the unique thing your agency did to celebrate the holidays?

With the holidays recently completed, now is the perfect time to examine what your agency did and could have done better to generate media attention. 

The key to creating a good "Christmas Story" for your ambulance service is to put together two key images. 

Image one is something intuitive that everyone knows is connected to the holidays. This could be something with Santa, Christmas lights or menorahs, or wrapped presents. 

Image two is something unique to your agency or industry.  For example, using the actual ambulance, crews in uniform, or a gurney is a visual that you can provide that a retail store or office cannot. 

Now you need to do an image mash-up. How do you combine an iconic holiday image with something uniquely ambulance? Once you figure that out, the images will create an excellent potential media story or event. 

Want an example? Let's say your agency collected presents for needy kids or food for the hungry.  Rather than a box in your office like just about every company on the planet this time of year, collect them in the back of the ambulance and invite media to be present as you deliver them. 

Unloading the ambulance full of toys or food creates a great visual, giving your agency some extra positive publicity. 

Want to plan for next year? Collect data now related to the most common types of holiday related calls your agency ran on. Media love statistics, so share the numbers along with some safety tips provided by a paramedic in front of an ambulance at a media event. 

Just set a calendar reminder for next November and in the reminder include the location/file name where you're saving the data.

Looking for yet another media opportunity?  Let me share a story that still makes me feel good years later.    

Several years in a row I had a Christmas date with a local TV news videographer.  After a few years of our "dates," she told me that she requested to work on Christmas, knowing that we'd spend it together.   I even invited my wife to join us, my young kids, even my parents came along one year. 

Wondering where my story is going? While serving as PIO of an ambulance company, I introduced a program called "Home for the Holidays," where we would transport a sick child or elderly parent from a hospital or care facility to the home of family members for a few hours so they could spend the holiday together. 

We'd then invite a local TV station along for the ride. It's a story only an ambulance agency could create, and it "mashed-up" a holiday image with the ambulance and crew image perfectly. 

While creating a newsworthy "Christmas Story" was the initial impetus for the event, the true power of the yearly event hit me one year around February. 

I received a card from the daughter of a woman we transported who wanted to thank me one last time.  Her mother died the day before, and she wanted to make sure I knew how grateful she was that she'd always remember their last Christmas together. 

Another special memory came several years later where we transported a young Spanish-only speaking child with cancer home on Christmas for a few hours.  I vividly recall her young cousins gathering around her gurney and the girl reaching out to grab the arm or hand of anyone she could reach. 

When the cousin she grabbed got uncomfortable and squirmed away, she'd simply grab the next person she could. The relationship we built with her and her family led us to do a few additional transports for her before she eventually succumbed to the cancer.

As ambulance providers, your agency has the opportunity to create its own "Christmas Story."  Write down your ideas now, and look at them again in November.  You'll be way ahead of the game for Christmas 2013. Just don't ask me to help untangle the lights!

About the author

Josh Weiss served as the national Director of Public Relations for Rural/Metro Corporation, a leading national provider of private ambulance and fire protection services, and as Director of Communications and Public Affairs for American Traffic Solutions, a national leader in traffic safety cameras. In the past 15 years, Josh has worked with hundreds of external and internal clients including public and private companies in the healthcare and technology industries, government municipalities, police and fire Departments, and community organizations to build positive brands and manage reputations. He now operates 10 to 1 Public Relations.

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