PR in real life…an interview with Denise Parrish

There’s just something about hearing information first hand. Reading info from a book is all good and well, listening to a podcast is often times worthwhile, but learning from someone personally—now that is what it’s all about. In the world of PR, learning from someone who is immersed in all things PR is imperative. Someone who works tirelessly, everyday, to further a cause or company they love. Someone who recognizes the struggles, as well as the impact they are making on the world around them. Someone who just gets it. Someone like Denish Parrish.

Denise is employed by MCGHealth as the Media Relations Manager in the Public Relations Department. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me that I am delighted to be able to share with you:

1) What’s a typical week like? (If no week is typical, then what was
last week like?)
What is happening in medicine in the hospital and in the outside world
drives many of my days.
For instance, with the economy like it is, I felt like many Americans
were losing jobs, homes, etc., and were probably suffering from
depression. I checked with one of our psychiatrists, and turns out, I
was right. At our hospital, we had a major increase in patients coming
in for depression. So, I “pitched” this as a story idea to the local
newspaper and TV stations. It resulted in three days of TV interviews
with one of our doctors, who talked about the problem and offered some
practical advice on how to fight off depression in these tough economic
times. We also felt the story was so timely, that we drafted a bylined
article by the doctor and sent it out statewide to see if it would be
picked up by other newspapers.

I do a good bit of writing each week – news releases, bylined articles,
calendar items, media advisories and photo releases. I have attached
samples of all of these for you. The bylined articles are a way for us
to position our physicians as experts, so that when the news media is
looking for a health expert for a story, they will call me first to
arrange an interview with one of our physicians or specialists.

News releases are pretty basic. They usually announced an event, an
award, a new designation or status the hospital has earned or announce
employee promotions of senior level managers.

Calendar items are just that – all of events that MCGHealth has or
sponsors are sent out each month in the form of a calendar list of what,
when, where and who to contact for more information. Then, about two
weeks out from each event, an individual calendar item release goes
out.

Media advisories are when we invite the media to cover an event or
story that is happening at the hospital or that involves us.

Photo releases are when we send out a news item AFTER the fact with a
photo that was taken during the event.

We send something out to the media just about every single day, so,
yes, writing is a huge part of my job. The writing has to be provocative
to entice the media to want to read it and use it.

2) Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud
of.
I worked on the MCGHealth Cancer Center Groundbreaking event that was
held September 17, 2008. I put together – from scratch – an entire media
kit about the new cancer center that included an overview of the center,
background on cancer research and cancer statistics, artist renderings
of what the new building would look like, a news release and a media
advisory. I also drafted the speech for Don Snell, our President and
CEO, who opened the groundbreaking event. I booked a photographer and
videographer for the event. I also worked with all three local TV
stations to arrange onsite interviews with cancer physicians, Mr. Snell
and some of our cancer survivors (patients). We got lots of publicity,
and the media kit was very well received by all. My PR Director loved
it! In fact, she entered the PR for this event into an awards contest. I
am hoping we will win in that category. I have attached some of the
media kit pieces for you to see.

3)How important is writing in your career?
As you can see in #1 above, I wrote every day. Each month there are
many health observances recognized across the nation, like heart month
in February and breast cancer month in October. These observances give
us the opportunity to write timely bylined articles and news releases
about those health issues. But, again, writing is extremely important,
and it has to be interesting enough to get the media’s attention.

4)What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in PR?
1. Study and know the organization you are working for. This will
prepare you to be ready at a moment’s notice when the media calls
wanting an expert in your organization to speak on a particular issue.
2. Keep up with current events. You can always find some kind of way to
tie in what your company does with current events. For example, this is
Masters Week in Augusta, so I drafted a news release about taking care
of your health while visiting Augusta.
A celebrity (Natasha Richardson) died following a head injury in a
skiing accident. She might have lived had she sought medical attention.
So, I pitched one of our neurosurgeons to the local media to see if they
wanted to talk about brain injuries and how to know when to go to the ER
and when it’s just a bump on the head. Ch. 6 did the story, and it ran
several times over a couple of days.
3. Write, write, write and pitch, pitch pitch.

5)What do you do to keep current in the PR industry?
We have PR tips that come to us each day that I look at. We also
subscribe and share some PR magazines, including PR Week, to stay
abreast on what’s happening.

6) What has surprised you the most about working in PR?
How busy it is, but how rewarding it is at the same time. I love to see
results of the work I have done in the newspaper or on TV. That’s really
cool!

Denise was SO helpful in letting me get a glimpse of the world of PR first hand. It’s obvious she loves her job, and working for something you’re passionate about has always been key to me. I can’t wait to experience the PR Denise knows and loves!

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4 Comments

Filed under Assignments

4 responses to “PR in real life…an interview with Denise Parrish

  1. beth

    I also interviewed a Medical PR practitioner, Laura Love with South Georgia Medical Center, and many of the things that Love said was very similar to Parrish’s responses. They both emphasised that they kept employees updated with upcoming events around the hospital and that they both did a heavy amount of writing. I wonder if Parrish and Love have ever worked together?

  2. ansleylawhead

    Good question! Since they work in the same medium of PR, I wouldn’t be suprised if they have worked together on different occasions. I love how she incorporated different specific examples of how she kept up on current events not only locally but nationally. It really shows the importance of networking and relating information to the mass audience.

  3. mackenziestratton

    Ansley! I loved reading this, I am so happy we did these interviews, because It’s so helpful to read about. I especially liked reading the three tips your interviewee gave! I think her suggestion of reading and knowing all about what your company does it a wonderful suggestion, that I think a lot of people actually forget to do!

  4. Pingback: Comment on Ansley’s Blog Post! « Mackenzie Stratton

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