Mental Health Communications: How Brands Can Cultivate & Lead Important Conversations

By Kristin Villiotte, Vice President, Healthcare, SHIFT Communications 

Read our full Mental Health Communications blog series here.

How do you build dialogue around a traditionally stigmatized area of health while creating trust in a brand? Many brands working in the mental health space face this immense challenge. From a PR perspective, it requires care, consideration and a thoughtful approach.

SHIFT leads the communications program for The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The web-based resource educates parents and other caregivers about the psychological development and emotional wellbeing of children, adolescents, and young adults who struggle with behavioral, emotional, and/or learning challenges. Over the past two years, we’ve helped increase awareness of and trust in The Clay Center. We’ve done so while also building a much-needed national dialogue around mental health through a thoughtful, research-backed earned media strategy.

We are often charged with talking about difficult topics like school shootings and teen suicide rates. How do we provide key resources to parents (discussion tips, things to watch for in your teens, etc.) without appearing as ambulance chasers? How do we build trust in The Clay Center without coming off as self-promotional? By building strong relationships with journalists, leading to coverage that ultimately helps parents and readers — delivering on our program goals.

The media relations program centers around a thought leadership platform. It allows The Clay Center clinicians to share their expertise in the mental health field by speaking about clinically significant topics and trends. Leveraging industry trends, awareness days and seasonal moments as key points of interest for media, The Clay Center’s experts have had conversations with reporters at dozens of leading media outlets including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and more. Topics range from “How to talk to your kids about COVID” to “Coping with back-to-school anxiety” and “Preventing suicide.”

Engaging in culturally-relevant discussions such as these have highlighted The Clay Center as a trustworthy resource for parents. Perhaps more importantly, the media attention has helped elevate the national discourse around mental health challenges for children and decrease the stigma of discussing mental health.

If you are working in this area and want to discuss how we can help your health tech brand shape and communicate a compelling and credible story, please check out our work and get in touch.

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