How PR can help you stand out in a complex healthcare market

4 ways to get your company noticed in a complex industry with PR

Companies that are new to the healthcare industry have good reason to be apprehensive— it's unlike any other vertical market. There are different pain points, different buying behaviors and different decision makers. If you don’t have the expertise to make inroads quickly with these influencers, then standing out in this complex, crowded market with public relations can be a challenge.

That’s why the keys to effective PR in healthcare are market knowledge, messaging, personalization and, most importantly, simplification — taking complex issues and solutions and making them easily understood and meaningful for potential customers, regardless of the content delivery method. In greater detail, here’s how to make your PR stand out.

Know the market. The healthcare industry is in the midst of massive changes right now in the way care is marketed, delivered and sold. A deep knowledge of healthcare trends, particularly of the B2B world, which is vastly different than B2C, is vital to understand not only how the industry works, but also where your solutions fit. Staying current with industry and regulatory changes is a daily necessity. With this knowledge comes the advantage of being able to serve your clients as a solution provider as well as act as an advisor with deep expertise in healthcare trends.

Develop strong messaging. Once you’ve gained a deeper knowledge of the industry, it’s much easier to develop strong messaging. Many companies with an established business that serves multiple markets, such as retail, may not recognize how challenging it is to establish significant brand awareness or thought leadership in healthcare. Understanding how to construct and approach healthcare segments and position messages accordingly is essential. It brings value to the company’s healthcare presence right from the word “go” and helps them make inroads to the market quickly.

Personalize content. While developing strong messaging, the focus today is really on personalizing the message to a unique, individual buyer. It’s similar to the way Amazon or your other favorite retailers operate — they want to customize messages specifically to you. As you segment down in the market, you need to realize that the motivations and issues of your clients are diverse. For example, the pressures facing a nurse informatics officer are very different and distinct from those of a CIO. Although there are also commonalities for both, understanding and addressing those unique pain points is crucial for any PR content.

Keep it simple, but meaningful. Complex messages are complex for a reason — namely because the issues and solutions healthcare companies are addressing are often very technical. That’s why companies need to have a number of different communication vehicles, from the more in-depth resources like a white paper or eBook — or even sections of your web content —to simple pieces such as video testimonials, solution overviews, infographics and other visualizations that make it easy for someone to understand. It’s not that your prospect can’t understand the issues and solutions you’re describing, but they often can’t grasp it quickly because the material is too dense and time-consuming. Different levels of communication are necessary in order for people to first understand the concepts and then go deeper, when the time’s right, to address the intricacies of the solution you’re offering.

To learn more about how to leverage PR to distinguish your company in the healthcare market, read this brief Q&A with Brad Dodge, the founder and CEO of Dodge Communications.

Media relations best practices in the digital age

Media relations is an integral part of PR, and the skills required for both are the same — the ability to communicate a message — despite the rise of new outlets, channels and demand for multimedia ushered in by the digital age.

Journalism is rapidly changing in a number of ways, not the least of which is serving up new, graphical ways to tell a story. Reporters are expected to package a story with visual, audio and written elements to feed readers’ hunger for multimedia content. And yet among PR teams, there’s often a gap between what’s offered and what’s needed – and more often than not, pitches don’t offer or include multimedia content.

In today’s fast-changing, multichannel and multi-sensory world, adapting PR practices is critical to better meet these needs and garner much needed coverage as well as favor among the editorial community. At the same time, while media practices are dynamic, traditional outlets also still adhere to certain standards. These rules of engagement arose, in part, because editors and reporters operate on tight schedules and in high-pressure situations.

Knowing what reporters need — and how to work within their systems — will help you shape your pitch, increase your chance of publication and build stronger relationships. Keep in mind the following tips as you take that first step in outreach.

Do your homework. Before sending your pitch out into the world, make sure it’s going to the right publications and the right reporters. Become acquainted with the publication’s articles and blogs, specialty and slant, as well as who covers which topics and how they write. This way, you can ensure the story relates to their interests.

Find the hook. As you’re developing the pitch, think like a reporter. Like you, they have too much work to do and too little time. How can you help them? By finding the right story angle and telling them why they should care. Know what’s been written and what hasn’t and why your piece is fresh, relevant and adds to the larger industry discussion.

Think visually. Beyond finding the right story hook, consider what visual elements might help illustrate the points you want to get across. Think beyond the head shot. Consider including statistics or other content pieces that lend themselves to a visual representation as well as capitalizing on client interactions and case studies with video snippets and audio captures.

Keep it short. Keep the pitch interesting and informative enough to hold a reporter’s attention, but get to the point quickly and show them how it will develop into an interesting story that their readers will value. Remember, too, that you’re building a relationship with the journalist and your credibility matters. Don’t overpromise or oversell.

Semper paratus: Be ready for the call. Reporters might not have time to check into your story until after deadline, which may mean after hours. Be sure they have a way to reach you. And when they do call, be prepared and knowledgeable about the story. As the contact, you need to know the details and be able to answer their basic questions.

Make business personal. Not every story, even a really good one, is going to get picked up. Competing priorities, breaking news—it’s complicated. But when you do get a call back, make the most of it. Whether or not they go with your story, listen and learn. Find out what they need, how they work, what they’re passionate about. The goal is to build trust so they continue to reach out to you in the future. 

To learn more, check out this video blog on what key influencers want and how to meet their criteria.

5 tips for successful media briefings

Don’t look now, but tradeshow season has kicked off. During the upcoming events, there will likely be dozens of media briefings for your company’s leaders or your clients. While the sheer number of these interviews can seem overwhelming to you and your clients, everyone’s stress level will be reduced with a little preparation and remembering some simple tips. Here they are:

  1. Select clients carefully. Having a client speak to the media regarding their positive experience with your company’s solutions is a great idea and is much preferred by many publications over speaking to a company executive. That said, it’s important to vet these clients carefully and explore all the potential questions that a reporter or editor might ask. You don’t want to be surprised by an answer, especially if it reflects poorly on the company.
  2. Conduct mock interviews. To avoid surprises, run through potential media questions with the client and practice responding to answers that could be construed as negative. This doesn’t mean you should try to mislead the reporter, but rather emphasize the positive aspects instead of dwelling on any negative outcomes.
  3. Know the publication. Just as your company views itself as unique to the market, so do the publications that you will encounter. As you’re pitching publications to gauge their interest in meeting with your company’s leaders or clients, make sure to understand beforehand the niche of the publication, its readers and reference the relevant issues facing them in your pitch. Once your briefing schedule is set, review which editors or reporters you’ll be meeting with and rehearse possible relevant talking points and solution benefits with your company’s leaders or clients to ensure that the reporter is engaged throughout the briefing.
  4. Promote research, survey and trends. If only your company leaders will be present during the briefings, one way to help your company stand out from competitors is to present research or surveys to the reporter that have been conducted of your clients or that your company has sponsored. These surveys or research are especially memorable if they address a recent pressing trend in the healthcare industry that is generating a lot of discussion among stakeholders.
  5. Listen and ask questions. Just because the reporter or editor will be asking most of the questions during the briefing doesn’t mean that you and your client won’t have an opportunity to listen and ask your own questions. Structuring these briefings more like conversations and less like legal depositions makes everyone involved feel more open and comfortable. Plus, when reporters have an opportunity to explain what their readers are interested in and why, it makes the briefings more meaningful for the publication and more likely to result in an article.

For more media briefing interview do’s and don’ts, check out this quick and handy guide.

Q&A: Bigger picture PR

Pursuing thought leadership initiatives can help position your company as an industry expert. But when looking at the bigger picture, thought leadership doesn’t just apply to executives. A strong platform includes promoting the success of your partners, including your clients. This is mutually beneficial, positioning you both as thought leaders; your clients get to showcase their innovative successes, and you get to show how your company is supporting these efforts with sound technology.

We recently talked with Kyle Wilcox, vice president at Grinnell Regional Medical Center(GRMC), about how he has worked with one of their technology vendors to promote and benefit both organizations.

Dodge: How did you initially get started working on PR efforts though your vendor?

Wilcox: Patientco introduced me to Dodge Communications a few months prior to HFMA 2014 ANI. We met in Las Vegas at the show, where we discussed with many online and print trade publications the future of healthcare, along with key GRMC initiatives and how we’ve worked with Patientco to achieve these goals.

Dodge: What were your main goals in participating in these efforts?

Wilcox: I wanted to position GRMC to participate in national and industry discussions about how leaders, at all levels, can influence the change required of us to improve the revenue cycle with the patient being first in mind.

Dodge: Were there any specific challenges GRMC was experiencing with its PR efforts prior to this?

Wilcox: A majority of our PR efforts are conducted by internal teams. Fortunately, they do an excellent job within our community. Yet, our hospital is smaller and can often be overlooked despite the innovative things we are doing with the patient revenue cycle.

Dodge: How has working with a vendor and agency team helped solve those challenges?

Wilcox: We just published in Healthcare Finance News and hfm, where we discussed the innovative things GRMC and Patientco are doing from a patient revenue cycle perspective. We also got great exposure at last year’s ANI conference. These opportunities wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

Dodge: What are the main benefits that PR has brought to your healthcare organization, as well as your vendors and partners?

Wilcox: These efforts have brought our story to a larger scale market, highlighting our work and our partners, like Patientco. We’ve realized more recognition and have nudged the national discussion around patient revenue cycle models, stressing that it’s more than just words—it’s showing actual results.