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.


Business Wire Spotlight: Meet Zara McAlister!

August 11, 2014

For today’s Friday spotlight, we once again head north to interview Zara McAlister,  our Canadian media relations specialist.

Meet Zara McAlisterZara, thank you for speaking with us!  Tell us about yourself, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Port Perry, Ontario, a small town north of Toronto. As a country girl, I’ve had to adjust to big city living in Toronto. It’s getting easier every day.  

When did you start working for Business Wire?
After completing my MA degree in Journalism from Western University in the spring of 2012, I took on the position of newsroom editor at Business Wire’s Toronto office the following November.    

You first started at Business Wire as an editor, tell us more about your roles within the company.
Although I enjoyed the editorial and client relations side at Business Wire when I worked in our Toronto newsroom, I was excited about pursuing new opportunities as a media relations specialist for our Canadian territory. This role enabled me to put on my journalistic thinking cap and collaborate with the thousands of journalists in the country. I’ve been working in this role for the past five months – and I love doing it!

Tell us more about your role as our Canadian media relations expert?
As a media relations specialist, I develop and maintain relationships with Canadian journalists, form partnerships with media points by exploring content license opportunities, co-manage our @BusinesswireCA Twitter account and I work on keeping our expansive database of media contacts up-to-date. Apart from my primary responsibilities, I also enjoy writing content for our blog and other public and investor relations publications.

What do you enjoy about your job?
The best part about my role in media relations is the opportunity to meet new journalists every day. Even though I’m not always interacting with journalists face-to-face (more often than not we connect via social media), I get to learn about our Canadian media landscape, what our journalists deem newsworthy and how Business Wire can facilitate their needs. I think working with our journalists is so important given how unstable their industry is at this time, so we want to be able to help our reporters and editors as they are taking on massive changes.

What do you like about Business Wire?
All of my colleagues, from Seattle to Tokyo, have always been friendly and encouraging. Our global team is ready to land a hand when needed, despite operating on different time zones. Our courtesy with each other definitely extends to our customers and our media partners, so they can always expect outstanding and punctual customer service.

What are some of your favorite contributions to Business Wire?
I was able to hone my copy editing skills when I worked in our Toronto newsroom, so I always felt a rush of adrenaline every time I was able to catch misplaced quotation marks, dangling modifiers, and misspelled names.  I prided myself on spotting those pesky little “It’s” vs. “Its” errors, which actually happens quite frequently.  

I’ve been able to employ my journalistic skills by writing content marketing pieces to help increase our brand awareness in Canada. I’m not afraid to try out new ways of marketing ourselves.

Tell us about yourself!
I’m a self-professed lover of chick lit and all things related to the Bachelor/Bachelorette reality TV show. For those two hour episodes every Monday evening, my eyes are glued to the TV watching impossibly romantic dates and heart wrenching breakups. When it’s not a Monday evening (and this show airs pretty much all of the time), you can find me enjoying Toronto’s summer patio scene or hitting around a birdie with my badminton racquet.

I’m also a globe trotter, having travelled across North and South America, and much of Europe.

What drives you to do what you do every day at Business Wire?

As soon as I step into my office, I’m ready to offer valuable content to our Canadian journalists so that they can share important news with their readers or investors. Newsrooms will never have to worry about a lack of content when they decide to work with Business Wire.

What is your favorite thing about living in Canada?
That we are generally well-liked by people around the world. Because the stereotype that Canadians are polite, friendly and outgoing people is actually accurate—look no further than our Toronto office team. Also, I think I look fairly stylish in a snowsuit.  

Why do you recommend Canadian companies work with Business Wire?
Business Wire has formed long-lasting and solid partnerships with many of the major media points around the world. That means that your news will always be viewed and shared by the editors, reporters and producers that make up global newsrooms.


Increase Journalist Interest in Your Healthcare Press Releases – Free Webinar!

July 14, 2014

In the last 5 years, new communication tools have made it both easier, and more complicated to launch and manage successful Healthcare PR programs.  Media relations has changed across the board, especially as it relates to writing about healthcare.

To help our clients increase the visibility of their organization and their news, Business Wire is hosting a one-hour webinar in which we will be asking leading reporters how they identify topics, what assets they need to write about a company and even how they like to be pitched.

Our panelists include Tina Reed from the Washington Business Journal and Jacqueline Fellows, senior editor of HealthLeaders Media.

Join us on Thursday, July 17th from 12:00-1:00 PM EDT and in just one hour, learn everything you need to know about working with healthcare reporters in 2014.

Learn more about this one hour webinar, at http://bit.ly/HealthMediaWebinar

Speakers include:

Tina ReedTina Reed, Washington Business Journal, Healthcare reporter
Reed has been the HealthCare Reporter at the Washington Business Journal since January 2014. She previously was the online content editor and healthcare reporter with The Capital in Annapolis, MD. In her current role she covers the pertinent health issues that affect the Washington, DC metro area.

 

Jacqueline Fellows

Jacqueline Fellows, HealthLeaders Media, Senior Editor
Fellows has been with HealthLeaders Media since 2012. Her coverage is focused on the business of healthcare.  Prior to joining HealthLeaders she spent more than 10 years in broadcast journalism where she won numerous awards including the 2010 Best Radio Newscaster Award from the Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media Editors.

 
Kerting Baldwin, Director of Corporate Communications, Memorial Healthcare SystemKerting Baldwin, Ed.D., is the director of corporate communications at Memorial Healthcare System.
She oversees all aspects of media communication including strategy, social media, corporate communications and crisis communications for the six-hospital healthcare system in south Broward County. Kerting started her career as a journalist, and has worked for The Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel and The Tampa Tribune. She also has worked in the broadcast industry for Telemundo as a video editor.  Kerting holds a Bachelor’s in Communication from Florida International University, a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies from University of Miami and a Doctorate in Education from St. Thomas University. Her doctoral thesis focused on the use of social media in healthcare.
 
The event will be moderated by Molly Pappas and Simon Ogus, Business Wire Health and Public Policy Media Specialists. Molly and Simon work closely as liaisons between healthcare and public policy reporters and our clients, ensuring media outlets receive the news they are most interested in, quickly and easily.

Register for the Event now:  http://bit.ly/HealthMediaWebinar


How to Pitch a Story: Think Like a News Director

July 8, 2013
by Joyce Thian, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Canada
Joyce Thian

Joyce Thian

If you want to know as a PR pro exactly how to get your stories “on the air,” news directors should be your go-to people. But it’s not every day that you get to sit down and chat with a news director—they’re busy people, after all, running entire news rooms and news departments on a day-to-day basis.

Luckily, this year’s RTDNA national conference (June 13-15) featured a lineup of back-to-basics workshops, one of which was a stellar “Making the Pitch” session with Dave Trafford, news director at Global News Toronto.

Dave Trafford

Dave Trafford

Trafford, an award-winning journalist and bona fide news veteran, took the time to share his tips on story pitches with a roomful of PR pros, freelance journalists, reporters, and producers. His insights into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to pitching offered that rare glimpse into the mind of a news director:

  1. Your idea has to be better than mine. Get me interested because if I’m interested, an audience will be too.
  2. If you’re going to pitch anything, it has to be about me. A good pitch will be about the person you are pitching to, no matter who they are. Make them care and relate it to them personally.
  3. Some of the best pitches are the ones that have left me mad afterwards. If the pitch provokes a reaction, I might want to see that story.
  4. Don’t confuse an idea with a pitch and don’t pitch by asking questions or listing some qualities. The pitch is essentially the first part of telling a great story.
  5. Good pitches land in the strike zone. Make a narrow pitch—be specific and focused enough that you can pitch your story in as short a time as it will be on the air. (Interested in more baseball-inspired PR tips? Check out this blog post from our global media relations director, Raschanda Hall!)
  6. Don’t overlook the things you find obviously entertaining or interesting; great characters can make great pitches or stories.

Business Wire Gives Back with Contribution to Journalism Scholarship

June 24, 2013
by Matt Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor
Matthew Allinson

Matt Allinson

At the 2013 Western Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalist’s annual awards gala, Pacific Lutheran University journalism student Leah Traxel picked up a scholarship and recognition as an up-and-comer in the world of journalism. Business Wire was there and was honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the scholarship awarded to Ms. Traxel.

Ms. Traxel, a third year student, currently works part-time for The News Tribune (Tacoma) and is also the Journalism Team Leader for MediaLab, an on-campus multimedia agency and applied internship program. Upon completion of her degree at PLU, Ms. Traxel hopes to pursue post-graduate studies in digital media and would one day like to teach.

I had a chance to catch up with Ms. Traxel after the event and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.

International Media Relations Supervisor Matt Allinson and scholarship winner Leah Traxel

International Media Relations Supervisor Matt Allinson and scholarship winner Leah Traxel

1) Who or what inspired you to study journalism and pursue it as a career?

I had no idea I wanted to be a journalist until I took a class from Robert Wells, a former journalist who saw my writing and asked if I had considered the field. I hadn’t, but I’ve always been a successful writer, and I knew I didn’t want to get stuck doing one thing over and over again as a career, so journalism seemed like a good option. Rob hooked me up with a couple of local weekly papers, and I started freelancing the fall of my sophomore year.

2) How can you and your generation help the journalism industry successfully transition into the digital world?

I really believe Marc Prensky hit the mark with his comparison of digital “natives” and “immigrants”. My generation is definitely one of natives, and as with any skill, it’s our responsibility to share it with previous generations. 

I think my generation can help journalism transition by working as an example of how citizens and journalists can work together to produce the best coverage. Citizen journalists on their own can be irresponsible, but journalists on their own are slowly becoming obsolete. I think the best course of action would be to utilize the strengths of both practices, and create relevant, accurate, and useful content for the public.

3) What will you be doing this summer?

This summer I am interning at The News Tribune and at PLU’s University Communications.

4) Where would you like to be seven years from now?

Seven years from now, I would like to be reporting on technology, and maybe using my background in math and computer science to do some technical writing.

5) If you were somehow able to capture the first verified photo of a Sasquatch while on a hike, where would you publish it first?

If I had the first photo of Sasquatch, I would probably publish it in National Geographic. However, I would only do that if it was determined that s/he could be a threat to public safety or if publication could prevent him/her from coming to harm. If s/he has gone to that much trouble to stay hidden for this long, it wouldn’t feel right to exploit him/her for personal gain or notoriety.

We wish Ms. Traxel the very best in her future endeavors and feel confident, with people like her in the profession, that journalism is in good hands moving forward.


Is Content Marketing + Social Media the New PR?

June 18, 2013
by Pilar Portela, Media Relations Supervisor, Business Wire/Florida
Pilar Portela

Pilar Portela, West Media Relations Supervisor, Ethnic Media Circuits

Content marketing and social media marketing are on the minds of everyone in PR, marketing and connected industries these days. They’ve changed the rules for everyone, including public and media relations practitioners.

Beginning June 27, Webdirexion will be hosting a series of live panels where you can listen to industry experts discuss social media strategies and ask them questions. The first session, “Content Marketing + Social Media Marketing = The New PR?” will cover how PR tactics are changing and how reaching journalists has become a whole new ballgame. The panelists for this session are:

  • Carri Bugby, Founder – Big Deal PR, and Social Media Consultant
  • Lori Weaver, Owner – Lexington Business Media
  • Pilar Portela,  Media Relations Supervisor for Business Wire

Each panelist will share their content and social media marketing tips, and discuss tactics to reach and influence the media. This free session will be live streamed . For more information and to register go to: http://webdirexion.com/webdxsocial

The other free Webdirexion “Social Strategies” sessions will be held on the last Thursdays in July and August, 2013 at 10am PST/1pm PST. The sessions will be available via a streamed Google+ Hangout; and Webdirexion will award prizes to participants who ask the best questions of each panel.


Maximizing Social Media: Strategizing for the Masses

June 3, 2013
by Joyce Thian, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire Canada
Joyce Thian

Joyce Thian

Earlier this month, the who’s who of the Canadian newspaper industry came together at the annual INK+BEYOND conference and trade show, hosted by Newspapers Canada and the Canadian Association of Journalists. For two full days, delegates representing news publications from across the country heard from distinguished industry leaders, learned about the latest innovations in news media, and had the chance to connect and network with peers and other partners in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Canada.

Within a fully packed program that strove to cover every aspect of the newspaper business, one of the stand-out sessions of the conference was a breakout social media workshop led by Mandy Jenkins of Digital First Media.

OttawaAlthough Jenkins was speaking specifically to newspaper publishers, editors, and journalists looking to better connect with their readers online, her advice on how to “maximize your social media” would be well incorporated into any brand’s social media strategy.

(If at this time you’re thinking to yourself that you still don’t quite believe in the practical power or perhaps measureable usefulness of social media within the context of your company’s PR, marketing, or customer service efforts, do consider some of the many illuminating stats supporting user-brand engagement vis-à-vis social media. As Jenkins puts it, “All of us need to keep social media in mind. [Social media] has changed the way our audience does everything.”).

Mandy Jenkins - Maximizing Your Social Media

So without further ado, here are 13 dos and don’ts for brands looking to leverage social media, as inspired by Mandy Jenkins’ workshop at INK+BEYOND 2013:

  1. DO start with research. Have a look at what your peers or competitors are doing. What do you see that you like, or don’t like? This will help you get a better idea of what you want to do with your own social media usage.
  2. DON’T be afraid to show a little personality. Brands can have distinct personas and personalities, so why shouldn’t these carry over into your social media efforts?
  3. DO think about your voice. Jenkins recommended asking yourself these questions to help define what type of voice you might want to adopt: “How conversational should I be? What tone is right for my content? What tone is right for my audience? Am I a friend, authority, or something in between?”
  4. DON’T just broadcast. “You are not an RSS feed,” Jenkins told delegates in attendance. This applies as much to brands as it does to news organizations. Don’t waste your 140 characters just regurgitating “a headline and a link”; streams should have replies and retweets, resembling real conversations.
  5. DO focus on your audience. There’s a reason social media is called social media. “Follow the people you are interacting with, people who reply and share your stories,” Jenkins said. “These are the movers and shakers in your community.”
  6. DON’T get into fights. This one should be self explanatory.
  7. DO share your audience’s joy. Retweet happy followers, Like your fans’ posts, Storify positive feedback—these are all invaluable social interactions.
  8. DON’T be afraid of social advertising but do be upfront when identifying sponsored tweets and updates.
  9. DO go where the people are. Tap into existing communities, instead of trying to build one out of thin air, and compliment and contribute to what is already out there.
  10. DO encourage sharing. Make it as easy and intuitive as possible for your followers to share your content, such as product news or event announcements, with their peers. Here at Business Wire, we put social media buttons in highly visible spots and incorporate share icons into all press releases and individual multimedia assets.
  11. DON’T try to hide your mistakes. When (not if) you make an honest mistake—because who hasn’t—be open and transparent about it and quickly follow up with a correction. Don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen. “The cover up is worse than the crime,” Jenkins advises.
  12. DO get your (social media) priorities straight. You can’t be everywhere all at once and you don’t have to be, Jenkins says. “It’s great to experiment but there are a lot of places you can be dividing your time. See what works for your brand and your audience and be good at it.”
  13. DON’T sell yourself short. Sometimes, a small audience of highly involved and well-invested users is much better than a big audience that only cares half as much. “Quality of engagement is what really matters.”

In the end, whether you decide to follow all or just some of these guidelines, there is at least one more caveat worth bearing in mind: When it comes to social media, you can’t just “set it and forget it.” At best, such a strategy (or lack thereof) would render your efforts (or lack thereof) completely pointless.  At worst, you could be maximizing your social media missteps instead. And now you know. Good hunting.


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