In 2016, the South Florida community was shaken with the outbreak of the Zika Virus. At the forefront of the battle then, and today, is the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami Dade (HSCMD). HSCMD is a nonprofit community-based organization, designated by the State of Florida’s Department of Health to serve as Miami-Dade County’s prenatal and infant care coalition. In 2016, there were 262 local transmissions in Florida and more than 1,000 travel-related cases.
The Miami PR firm, Conroy Martinez Group, agency of record for HSCMD, developed a multi-pronged campaign to spread the word about Zika awareness and promote Healthy Start’s services to pregnant women and their families in the community. This included an integrated campaign of traditional media relations, social media, marketing and grassroots efforts as well as coordinating messaging with the medical community and multiple government agencies such as the Florida Department of Health and the CDC. The goal of the campaign, as is Healthy Start’s mission, is to ensure that all children in Miami-Dade County get a healthy start in life. It also highlighted the fact that the fight against Zika is a community-wide responsibility.
Through the Healthy Start Program, the organization provides universal risk screening to all of Miami-Dade County’s pregnant women and infants to identify those at risk for poor birth, health and developmental outcomes. Zika is the most high-profile risk the community is facing today. Part of the outreach, was to make sure that women, all over the county were receiving the education and resources they need to protect themselves against this terrible virus. The screening of all pregnant women is done through a collaborative partnership of more than 300 private and public doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. Healthy Start also has a strong working relationship with the local county health department, which oversees the clinical testing for the Zika virus.
The agency aggressively positioned HSCMD CEO, Manuel Fermin as a leading expert on Zika and the care of pregnant women, to local news and was featured on all the local television stations – in English and Spanish – including NBC 6, Telemundo 51, CBS 4, Univision 23, FOX 7, ABC 10, America Teve 41. He also was featured in The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and WIOD News Radio. Throughout the course of the summer, Fermin was a first choice for many local news crews to provide insight and updated information on the Zika situation in the county. Most notably, however, we secured an interview and subsequent story with the Associated Press. It was picked up by more than 200 news sites, including U.S. News & World Report and ABC News. The media relations campaign totaled more than 3,000,000 impressions.
Additionally, we recommended, as part of the strategy, that Fermin participate in a Facebook Live chat, which we did in partnership with NBC 6 and garnered more than 10,000 views.
We recommended that HSCMD open its “Zika Virus Information Sessions” to the press, which were publicized through local calendar listings, social media and targeted outreach to reporters. More than 200 professionals working with pregnant women and families attended these sessions. Eleven maternal, infant and child health professionals also were trained to offer Zika Virus Information Sessions to community members due to the popularity of the sessions. With the agency’s help, Zika Virus Information Toolkits were developed and provided to educators within the Healthy Start system. Zika virus information toolkits contained: mosquito bed net and stroller net, summit mosquito dunks, assorted condoms (since infected men transmit the virus through semen), insect repellents to demonstrate EPA-approved ingredients, and assorted educational handouts. These kits were part of the core discussion during TV appearances and always shown as reference. Also being promoted through our media relations and through our social media efforts was the accessibility of the free testing clinics. More than 1,400 women received on-site Healthy Start services through the two local clinics offering services.