Media Pitching in a Pandemic: A Healthe Case Study

By Sean McCabe

When COVID-19 hit full force last March, public relations executives didn’t know what the new media landscape was going to hold for their clients, even for clients with products and solutions designed to address the pandemic. Last April, Pinkston was retained by a Florida-based company looking to promote its new indoor surface and air sanitization products. So far, this media relations campaign has been a huge success, and could serve as a case study of the key components necessary for organizations to get their message across in a competitive, quickly evolving environment.

Healthe, Inc. is the leader in sanitization, circadian and biological lighting solutions. Pinkston's job was to increase awareness and understanding of Healthe's innovative UVC and 222 nm Far-UVC light sanitization solutions, which give businesses a fast and efficient way to safely re-opening. These products include a walkthrough Far-UVC portal (Healthe ENTRY), which sanitizes the surfaces of clothing and personal belongings, Far-UVC ceiling-mounted air & surface sanitization lights (Healthe SPACE ) and an air sanitizing troffer (Healthe AIR). Additionally, Healthe has announced the availability of the Healthe WAND Pro, the first commercial-grade sanitization wand that uses Far-UVC 222 light. Healthe has licensed Boeing technology to create WAND Pro.

The first ingredient that brought success out of the gate were customer testimonials. Through Healthe customers, we were able to successfully leverage a number of high-profile product installations to obtain national media coverage. One such installation was at the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York City, which garnered a segment on Good Morning America. Another involved Washington Capitals star Lars Eller donating a Healthe solution to Central Union Mission, the oldest private social service agency in Washington, D.C., which received coverage in The Washington Post. The first question reporters ask about new products is "who is using this?" — so companies should always have a good answer ready.

The second key ingredient of this campaign has been successfully leveraging regional broadcast and print media. One of the things I always tell new clients is to never underestimate the power of local media. For starters, it's a a perfect opportunity for spokespeople who are new to press interviews to gain experience. It also helps build an online footprint for potential customers and reporters researching the company, and sometimes drives business sales. We've seen an increase in local broadcast opportunities during COVID-19, because stations no longer require a guest to be located in a particular market. This shift has allowed Healthe spokespeople to contribute their thoughts in numerous media markets across the country — here is an example of coverage Pinkston secured for Healthe on KTLA in Los Angeles.

A third component that helped us bring Healthe success was the availability of independent, peer-reviewed research that spoke to the safety and efficacy of Far-UVC light technology. With any emerging, public-facing product , it is important to have research and experts who can validate the technology and bolster public trust.

In the case of Healthe, one of the world’s leading Far-UVC researchers, Dr. David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University, led research showing that Far-UVC is both safe for indoor environments and effective at inactivating viral particles in the air and on surfaces.

In the five months between April and August 2020, Pinkston generated more than 70 stories in a wide range of outlets — from local broadcast affiliates and trade publications to national broadcast and cable news and print outlets. The total ad value equivalency of that coverage exceeded $6.1 million. This success was a direct result of customer testimonials, an increase in regional media opportunities and third-party validation. These are important components for any successful earned media effort at any time, but they proved even more invaluable during a fierce, COVID-dominated news cycle.

Sean McCabe is a partner and lead media strategist for Pinkston. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns and leads the company’s health care PR practice. Over the course of nearly 20 years in public relations, Sean has developed and implemented more than 100 media campaigns for corporations, nonprofits and political organizations.