Despite the consolidation in the healthcare industry, most healthcare providers are still focused on a local market – with local media. Maintaining a robust and proactive media relations program is critical for managing the reputation of a hospital or physician practice. However, the downsized staffs at media outlets and the diversification of media channels can make that challenging. Here are some tips to stay on top of your media game.
Become your own media outlet – We all know that in healthcare, online content is king. Younger consumers use Google and WebMD as a primary care source, and older consumers are spending ample time looking up their latest pain, or researching home care options, or searching for a specialist. The movement to online health information search is not limited to consumers. A University of Georgia study found that most journalism and communications graduates rely on digital forms of news. Reporters are online in social media platforms and looking at content to gather information and ideas for stories. You need to be there with them. Write your own stories, post interesting infographics, produce short videos with patients and consumers and send out recipes via social media. Connect with your local reporters via Facebook and Twitter where you can give them kudos for a story they covered, or comment on a local event. Reporters will find you if your content is interesting, relevant to the local market, timely and published consistently.
Simplify television story pitches – Local television news is in a state of change. With young people turning away from television news, local TV is experiencing the pain newspapers have been encountering for years with declining readers. With fewer reporters, local TV is spending less time on news and more time on other immediate information sharing, such as traffic, weather and news. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 State of the Media survey, these topics fill 40% of a local TV station’s newscast, leaving less time for your story. Health care public relations professionals need to take new approaches with local TV. Short of actually writing the story, which is not out of the question, providing the station with edited b-roll and a simple thirty second script will help you get your story on air. Local TV stations are also investing in social media, with reporters tweeting and writing Facebook posts during commercial breaks. Posting pictures and content that are relevant to what the station is discussing can quickly and simply make your story part of the news.
Expand your reporter relationships – Developing and maintaining relationships with local reporters continues to be a valuable strategy for an effective public relations program. When trust and respect are established with local reporters, crisis communications becomes more manageable and the willingness to help out a reporter in a pinch is a no brainer because someday he or she will help you out as well. But in today’s world where reporters come and go and specialized “beat” reporters are a luxury, it is likely that you will deal with a variety of reporters with very few who actually understand your business. It’s important to transition relationship building from an individual level to a media outlet level. Become more familiar overall with the local newspaper, television and radio stations. Understand their business goals – what are they doing with live shots, what is their online strategy, how are they investing in social media, what are their plans for new technology? Customize your media pitches to address these goals. In addition to traditional media, become familiar with local bloggers who are also hungry for content. Plan a day to offer a tour of your new OB wing to local Mom bloggers, or ask a local blogger if they would be interested in one of your physicians writing a guest blog.
Proactive media relations is the backbone of any good PR program. Public relations professionals must stay abreast of changes occurring in the news media industry and adapt to these changes in order to continue to take advantage of earned media opportunities.
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