Best Practices for Community Relations: Case Study of the Hispanic Wellness Fair

Colley, Kay L.
January 2014
Southwestern Mass Communication Journal;2014, Vol. 29 Issue 1, p1
Academic Journal
Improving image and reputation for educational institutions requires effective community relations, an integral component of marketing and communications. While public relations research has determined the characteristics of effective community relations programs overall, little research exists on community relations efforts at educational institutions, in particular medical schools, focusing on the unique aspects of improving relations with the Hispanic community. This case study analysis of the 2005 American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Best Community Service Program reviews award-winning methods for creating and continuing effective community relations programs that focus on the Hispanic community. A literature review compares other best practices in community relations to this case, and interviews with participants are analyzed to understand the internal workings of the event. A first person, participant observer analysis of the event and an intercept survey administered to participants provided deep analysis of the fair and its marketing efforts. While community relations allows an organization to engender mutual trust with its community, in this instance the Hispanic community, community relations is also focused on improving image and reputation. Improved image and reputation can result in a variety of real outcomes: increased funding, increased donations, and increased visits to institutional medical clinics in this particular case study; therefore, the impact of effective community relations goes beyond perceptual benefits. An almost textbook example of community relations, this case study makes use of the three principles of effective communication that should be emphasized to ensure a successful community relations program. An intercept survey administered when participants were exiting the Fair demonstrated the effectiveness of the blanket approach of community relations in this award-winning campaign. With more than half of the survey participants indicating that they were first time attendees, it is clear that community trust, which is generally built over time, was less important than increased marketing efforts. Because many people seemed to be getting the message from multiple venues, the blanketed marketing approach that the Market Task Force took for the 2005 fair was effective. A concerted effort to include Hispanic media significantly increased the attendance of the fair, and a drive to stay grassroots with a focus on community kept people on the Marketing Task Force from year-to-year. The way this case study unfolded lends credence to textbook instruction on communicating with multicultural markets.



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