It happens to even the best health care public relations pros.
Your hospital’s competitor is quoted in a story about a topic that falls within your institution’s purview and on the fringes of the source the reporter has used. This can be disheartening, but it’s an opportunity to learn.
Consider Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. They all have something in common: Communicators tell their own stories and, as a result, generate respectable placements.
How do they do it?
They create stories, not press releases.
Their communications team functions like a newsroom.
Their staff has a journalist mindset—working a beat and vetting stories.
They amplify content.
PR and marketing professionals at Mayo Clinic operate like news reporters. They hold daily meetings in which their brand journalists pitch story topics from different areas of the organization and discuss trending news that could lead to exposure.
Cleveland Clinic uses the brand journalism portion of its website, Health Essentials, to publish consumer-friendly stories. It also promotes content on its social media channels.
Communicators at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center use a two-tiered approach for national exposure. First, they deliver information via company-owned social media channels as well as through earned media coverage. Second, internal brand journalists cover specific product lines and mine their beats regularly for story ideas.
Here are a few tips for national exposure:
1. Create strategic content. Mayo, Cleveland Clinic and Wexner are content creation machines, consistently churning out strong material. They tailor stories to their target audiences. In addition, they think ahead about topics for which they want to establish credibility, and they pump out information in these areas.
Hospitals tend to focus on their signature product lines, such as stroke for The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. When the content is on your company-owned channels, it’s easy for journalists to find it and feature your experts in a national story.
2. Employ multi-channel distribution. Top hospitals also focus on how they can best distribute content via earned, owned and paid media placements.
Earned: Strategic use of earned media coverage can make the difference between a few fans seeing your hospital’s content and millions of people accessing it. Once you’ve determined your story is a candidate for media coverage, don’t just pitch to journalists. Instead, think of yourself as a valued content news resource, and share your relevant content.
Ideally, communicators want journalists to come to you as a credible source. Make it a snap for decision makers to find and download your stories. For instance, you can use a digital distribution tool that features easy-to-download video content such as Mayo Clinic News Network and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Multimedia Newsroom.
Owned: When developing digital content, offer it in formats and styles that work best on each social media platform. Customize each piece of material for each channel.
Paid: Consider using paid media placement tactics if those first two options don’t meet campaign goals. Many health care brand managers use sponsored social media posts. Paid media placements can give content an extra boost, but use that approach strategically.
3. Guest-blog. Create guest blogs to get your content featured on other credible websites. First, identify the websites and blogs where you want to be featured. Once you determine your targets, pitch your health care experts to the site’s managers.
Look for a balance that addresses what the blog owner wants, as well as your desired area of expertise. Also, don’t write for a narrow audience. If your content is written for a broader audience, your blog could syndicate, which is like hitting the guest blogger lottery.
4. Newsjack. Top hospitals use this tactic to insert their experts into breaking news stories around the world. This requires communicators to think on their feet and be ready to provide experts when news breaks.
When your expert and message are immediately available for journalists, they will be the go-to resources. Set up a system to constantly monitor for breaking news or trends in pop culture that relate to your signature sweet spots. It’s a crowded content world, so act quickly.
5. Maintain relationships. Leading hospitals understand the importance of nurturing relationships with top-tier journalists. Send reporters helpful information and tips related to their beat even when you don’t have a story that’s tied to your brand. The extra effort can help them if they are in a pinch for a story idea, which will enhance your relationship.
Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, a public relations firm that specializes in brand journalism. MediaSource has been named Best Health Care Agency in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Ragan’s Health Care PR & Marketing Awards. Connect on Twitter: @LisaArledge.
This article was created in partnership with MediaSource.