It’s not brain surgery: How to tell a great health story

For starters, think like a reporter.

As a health care marketer, do you ever wonder why some hospitals and health care companies get the lion’s share of media coverage, while others struggle to get attention for their health news?

Those who get consistent media coverage know the secret to health news success —forget you’re a PR person and pretend you’re a reporter! If you haven’t done your time in the ranks of a newsroom before moving to PR, here are five simple steps from a health-reporter-turned-PR-pro.

  • Think like a reporter: The single most important thing you can do to get the media to cover your story is to put on your reporter’s hat. Write in Associated Press (AP) style and produce the story as a reporter would. Offer a variety of multimedia choices such as high quality photos, video interviews and b-roll footage. If you put it together like a journalist, they may use your story as written or produced—hopefully with your brand messages included!
  • Be timely: Before crafting your story, ask yourself, “Why does this matter now?” Evergreen stories can get lost in the mix of a busy newsroom. If your story doesn’t include timely, breaking health information, find a way to tie your story to something relevant such as today’s headlines, the time of year, national health observances, pop culture or other timely events.
  • Make people care: Make the story mean something to your audience. Higher interest health topics typically affect a lot of people or have an easy-to-understand message. If your topic is narrow and affects few people, your story angle needs to be groundbreaking and compelling to get attention.
  • Include a real person: Another way to connect with your audience and make people care, is to include a patient (real person) who is affected by your health topic. Screen patients in advance of your release so that you can be sure they are a good match for media coverage and be sure to get the proper hospital consent forms signed beforehand. It’s important to have a few additional patient options to offer to national media outlets. Top-tier media often want to conduct their own interviews with someone who is not featured in your materials.
  • Educate your expert: A dynamic, well-trained expert can help you attract high quality coverage. Your story should include a credible medical expert who can speak in layperson’s terms about the issue. Consider a spokesperson who is comfortable speaking publicly and can summarize the message into a few short sentences. If your expert isn’t experienced in media interviews be sure to offer media training in advance of the release.

Lisa Arledge Powell is the president and co-founder of MediaSource, a multimedia production and media relations company that works with many of the nation’s top hospitals, healthcare organizations and other brands to get their message to the masses.

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