Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Publicity Secrets for EAPs

“Hello, DesMoine Register? I am from ABC Employee Assistance Program. I am calling about the General Motors layoff announced today and its impact on employees and their families. We have an expert you can speak to on that subject, if you like.”

DesMoine Register: That's great we will send a camera crew to your location in two hours.

The story above is not real, but similar stories happen every day in communities nationwide. Learn this short presentation, keep paying attention to the news, and your EAP will end up on television or a local radio station very soon. The payoff will be communicating the EAP message to those who have never heard it--future potential EAP contracts for your EAP firm. The key phrase is “we have an expert on that subject available who you can interview.”

Do you remember the key story that emerged the day or two after the unfortunate and untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith? I do. The top story was the impact on employees at the hotel who discovered her body in the workplace! This was the MAJOR focus of the story for about 72 hours.

Later, the focus of the story shifted to the personal and flamboyant issues of Anna Nicole Smith's life. But for 72 hours, the focus was the hotel workers affected by the death of Smith, not the personal issues of the celebrity. Unfortunately, no experts on the subject of employee assistance offered their expertise that could have provided an enormous opportunity to educate the public about employee assistance programs and assist employers in making effective use of EAPs. (Actually, I have an even better question: Who was the EAP at the hotel, or to what EAP was the hotel linked? And was it a viable program or a obscure and unpromoted 800# on the back of an insurance card?)

The Anna Nicole Smith story is now past, of course. But, don't fret, another one will come along soon enough.

Side note: If you feel that such a move to gain publicity for your EAP is exploitive of tragedy, you have it exactly backwards. Enter the real world: This is an opportunity to help others, the profession, and yourself.

EAPs can benefit from understanding a few things about free publicity that will aid them in working toward a better relationship with American businesses.

1) Media outlets need experts who can comment and explain human suffering and tragedy, as well as those who can offer prescriptions and messages of hope. EAPs are about both.

2) Media outlets need experts fast. They can’t wait, but you can help them fill the need.

3) Media outlets hate going to the same people every time for the expertise. They like variety. Although I will not name them, there at least two nationally known EAP organizations with well-funded public relations efforts who end up in almost every national newspaper, personnel journal, or television show relevant to the EAP message. This isn't so bad in itself. They're smart. The problem is that fueling misinformation and misconceptions about employee assistance programs to match their model of service delivery. The media doesn't know any different.

It is an exciting and rewarding experience to reach millions of people with the proper EAP message. Here’s betting you will do it very soon.