Michael QuerozMichael Queroz

With as many as 15 new genetic tests coming on the market each day, and more than 26 million people purchasing an at-home genetic test, public interest in personalized medicine and genetic testing has never been stronger. But if you purchase and take a test—or if your doctor orders one—where do you turn if you get confusing or concerning results?

It’s a question addressed frequently by the National Society of Genetic Counselors and its members who receive increasing inquiries as public interest in genetics grows. Our agency, Public Communications Inc., works with NSGC to build existing and create new connections between the public and genetic counselors. What began as a public relations campaign targeting only media has evolved into an integrated communications program that includes digital strategies that connect the professionals with one another and with the public. The program also includes generating interest in the profession of genetic counseling.

O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.

The public is getting the message about the profession’s critical role in health and wellness. In 2019, genetic counseling was again named a top job by CareerCast. High-profile media continue to reach out to our communications team for expert interviews. Even NSGC’s social media reach, which PCI manages, is growing at rates that surpass industry averages.

Certainly, the growth of the genetics industry accounts for some of this, but a strategic integrated communications campaign highlights and clarifies for consumers the highly-specialized skills and training of genetic counselors, and creates a path to their services. Often primary care providers, oncologists and other medical experts fill the genetic counselor’s role, but without the specialized training in genetics and counseling. As healthcare communicators, PCI’s team successfully positions genetic counselors as the go-to experts by staying in tune with trends in the changing healthcare landscape while knowing when to use traditional PR strategies to achieve a goal.

Media relations still does the job

Six years ago, when Angelina Jolie announced her personal decision to have a double mastectomy in order to lower her high risk of developing breast cancer because of a common gene mutation, PCI acted quickly to secure NSGC as a part of the story. Before this, many people were unaware of the important role genetics counselors have in helping people understand what their genetics can mean to their health. Having the key messages, trained spokespersons and media contacts already in place, meant the team could activate quickly. Media included the insightful genetic counselor’s voice in stories and the public benefited from that knowledge.

The fast-action strategy resulted in placements in several national media, including a cover story in Time. Today, some of the most influential healthcare media still talks about the “Angelina Jolie effect,” and reporters better understand and rely on NSGC and its members for expertise in cancer risk and treatments.

Straightforward media relations work continues to prove beneficial for this consumer-focused healthcare client who want to communicate their value. Genetic counselors can benefit a large audience of consumers who make healthcare decisions. To maximize reach, PCI uses public data on family healthcare decision makers and NSGC’s digital analytics to home in on a target audience of women in specific age ranges. Two successful New York City media tours and other media campaigns targeted outlets reaching those audiences with measurable results for NSGC.

Beat Doctor Google

Communicating the value of genetic counselors and their work is continually infused in NSGC’s owned and shared digital channels. With 80 percent of Internet users searching online for healthcare information, it is important that genetic counselors and their expertise are easy for the public to find and to understand. NSGC’s owned channels include a content-rich consumer website, blogs and podcasts. Content ideas for the blog and podcast are identified through Google data or common member anecdotes and use SEO best practices to improve the website’s search ranking. Both lend credibility to the genetic counseling experts and humanize them through easy-to-understand blogs about complicated genetics information from a friendly voice.

NSGC’s social media channels are a powerful tool to reach the public and activate the Society’s members to share content with their online audiences. This strategy also extends the shelf life of media placements by sharing the third-party endorsements of the profession on social media.

The healthcare landscape is competitive and constantly changing. Communication is the critical connector for healthcare specialists that need to reach diverse audiences with information that’s understandable and relevant.


Michael Queroz is Digital Director at Public Communications Inc.