Hospital PR Departments Can Help Fill the Registry
The best way for University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation (UW OTD) to increase the number of organ and tissue donors in the state registry is to spread the word. This is most easily accomplished when hospital donation committee members and public relations (PR) professionals work together.
Trey Schwab, UW OTD's outreach coordinator, and Kathy Schultz, senior marketing consultant for UW Health, have been visiting many of the hospitals in UW OTD's service area to meet with donation staff and PR team members. The goal is to make sure the two groups know how they can work together to promote organ donation.
"There are trained donation experts in these hospitals that are doing important work to improve both donation rates and service to donors and donor families," says Kathy. "By linking these people with their hospital's PR team and our resources, we can tap into that local talent and expand the mission message in their hospital and community."
Wisconsin's new online donor registry system was launched in March 2010. As of December 2013, 2.59 million people were registered to be donors, which is 190,000 more than the 2.4 million people who were registered under the old system.
"We have been working hard to get all the people who previously had donor dots on their driver's licenses registered under the new system," says Trey. "However, we know there are still many people out there who have a donor dot but are not legally registered as a donor. There is an eight-year renewal cycle for driver's licenses, and many of the people who renewed their licenses between March 2006 and March 2010, before the online registry opened, are not registered." Currently, only 56.8 percent of the state's total licensed drivers are registered donors — a gap that advocates are working to close.
That said, the number of people who were registered when they became donors is rising. In 2013, 43 out of 100 donors were registered online, compared to only 20 out of 93 in 2012. UW OTD has developed an online tool kit that local PR departments can use when promoting organ donation in their communities.
The kit includes:
- Examples of successful donation promotion campaigns
- A media list
- Links to helpful websites
- Donation education information
- Artwork, images and logos
While community outreach programs are important, staff members at UW OTD have found that the single greatest promotion tool is an e-mail from the hospital chief executive officer.
"Some PR departments do not have much time to dedicate to organ, tissue and eye donation promotion," says Trey. "However, they can still ask their CEO to send an e-mail to all staff with a link to the Donate Life Wisconsin/Donor Registry. The CEO can ask employees to take five minutes to click on the link and register. It is a very powerful promotional tool."