MAN USES HIS OWN BRAINWAVES TO RETRAIN HIS PARALYZED HAND
In 2016, Dr. Ali Rezai from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC) submitted the first round of results from his Neural Bridging technology trial to the medical journal Nature. MediaSource and OSUWMC had successfully worked together previously to promote Dr. Rezai’s initial work when he launched the trial in 2014. But the 2016 publication in Nature signified the first major scientific landmark for the project, and showcased the range of new motions able to be performed by patient Ian Burkhart, a paralyzed man injured in a swimming accident.
The hospital wanted to amplify the earned media results of the trial beyond what was accomplished in 2014, and also focus on spreading the story through social media, attracting more potential study participants and establishing OSUWMC as a center of medical innovation. They partnered with MediaSource for a multimedia campaign that featured this medical breakthrough.
The story’s key audience was a general health consumer audience, with a special focus on those interested in medical breakthroughs and scientific research. In order to reach that audience, the team targeted both traditional and social media channels that focused on consumer health news, with a niche focus on science and innovation outlets.
Since the prior 2014 story about Ian had so much success, it was important for the MediaSource and OSUWMC teams to find a new way to tell Ian’s story without it seeming like a dated story to news outlets and consumers. MediaSource determined that the best way to explain Ian’s progress was to show it using multimedia (photos, videos). This tactic would be useful while pitching the media, but also post-embargo on the hospital’s owned media sites.
The media relations team’s strategy was to to release the Neural Bridging story in conjunction with the embargo of the research publication in Nature; therefore MediaSource was made aware of the embargo date in advance. The team coordinated exclusive access to the story with key national journalists so they had the opportunity to plan their coverage pre-embargo. Access included a national crew from CBS This Morning, who travelled to Columbus to cover the story, plus New York Times, BBC, NBC, AP, PBS and HealthDay.
The PR team focused on the simultaneous execution of traditional media outreach, social media buzz and internal hospital-owned communication platforms. They created journalism-style multimedia content in the form of videos, high-quality photos and text articles that could be utilized by the news media and hospital staff. Content was made available on a multimedia newsroom and was easily downloadable. The media relations team also booked interviews with the doctors and patient via phone for outlets who could not travel to OSUWMC.
This project exceeded the hospital’s goals – earning coverage with ABC World News Now, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, PBS Newshour, CNN, TIME Magazine, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discover Magazine, Reuters, US News & World Report, NPR and more. Through earned media coverage, the public relations campaign has a reach of more than 5 billion people, with an advertising value at almost $13 million.
The social audience for the story totaled more than 175 million people thanks to posts from The New York Times, Disability.gov and Ohio Senator Rob Portman.
The number of hits to OSUWMC’s referral page (which showcased how to become part of the Neural Bridging trial) doubled the day after the story’s release. The hospital also received 30+ phone calls within a 24-hour period from people who wanted to become involved in the trial.
This campaign, along with others through our partnership, resulted in OSUWMC reaching an audience of 14.4 billion in its latest fiscal year, an unprecedented increase of 129% compared to the year before. As a result, in the 2016 rankings of “America’s Best Hospitals” by US News & World Report, OSUWMC was recognized as a national leader in eight different medical specialties and named central Ohio’s No. 1 hospital.