In the journalism world, there has always been a stigma associated with public relations.
Journalists are seen as the ones who write fair and unbiased stories, while PR practitioners are the spin doctors and one-way communicators who bombard media outlets with self-serving pitches.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
I entered college focusing my studies on broadcast journalism and biology, with plans of becoming a healthcare TV reporter. But by sophomore year, I decided that being a media personality wasn’t the best fit for me. So I switched to public relations, where I could work comfortably behind the scenes. Soon after graduation, I began work in life science PR.
Since that time, I’ve found that a healthy symbiotic relationship is not only possible between reporters and PR professionals, but also beneficial to both parties.
Journalists are under more pressure than ever to produce lots of content — and quickly. Life science PR professionals often have fast access to sources and data that journalists value, as well as ideas for articles on emerging areas of research and healthcare. When there’s a good story to be told, both parties can find fulfillment.
So how can life science PR professionals make reporters’ job easier so that everyone wins? Here are three rules to keep in mind with every pitch.
1. Find the human-interest angle.
Make sure your pitch has a human aspect. Don’t be overly promotional. For example, don’t just say that a new medical device is “the best” in the industry. Put a personal touch to the story and explain what the product does; give specific examples of how it helps people. Does it save lives? Does it save money or time? Reporters will be more drawn to pitches that enhance public well being and involve people directly.
2. Make the science and impact easy to understand.
Working in life science PR can be challenging — we’ve got complex stories to tell. But reporters have a tough job, too. They need to produce fresh story ideas and write articles on a tight timeline, and often under pressure to churn out many pieces of content per day. They’re on the hook to quickly write scientifically accurate stories that the public will understand. Help them preserve their precious time by telling them upfront why the story is significant, how the news fits into the industry landscape, and why the audience will care. Offer sources that can give helpful insights.
3. Disclose as much as possible.
When proposing a story idea to reporters, be transparent. Set yourself up as a reliable source for the future by showing that you’re there to help fill in the details that matter. The more detail, the better. However, keep your pitch concise and to the point. Transparency also ties in directly with professionalism. Prompt and professional emails and phone calls are a necessity to drive a solid working relationship.
PR practitioners need to be able to sell a good story that goes beyond promotion. Being a good partner to the media requires seeing things from journalists’ perspective — and most importantly, from the perspective of their readership. Before sending an email or making a phone call to a reporter, develop a story that’s really worth writing about. Then follow through with the details that matter. When that happens, we’re all playing on the same team.