From time to time everyone in healthcare marketing and public relations will write a news release…and then hope that it navigates the tricky course from your desk to the eyes and mind of the intended reader. Individual practices may do this occasionally while big hospitals and other healthcare organizations may do it daily. The secrets to success are the same for all of us.
The primary challenge is to get it to and through the gatekeeper—the publication’s editor. Do it right, and you’re a hero. Do it wrong and your good intentions are in the trash faster than you can say “delete.” Fortunately the “secrets” aren’t so secret, especially when an editorial director takes a few minutes to vent about PR online.
Just the other day we bumped into some refreshingly candid comments about PR releases from a seasoned senior editor and publisher. If you’ve been in corporate communications for 20 minutes, take a few minutes to memorize Donald Mazzella’s pet peeves about PR’s Most Irritating Habits before you write your next news release. They will accelerate your career.
If you’ve been in the business 20 years, there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before, but these are insightful reminders about what works (and what doesn’t work) in getting an editor’s attention, successfully pitching your story idea and generating some meaningful ink.
Ready? Write this down. The COO and Editorial Director of Information Strategies—a guy who really knows what he’s talking about—says:
“The first PR person who sends me a press release that starts with the benefit to my readers as to why this announcement is important will really get my attention, if not gratitude.”
That single-sentence admonishment captures many of his other points of guidance for those of us who sit on this side of the keyboard. His first “burr,” for example, is that “a PR representative should know my audience.” If your material isn’t of interest to the publication’s readers or audience, you’re not going to get past the gatekeeper (or convince him it fits.)
Said another way, “Know why your client's product or service is of importance to my audience. It isn't up to me to try to find the hook. It's up to the PR rep to have it laid out.”
From the editor’s perspective, skip the self-flattery and tell me why I should care. In Mr. Mazzella’s words, “I understand that your client is the greatest company on the earth and its products the best. However, trumpeting that in the first sentence is not the best way to get me or my readers to proceed further.”
And don’t forget J-school 101. He adds, “My final burr is that many press releases I see do not cover the basics of journalism — the who, what, where, when and how. They are critical to getting your client in my newsletters. So make sure you have covered all the bases.”