UW Medicine wins national award for crisis communications

Media, internal communications team shines a steady light on COVID-19 issues to obtain wide coverage locally and nationally.

UW Medicine’s media relations team last week earned top national honors for their proactive responses to journalists as well as for internal communications to employees during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 Crisis Communications Awards, bestowed annually by Ragan Communications, recognizes outstanding work in media and internal communications campaigns. The media and internal communications team worked with experts and leaders across the system in response to COVID-19 and delivered messages to underserved communities about testing and vaccination.

Ever since a UW Medicine laboratory identified a community-transmitted case of COVID-19 in the United States in early 2020, the Seattle-based academic health system has been a focal point for COVID-19 news. From December 2020 through November 2021, UW Medicine produced 104 press releases or blog posts and 57 videos. UW Medicine experts were mentioned in 13,757 articles in news outlets. The media team also created videos about our COVID-19 response which were used in many media stories.

Throughout this same period, UW Medicine distributed daily internal messages to keep its workforce of more than 30,000 people informed about COVID-19. Health and well-being messages took an informal and often personal approach to helping people soldier on through the pandemic.

The media team’s work with media outlets to feature faculty and staff led to UW Medicine becoming a thought leader for all things relating to the disease. Faculty members and clinicians publishing 14 op-eds in a variety of media outlets on COVID-19.

A media outreach campaign focused on communities of color and other vulnerable populations, such as non-English speaking people and homeless populations. Designed to encourage and deliver testing and vaccinations when they became available, this campaign included a partnership with the Seattle Mariners. It was picked up locally, in both mainstream and specialty media, and included several messages in Spanish.

Media coverage included mentions in The Seattle Times, Seattle broadcast media and national media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN. On Twitter, the UW Medicine Newsroom gained 1,525 followers, a 40% increase over the previous year, for a total of 5,423 followers. Its top Twitter post, “No vaccine is 100% effective,” received 145,000 impressions.

“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 cement UW Medicine’s national reputation for excellence,” said Tina Mankowski, senior director and associate vice president, medical affairs.

This is the second time in as many years that the UW Medicine Media relations team has been honored nationally for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the team placed first in the PR Daily Awards for crisis communications.

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


UW Medicine