A PR Pro’s Guide to Making the Most of Face Time with Media

When roaming the exhibition halls of giant healthcare conferences, such as last week’s HIMSS Conference & Exhibition, your eyes may be drawn to the oversized booths, the ornate signage of cutting edge technology vendors, or the top-notch music events sponsored by major medical brands (Keith Urban, anyone?) – amid the flash, don’t forget the real showstoppers: lanyard tags that read, “Member of the Press.”

A member of ReviveHealth’s public relations department, I interact frequently with media, sharing our client’s stories and conveying the value of their offerings to journalists. My respect for journalists is deeply-rooted in my love of the news, and I’m sensitive to the fact that their profession is under attack, meaning their jobs are harder now, perhaps more than ever. In fact, just two days post-HIMSS, President Trump declared media “the enemy” of the American people.

So how do we, PR pros, fit in? If you’re hoping to secure valuable face time with a reporter – for a client briefing at the next health IT conference or to talk shop over lunch near their office – here are a few things to keep in mind.

Adjust Your Mindset

To establish rapport, the PR/journalist relationship must be viewed as a two-way street. All healthy partnerships include some give and take, and this one is no different. Don’t reach out to journalists only with self-serving asks. Instead, ask them periodically what they’re working on, if they’re looking for sources, and how you can help.

Do Your Homework

Before you email a reporter requesting a meeting, read the publication they write for and review their Twitter feed for context. Often, media will post about upcoming events they’ll be attending. If an outlet is sending multiple reporters to a single conference, they may reveal what each will specifically be covering while on-site. A few minutes of research can save your email from a quick trip to the trash folder.

Reach Out Early

PR pros are busy. Journalists are too. It’s frustrating when someone drops a long meeting on your calendar at the eleventh hour when your day is mapped out in fifteen-minute increments. Reporters experience similar feelings of annoyance and irritation when you ask them the day before a conference begins if they have availability to speak to your clients on-site. It’s OK to email them several weeks in advance to ask if they’ve begun filling out their schedule, and if not, when a more appropriate time to follow-up is. A little careful planning and consideration goes a long way.

Prepare Your Elevator Speech

With a large conference like HIMSS, you’re bound to run into a member of the media in a non-traditional setting. You should anticipate in-flight, elevator, and coffee line encounters and prepare accordingly. If you only have a few minutes to tell your clients’ story on the fly, structure your explanation of the information in the way they might write about it. In newswriting, it’s called the Inverted Pyramid. The most important information – the who, what, when, where, why, and how, comes first. The other interesting pieces of information follow in order of importance.

Keep Your Promises

Lastly, deliver on your word. It’s OK not to know all the answers. It’s not OK not to do your best to find them. If you’re participating in an interview and a reporter asks you for a piece of information you don’t know off the top of your head, let them know you’re unsure, but will follow-up with them by a certain day or time. Reporters work on deadline, and if you don’t provide them the information they need in a timely manner, you’ll be left out of their coverage altogether.

March 1, 2017
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