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Hospital Branding: The Role of a Media Specialist

Florida Hospital’s Sara Channing has a hectic business schedule, but she wouldn’t trade the experiences and challenges she faces for anything.

By: Christen White

ORLANDO, Fla.- Sara Channing, media relations specialist for Florida Hospital, works with media outlets to brand the hospital with a positive image, but under the surface, a lot more goes on.

Although she says, “There is no such thing as an average day,” Channing has many responsibilities such as: sending press releases to share new procedures or introduces doctors, taking media calls requesting stories, updating Florida Hospital’s own web sites like Twitter and Facebook, and planning major events like the children’s hospital opening.

Channing has a Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus in strategic communications from Elon University, but her internships were what really gave her the experience she needed to be successful in her career.

Knowing she always wanted to go into the healthcare field, Channing took an internship at Florida Hospital to gain experience to put her ahead when looking for a job in this field.

“I learned how to write press releases, how to do a media escort and how to write in the style and thought, ‘this is fabulous, I love this!’” she said.

After landing a job with Florida Hospital, Channing took her experience from her internships and applied it to her new media relations job.

Already equipped with experience in the department, the day-to-day challenges she faces come as no surprise to her.

“Typically, this is an 8 to 5 to job, but the media team is on the frontline of defense for media concerning the hospital, which means your phone can be ringing any time of the day,” Channing said.

Constant communication with your job is challenging to have, but Florida Hospital creates an on-call list so employees can help take phone calls after hours.

“You feel the pressure, ‘oh I need to answer it,’ and ‘I need be as helpful as possible,’ but you also need to step back and realize there is a balance between work and life.”

Another challenge Channing faces working in a healthcare setting is working with patients on a story that she has done and them passing away.

It’s challenging because she gets to know this person and the person’s struggle well and then he or she passes away suddenly.  Luckily, she hasn’t had to deal with too many stories like that. For the most part, the stories are happy, successful stories.

A challenge is what makes a job difficult, but it can also be the most fascinating part of a job as well.

“Learning a new thing every day,” is one aspect of Channing’s job that she finds appealing but that others may find challenging. Every day, she is expected to become an expert on something new.

Since her father is a surgeon, Channing has always loved medicine and in this particular job, she gets to witness surgeries as they take place and view procedures that have never been done before.

One aspect of the job Channing loves is writing. Channing believes that being a strong writer, and also actually loving it, is what makes this job possible. Making medical terminology sound conversational to the average person is a critical skill. Channing believes this is mandatory in order to be a success in this specific field.

For future public relations employees, she suggests to “be proactive and ask for more.  You have to be hungry and want it to stand out from the others.”

Also, having a portfolio from past classes or internships is very important to bring to an interview because it shows that you can complete the work asked of you.

“It takes time to teach, so if you can tell that someone wants to learn, that boss may take the time to teach you, and it’s just to your benefit,” she said.

Audio: Sara Channing Interview

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