Children’s Hospital Colorado | Helping Children’s Hospital Colorado Educate a Frightened Public About Enterovirus

  • Challenge

    Manage national media interest and ease concerns about potential Enterovirus D68 cases in Colorado

  • Solution

    Utilize media relations to calm fears and provide a reliable, realistic view of the situation

  • Results

    Managed the intense media attention and secured extensive, factual media coverage to educate and alleviate fears

Challenge

The team was tasked with managing a high volume of national media requests, as outlets from around the country frantically descended upon Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) following a story by the Associated Press on the CDC’s investigation into a potential cluster of muscle weakness tied to Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) at Children’s Colorado.

Solution

GFM realized that immediate action was necessary given that Children’s Colorado was receiving a large number of interview requests and was striving to protect the privacy of its patients as media aggressively tried to become the first to secure an interview with a patient family. Concurrently, cases continued to be identified, and the tenor of the news stories was quickly becoming increasingly frantic, using words like “paralysis” and “polio.”

Core components of the plan included:

 

  • Organizing two press conferences at the hospital to share factual information
  • Conducting the hospital’s first-ever, cloaked conference call with a patient family who agreed to be interviewed under the condition of anonymity
  • Creating valuable resources on the Children’s Colorado website to educate parents
  • Improving searchability on the website for anyone looking for information

 

These efforts were enhanced with an additional press release and reactive media strategy when The Lancet, one of the oldest and most well-known medical journals in the world, featured a research paper published by Children’s Colorado researchers, causing another wave of interest in the topic.

Results

We worked extensively with media onsite, along with those reporting from afar, and provided them resources to shape accurate stories and calm growing fears.

From Sept. 26 through Sept. 30, 2014, more than 650 stories about the EV-D68/muscle weakness connection ran online and on air. By the end of 2014, more than 2,400 related stories had run, equaling 27 percent of Children’s Colorado’s overall coverage for the year.

Coverage included stories by major national outlets including CNN, Bloomberg, The New York Times, “Good Morning America,” “TODAY” and NPR’s “Science Friday,” just to name a few.