Summary: 2014 Best Practices in Healthcare Media Relations

September 3, 2014

By Simon Ogus and Molly Pappas, Media Relations Specialists (Washington, DC and Boston)

Over the past few decades, healthcare has been one of the most hot-button topics in the United States, but not more so than since the signing of the Affordable Care Act into law in March of 2010. With the passing of this law, there has been a dramatic increase in discussions about a wide range of health-related topics.

As the public attempts to absorb the enormous volume of information available, from both a personal interest standpoint as well as an educational one, more and more organizations are turning to media outlets to tell their story.  Especially as media continue to be a top resource used by the general public to learn more and determine which side of the debates their beliefs fall.

As organizations and consumers heavily rely upon today’s news coverage, communications professionals face interesting challenges.

With more news than ever being created to share, it is more and more important for today’s PR professionals to learn how to write, and distribute news of interest to reporters and their readers.

With this in mind, BusinessWire Media Relations Specialists Molly Pappas and Simon Ogus presented the HealthWire Webinar featuring three reporters and communicators who talked about their daily lives as healthcare reporters and shared  top tips on how public relations professionals can build stronger, more beneficial relations with today’s media outlets.

On the panel were:

  • Tina Reed, HealthCare Reporter for the Washington Business Journal
  • Jacqueline Fellows, Editor Health Leaders Media
  • Kerting Baldwin, Director of Corporate Communications for Memorial Health Care System

During the hour-long webinar many topics were covered, including what makes a healthcare story interesting to cover, the best way to pitch and the best things to include in a pitch to reporters.  Additional topics included the current status of healthcare reporters in regards to the AHCA and the biggest challenges in grappling with these complex healthcare issues and communicating them to the public.

On the communications side, Ms. Baldwin also provided examples of what Memorial Health Care System is doing to engage reporters on current health care events, such as utilizing “viral” events like LeBron James experiencing thigh cramps in the NBA Finals to promote their health campaigns in engaging and unique ways. The initiative was to try and prevent cramping and other preventable injuries among the youth in the Miami region, which normally isn’t the most exciting topic to read about it. But Ms. Baldwin’s successful attempt to angle a topic with a popular NBA superstar like LeBron James in a real-life application gave the initiative life that had to be quickly capitalized on after James’ injury in the NBA Finals. It was a strong example of pouncing when mainstream news event happens around a topic you are looking to pitch.

The discussion began with what makes a healthcare story interesting to cover. The answers were wide ranging, but the overt message was to give reporters a story that can not only captivate an audience, but that is useful to both core, and secondary audiences. The reporters discussed how they often times receive stories that are just not that interesting, and sometimes some pitches are interesting but the angle doesn’t show how the story would be relevant to a big enough audience to warrant moving forward with a story.

One good rule of  thumb provided was to read the release as if you were the reader of this story. Does it interest you? Does it make you stop and read the story in the publication you are perusing? If the answer is not a resounding yes, then it puts the reporter in a tough position to justify putting in the time and effort into completing a story that could not be well received by an audience.

The talk then diverted into a discussion on the Affordable Care Act and how reporters view reporting on the topic and if it is still relevant in the minds of the public even though it has been reported on extensively over the past months and years. The reporters said that the topic is still relevant, but must be approached from a fresh viewpoint or include a real-life application so that the readers can instantly see how it affects them in their day-to-day lives. The general consensus was that even after all the coverage the topic has received, there is always space for a story pitched in a creative way with a real-life application.

Next the panelists discussed the challenges of often times receiving slanted or outright purposeful misinformation from a PR professional, and the panel admitted it is just part of healthcare reporting. There are many varying viewpoints out there, so it is important for communicators and PR professionals  evaluate all data thoroughly to ensure that misleading information isn’t disseminated to the public that could be harmful to their health or personal lives. The panelists agreed that sending supporting documents is helpful in supporting healthcare claims.

As we wrapped up, we asked the panelists where they discovered new story ideas.  Every panelist still saw strong value in the newswire as well as on social media. While social media is a bit more challenging due to the day-to-day clutter and “noise,” all three panelists said they are active on social media and use it to communicate with industry professionals.

The interactive webinar included a wide variety of questions on the minds of healthcare public relations professionals.  While the central focus of the webinar was on healthcare issues, many of the techniques and advice that the reporters shared can also be utilized in other realms of the public relations world.

The full audio can be found at this link:

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/128704633

Do you have a Webinar topic that would benefit you? Feel free to reach out to Simon Ogus (simon.ogus@businesswire) and/or Molly Pappas (molly.pappas@businesswire.com) and we would be happy to incorporate it in a future Business Wire webinar.


The 5 Definitive Rules to Media Relations in 2014

August 13, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Media

Earlier this year, Business Wire released their 2014 Media Survey in which we asked 300 reporters, journalists, editors, bloggers and freelancers a wide range of questions related to how they cover company news.  Their answers provide a very clear road map to media relations best practices in 2014.  In this post, we look at the top five questions that make up the new rules for media relations in 2014.

1. Reporters have to meet metrics too With 44 percent of media survey respondents now writing for online publications, the metrics in which the success of an article is based upon have changed. Thanks to unprecedented speed and reach of news enjoyed by the world today, story views have replaced print sales, social shares replacing water cooler discussions.

Media Moving Online

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As we have discussed many times, one of the easiest ways to increase the visibility of coverage of your organization is to share it out. Utilize social media to increase the chance of likeminded individuals and influencers finding out about your news, while assisting journalists in meeting the overall story’s own success metrics.

Reporter Metrics

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2. What types of news interest reporters? With so much news occurring every day, what is the best way to capture a reporter’s attention?  What types of news do reporters want to see in a press release?

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The next press release you write should not only focus on the breaking news you are sharing, but include facts, angles, quotes and other assets to increase usefulness to reporters.  

3. Your Multimedia Asset or Theirs? 73 percent of reporters in this survey said photographs were their most favored supplemental asset communicators could provide them. Almost every online and print article today includes multimedia.  When you provide interesting, usable photos, graphics, infographics, video and more, not only are you helping the media outlet, you are also telling your own story, in your own voice.

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4. Your website is their top research tool When it comes to doing research for a story, journalists overwhelmingly turn to company websites and company online newsrooms for background information.

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When was the last time you took a critical look at the information on your website or within your company online newsroom from the perspective of a reporter on a deadline?  Is your information easy to find?  Can reporters download or embed assets instantly? Is your site impeding your coverage? Did you know that 88 percent of reporters asked said press releases were their most desired type of content in an online newsroom? Do an audit of your website and, specifically your online newsroom. Refresh this important asset to increase usability.

5. Which newswire do today’s reporters prefer? When provided with an array of choices, 71 percent of journalists and media outlets responding to this survey selected Business Wire as their top choice for news releases.

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With more than 50 years of leadership experience in the news distribution industry, while we are proud of this statistic, we are not surprised.  Every day we are a conduit between media outlets, reporters, bloggers, analysts, brand fans, organizations, corporations, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and more to ensure timely distribution and receipt of the world’s leading corporate and organizational news.

Learn additional tips and tricks on how to work with today’s media outlets by downloading the complete 2014 Business Wire Media Survey Guidance Report now. Get a copy of the infographic containing the images in this blog post here, or use the below code to embed the infographic into your website:

21st Century Journalism & Public Relations

 

Copy and paste the following to embed this infographic within your site:
<a href=”http://blog.businesswire.com/2014/08/13/the-5-definitive-rules-to-media-relations-in-2014/”><img title=”The 2014 Business Wire Media Survey Infographic” class=”aligncenter” alt=”21st Century Journalism &amp; Public Relations” src=”http://storage.pardot.com/19392/87712/BW_media_survey_infographic.jpg&#8221;
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To learn more about crafting and distributing content that activate your media targets, drop us a line.  We’d love to talk.To learn more about Business Wire’s media services click here.


Business Wire Spotlight: Meet Justine Fifield

July 28, 2014

In today’s employee spotlight, we interviewed Justine Fifield, an editor from our Canadian office, asking her to share more about herself, her job and her vision for Business Wire.

JustineJustine, it is wonderful to speak with you!  Where are you from?
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada

When did you start working for Business Wire?
I started just a few months ago in February of 2014, and am the newest member of the team here in Toronto

What is your background?
Academically, I have a background in European History and English Literature, both of which I studied at the University of Guelph. Professionally, I have had much experience in customer service and have worked as an editor for a number of years before joining Business Wire.

What do you do at Business Wire?
I work as a Newsroom Editor for Business Wire, preparing press releases for dissemination and working with clients to ensure that their releases hit their desired media points.

What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the careful precision that working as an editor demands, as well as getting to interact with clients on a daily basis to help ensure that their experience with Business Wire is a both a smooth and positive one. The amount of customer service that is tied to the editorial position can be very rewarding, as clients are often very happy with the level of service that we provide as a company.

What do you like about Business Wire?
We’re a small team here in Toronto, but this makes for a very tight-knit, positive and supportive environment that I look forward to coming to every day. It’s also a great feeling to be a part of an industry leading company such as Business Wire, and to know that products and services we offer are second to none.

Tell us about yourself!
In the past year, I have finished up my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph, where I studied European History and English Lit – so yes, I love all things written and always seem to have my nose in a book.
 
I also play piano and guitar, and am hoping to try my hand at violin with some lessons coming up in the fall. Like any good Italian I love to eat, and trying new restaurants is a favourite pastime of mine, especially with Toronto’s blossoming restaurant scene. I enjoy learning new things and finding new ways to challenge myself, and love to spend time with friends and family whenever I can.

What drives you to do what you do every day at Business Wire?
For me, the best motivator in any position is always the people I work with. When I am surrounded by a highly positive, professional, supportive and passionate team such as the one at Business Wire, I feel inspired to put my best foot forward and grow professionally as an individual within a larger team.

What is your favorite thing about living in Canada?
I’ve lived in Canada all my life, and though I could do without the long, frigid winters, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Canada is home to some amazing people and carries its own unique culture, something I see every day in Toronto. If you haven’t been to visit, you really should!


5 Things to Stop Doing to Your Press Releases in 2014

March 14, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Business Wire Editor

In the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of public relations it’s easy to rely on tired, ineffective practices merely to churn out press release after press release. But you’re better than that, right? Folks, the time to adapt and innovate is here. Empower your clients and yourself to be better, and think outside the press release template box. In this age of bite-sized “content” and short attention spans, it is vital to relay your message as efficiently as possible in order to activate as many brand fans as possible. 5 things to STOP going to your press release in 2014 stop sign After all, the press release is no longer a staid form of communication. Today’s press releases are professional yet also personable and conversational. Today’s releases are designed to educate and activate core and secondary audiences. Are yours? Not sure? Check out the list below. Here are the top five things today’s PR professionals must stop doing in press releases in order to be successful in 2014:

1. Stop writing long headlines. Today’s press release headline needs to be accurate and concise. The headline, above all, should catch the attention of intended audiences, and get them to read your release. Headlines particularly need strong verbs and should be devoid of adjectives. Instead, try writing a shorter headline – we suggest about 70 characters long. Don’t forget to include the company names in your headline. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to issue news and leave your name out of the most visible part of the release.

2. Stop over-stylizing. Too many bolds, italics, underlines, super and subscripts and even too many hyperlinks can turn a press release into an eyesore. Too many styles are hard on the eyes; they simply make your release more difficult to read. Use these styles sparingly and usually for emphasis, and watch the readability index for your release increase.

3. Stop overloading releases with keywords. Once upon a time, it was important to cram “relevant” keywords into a press release to appease the search engine optimization gods. Now? Not so much. Search engine algorithms have changed to reward good writing made for human consumption while also satisfying the technical side of web visibility. Business Wire issued a very helpful guide this year on press release optimization (download it here: http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization). This guide includes 10 steps to create a better release in 2014.

4. Stop using only embedded links. Press releases should incorporate a mix of spelled-out URLs and embedded links. Spelled-out URLs travel further, i.e. they can be read if you print out the story or seen in an email if there’s no HTML setup. When it comes to links, you want to be strategic. Use links sparingly, and of course don’t forget to test them before distributing your story.

5. Stop writing so much text. News releases, like actual news articles, ought to get to the point quickly. Stop writing long passive sentences and long-winded quotes and focus on shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, bullets and images to make your point.  Writing press releases is an art form all unto itself. The fastest way to master the art of crafting an actionable, successful press release is to focus on clear, succinct writing and smart imagery. Try it and see for yourself!


Editor’s Corner: A Heads up on Headlines: 4 Rules for Maximizing News Visibility

October 7, 2013

Guest Post: Zara McAlister & Ciaran Ryan/Toronto newsroom

Headlines are like first dates. If you don’t pique your suitor’s interest early, he or she might take a fake phone call in the middle of dinner and claim their house is on fire. It takes time and effort to keep your date interested. The same goes for headline writing. A title should grab your audience’s attention and give an idea of what’s to come.

Follow these four tips to make your headline count:

Make it Short

The best way to appeal to a journalist is to write like one. Journalistic headlines are short and punchy, around five to six words and no more than 10. Columbia School of Journalism advises its budding journalists to use action verbs.  Humour is fine, but avoid clichés like the plague. That’s a good rule of thumb. Slang is also a no no.

Keeping a headline short isn’t just about looking good. Databases such as Yahoo! will cut off lengthy headlines. Your Business Wire editors will accept four lines of a headline or 264 characters.

Put Your Name on it for Google’s Sake

A headline that includes a company name helps to ground a news release in search engines and adds traction. A release with the headline, “Lab Develops Time Machine” is vague and misleading. What lab is it? Instead of leaving your reader hanging off a cliff of suspense, drop your company name in the headline. Something like “ABC Lab Develops Time Machine,” gives credit where credit is due. This release is more likely to pop up when a journalist or investor plugs in your company name to a search engine.

According to a 2010 PRWeek Media Survey, 95% of journalists use search engines to research a story. Google recently launched a new search algorithm dubbed Hummingbird. Hummingbird looks at your search query as a complete phrase and not as a collection of individual keywords. Having a detailed headline will make your release more searchable.

Think Before you Link

Hyperlinks belong in the body of the release, not the headline. Google’s algorithm searches for blocks of text that look like a typical headline. So headlines that contain hyperlinks to a company’s website for instance may confuse the algorithm into thinking it’s a random block of text, preventing the headline from being included in Google News. Same goes for Yahoo! and CBS Marketwatch which may not recognize hyperlinks in headlines.

Follow the Rules

Punctuation and grammar matter. If you don’t believe us, take a look at any online forum, newspaper comment field, or a friend’s Facebook status. You will likely find someone correcting someone else’s grammar.  Journalistic writing is simple, straightforward and grammatically sound. Do the same. Avoid flowery, jargon laden headlines.  And watch out for common mistakes, such as unnecessary periods at the end of headlines.

Style is also important. Your company’s news may be so exciting that you want to scream it from the mountain tops. But please, step away from the caps lock button. IT’S NOT YOUR FRIEND!!! All caps conveys an aggressive tone, much like shouting at your audience. That’s a big faux pas to avoid.  Your headline should not have anything in common with the social media musings of a teenager on the subject of Justin Bieber’s present fall from grace. So keep your headline title cased. Associated Press (AP) style dictates capitalizing principal words and prepositions that are longer than four letters, and maybe think twice about adding that exclamation mark.

These are four simple rules every writer should follow to ensure the best news visibility and engagement possible.  Have any other tips to share?  Let us know!


For Your Eyes Only: Choose Copy Approval

March 15, 2013

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by Zara McAlister and Ciaran Ryan/Business Wire Toronto 

With annual earnings around the corner, you’re probably experiencing frantic phone calls, mountains of paperwork and fast approaching deadlines. This means longer hours at your desk, surviving on massive cups of coffee, while you crunch numbers and push out press releases. The clock is ticking. And in your stressed out, sleep-deprived state, mistakes are more likely to happen. Some of these oversights might be minor, but one wrong figure in a table can cost you both time and money.

For an extra set of eyes, look no further than Business Wire editors. Our Copy Approval function gives you the chance to preview your release before the rest of the world sees it. The service only takes a few extra minutes, and it will guarantee you peace of mind. It makes the editing process more seamless, plus it’s free when you select it with your order on Business Wire Connect. So why not take advantage of it? Here are some ways Copy Approval can come to your rescue:

Errors Beware
Business Wire maintains a sharp editing staff. More often than not, the editor assigned to your release will spot an error you may have missed. Editors often catch company names missing from headlines, repeated words ( e.g. “this this”), problems with quotation marks and the occasional comma splice. When editors notice mistakes and feel changes would improve the quality of the release, they need your approval before jumping ahead. Rather than attempting to describe edits over the phone, the Copy Approval option allows everyone to be literally on the same page by looking at the physical preview to see changes. If your order includes multiple languages, the HTML preview will allow you to cross-check the different translations for consistency.

File Misfire
Think of Copy Approval as a free insurance policy for your press release. Let’s say you accidentally send in the wrong document to our newsroom — and yes, this does happen every so often. Opting for Copy Approval gives you a second chance to catch your own mistake. Potential crisis averted. Without this function, editors would have no way of knowing the wrong file was sent in.

No Two Tables are Alike
Tables come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big, some are small and most are chock full of numbers. The tables you see in your Microsoft Word or Excel document will appear differently as HTML. Of course, the content will be the same, but the design will be adjusted. For instance, those beautiful colour coded tabs you spent most of the night working on will unfortunately not show up in the distributed release.  A Copy Approval preview will give you and your colleagues a better idea of how your tables will look on the web before the release is sent out.

Picture Perfect
Press releases featuring multimedia elements have a higher likelihood of being picked up by journalists and will have increased overall visibility. But a misplaced caption or a video mix-up can draw negative attention to your release. Avoid multimedia missteps with Copy Approval by taking a second look.

Look Before You Link
Hyperlinks are a staple of the modern press release. Not only do they give the reader an option to browse additional related content, but they also help to ground the release in search engines. When editors receive your release, they will automatically activate your links for increased search engine optimization. But only you can make sure the links are pointing to the intended websites. With the Copy Approval option you can double-check your links before the release is sent out. One last glance can ensure your reader stays engaged with your release and isn’t left wondering why a hyperlink of your CEO’s name was linked to your kid’s Facebook page.


Editor’s Corner: Best Practices for Using Links in Press Releases

March 21, 2012

by Sera Gonzalez, Senior Editor, Business Wire Dallas

by Sera Gonzalez, Senior Editor, Business Wire Dallas

With the advent of XHTML, additional knowledge is only a click away. Embedded hyperlinks turn ordinary text into doorways of information. Business Wire tracks link click-throughs, showing the link text, URL, which version of the release and how many total clicks it has received.

As an editor, I’ve seen releases with no links at all, making it difficult for readers to easily find more information. I’ve also seen releases so full of links it was impossible to determine what information was important. Finding a balance and knowing how to optimize link usage is vital for press release writers.

When considering hyperlinks in text, the writer has two options: the URL and anchor text.

A URL in the text is like this: www.businesswire.com, which works well for short URLs and at the end of boilers, linking to company home pages. Though most of the internet is XHTML compatible, there are a few sites that still post in plain-text. In these instances, a link will not be active in the body unless it is written out. Instead of saying, “Click here,” say, “Visit www.businesswire.com.” Full URL links are also useful when linking to social media sites: http://facebook.com/businesswire and http://twitter.com/businesswire. Readers see your handle and can type it in if they already have those web sites open. Registration URLs for conference calls, webcasts and trade shows help a reader easily keep the link for future use or send to colleagues.

Sometimes URLs for frequently shared pages can be really long and should be hidden from readers. These cases call for anchor text, like Business Wire, instead of writing out the URL. These links are like the icing in your release; leading your reader to more information. For names in releases, an anchor text link to the person’s biography – which commonly includes a photo – works perfectly. You also can use anchor text in product announcements, referencing a page with videos, photos, reviews or purchasing information. Anchor text links also boost SEO for your release. For example, if you wanted your release to rank on Google for the keyword “Business Wire,” you would make sure that phrase appears in the headline, first paragraph and as anchor text, Business Wire.

Make hyperlinks work for you. Lead your reader to places beyond your release, to further the understanding of your product, personnel and company. Also keep in mind that not everything needs a hyperlink; too many and your release can look like spam and discourage readers. The link is yours.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


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