Media Relations

7 Ways to Make Informational Media Briefings Work for You

With the arrival of springtime also comes the start of the medical meeting and trade show season. If you’ve got product launches or other exciting news, you’re preparing not only for conversations with customers, but also for announcing your news to members of the media.

But if it’s one of those pesky years when you’re between launches or, as is common with startups, your key meetings will be done before you have regulatory approval and a product to announce, you may not be that optimistic about media opportunities. You’re probably still planning for customer conversations, but because you don’t have any real news to provide media outlets, you could be feel like it will be a wasted in-between year for public relations and media coverage.

Well, the only way this year will be unproductive with regards to media is if you let it be. In reality, this is a year when media relations could take on its true meaning if you invest time in meeting with individual journalists and serving their needs, even without having breaking news. If you pour your PR efforts into building media relationships through deskside meetings with journalists at their offices or individual journalist briefings over coffee or a meal at medical meetings, I think you’ll find the investment can pay off for years to come.

Here are some of the great opportunities – and dividends – that informational briefings with individual editors and journalists can afford you, and which normally get crowded out during years filled with launch activities.

The opportunity to educate media more fully on your product category or the health condition for which your product was developed. This will be especially profitable if your product will be first to market in the category or it’s early in the life of your category and media knowledge about it is still underdeveloped. Briefing media contacts with backgrounders and other educational materials on the disease or your product category can help them better understand the condition, it’s impact, and the need for products to address it. Ultimately, this is about educating media on the condition or disease state and laying the groundwork for the product your company will be introducing soon. These educational efforts can be even more effective if you’re able to bring along one of your in-house medical experts, bringing us to the next benefit of individual media briefings.

The opportunity for journalists to get to know and learn from your in-house medical and clinical experts. Usually during launches, journalists become familiar with your company through conversations with your marketing team, senior company executives and maybe even some outside third-parties, like patients and physicians. But media members may not know about the wealth of medical knowledge to be tapped right from your in-house team. Including your medical teams in your efforts with journalists not only leverages one of your richest information assets, but also conveys the solid clinical foundation upon which your products are built.

The opportunity to speak to industry trends and establish your company as a thought leader in your space. Because journalists yearn to provide information that truly serves their audiences, they are interested in what you have to share right now, but they want to provide their audiences even more. As an industry expert, you can help them do that by providing in-the-know content that gives their readers a sense of where your category is headed and what general developments are on the horizon. Of course, you don’t want to disclose any information that’s proprietary, confidential or awaiting regulatory approval, but you don’t have to. If you keep it high-level and talk about general trends you see in the broader category, it can still be appealing to information-hungry journalists while bolstering the industry leadership position your company holds in their minds.

The opportunity to focus specifically on one reporter and let them talk to you about what they’re most interested in. Listening to editors and journalists with your key media outlets is not only a great learning opportunity but it allows for the growth of actual media relationships. And just as with any relationship, if the only time you communicate with media is when you want to speak, the relationship becomes pretty one-sided and, in a sense, can wither. If, however, you sit down to listen to what journalists are actually seeking and determine to provide it whenever you can, a few things can happen. You can start to mine story ideas together and even develop a list of topics that interest them. You’ll become better able to supply journalists with the info they want and in the way it’s wanted, which increases the likelihood of coverage. And you’ll probably find journalists have an attitude of greater openness toward you and your news announcements. They won’t view you as someone who only comes to them when you want something but, instead, as someone who regularly provides them assistance and valuable information, even if at times, it’s only about being helpful.

The opportunity to establish your company as the category’s best resource of information and interview sources. If you provide well-researched, unbranded educational information in your media briefings and are able to direct journalists to credible key opinion leaders as potential sources, you’ll start to identify yourself as a valuable–possibly your category’s most valuable–information resource. After all, don’t you want them to come to you for information before they go to your competitors? This also helps earn their trust and increase their likelihood of paying attention when you’re ready with your big, important news.

The opportunity to put yourself and your company out there and see where things might lead. While the primary purpose of these face-to-face briefings is nurturing long-term media relationships, it can sometimes produce results surprisingly soon, especially with the industry publications that cover your product or disease state. In one instance, earlier in my career, my team arranged a week of face-to-face briefings with a half dozen or so publications in the medical device arena. We visited each office to simply meet and greet, learn their editorial needs, and share about our product category. No big news to hawk. Just very introductory and informational.

Within six months, three or four of these long-lead monthly publications had published feature stories about our client company’s products, and all because we pursued meetings with them. I can’t promise you’ll get stories quickly, and again, that’s not the main intent of your briefings. It should still be to learn and inform, without hidden expectations. But if you do meet with them and you get on their radar, it’s amazing where things can lead.

The opportunity to humanize their impression of you and put a face on your company. In their mind, until you meet with them, you’re probably just that faceless “PR lady” or “marketing guy” who sends them press releases, and they probably feel somewhat detached from your company as well. Most journalists get used to this, as it’s the M.O. of most companies with whom they interact. But again, this is about media relations, and if you want to build trust and a connection that makes them automatically think of you when they’re looking to industry for a source, then you’ll begin the process this week of identifying your strategic media outlets, setting up informational face-to-face briefings, and starting to lay the groundwork for future media rewards.

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