I had a chance to interview a number of health journalists who write for business and consumer publications – with a few tech reporters sprinkled in. Some have gone on to greener pastures, hanging up their newspaper spurs and now blogging about subjects of interest.
First, if you want to know what health topics these journalists are covering in 2013 check out the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Tips Sheet page on the AHCJ website. Know what’s relevant to these journalists before you start pitching in a vacuum and trying to get a free commercial for your client. Perhaps you have clients that could be media experts on some of these topics, or you can be helpful with or without a client by providing credible sources.
Reporting on Health is another site by and for [primarily] health journalists. Here you can get an inside look at what reporters say to each other about covering health and medical stories; what makes a great story; where to find good data, when to be suspect, plus lots of resources for covering new drugs, clinical trials, the latest mobile health apps, or the regular staples – obesity, diabetes, cancer, healthcare reform, to name a few.
http://www.healthnewsreview.org – another site by and for journalists covering health stories. Their mission? To improve the public dialogue about health care by helping consumers critically analyze claims about medical interventions with accurate, balanced and complete information. These people review health and science stories with their own rating scorecards. Check out their favorite health blogs and news sites.
Let’s drill down to specific journalists I’ve interviewed. Here are some of their perspectives on PR peeps –ways to build and kill relationships:
This comes from a Huffington Post health policy reporter…
We both have a job to do: “I never lose sight of the fact that people I’m talking to have an agenda of their own. Their job is to do what makes the people they work for look good. That doesn’t mean we have to be combative with each other. On the other hand it would be professional malfeasance if I took everything at face value and didn’t do my own reporting.”
Being helpful: “How to woo me on Twitter: if I put a thought up on Twitter or even inside a story I’ve written, and someone contacts me and says I know about this it helps build credibility with me.”
Does this sound familiar? “I don’t need PR people as friends. I hate cold call pitches about things I never write about. You lose credibility instantly. Reporters are on these mass lists. Among other things if you can’t be bothered about what my publication writes about or what I write about don’t bother contacting me. If you care enough to pitch me a story you should care what I write about. I’m too busy. At the same time, even if your material is relevant to what I write about I’m not obliged to respond to every pitch I get.”
Angry Tech Reporter & Radio Host Personality (applies to health & science reporters too)
“I get 20-30 press releases a day. They suck because people have no idea what a journalist does and they don’t have a story to tell. A lot of people wouldn’t know story if it bit them in the arse. They say, ‘I have to send out a press release so I can bill the client.’
“Lots of PR people have never seen the products they are promoting and it shows in their work. Now you can send out a press release and the client can look to see that they’re all over the Internet. There is a PRWeb mentality out there.
What gives journalists their impression of PR people? Static press releases. Instead, labor over pitches that make a great story. Hook them in the first sentence. You can put your head on the pillow at night knowing you did a great job. Even if the pitch fails you gave it your best.
What makes PR people do a spectacular job? They sweat the story; they sweat the details. It starts with a personal investment.”
Stay tuned for our next blog and more useful impressions about PR from journalists.