Baystate Health In The News

Journalists around the world who began reporting in January on a mysterious virus coming out of China had no idea that they would be covering a once-in-a-century pandemic that would dominate the national and local news for months to come.

The first media request to speak with a Baystate doctor about COVID-19 came early in the pandemic (before it was officially deemed a pandemic) on January 22.

That call was just the first of an onslaught of media inquiries that followed in the weeks and months ahead looking for the expertise of our leaders and medical staff to explain all aspects of the novel coronavirus for their audiences. And when the year was over, as the coronavirus was surging again, the Public Affairs office had placed over 13,000 stories not just in the local media, but throughout the region, state, and in many national outlets for a total value of earned media exceeding an astounding $14 million.

It was just 11 days before Gov. Charlie Baker would declare a lockdown in Massachusetts on March 24, that Dr. Mark A. Keroack, president and CEO of Baystate Health, and Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive and chief academic officer, Baystate Health, were welcomed at an Editorial Board meeting at The Republican to discuss the seriousness of what the state and country were about to experience and how it would affect the local area. The meeting prompted a front-page story in The Republican and on MassLive resulting in the most extensive coverage of COVID-19 at the time and set the tone for what was about to come.

Capitalizing on their position as thought leaders in western Massachusetts and beyond, combined with the fact that Dr. Keroack and Dr. Artenstein both had extensive knowledge to offer as physicians trained in the specialty of Infectious Diseases, the Public Affairs office focused on those attributes when pitching stories to the media. These efforts resulted in over 210 media placements with Dr. Keroack and 87 with Dr. Artenstein. Extensively pursued by local, regional, and statewide media for interviews, they were also in demand by national media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, Associated Press, Bloomberg International, U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times, Washington Times, The L.A. Times, The Huffington Post, and Becker’s Hospital Review.

One of the key highlights of our national media coverage centered around Dr. Artenstein’s “In Pursuit of PPE” article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The story attracted the attention of national media that resulted in over 25 pieces of coverage and over 50 placements in local and regional news outlets, including a front-page story in the New York Times Magazine.

Recorded March 2020.

Communication is key in a pandemic. Dr. Keroack in March began to create ongoing videos and blog posts to keep the staff and community informed. One of the first videos, a roundtable discussion with two other infectious disease specialists, was also shared with the media for the public to learn from.

Photo by DOn Treeger / The Republican

In addition, Dr. Keroack was invited to present at Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s weekly COVID Response Press Conference, where he also answered questions from the media generating further stories on television, radio and in the newspaper.

But it wasn’t just with the media – including those covering all four Baystate hospitals – where all of the action occurred. Social media, along with the Baystate Health website, was utilized to further promote news and other stories surrounding the pandemic and the exceptional work clinical and support staff were doing to combat the virus – resulting in 200,000 page views.

Once again, the numbers tell the story. Baystate increased its social media engagement that included a 25% increase in Facebook followers for a total of over 22,000; a 596% increase in video views for a total of over 1.1 million views; 123% increase in Instagram followers for a total of over 4,000; 21% increase in LinkedIn for a total of over 18,000 followers. Also, engagement scores in each social media platform increased between 125% and nearly 400% in all social media channels which were expanded to include Waz, SnapChat, Pinterest, Instagram, and Enhanced Facebook ads.

Looking back at an extraordinary year that will go down in the history books, the Public Affairs office, at the expense of the horrific virus, was able to highlight in the media the talents and expertise of its many specialty providers unlike ever before – including infectious disease specialists, pediatricians, cardiologists, respiratory specialists, oncologists, and so many others.

covid 19 virus animation