As a journalist covering health technology, I get hundreds of pitches from PR professionals every week—some helpful, most not.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not completely annoyed by the state of my inbox. There have been many instances where my correspondence with a company and its communications team has gone smoothly and I have been able to quickly produce an informative and complete article. Other times, the experience can be frustrating.
To reduce that frustration and make our interaction more fruitful, I’ve laid out my top seven favorites as a health tech reporter.
- Ditch the buzzwords. As mentioned above, I receive offers from hundreds of different companies every week. I’ve seen widespread use of terms like “uniquely innovative” or startups claiming to “reinvent” the way care is delivered. Words and phrases like this don’t mean much and don’t make a company stand out. In fact, this wording often causes company ads to blend in with the sea of other emails. I recommend being as specific as possible.
- Be aware of what’s in the news. I get it – you want your client company covered MedCity News so you send me an email summarizing the technology. But understand that if your pitch isn’t tied to a news hook — a fundraising round, a new partnership, a new client, or something newsworthy — coverage isn’t guaranteed. So when you email, explain why I should cover a particular company now.
- Make sure contractors are available. When an interesting presentation comes my way, I feel excited. At this point, I’m assuming the pitch means the executives are available to interview in a few days. Otherwise, why bother submitting, right? That excitement turns to disappointment when the communications specialist tells me that the company’s CEO won’t be available to participate in a phone interview or answer email questions for a week. Journalists tend to work on tight deadlines and we want to cover the news close to the moment it breaks.
- Don’t ignore my questions. You want coverage. I want answers to the questions. And all of them, not just a select few. For example, a PR rep recently contacted me about a company Series C funding round. I sent over 12 questions to the CEO to answer, but only received five responses. When I asked why, the representative told me that the CEO preferred to “only answer questions related to the company and its technology.” How questions like “describe your business model” and “explain the upcoming clinical trial for your product” are unrelated to the company and its technology, I will never understand.
- Be willing to share data. Companies like to tout statistics proving how great their product is, often claiming things like “reduces burnout by 75%” or “saves hospitals $5 million a year.” But when I push for the actual metrics used to reach those conclusions, it’s often a battle. How do they measure burnout? In which areas of the hospital have savings been noted—the hospital’s emergency department, in back office administration, in clinical records?
- Endless follow-ups won’t get me to reflect your message. As I mentioned, my inbox can get messy sometimes. A follow-up message or even two is welcome and often necessary. But sometimes PR reps send six or seven follow-ups, which is too much. And as I said in #3, journalists usually want to cover news close to the time it breaks, so the news is probably out of date by the third or fourth follow-up.
- Try to learn the rhythms of journalists. If you want your ads to reach the right reporter, it pays to learn about their cadence. For example, MedCity News has a dedicated reporter for employer and payer-focused news, so I don’t usually write stories on those topics unless she’s on vacation. The reverse is also true. So if you’re looking to keep your ads out of the black hole, please direct them to the right reporter.
Photo: Flickr user Guillaume Delebarre