PR Fish Bowl

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Five Tips For Media Relations Success In Healthcare PR

health-care8When it comes to medical and healthcare PR, standard best practices apply, but there are some industry-specific guidelines to follow to ensure successful outcomes. We recently attended a “Meet the Media” event hosted by the Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society of Greater New York, which included a panel of health care reporters and editors offering insights on how they choose stories, criteria for newsworthiness, and how PR people should work with them. Here is what we learned.

Patients, Patients, Patients. Health and medical reporters unanimously agree that pitches offering a patient and doctor together give stories the “real world” connection needed for readers and viewers. Sometimes the science or medical explanation behind a new device or treatment is very technical, and a real  person’s testimonial makes it palatable. Plus, in the eyes of a reporter the story is still hypothetical until it has that human connection. Patients are the key.

Tip off digital writers to news from their own organization. At large national broadcast organizations, it’s impossible for online journalists to know about all the segments that run nationwide. So, after your healthcare segment about a new smoking cessation treatment runs on a national broadcast, send the story to online writers in the same organization. They might appreciate knowing what’s out there, as well as having a ready-made script for their own web story.

One beat, many reporters. Depending on size, news organizations might have several reporters on one beat. PR pros might wonder whether to pitch all of them, or take it one at a time. The panel was all over the place on this one. Some journalists say they don’t mind when pitches are sent to everyone on the healthcare team, while others warn us to mention their colleagues are also getting the pitch. Still others say they’d rather be pitched exclusively. When figuring the approach on this, consider timing; can you afford to wait a few days for a response before moving on to another journalist? Another factor is the size of the story, of course. A bigger, newsier story may warrant blanketing many contacts at once.

Make it visual. Science and medical stories can be esoteric, so it’s huge if you can provide graphics to help explain. Content is more and more visual today, and health journalists – especially for television – appreciate being able to show their audiences how things work. Consider this great video, which our client ZetrOZ made to explain the science behind therapeutic wearable ultrasound technology.

Clinical trials and real research. Sometimes, it’s too early to tell the story of a new drug or medical technology because it hasn’t yet been vetted, but when there is clinical data to prove your point, you’ve struck gold. Trials and research give health products and treatments a big boost and open doors to media coverage.

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  1. Maria Dorfner

    I’ve been specializing in medical/health for 24 years. Most PR pitches end up in the trash. They’re from people trying to sell something. Other times, it’s half a story. As health producer, I look at all angles.

    As a health PR specialist hired by large Healthcare PR firms and a Who’s Who in Health, I conduct independent research, find a timely angle, fact check, find experts, patients, write questions and write a pitch with proposed lead ins and tags and all the TV jargon included.

    I also know when to pitch because I know when I’m looking for stories and what else is being covered at various times . It’s instinctual after extensive experience health producing. It’s a skill and craft.

    It’s not something to trust to anyone. Network health producers and reporters have to go to people they trust as sources. I get pitched directly on social media and Linked IN, and it’s actually insulting when it’s the first correspondence with someone.

    It takes years, if not decades to build working relationships with people building trust. I’ve been working in media 34 years. Most of my contacts and resources have known me and my work that long.

    They know I won’t pitch them unless I have a good story and have done my due diligence in terms of research. It takes a trained eye to critically flesh out fluff from substance, especially in medical/health. I’m honored to be such a Go To person for network producers and executives.

    Doctors have ties, so there has to be an objective review of potential stories. Analyzing studies and reporting in an unbiased form with the consumer in mind is also key. Today, trust is critical in Health & Wellness. The floodgates are open to spread misinformation if trained professionals aren’t at the helm. Who is telling you something and why is so important.

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