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PR — Public Relations or Patience Required? Yes.

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You’ve undoubtedly heard the proverbial phrase, “patience is a virtue.” But if you’re like me, your reply to that sentiment might be something like, “God, grant me patience. NOW!” Afterall, if time is money, being patient seems expensive. But when it comes to public relations and earned media coverage, patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s a requirement.

I once heard a fellow healthcare PR colleague grumble, “A good health tech PR campaign has the gestation period of an elephant, but our clients think we’re breeding hamsters.” (For reference, elephants carry their young for about 20 months, and hamsters about 20 days.)

While there is some wiggle room with that timeline, the fact is public relations is a marathon, not a sprint. And clients who hire a PR agency under the assumption everyone working on their account has a long list of media contacts in the healthcare space willing to run a story the second it’s pitched, will be disappointed. While many of us do have a robust list of contacts and have strong relationships with reporters, that doesn’t translate into instant coverage. PR is a process, and it requires a few foundational steps.

PR is a process, and it requires a few foundational steps.

 

01. Messaging + audience (months 1-2)

In the first one to two months of an engagement, your PR agency should be developing your corporate messaging, researching your target audience(s), and then refining the messaging to ensure it resonates with your audience. For example, if your target audience is a healthcare system CEO, your messaging needs to speak to what motivates people in that position.

For example, if your target audience is a healthcare system CEO, your messaging needs to speak to what motivates people in that position.

Your PR agency will conduct research to learn what matters most to this group and ask a lot of questions to ensure the messaging is meaningful. If we learn the number one concern for a hospital CEO is physician burnout, we’ll need to understand what your company does or offers that reduces physician burnout. How can you prove this? What makes you different from other solutions or products available?

Answering these questions (and many more) isn’t as simple as a quick Google search. Trends and universal themes change and it takes time to understand the current nuances of your audience and develop messaging that will resonate with them.

02. Strategy + consistency (months 2-3)

Once the messaging and audience are finalized, your PR team needs to build a strategy to reach this audience. This step typically happens in the second or third month of your engagement. Strategy includes identifying media outlets and journalists who cover news consumed by your audience, meeting and working with internal experts at your company and learning what they can speak to, media training sessions, and developing unique pitch angles specific to individual members of the press.

Strategy includes identifying media outlets and journalists who cover news consumed by your audience, meeting and working with internal experts at your company and learning what they can speak to, media training sessions, and developing unique pitch angles specific to individual members of the press.

But before any of that can happen, your PR agency might also need to ensure the messaging from step one is reflected across your platforms.

Journalists look at a company’s website, social media, thought leader bios, and past coverage before determining if they want to pursue an interview. What we claim in a pitch needs to be consistent with what a company claims online. A company that’s active on social media is also more enticing. Journalists want to know you’ll be posting links to coverage. Your communications agency will need time to review your online presence and make recommendations, and you will likely need some time to implement those.  

03. Time to pitch (months 3-infinity)

Around the third month, we’re ready to start reaching out to the media with carefully curated angles they’ll find enticing and valuable to their readers. Keep in mind, journalists might have a long list of assignments in the queue — no one is sitting around a newsroom waiting for our emails. When a reporter is interested, they often need to speak with their editors and get approval first, and they’ll need to vet the sources we offer.

Reporters will also more than likely want to gather additional insight from other experts vs. just one source’s point of view. All of this also takes time. In fact, while rare, I’ve seen it take up to eight months between an interview and publication.

Understandably, most businesses want instant gratification. But PR isn’t a short-term strategy or fix. There’s a lot of noise in the healthcare, health tech, and life sciences space and reporters covering this news receive hundreds of pitches a week.

But PR isn’t a short-term strategy or fix.

Building foundational messaging, understanding the target audience, fostering relationships with media, and shaping public perception necessitates consistent effort over an extended period.

Results require patience.

 

Amy Roberts

Amy serves as the Vice President of Communications and Client Services at KNB Communications, where she enjoys a proven track record of producing innovative and persuasive storytelling campaigns, securing top-tier media coverage, and driving corporate vision. Her extensive experience in the healthcare industry includes serving as the Public Relations Director at Intermountain Healthcare, where she led crisis communications, media relations, and community outreach efforts for more than a decade. Prior to becoming a PR exec, Amy spent years on “the other side of the microphone” as both a print and broadcast journalist. Her career has been punctuated with prestigious recognition, including two Edward R. Murrow Awards. She continues to freelance write for a number of publications.

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