If you’re part of an internal public relations team or represent clients, you know one of the biggest challenges you face is how to get the media interested in your stories, your products and your campaigns.
You might work for weeks at pitching and then cross your fingers and hope to get those coveted media hits.
How to write a pitch and get the media’s attention is something I’m asked to speak about frequently. In fact, last month I was a guest panelist for the Public Relations Society of America New York Chapter’s Meet the Media: Healthcare event.
Credit: Cherry Dumaual
I enjoyed speaking with the public relations teams about the types of stories I write, what journalists look for in pitches and how to get placement. Here are some tips we spoke about and a few more.
1. Know your audience.
You might think you have the most exciting new product or irresistible story idea but if you’re sending the same pitch to every single outlet, you’ll get nowhere fast.
Each outlet you pitch has an audience with their own unique demographics and drivers so the stories they decide to cover must be written for them. Sure, you might pitch a health story but it must be different enough that their competition won’t also be interested.
- Before you pitch, ask yourself:
- What does this outlet cover?
- If it’s a freelancer, what outlets does this person write for?
- Will they be interested in this story?
- Has this person already covered this story?
- What makes my pitch unique?
- Is it newsworthy or new?
- Is it timely and relevant?
- Am I pitching a product when this reporter doesn’t write about products?
- Am I leading with a product when I know they won’t mention the product?
Do your research first and make sure your pitch is perfectly suited and personalized for the media outlet and the journalist you’re pitching.
2. Cut to the chase.
According to a survey by ISEBOX.com, 52% of journalists write at least 5 articles per week so suffice it to say they have less than a minute to scan your email and decide if it’s a good idea or not.
Don’t take two paragraphs to get to the point and don’t bury the lede. If you can’t get to the hook within the first 2 to 3 sentences, your email will probably end up in the trash.
3. Write a strong subject line.
With dozens, if not hundreds of emails filling up a reporter’s inbox everyday, it’s easy for your pitch to get lost if it doesn’t grab their attention. You want to make sure that your subject line summarizes the story idea in as few words as possible and is interesting enough for them to open.
Avoid these headlines:
- Quick question for you
- Expert available
- Great story!
- How to lose weight (or anything generic)
- Breast cancer awareness month or New Year’s Resolutions
- Connecting: story idea
- John, can you chat?
- What’s in your food? Pesticides (really, no way!)
4. Make it easy.
The reporter you pitch doesn’t always have the time to dig further into a story idea and see if it’s worth pitching to their editor or producer.
They might be interested in your story but they need to know why? why now? and why you or your client?
Make it easy for them and cite new studies, surveys or quotes from experts proving this idea is newsworthy.
5. Don’t pitch topics, pitch stories.
Here are some examples of ineffective pitches I recently received. The reason they don’t work is because they are topics, not stories:
- October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month
- Story: Children’s Health During Back to School
- Flu myths…
- Staying Sane During The Holidays
- Toddlers and Fussy Eating
These are much better:
- 6 Food Myths That Are Making Kids Fat
- 6 Worrisome Vaginal Issues
- New Data: Sleep Problems for New Parents
6. Write content.
It’s no longer enough to simply be an expert, you need to think of yourself as a publisher too. Content marketing and public relations go hand in hand.
Writing your own content will establish your company as a thought leader, build brand awareness and help reporters searching for a source find you.
7. Offer video.
If your goal is to be on TV, you need to show the producer you’re pitching that you have the chops to pull off an appearance. If you don’t have links to prior appearances, then shoot your own video.
Even if you’re simply pitching a story for a print or web article, video can show the outlet that you know how to give a great interview.
8. Be available and reliable.
If you respond to a HARO or tell the outlet that your expert is available for an interview, do everything in your power to make sure he is ready at any given moment.
Journalists work quickly and have fast deadlines so if your source isn’t available, they’ll find someone right away who is.
9. Offer a unique point of view.
Reporters always need to write balanced stories and one of the best ways to land an interview is to pitch a strong perspective.
For example, when an executive pitched me “the dirty little secret” of a particular medical sector, I had him on the phone immediately. Another time, a doctor pitched me the downsides of a diagnostic tool and it made for a strong story.
10. Conduct your own interview.
One of the best ways to uncover great story ideas is simply to ask. After I interview a source, I always ask, what are you working on? and what trends do you see?
Instead of pitching only the stories your client has on their agenda, take some time to interview them about what they’re currently passionate about and you’ll come up with plenty of new story ideas to pitch
Landing an interview for one of your doctors with a national news site, a morning news show or a popular magazine is always a public relations win. It’s good for brand awareness, lead generation and sales. And when you give the media a source they can rely on, they will be more likely to call on you the next time they need a source.
Yet let’s face it, doctors are a unique set. They may be smart, have years of experience and some are even published authors, but when it comes to giving interviews, it’s not always their strong suit.
Here, read on for 7 common mistakes doctors should avoid when they give interviews.
1. No preparation.
When it comes to giving phone interviews for print or online outlets in particular, it’s common for physicians to show up unprepared. They don’t know what the story is about, the name of the outlet and if it will be a print or online story.
Watch any morning news show that includes sit-down interviews with doctors however, and you’ll see that they’re pros. Although the producer has likely provided them with talking points, these physicians have done their homework and know how to give a great interview. They know how to field questions and bring their A-game.
When you land an interview for your organization, it doesn’t matter who the outlet is or where will it be seen. Make sure your doctors know all the details ahead of time and encourage them to do additional research so they will be a shining source. After all, they’re the experts.
2. Boring the audience.
Your doctor might be the leading expert on a certain disease or health condition, but if she cannot deliver the information in an interesting, engaging way, the story falls flat. On TV and radio, the audience will be bored to tears and in print or online, their quotes might be weak or paraphrased.
Find a consultant who provides media training to help your source or at the very least, rehearse with her beforehand.
3. Talking on and on.
Some doctors love to talk and in fact, that’s probably why you chose them to be sources in the first place. Although your physician shouldn’t give one-word answers, he should answer the questions in sound bites, regardless of the format. Getting succinct quotes and quick sound bites always makes the story shine.
4. Dumbing it down or making it too complicated.
When your physician gives an interview with a health journalist, there’s no need to clarify abbreviations like ICSI or explain what the microbiome is. The reporter speaks your language and they will ask for clarification if necessary.
On the other hand, make sure the physician avoids medical jargon because the reporter isn’t likely to include a quote that includes words like “immunocompromised” or “cryopreservation.” The same goes when your doctor gives a TV or radio interview: KISS—keep it simple, stupid.
5. Having an agenda.
Even if they come prepared, it’s common for doctors to veer off course and talk about what they think the story should be. This can certainly give the reporter ideas for another story, but make sure they know to leave those ideas until the end of the interview.
6. Plugging your company.
When giving interviews, a physician may be asked to talk about what she sees as a trend or what common practice is at their hospital. Yet this isn’t an opportunity to sneak in a shameless plug. Unless the story is about the hospital itself, the interviewee knows who the doctor is and will not talk about how great your company is.
7. No added value.
The last question I always ask on interviews is, “Is there anything else that’s important?” When I ask this one simple question, 9 times out of 10 I get some of the best information of the entire interview, something I never thought of or an entirely new story idea.
Before any interview, advise your physician to have additional thoughts or ideas prepared. If he can give the reporter something extra and of value, chances are he’ll be called again for future stories.
More and more healthcare companies are making content marketing a priority, which is a good thing since the healthcare industry is notorious for lagging behind.
Yet just because it’s important, doesn’t mean your healthcare organization should move full force ahead. In fact, only 30 percent of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, according to a report by the Content Marketing Institute.
Here, read on for some ways your healthcare company can executive your content marketing strategy in a smart way, create content you can repurpose and give your business a big boost.
1. Pull together buyer personas
Flesh out your buyer personas so you know exactly who your customers are, what they need and how fill the void. Having buyer personas complete will also guide you as you create every piece of content and help you effectively target your prospects.
2. Create an editorial calendar
Your team might be strapped for time, but you can’t expect to write great content without an editorial calendar. You might be a healthcare marketer, but you need to think like a publisher.
Set a regular meeting to brainstorm ideas with your team and create an editorial calendar with at least three months worth of content. The calendar should include the story title, the type of content, the word count, keywords, who is responsible for writing it, the deadline, the date it’s scheduled to post and the channels.
3. Tell stories, not testimonials
Testimonials are an effective way to show prospective clients how you changed their lives but a one or two sentence quote won’t cut it. You need case studies to show your leads that your company has helped other clients just like them.
Whether it’s a patient story that makes them fill up with tears of joy or a case study about how you helped your clients increase revenue and save time, make sure you have stories that make your leads take action.
4. Repurpose and repeat
Just because you write a series of blog posts or a white paper, doesn’t mean it’s one and done.
Find ways to make your content work for you by repurposing it over and over again. Turn a bunch of related blog posts into an e-book or a white paper into a series of blog posts. Or pitch thought leadership articles, case studies and infographics to the media.
5. Keep a content inventory
Keeping tabs on your content can inform your content marketing strategy going forward. When creating your spreadsheet, include data like the URL, type, page title, post date, page views, unique visitors and social shares.