Media coverage is key to widespread awareness of your hospital or clinic's key services and offerings. But how can you find yourself in the pages of the local print media or on the screens of thousands of potential patients? The art of the media pitch is critical to your success in this arena.
Here are five basic tips you should know about when pitching your organization's stories to media outlets.
1. Prove Newsworthiness
There's no better way to have your call or message redirected to the advertising and sales department than by lacking in newsworthiness. This means you need to prove to a media outlet that you're pitching something of value to a news consumer—no sales strings attached. A new service offering isn't news—unless it's unique to the market. A promotion you're running doesn't merit unpaid placement—unless it relates to a broader news item. It's all about angles. Want to increase your appointments for seasonal flu vaccinations? Cite influenza trends in your region to attach a timely or relevant news tilt.
2. Stand Out
A vanilla press release probably won't get much traction for your pitch—media outlets receive hundreds of unsolicited press releases a day, so yours needs to have impact. Keep it concise and hit the key points early. And keep those key points to only the most exciting of developments. Assume that your press release won't be read all the way to the bottom of the page—make your lead paragraph count. According to Marx Communications, journalists allow an average three seconds of reading to catch their attention. Your lead is incredibly important.
Pro tip: Avoid sending your press releases and media pitches to generic or "info@" inboxes—it's far more likely to be overlooked. Make connections so that you can make direct contact with an individual's email account or phone number. Even go so far as to research who at a given media organization is the likeliest to cover healthcare-related news items.
3. Connect Face to Face
If you've been tasked with pitching to media outlets on behalf of your hospital or clinic, you need to get your face out in the community. No matter how big or small your home-base city is, you need to have a presence with local media. Network at press conferences and other events that will likely draw industry-applicable media, and join local press clubs and organizations that will get you regularly in front of key players.
4. Do Some of the Work
Reporters and assignment editors are inundated with pitches and releases—not all will show an immediate merit for publishing. That's why doing a little bit of the work for them can go a long way to getting coverage. Provide more than simply a standard press release in your pitch. Offer contact information for key stakeholders, such as your clinic or hospital's leadership or partners, and provide artwork, such as photography or branding elements, upfront. Show that you understand their time is valuable, and you'll make it easier for them to pull the trigger on adding you to their spread or to their next broadcast.
5. Employ Expert Timing
If you want to successfully land your hospital or clinic in the pages or packages of the local news media, you need to know how to time your pitch. Familiarize yourself with print and broadcast deadlines for the major players, and find the sweet spot of when a reporter or editor is likeliest to be open to a pitch. According to a survey from GreenTarget, 44 percent of journalists prefer receiving PR in the morning.