Rachel Bowen
Rachel Bowen

Ira Glass, host and producer of the series “This American Life,” once said: “Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” This a reality that the National Society of Genetic Counselors enjoys thanks to its extraordinarily engaged membership and the stories its members are telling about their growing profession.

Utilizing top-to-bottom support from its members, NSGC has become a constantly sought-after expert source for national media and has seen continued success in tackling its priority issues. Although, this was not always the case for the association.

In 2010, NSGC turned to our agency, Public Communications Inc., to support its efforts in advancing the genetic counseling profession. At that time, the Society had low consumer awareness, no social media presence and great potential to position itself as a leading voice in the personalized healthcare conversation.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '21 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Among the most important goals for NSGC over the years have been to educate the public about genetic counseling to generate further diversity in its workforce, make consumers familiar with genetic counseling services and build a stronger awareness among political decision-makers to bolster advocacy efforts. Through robust integrated communications strategies and storytelling, our teams have worked side-by-side for more than a decade to address these areas.

Today in the U.S., the genetic counseling profession comprises more than 5,000 masters-level professionals, a total that has more than doubled since 2010. That number—along with salaries, diversity and autonomy—is expected to continue a similar consistent growth in the next 10 years as additional training programs become accredited and awareness of the profession rises.

This is not only thanks to the thriving genetics industry, but also to the increased clarity that PCI has provided for consumers on the important role that genetic counselors play in our healthcare today.

When working with healthcare associations, the utilization of their members has continued to be one of PCI’s most powerful tools for successfully attracting and being prepared for media attention, and amplifying awareness and online presence. While all association clients are different, there are common strategies applied by PCI that have proven fruitful time and time again.

Fostering media-expert relationships

PCI’s healthcare sector constantly monitors news outlets and social media to stay on top of the of the latest healthcare trends and news. This allows us to identify opportunities for our clients to be thought leaders and join timely conversations by adding their unique perspectives. When these opportunities come about, PCI works closely with clients to follow up with reporters and offer experts within the organization to weigh in.

NSGC and its members have become key go-to sources for reporters when they’re writing or in search of content about genetic counseling, genetics and related topics. PCI has helped establish this status through years of building media relationships by coordinating inbound requests, frequently pitching story ideas and maintaining daily contact with key journalists and influencers.

NSGC is always well-equipped to handle media opportunities due to its reputable Expert Media Panel, a group of genetic counselors who each play a special role with their unique expertise in the field. PCI has worked with NSGC to enlist these members and continuously prepare them to be effective voices for the Society through media training sessions so they can convey the organization’s most important messages during any given interview. We’re proud to hear from media contacts how impressed they are with NSGC’s experts and that they’re eager to work with them again.

Social media authenticity

Building an effective social media presence for professional associations requires a full understanding of its membership and key consumer audiences. PCI helps generate successful content for these organizations through continuously engaging with current and potential members, building awareness of the association’s brand and generating website traffic. As important as knowing who the content will speak to is the quality and tone of the content itself. Authenticity should always be a target when it comes to social media presence and it’s one that can be hit by activating members to convey that message on behalf of the organization.

Each year, PCI has recruited and given the tools to NSGC members to share their stories through hashtags and Twitter chats on observances like Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, Black History Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Addressing the need for more diversity in the profession, NSGC’s “I am a Genetic Counselor” social media series gives a visual representation and voice to genetic counselors from different backgrounds and career settings. In this series, members have recorded videos and shared photos of themselves expressing why they love being a genetic counselor and the daily impact they make in the lives of their patients.

Hearing these stories can make a life-altering difference to someone who’s just learned that a family member has a genetic condition, a person who is or plans to be pregnant, or an aspiring healthcare professional deciding on a specialty to pursue. These personal narratives bring a new dimension to how viewers relate to genetic counselors and open to door to continued future interactions with NSGC and the profession.

Owned media storytelling

With total and cost-effective control of messaging and how it’s delivered, owned media channels continue to be one of the most efficient ways for associations to engage members and reach consumers. PCI approaches these opportunities by closely working with clients to publish compelling stories through these channels that are deliberate pieces of the organization’s overall strategy.

Hosted on its website, NSGC’s owned media channels include a consumer-facing blog, podcast and member-facing articles that have become valuable homes for meaningful content that consumers and genetic counselors can access to learn more about niche topics put together by knowledgeable experts. PCI has set up NSGC to collaborate with its membership on this content by tapping its Expert Media Panel, patients and leaders in the Society and has helped build these communications into the core strategy of NSGC’s messaging.

It’s important for associations to be versatile communicators among the constantly changing healthcare landscape by using an integrated communications strategy to ensure a unified message. These strategies are what set the stage for successful storytelling and are truly the keys to open dialogue with members and consumers.


Rachel Bowen is Senior Account Supervisor at Public Communications Inc.