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Optometry Australia is driving mainstream media opportunities to raise awareness among the public about optometry, the role of optometrists, and vision and community eye health issues.

It expects this will ultimately lead to changes in the public’s eye-care behaviour.

The organisation has partnered with leading corporate affairs agency Royce to develop a new national communications strategy aimed at increasing metropolitan, regional and rural media coverage to motivate optometry consultation.

National brand manager Kerry I’Anson said the organisation was increasingly concentrating its efforts on raising the profile and reputation of the optometry profession within the community.

‘Our plan is to create and place opinion-forming and behaviour-changing content in carefully-targeted media and stakeholder channels,’ Ms I’Anson said.

We promoted community Eye Health Heroes as part of World Sight Day, securing radio interviews about exceptional optometrists and their work with communities.

‘A media launch at Parliament House in June unveiling our new action plan for improving primary eye health and vision care, which involved vision screening for several Members of Parliament, resulted in good mainstream media coverage,’ Ms I’Anson said.

A key part of Optometry Australia’s communications strategy is direct media relations aimed at generating national editorial across three priority areas, she said.

‘Our three priorities are our public policy leadership and advocacy program, our early detection and prevention program, and our consumer education program.

‘In pursuing each priority area, Optometry Australia is seeking to establish a clear position of authority, recognition and respect among its targeted communities as the influential voice for optometry in Australia,’ she said.

Optometry Australia has also partnered with specialist consumer public relations agency Green Light PR to generate publicity relating to children’s eye health.

‘We placed a focus on the issue of “screen time versus green time” during the school holidays that resulted in prime time television coverage on the Nine Network’s Today program, and extensive national radio coverage about the best practice for children’s eye health.’

Rural reach

Optometry Australia is targeting rural and regional media outlets to lift the profile of the profession among the residents in selected towns and regional centres.

‘We are targeting specific regional areas to garner behavioural results in which optometrist visitation is particularly low,’ Ms I’Anson said.

Media releases are being prepared for a range of regional centres, including Broken Hill in far-west New South Wales, Goulburn Valley which is part of the Hume region in the Murray-Darling Basin, Darwin and surrounding areas, Goldfields-Midwest in Western Australia, Riverland region in South Australia, and Lower Murray and Mildura in Victoria.

Research conducted by Optometry Australia has shown that visits to optometrists in these areas are below the national per-person average for eye-care visits.

‘Through local mainstream media, Optometry Australia is warning residents in these regional areas not to neglect their eye health as research shows low optometrist visitation in the area compared to the national average,’ Ms I’Anson said.

‘For instance, the organisation has found that 8,000 people in Broken Hill and surrounding areas visited an optometrist in 2013, which is 35 per cent below the national per-person average for eye-care visits.’

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