The concept of “free publicity” appeals to medical practices and providers because it appears to be...well, free. It turns out that that "free" is something of a misnomer.
In healthcare—for that matter, in any industry—communications professionals recognize that the process that results in positive publicity is time intensive and rarely easy. Ultimately, the story that appears in print—a newspaper article, for example—is published without charge for the space. But a significant investment of time, talent and creativity are required to make it happen.
The news media tends to be receptive to story ideas from healthcare providers or hospitals because there is an established connection to the local community (their readers/subscribers). The media is generally receptive to authoritative material with a good “hook” that’s of interest to their readers. Topics might spring from:
What Reporters Don’t Tell You
Here are several tips and techniques to develop a compelling story idea that captures a reporter’s attention and inspires publicity for you.
First, the media doesn’t care about helping you. A reporter’s job is to produce editorial material that is of timely and informative interest to their readers…and ultimately, “to sell newspapers.” Don’t pitch what benefits you, pitch ideas that help the reporter and their readers.
Ask the editor or reporter about their needs and interests. Reporters will not do your brainstorming for you, but with sufficient rapport, you can often learn about topics or areas of interest that “help a reporter out” with data, expert spokesmen or relevant input to their needs.
Pitch the idea first. A reporter will resonate to a good idea vs. a pre-written release or fancy press kit. But be flexible, your idea may need to be adapted to the reporter’s direction and interests.
Give them a story, not advertising or puffery. The “news side” of any publication isn’t interested in giving away the space that the “advertising side” sells. Avoid overtly self-promotion language. (And never play the I’m-an-advertiser card.)
Be instantly responsive. The needs and interests of reporters are fleeting and change constantly. Always provide supporting data, resources or expert contacts immediately, before the opportunity-window is closed.
Know when “no” means “no.” Nothing wears out your welcome with a reporter faster than persistent pitching unwelcome, off-target or previously rejected story ideas. Preserve your future relationship with reporters and editors by respecting their decision when the answer is “no thanks.
Reporters and editors are important gatekeepers for healthcare publicity that can boost visibility, credibility and your professional reputation. For more on this topic, click through to these previous posts:
And for greater insight and one-to-one professional advice about getting the publicity and media recognition that you deserve, schedule a free public relations and marketing consultation Healthcare Success strategist Stephen Gregg, MBA, today. Or call me: 800-656-0907 ext. 801.
Stephen Gregg, MBA