The Revolving Media Door — and What It Means for Media Relations in 2018

Each year, the media landscape is forced to adapt to a changing environment and new realities. In one of our previous posts, we highlighted today’s reality for media: shrinking newsrooms, a high demand for more clicks, and aggressive (and somewhat unrealistic) expectations for the number of stories a reporter should pen each day. This trend is particularly troubling for healthcare companies. The complexity of healthcare often requires a more focused healthcare reporter who understands the intricacies of the system, yet as newsrooms shrink, there are fewer healthcare-only reporters to cover the industry. In 2018, companies must be aware of these changes and understand what it will take to gain recognition moving forward.

Let’s start with a quick look back at 2017. Although sponsored editorial content is not new, a new rendition involving multimedia content grew in popularity. Below are a couple approaches that emerged last year:

  • Lines continued to blur between media and content – We saw companies leveraging The New York Times’ T Brand Studio to engage and influence their target audiences, such as Aetna’s paid content that encourages readers to practice better “sleep hygiene” for the sake of their overall health and well-being. We also witnessed more and more brands shift to digital mediums and social media platforms to tell their stories rather than relying on reporters to tell their versions.
  • Reliance on peer review through social media interactions and influencer marketing – Micro-influencers (influencers with a smaller price tag than a celebrity) have taken social media by storm and continue to dominate content on digital platforms. Yet, proceed with caution. There was significant backlash against brands and influencers that didn’t disclose the paid nature of their relationships. This trend went beyond social platforms, and took on the form of opinion pieces and bylines.

Now to a look ahead. With 2018 underway, we have a few predictions for how the media landscape will transform. And more importantly, here are our 3 main tips to navigate these changes successfully.

Take a personalized approach to media relations:

In reexamining traditional media relations tactics, you should consider how you are connecting with the reporters you want to cover your message. Reporters are no longer dependent on releases that come across the wire, but instead are sourcing information through personalized methods.

  • Be heard through all the noise – With the amount of content being produced on a daily basis, your pitching method needs to be effective and eye-catching. You don’t want to be another email in a reporter’s inbox that ends up in the trash. In addition to having content that is relevant to them and supported by data, there are small ways you can have a big impact on a reporter. Simply inquiring about what a reporter is working on is an easy way to break the ice and begin establishing a relationship.
  • Use technology to your advantage – Social media can be an effective platform in connecting with a reporter. However, don’t just simply migrate your traditional media efforts onto social media and pitch reporters via direct messages. Engage with their content and reinforce how your organization can provide value to them. If you’re in the health tech space, it especially makes sense to demonstrate that your organization is technologically literate by connecting through a digital medium.

Don’t overlook the power of influencers:

This year, we expect to see influencer marketing continue to be a key component of any PR program. Influencers have the power to help brands stand out in a noisy space and create buzz among target audiences.

  • Remember that the power of peer can be persuasive – Their authenticity builds trust and attention in a way other approaches can’t. With healthcare’s treatment of sensitive patient information under great scrutiny, being transparent is especially important when enlisting a third-party individual to speak on behalf of your brand. This disclosure from Big Little Mommy, about her experience with telehealth company MDLIVE, provides the transparency component while also generating positive exposure for the brand.

Aim for a holistic communication approach:

Long gone are the days where newspapers and morning TV shows are the only channels helping companies generate awareness among key audiences. The digital age has brought about new mediums to push key messages and reach intended audiences.

  • Meet your audience where they are – To effectively reach people, you need a deep understanding of how they consume information. Sounds simple, but this practice is often overlooked. Communicating your messages through a variety of mediums relevant to your audience will ensure you’re maximizing exposure and getting the right message in front of the right person through the right channel. This could be through social media, online platforms, video, multimedia, etc. Aim to amplify your media relations efforts through other channels, as each deliver value to their intended audience.
  • Own your owned channels – Try as we might, PR professionals cannot control the narrative when someone else is writing the story. However, there are ways for you to take control of the message via your owned channels, including your website, blog, and social media accounts. Owned media presents you with the opportunity to build trust and establish credibility among your audience.
  • Traditional media relations tactics alone are no longer sufficient – The trend of the shrinking newsroom will continue, translating to fewer journalists and less time on their hands. Effective media strategies will need to leverage earned media that works hand-in-hand with paid tactics. There are a number of benefits to putting dollars behind a paid strategy, including the ability to own the message and control the reach, increasing the chances your target audience will lay eyes on your content.
  • Measurement is mandatory – Measurement is a key component of any communication program and should not be overlooked. Effective strategy should be rooted in the business goals of your organization with clear, measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). Aligning on program goals and KPIs allows you to effectively evaluate results, course correct when necessary, and chart the best strategy for future success.

At ReviveHealth we’re voracious consumers of not only news, but also the trends impacting the world in which we live and breathe. This past year we saw the media landscape evolve, and we helped our clients navigate these new realities to ensure they were able to reach the right people through the right channel. In 2018, we’re keeping a close watch on the revolving door we call media and helping clients stay ahead.

February 13, 2018
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