UW Medicine wins award for COVID-19 communications

The healthcare system's media relations team earns a national honor for crisis communications to journalists.

UW Medicine’s media relations team last week earned top national honors for their proactive response to journalists during the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States.

The PR Daily Awards, bestowed annually by Ragan Communications, recognize outstanding work in public relations and media campaigns.  UW Medicine won first place in the category of Crisis Communications.

In reporting the first U.S. death from COVID-19, news outlets noted that the patient was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, which is managed by UW Medicine. The media relations team was immediately engulfed with reporters’ requests for information and interviews, beginning a period of high-intensity work that persisted for months.

During March, April and early May, the media relations team published 51 COVID-focused news items and advisories and hundreds of Twitter updates – all while responding to scores of interview requests every day. Twelve news conferences were held in person and via Zoom. Twenty-nine videos with topic experts were produced in-house and distributed to news outlets nationwide.

The team communicated developments such as the creation of a novel screening test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, research to track the virus, and care protocols such as one of the first U.S. drive-through screening sites.

“Our researchers and clinicians are thought leaders. Given all of the uncertainty about COVID-19, we wanted to get their perspectives out to the public, so people in our communities could make informed decisions,” said Susan Gregg, director of media relations. “We identified topic experts in virology, infectious disease, pulmonary and critical care, virus-tracking, protein design, psychiatry, pharmacology, and even PPE (personal protective equipment). Our administrators weighed in on hospital protocols and how our healthcare system was facing the pandemic.”

Over this span, UW Medicine became a top-of-mind resource for journalists, who continue to reach out to these specialists.

By early May, UW Medicine and its experts had been referenced in more than 8,700 unique news reports. (This number does not include mentions of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations, which is affiliated with UW Medicine but manages its own media relations.)

“I’m so proud of our team. This award is a huge achievement. This group, with the help of clinicians and researchers who continually gave their time, helped to augment UW Medicine’s national reputation for excellence,” said Tina Mankowski, senior director and associate vice president, medical affairs.

Related story: How UW Medicine responded to the pandemic

For details about UW Medicine, please visit http://uwmedicine.org/about.


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