It was an incredibly busy pollen season for Atlanta Allergy & Asthma – both in terms of serving patients but also in terms of the practice’s presence in the media, highlighting its expertise as a leader in its space.
Perhaps no day demonstrated that better than April 9, when the pollen count hit 6,152 – the fifth-highest count on record since Atlanta Allergy began compiling them in 1991.
Fortuitously, WSB-TV meteorologist Katie Walls had reached out to Lenz nine days in advance of April 9 for an occasional science segment that she reports. She had expressed initial interest in doing such a segment at a previous visit to Atlanta Allergy’s East Cobb office in March for a story on the start of pollen season.
Walls and her cameraman met us at Atlanta Allergy’s Kennestone office at 5:10 a.m. The Atlanta Allergy pollen collectors showed how they perform the count and gave WSB great visual images of the pollen spores under the microscope, which the Atlanta Allergy team projected on a computer screen.
After several hours of reporting – and waiting for the count to be finalized while imbibing copious amounts of coffee – the team moved to Atlanta Allergy’s Northlake location to interview Dr. Lily Hwang. In setting up the piece, Walls had expressed her strong desire to speak to an allergy sufferer.
Lenz set her up with one of Hwang’s patients, 10-year-old Samantha Manasso, who also happens to be the daughter of Lenz media relations manager John Manasso.
The piece aired in the 5 p.m. hour that day. Atlanta Allergy ended up getting three separate media hits from it, as it also aired during the 11 p.m. hour and again early the following morning.
Previously, in March, the pollen count also kept Lenz and Atlanta Allergy on their collective toes. After several weeks of closely monitoring the pollen counts through the late winter months, the public relations staff arrived early on Monday, March 16, expecting to send our first alert of the spring to local media.
The pollen count reached 188 that morning – in the “high” range, as deemed by the National Allergy Bureau (NAB). It marked the seventh day of the month that the count was in the high range.
The Lenz team put previous weeks of planning – updated media lists and sample language for a media alert – to work and quickly sent out our email to the media. We received our first nibble that day, as WSB Radio’s Sabrina Gibbons requested an interview with AA&A’s Dr. Stanley Fineman, a past president of the prestigious American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
The next day, we entered the office to see in our inbox that pollen count had essentially maintained itself at 187 and that the website of local television station CBS46 had requested permission to embed the AA&A website into its own for purposes of showing the pollen count. It’s important to note that AA&A is the only local provider of the pollen count as certified by the NAB.
Granting permission expanded Atlanta Allergy’s reach to more prospective patients. Web users can simply click on the link to make appointments directly with AA&A.
On Wednesday, the pollen count exploded. It soared to 1,793 into NAB’s “extreme” range, prompting Rachel Cushing wisely to decide we should send out another media alert. Using the language from Lenz’s email alert, AJC.com quoted John Manasso in Mike Morris’ 197-word story. A shorter version appeared in print.
The Gwinnett Daily Post called and we set them up with Dr. Judy Nam, who practices out of the county’s Hamilton Mill and Snellville’s offices.
The biggest news of the day came at 1:29 p.m. when we received an email from Carol Sbarge at WSB TV. She was hoping to set up an interview at one of Atlanta Allergy’s offices the next day for another reporter. After sorting out some schedules, we alighted upon a 10:30 a.m. interview at Dr. Fineman’s East Cobb office.
Before the day had ended, we received a call from Atlanta Allergy, informing us that 11Alive’s Keith Whitney had called one of the practice’s offices directly, based on a previous story he had done with one of the doctors there. He stopped by the Sandy Springs office and interviewed Dr. Kevin Schaffer.
On a rainy Thursday morning, we met WSB meteorologist Katie Walls at Dr. Fineman’s office on Johnson Ferry Road. She is an allergy sufferer herself and had a great deal of personal interest in the subject. She interviewed Dr. Fineman for what ended up being two stories, one that aired in the 4 p.m. hour and another in the 6 p.m. hour. She got a kick out at some plush toys hanging around the office that were in the form of dust mites.
Her cameraman shot footage of a sign in the office that indicated the extreme pollen count one day earlier and of a nurse preparing an injection for allergy therapy. He also shot footage of the numerous patients in the waiting room (taking care not to shoot anyone’s face without their permission; later, he asked for and received permission to shoot footage of a patient consulting with Dr. Fineman in his office).
Later, we supplied Katie with some historical pollen counts to provide her story with some context. This was the final product.
The week would not have been complete without one more hit. On Thursday afternoon, Mark Woolsey of the Georgia News Network (radio) called. He interviewed Dr. Fineman late on Thursdayfor a segment that aired on Friday.
By Thursday, the weather turned cool and rainy, dampening the pollen counts. But now allergy sufferers are now “primed” for April, when the pollen could hit its full bloom.
When it does, the media will know were to find Atlanta Allergy and Lenz.