Making the transition to healthcare public relations

Making the transition to healthcare public relations

Here at Dodge, we are deeply entrenched in the healthcare industry on a daily basis. Our clients are providing the services and solutions that are changing the industry for the better, and our job is to make sure the word gets out.

But for me and many of my colleagues, the journey into healthcare came after we had established our careers as communicators. Whether in the world of consumer technology, finance, not-for-profit, sports or entertainment, many of us honed our public relations and marketing skills prior to understanding the inner workings of an EMR.

After nearly five great years here at Dodge, here are a few tips for established marketers taking on the unique challenge of healthcare IT:

Change your attitude towards media relations. Pitching your client’s “me too” product to the lifestyle editor of a major daily paper can be far from rewarding. No matter how compelling your pitch is, odds are it will be buried among hundreds or even thousands more. Writers constantly change beats; as such, it is difficult to form ongoing relationships, and they are often writing on a topic they are far from passionate about.

Pitching in the world of healthcare IT is like a breath of fresh air. Make no mistake, your pitches must be unique, compelling and – most importantly – newsworthy in order to get the editor’s attention. But once you do, your pitching efforts become much more fulfilling. Healthcare IT writers are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the industry, and once they trust you as a source of great content, they will seek you out for the next scoop. This makes building relationships with editors in this industry a more realistic proposition, and nurturing those relationships through great story ideas and HIMSS reunions is beneficial to you, the editor, and most importantly your clients.

Take the time to learn the industry. As a PR pro constantly shifting focus among several clients covering varying industries each day, it becomes difficult to grasp the important nuances your clients must face. Plus, I know all there is to know about flat screen TVs, so how much research do I really need to do for my hypothetical consumer electronics client?

Healthcare IT is a little different. After about two days at Dodge, it becomes clear that a deep knowledge of the healthcare world is vital to understand not only how the industry works, but where our clients and their solutions fit in. Throw in constantly changing and complex federal and state regulations, and staying up on the industry becomes a daily necessity. But there are many advantages to having a thorough understanding of whatever industry you’re dealing with. At Dodge, we are able to advise our clients on what trends to align with and anticipate what the media will want to hear about next. Additionally, we are able to position our clients as thought leaders on a wide variety of subjects.

Think like a consumer. Although we’re working in a B2B environment, our clients’ target audiences are still consumers. Whether it’s a specialty physician looking to streamline workflows within his practice or a major health system CFO hoping to increase her organization’s reimbursement rate, each of our clients is addressing a particular set of pain points for the customer. Showing an understanding of those pain points is just as important as listing the features of your client’s newest technology and is sure to resonate with the consumer on a more personal level.

The last piece of advice I’ll give for any PR pro in the healthcare IT industry is to take advantage of your knowledge outside of the office. I have developed a much greater understanding of the process when it comes to the healthcare needs of my family, I know what questions to ask – especially when it comes to cost and billing – and I can actually make sense of the explanation of benefits documents that the insurance company sends after a visit. The unique challenges of healthcare IT bring many benefits, both professional and personal.

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