Days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Touro Infirmary was vacant.
Its nearly 240 patients were evacuated, and its approximately 1,600 staff members were scattered - in most cases without record of how they could be contacted.
"Employees didn't know how they were going to get their paychecks; patients didn't have their medicine or their medical records," says Linda Rosanio, CEO at Star/Rosen Group. "The anxiety level was high."
And with phone lines down and cell phones unreliable, there was little that Touro Infirmary could do to help.
The hospital's CEO, Les Hirsch, hired Star/Rosen Group to establish a communications system that would reunite and rebuild the Touro community.
"We needed a vehicle for communications that would let employees, medical staff, patients, and their families know what our circumstances were," says Hirsch.
Not only did Touro Infirmary want to quell its patients' and employees' fears and answer their questions, the hospital also needed to recreate a sense of unity so it could remain a stable force in New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm.
Star/Rosen Group created a website, www.TouroHurricaneInfo.com, which served as a network for communication, a source of news, and a tool for the community to exchange up-to-date information.
"It was a lifeline to the people," says Rosanio. "It was our way to get people to register their names and tell us where they were."
In addition, the company developed a call center that patients and their families could contact for information about their physicians, prescriptions, and other vital needs. The call center also served as an answering service for Touro Infirmary's physicians and their practices. Both the website and the call center were hosted by Star/ Rosen's offices and run by the agency's personnel.
To make people aware of the services, Star/Rosen issued press releases, placed print ads, and bought radio airtime - all media that encouraged audiences to visit the Touro website for information and updates - in places that the evacuees were taken to, including Houston, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
Hirsch and Touro Infirmary were featured in hundreds of regional, national, and international broadcast and print news media stories, with approximately 30,000,000 impressions.
More than 1,000 Touro Infirmary employees registered on the site (and 235 of them received much-needed paychecks as a result), along with 296 physicians. Overall, the site received more than 25,000 visits per month. In addition, Star/ Rosen Group responded to more than 20,000 patient and physician phone calls.
Less than two months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Touro Infirmary was reopened, with more than 200 of its original physicians reaffiliated with the hospital. The facility is now treating 100 patients and has 800 full-time and part-time employees.
Recently, the hospital delivered the first baby born in New Orleans since the storm hit.
Now, says Hirsch, "We have to continue to let the marketplace know that we're open. We've started an advertising and media campaign to get the message out that we're here to help the city rebuild."
In addition, Touro Infirmary is trying to bolster its staff, which is now about half its original size. "Some people are just gone, and it looks like they're not coming back," says Hirsch. And some, says Rosanio, "just can't come back to the market because their kids are now registered in other schools." The hospital has enlisted Star/Rosen Group to
help recruit nurses, doctors, and others to fill its many open positions. The company will continue to run ads, secure print and radio spots, and use the website to recruit.
PR team: Touro Infirmary (New Orleans, LA) and Star/Rosen Group (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Campaign: Eye of the Storm
Time frame: September 2005 to present (ongoing)