One of the eternal challenges in marketing communications is how to craft an introduction, or “pitch,” that captures a journalist’s attention. Whether a client wants coverage in a niche trade publication, the Financial Times, or on CNBC, the difference between success and failure for PR pros usually hinges on how good they are at telling the client’s story.
But there’s an enormous difference between telling a story and sharing information. Sure, a client may offer “analytics, workflows, and business intelligence solutions to home health providers,” or develop “artificial intelligence-powered patient engagement solutions for healthcare organizations,” but that’s just information. Knowing how to craft it into a compelling, engaging narrative is often the skill that stops a reporter, editor, or producer in her tracks and starts a conversation.
One of the best books I’ve read over the last five years was “Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell - and Live - the Best Stories Will Rule the Future” by Jonah Sachs. As a viral storyteller and advertising expert, Sachs preaches a gospel proclaiming our existence “in a world that has lost its connection to traditional myths, and we are now trying to find new ones – we’re people and that’s what people without myths do.”
He invites us to partake in these “story wars,” explaining that understanding them “can make you a more effective communicator and a savvier media consumer” and “because our world is badly in need of solutions in so many spheres – economic, social, and environmental to name just a few. The ability to dream up and spread these solutions lives or dies on the ability to tell great stories that inspire people to think differently. Nothing is more urgent than that right now.”
Joe Cantlupe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and founder of HealthDataBuzz.com, agrees that telling a story, not just sharing information, is what gets his attention, particularly when it focuses on a company’s or product’s impact on the individual.
He offers a useful advice about what comprises a good “story” that effectively answers the inevitable “So what?” PR practitioners often hear when talking to journalists.
At minimum, Cantlupe said, a pitch about a product or technological solution should answer a few questions to be impactful, including:
What's new about it?
How does it add value?
What makes it different?
What nugget of information do you have that others don't?
Additionally, having customer case studies or testimonials can often be the key to
success and should be an essential element in any pitch. Even more effective but
sometimes forgotten in the world of healthcare IT is the human angle. If a pitch doesn’t
answer, in simple language, the basic question: “How does this _______ ultimately help
the patient?” then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
However, that doesn’t mean information isn’t important. When information is a
component of an engaging, compelling story it’s invaluable. But when it’s presented as a
cold, jargon-laced stream of facts, it’s lost in what Sachs calls the “media din.”
“Go for the most compelling data,” Cantlupe advises. “Then zoom it backwards to what
it means to the individual or group you are targeting.”