Some Thoughts on Electronic PR For Healthcare

Every day multimedia outlets both traditional and virtual report on medical breakthroughs, research results and FDA approvals. There is a HUGE appetite in all media for such stories. But where do TV and multimedia medical reporters, producers and bloggers get these story ideas and how do they decide which stories they cover?

Most TV news health stories are not actually generated by in-house medical reporters. (Most outlets are using freelancers, stringers and general assignment people to do medical now). Some stories are sent to reporters like the JAMA Report from the Journal of American Medical Association or from newsrooms from internationally well-respected medical centers like Mayo Clinic.

Still other video stories come to healthcare reporters from pharmaceutical companies, their PR firms or companies like mine. These stories are usually re-edited or re-voiced by the local reporter or even re-worked with the addition of a local angle.

Typical stories health producers ask themselves include:

  1. Is this information current?
  2. Is it really new?
  3. Is it visual?
  4. Does it affect, and can it be used by, a lot of people?
  5. Does it impact the outlet’s target demographics?
  6. Is there a “promotional” angle, is the story “tease” worthy in five to ten seconds to make viewers want to tune in (or click the link online)?

While news outlets have restrictions on what kinds of external footage they will accept, in today’s world of declining budgets and staff, they are usually open to interviews, footage or information that is not available from any other source. For instance on an FDA approval, it’s not likely they will get permission to go into the factory (which would be in Puerto Rico or Europe) to see the medication coming down the assembly line. They may not be capable of generating the animation or graphics that illustrate the mechanism of action of the medication or the disease process itself. They may not be able to do their own infographic (for the web)—yet if you supply them with something properly vetted and geared to the consumer audience without all the medical jargon, you may be able to help them “tell your story.”

From experience, while you can supply interview sound bites, the optimal length is about 12 seconds. With the innovations available today via Skype and Facetime, it’s possible to make your key opinion leader available for a direct “fresh” interview which may make the story more palatable to some news outlets.

Whenever possible, it makes the most sense to use a national spokesperson. Soundbites from the Executive Director of the American Pharmacists Association would have more impact than a comment from a local pharmacist at the corner drugstore. By using a national spokesperson, reporters, producers and bloggers are given comments from someone not readily available to them.

In my next blog—it’s all about the pitch. Questions, comments? I’d love to hear from you.