In this issue, I would like to discuss one of the most important elements of medical marketing – Media Exposure. Proper media exposure can bring in a large volume of new patients very quickly and increase the branding and expertise of your practice. Gold Medical Marketing specializes in Public Relations, Medical Marketing and Media Exposure. Generating media exposure is an often overlooked or underutilized tool in medical marketing, particularly because it requires time, follow up and, most importantly, a thorough understanding of how producers, editors and writers work. Knowing how to pitch stories is a complex discipline. When done well, it can bring tremendous results to your practice. When done poorly, it is a great way to get the media to ignore you forever.
Generating Media Exposure
Many physicians have gotten into the habit of thinking that a patient’s value has peaked once their insurance provider has sent the check. While reimbursements are important, there is another element of a patient that can be used to generate other patients. The key to this is realizing when you have a “star patient”. A star patient is a patient who has an uncommon or interesting pathology, an incredible clinical outcome or a very engaging backstory. These patients are a great catalyst to generate media exposure.
The Difference Between A Press Release and Feature Story
Many people confuse what should be sent as a press release and what should be sent as a feature story. The bottom line is, when you are wrong, editors and producers hate it. Knowing the difference between the two can bring a wealth of exposure to your practice.
A press release is an effective way to announce an event or new initiative begun by your practice. They are short and to the point of cover the five basics the writer or producer is looking for:
Generally, these should be kept to 4-5 paragraphs or 400-500 words. Remember, you are not giving the full story with a press release- you are giving the relevant information in a simple and digestible format. The goal for this is to have the release run as is in a publication, or to have a journalist contact you for a full story or segment.
Press releases should also always contain:
- Contact information
A feature story is just as it sounds, a story featuring something of human interest that is longer than a press release and in a different style and tone. For medical professionals, feature stories often focus on a particular patient who has an interesting or captivating story. Also, the utilization of a new and pioneering procedure can also be the subject of a feature story but it must always revolve around the patient, not the doctor.
In most cases, the feature will be changed and modified to fit the criteria of a certain publication or news outlet. If the feature story is picked up by a TV producer they will want to interview the patient as well as the doctor, so it is imperative to make sure the patient is available and willing to be interviewed before submitting the story.
It’s Not About You
Despite your inclination to make the focus of the story or feature about your “revolutionary approach” or “vast clinical knowledge”, this is not what the viewing audience nor the journalist are interested in. The focus of the story is the PATIENT. More specifically, the hardships the patient endured, the physical or social obstacles caused by the patient’s condition, the effect on the patient’s quality of life and the resilience they showed throughout it all. The physicians part in all of this is to give an understandable clinical history of the patient as well as to describe the approach used to treat the patient. The goal is to create a human interest story that touches people.
Essentially, the patient is a proxy to generate interest in your practice and to bring new patients. When a story or feature becomes too focused on the physician the media views it as self-promoting and will almost always pass on the story.
What They Want
There are several different types of media outlets that are open to medical content including, print, radio and TV. The key is knowing what each medium is interested in and how to give them your content.
Newspapers, magazines and local websites are a great way to communicate with those in your community. In most instances, print publications are mainly interested in content that focuses on a member of the community or an initiative begun by a physician that helps the local community. Feature stories are often picked up by these outlets because stories about local residents show that the publication is in tune with the community.
Press releases regarding a new procedure or program begun by a physician are also popular. However, there is a delicate art to this. If the press release is overly solicitory the editors will pass because they are not interested in doing free promotion for a physician.
Print publications are usually funded by advertisers and the publications main goal is to generate enough ad revenue every month to be profitable. As a result of this, many publications will ask the physician to run an ad to “support” the press release or story. Essentially, this is the old “payola” model that was used in radio. Sadly, it is sometimes the name of the game. In instances like this I often evaluate the cost of the ad against the readership and distribution of the publication in an effort to project ROI.
As a marketing and public relations professional I have always been averse to radio ads. Radio is typically packed with car dealers and furniture sale advertisement. By using the same air time to promote your medical practice, listeners may equate you to the screaming voice-over telling them to what a great deal they can get on a new car.
However, this is not to say that radio is not a great way to promote your practice. One of the most effective forms of radio is sports radio. Almost every week, it is announced that a professional athlete is going to be sidelined due to an injury or will be undergoing a surgery to correct an injury. The primary question on all sports fans minds is, “How long will they be out?”. It is in this fashion that your knowledge and expertise become useful to the radio host who has to fill a 5 hour daily radio block.
Almost weekly I contact radio producers and have one of my clients go on air and discuss an athlete’s injury and general prognosis. When a listener hears the physician on air discussing the injuries of a high profile athlete it creates the perception of esteem and expertise. Also, thousands of people are listening to your assessment and hearing your name. This creates brand recognition for your practice and reinforces you as the expert in this form of injury.
Furthermore, sports radio is a male dominated audience. If your core demographic of patients is primary male this is a great way to expose your knowledge and expertise to an audience of thousands of potential patients. It also creates a sense of identity for you. Patients love knowing a physician shares their interests and is as informed about sports as they are.
This is just one example and is not to say there are not many other radio outlets that cater to women as well. The important thing is targeting an audience.
TV features are often the hardest to attain as most people are pitching TV producers over print editors. This is because as print and radio audiences wane, TV news programs have remained steady. For this reason, TV producers are getting hundreds of pitches everyday and knowing how to pitch them is key.
The key for TV producers is visuals. The producer is going to want to condense all the elements of your story into a 2-4 minute segment and although that may not seem like a long time, it is a very long time for TV. The key for a successful segment is keeping the audiences attention and to do that visuals are essential.
If you have a compelling story that interests a producer they will want footage of the procedure, footage of you with the patient, B-roll footage. All things to keep the attention of the while the story is narrated.
Also, the topic and scope of the story must be relevant to their demographic. For national shows (Dr. Oz, The Doctors, The View, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc.) their viewing audience is made up a certain demographic and the story must fit the interests of that audience. They are not always as interested in the content of the story as they are with satisfying the audience.
The Art of The Pitch
Pitching a story is either a labor of love or the bane of existence. It all depends on your relationship with the media and your knowledge of what to pitch and who to pitch to. EVERY writer, editor, host and producer has a particular way that they like to be pitched as well as certain topics that interest them. From the headline you use, to the format of your writing, to your topic, it is an art. Knowing these details is by far the most important element in public relations.
Sending pitches to general emails or publishers is an absolute waste of time. Finding out who covers health and medicine and doing the research is what gets stories placed. However, just because someone is a health or medical editor does not mean they want all of your stories. Some of them are only interested in clinical trials, pharmaceuticals, published studies, etc. Sending these reporters pitches that do not fit their criteria is the fastest way to annoy them and get ignored forever. The story has to fit their needs as well as have a connection to something that has been reported on earlier or something they are looking for.
There are countless elements that go into pitching a story and they are far too lengthy to lay out in this edition. Other factors that play into the pitch are- expert guests, making the connections, timing, research, being a trustworthy source, etc.
Gold Medical Marketing focuses on two unique efforts, Medical Marketing and Public Relations.
Generally, Medical Marketing focuses on antiquated and expensive practices that do not generate results. The reason for these shortcomings is often due to lack of understanding in the elements that attract patients. Primary care physicians and referring physicians are no longer the only source of new patients. Google, the media and physician review sites have become increasingly important elements in who a patient chooses as their specialist. They key to having these sources work for you is cohesion. All the elements of your practice, both digital and physical, must represent an attractive brand and communicate your expertise and skill.