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VSHMPR Day 1: Jenn McDaniel on Media Relations

Posted May 06 2010 12:00am

The first session of the Spring VSHMPR conference was presented by Jenn McDaniel from Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, VA. Jenn is a terrific presenter, a former TV news professional in Charlottesville before joining Martha Jefferson. She provided a great primer on media relations for hospitals.

With her background in TV news, Jenn was able to give the group a look at hospital PR from the perspective of the news team. Some of her points for successfully dealing with reporters include:

  • Be flexible
  • Be on time
  • Be straight forward with them and tell them what they can expect

She also mentioned the importance of educating co-workers about what communications and marketing departments do – and what constitutes a real news story. For employees who will be interviewed, prepare questions for them, anticipating what the reporter might ask. You should also work to make them comfortable with the interview. Then thank them for doing the interview and send them a copy of the story!

Timeliness was an important theme in Jenn’s presentation. Timing is everything in PR. You have to understand the reporter’s schedule. Pitch stories one to two days in advance when there’s an event involved. It’s beneficial to have evergreen stories that you can pitch at any time. This gives you flexibility during slower news periods.

Some of the things local media want:

  • Localize national stories
  • Breaking news
  • New technology
  • Construction updates
  • Flu season

Local reporters will be your friend if:

  • You call them back in a timely fashion
  • Ask them what they need
  • Be able to answer their questions or help them find answers to their questions. Don’t fake it.
  • Understand their deadlines
  • Provide updates
  • Help them look good; remember, they are not expert. Take stories down to their level.
  • Help them find someone to interview
  • Avoid always using PR spokespeople for interviews (great advice!)
  • Bring in patients when appropriate
  • Avoid giving a flat-out no response to a reporter. Try to work with them.

One of the great things Jenn emphasized is the importance of measuring (and communicating) results. When you get coverage, share it with the appropriate internal constituents. And definitely track ROI and demonstrate your value to the organization.

This was a really solid presentation and a great start to the conference.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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