Straight Talk on HIMSS

Guest Blog By Fred Bazzoli, Editor-in-Chief of Health Data Management

Companies tend to think of HIMSS in isolation, as a make-or-break event at which they need to make a big splash with attending media members. First of all, companies coming to HIMSS need to be realistic about the enormity of the event, the rush of events, the demands on media members’ time, and how the event really fits into their overall media relations plan.

First, the numbers. More than a thousand companies will come to HIMSS. There may be 200 members of the media there, and of those, only 30 or 40 may focus coverage specifically on healthcare IT. Last year, I’d estimate that we received invitations to meet with 200 companies. I myself had between 30 and 40 meetings, and my feeling is that many of these meetings are not productive. It’s not for lack of trying; there’s just too much going on for most reporters, who also are covering educational sessions, keynote sessions, and pre- and post-show hours meetings, and additionally writing stories up as quickly as possible for their web sites.

Sending repeated emails to writers and editors asking for meetings is not effective and may, in fact, be negatively perceived. Please do not call and ask if we’ve received your email, and would we like to meet. We’ve got your email, along with hundreds of others. A specific, intriguing, pointed email, detailing one good story that you have for a writer/editor, along with a follow-up email a couple weeks later, is most effective.

It is NOT wise to shop the same story (i.e. one client’s story) to multiple media outlets. If you are doing so, please be very clear with the media member that that’s what you’re doing, and that the media member should check with someone handling your marketing before pursuing the story. This is a very dangerous tactic — it’s better to have one story per media member to lessen the chance that multiple outlets will want the same story.

Know the publications that are in the healthcare IT space. They’re not all the same, and they pursue news differently. You may want to study the field and target three to five publications, and then do a fantastic job reaching out to and working with those media.

HIMSS should be a time to have a very focused, purposeful, “get to know” you meeting with the media member. Have one specific idea for an article, or have a client who has an interesting story to tell, and have the client be there and willing to talk very briefly, not at length. Think of this as an elevator speech to tell the high points of a story and why it is worth telling. Your goal should be to build a relationship with the editor or writer so that the story will be memorable and pursued AFTER HIMSS. Unless it is breaking news, it is unlikely to be covered at HIMSS.

Make any media meeting time as friendly as possible at HIMSS. Both company reps and the writer/editor probably just need a break time from the crazy pace of the event. This should be a time to build relationships that extend beyond HIMSS. What does the media member most need — story ideas? Subject matter experts for interviews? Or to write columns? Help identifying trends in your specific industry niche? YOU should work hard to find three to five action points that are needs for the media member; that will encourage the media member to do likewise. Your goal should be to build a long-term relationship that is friendly, helpful to both parties, and extends beyond HIMSS.

Do not use a generic sales pitch with a media member; do not assume that he knows what your product does or your company’s niche in the market. Don’t start out by saying, “So, what’s the buzz at HIMSS this year?” The writer probably is so overwhelmed, that he or she has no idea what the buzz is.

A word about press releases. Many companies feel compelled to release news at HIMSS. This happens to such a degree that, sadly, most news releases issued during HIMSS are hardly noticed in the email onslaught. Nor is it true that five releases issued during HIMSS are better than one. Your best bet is to manage your news release to occur before HIMSS (one to two weeks) make it as strong as possible, and be ready to discuss it at HIMSS, especially opportunities for follow-up or “second-day” coverage, if the outlet did not cover the release earlier.

Frankly, we are beginning to look at options for ways to have better discussions with companies in our market at times other than HIMSS. The conference is still a great time to meet, put a name with a face, and build helpful relationships. But because of heavy demands on both media and companies during the short span of the conference, we’re not sure that it’s the most effective way to effectively and productively cover the industry. We’ll be there, and glad to meet, but we’re looking at other ways of ensuring that we maximize our ability to cover the industry.

 

Media Interview Tips from a Former Journalist

By Michelle Noteboom, Senior Content & Account Director

Media interviews can be quite fun – or they can be a disaster if the interviewee is not adequately prepared. Over the years I have interviewed dozens of CEOs, CIOs, and clinicians while writing for The Health Care Blog, Health IT News, HIStalk, and other publications. Fortunately, most of the subjects did a great job, though there were a few that left something to be desired.

I recall one CEO who took 12 minutes to answer the first question. Well, he actually answered the question in under a minute; he then spent an additional 11 minutes sharing every talking point he ever memorized about the company and its products. It felt more like a brain dump than an interview.

Then there was the CIO who put me on hold three times during the interview because people kept walking into her office to ask her questions. Her time was clearly more important than mine – in her mind, anyway.

Now that I am with Amendola, I’ve hung up my journalist fedora. Rather than conducting interviews, my role includes helping clients prep for their media interviews. While I am well aware that many people don’t see the need for prepping in advance, the journalist in me is quite sure that a little upfront preparation can make the difference between a fun and informative interview and one that leaves both the interviewer and interviewee shaking their heads. With that in mind, here are a few interview prep tips to consider:

Know the publication. Spend some time checking out the publication and understand the audience. If the readers are mostly C-level execs in health systems, there’s no need to explain what an ACO is. On the other hand, if an article is for a mainstream publication, avoid using a bunch of acronyms and industry buzz words.

Talking points vs. talking head. Explain your product or service and its value proposition very clearly and succinctly. Talking points are great but they should not keep you from expressing your personality and passions. Use your own words, share your personal story, and include interesting analogies to avoid sounding like an over-rehearsed and insincere talking head.

Chuck the jargon and marketing-speak. An interview is not a commercial. Again–be sincere and real.

Don’t multi-task. Here are a few things you should not do while being interviewed, especially if the interview is over the phone: drive a car, check your email, or welcome somebody into your office to ask a quick question. The more present you are, the better you will sound.

Logistics. Ideally you should be in a quiet place free of ambient noise. Also, a landline is best. Avoid using a speakerphone or blue tooth and do ask the interviewer if he/she can hear you okay. It’s also okay to ask the interviewer if you are being recorded – and if you are not, your interviewer will love you for talking a bit slower. Be on time because, just like you, the journalist probably has other time commitments.

One last tip: it’s best not to lose your cool like this gentleman!

Amendola’s PR Roadmap to HIMSS Success

Let’s face it, no matter how carefully you plan, there will still be some last minute work to get ready for HIMSS. The key is to minimize how much will be last minute! Plan to succeed by using Amendola’s suggested timeline for core PR activities before, at and after the HIMSS conference.

Four to six weeks prior to HIMSS:

  • Media Relations Prep (media coaching/messaging)
  • HIMSS Media/Analyst meeting pitching
  • Thought leadership pre-HIMSS media opportunities
  • Draft pre-HIMSS/HIMSS content

Three weeks prior to HIMSS:

  • HIMSS Media/Analyst meeting pitching
  • Ongoing thought leadership pre-HIMSS media opportunities
  • Finalize pre-HIMSS/HIMSS Content

At the show:

  • HIMSS on-site support, including media relations, social media coordination and internal event reporting

Post-HIMSS:

  • Follow-up with media/analysts
  • PR support for opportunities arising from HIMSS

 

Have questions? Contact us today!

Amendola’s “PR in a Box”

Amendola’s portfolio of event PR and marketing services help our clients execute successful media campaigns at HIMSS. Our most popular services listed below comprise a complete and effective package for promoting your company at HIMSS—but you can pick and choose and customize your own “PR in a Box,” too!

  • Theme development, trade show booth assistance and messaging
  • Buzz-worthy promotions that draw attendees to the booth (consider catchy props, contests, games, etc.)
  • Strategic social media campaigns with the frequency needed to rise above the noise and that leverages a well-connected digital influencer to expand your reach
  • Create multiple customer touchpoints to reach your audience—because you can’t rely on foot traffic alone!
  • Schedule an invite-only dinner event for media/analysts
  • Conduct a Focus Group with customers/prospects
  • Capture video customer testimonials (ask about our inclusive video + editing package)
  • Event reporting—our senior writers can cover your presence at HIMSS and collect a treasure trove of information for your future PR and content marketing initiatives

For pricing, contact Jodi Amendola at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com or 602-614-3182.

Be a Media Darling

by Marcia Rhodes

One of the greatest pleasures of my job is conducting media training, and then watching as spokespeople blossom into “Media Darlings”.

A media darling is someone who knows how to engage the media by delivering pithy sound bites that reporters love and audiences remember. Being engaging not only helps build your brand, it keeps you high on a reporter’s list of go-to sources as well.

Here is an example of how being quotable got our client, Chris Bowen, chief privacy and security officer at ClearDATA, mentioned in USA Today. In the article, It’s East vs West in Healthcare, Chris said, “Sometimes it’s not as comfortable as you think, straddling a barbed-wire fence like that.”

Here’s a tip: Before your next scheduled media interview, write down the key message you want to convey. Then go the extra step of formulating a sound bite. You can do this with metaphors, analogy, bold action words, etc. Following are a few examples.

Analogy: “It’s like crossing the bridge with an elephant, you can make a big noise but you might get trampled.”

Metaphors: “For long-term care providers, the EMR is Cinderella’s glass slipper, the shiny new thing that many confuse as the actual solution. It is connectivity, with or without an EMR that will make you the belle of the ball.”

Bold words: “We operate in a zero-trust environment.”

Emotion: “That’s my mom we’re talking about!”

Pop culture references: “We’re so focused on cybercriminals and hackers that we forget about threats from the inside. Think Edward Snowden.”

Clich’s (with a twist): “You can’t see the bamboo steamers for the Ginzu knives.”

Oppositional quotes: “America’s healthcare system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”

Coined words: Health information exchanges rely on “coopetion.”

If creating sound bites does not come naturally to you, then tell a story, but make it short and simple. Remember, facts tell but stories sell.