Don’t Forget Industry Analysts in PR Programs

Even before English economist William Stanley Jevons and other 19th Century luminaries formalized the idea of marginal utility, business people grappled with sustaining customer desires for their goods and services.

While Jevons had commodities in mind, I believe marginal utility is relevant to PR programs, too, especially in our digital world.  Keeping stakeholders informed with fresh, compelling news, perspectives and content is a necessity to maintain their interest and attention.

One key group with which to build and cultivate such relationships is industry analysts.  These influencers are different than traditional members of the media and bloggers, and an organization’s approach to them must be different, too.

Here are six recommendations for building a strong analyst relations program – one that will create third-party validation for a healthcare company’s services and technologies:

  1. Don’t treat analyst briefings and media interviews the same
    • In a media interview, the reporter asks the questions, and the source answers them while bridging to her own messaging and agenda as the opportunities arise
    • A successful analyst briefing, however, is a dialogue, where the client tries to gain as much insight from the analyst as the knowledge it imparts about its company, positioning, and go-to-market strategy
  1. Work with analysts and their schedulers weeks in advance of desired briefings
    • Unlike reporters that expect sources to be available on a moment’s notice for their assignments, industry analysts often work on longer lead times
    • Use such lead times to orchestrate the objectives of your analyst briefing, even scripting what an ideal briefing looks like
    • Follow scheduling protocols; often, analysts require a company to work with scheduling colleagues, and not directly, to secure briefings 
  1. Avoid lengthy PowerPoint presentations in the actual briefings
    • Time is currency, and analyst briefings don’t happen with the same analyst firm frequently unless there is a paid relationship
    • Provide a thorough background on your company from a strategic perspective and with the market clearly in mind, but leave the lengthy presentations as leave-behinds – or better yet, provide these materials ahead of the briefings (a requirement with some firms)
    • Focus on how your offerings address current market needs and elicit analyst feedback; remember, industry analysts are experts in specific market segments, so leverage that expertise to the extent they’re willing to share their views
  1. Avoid making product announcements the sole messaging points in briefings
    • While product launches and technology enhancements are important to keep key stakeholders informed, use analyst encounters to discuss corporate positioning, larger market issues and company strategies
    • That’s not to say analysts should not be briefed on new products, but put those products in the context of the challenges the sector is facing and the problems the new products solve
    • Product details can be incorporated into PowerPoints, or via links to company web sites or microsites, for further study and reference
  1. Gaining coverage in analyst reports should NOT be the only reason for engaging analysts
    • For smaller HIT companies, securing feature coverage is often difficult
    • However, a successful analyst relations program builds trust and credibility
    • Over time, those benefits can accrue by having an analyst drop your company’s name with her own clients as a problem-solver worthy of industry consideration
    • Securing an analyst as a media reference is another worthwhile pursuit, if the analyst is amenable
  1. Don’t overplay your hand
    • Unless there is a paid relationship in place, analysts customarily accept one, or maybe, two briefings from companies they cover in their market spaces each year
    • Instead of inundating analysts with news releases and briefing requests, build a steady cadence of meaningful connections – perhaps even summarizing events in a quarterly e-newsletter
    • Use industry conferences, such as HIMSS, to connect with analysts in-person

Keeping these recommendations in mind, plus the thoughts of my colleague Matt Schlossberg, can produce rich analyst relationships and help companies advance their PR and marketing goals – even when they don’t have the means for paid relationships.

Guidelines for a Darn Good Press Release Headline

Editors and journalists get a ridiculous number of press releases in their inbox every day. It isn’t just this week’s news that a press release completes with – it’s releases from prior weeks, being re-sent and re-packaged to find new coverage. It’s a tough, competitive world for each press release. Even if you have a newsworthy story, getting eyes on it isn’t always easy. For yours to win, you need a great press release headline that grabs attention, tells a complete story, and makes a reader want to know more.

What is seen first is of utmost importance. Here are some tips for crafting a headline for a press release that maximizes its chance to earn meaningful coverage.

Don’t Clickbait. Do What Newspapers Do.

Baiting people into clicking on terrible stories is a social media norm, popularized by scam websites, gossip rags, and less-than-reputable news sources. And, quite frankly, it isn’t a tactic that works well for educated readers – such as those in healthcare IT. While an interesting or fun headline is fine, a journalist isn’t going to be enticed to read a press release unless they know exactly what the press release is about.

Like newspapers and reputable online sources, the headline needs to be a summary of the story, whatever it is. The who, what, when, and where need to exist in the headline. The why is something that can be left for the reader to discover, but the entire “in a nutshell” version of a press release needs to exist in the headline. The selling point of your press release should be its inherent newsworthiness.

Support Your News with Data

If you can, give specifics on your news. If a product showed a 10 percent improvement of patient satisfaction scores in a pilot study, that should be in the headline. If specific numbers exist and they’re impressive, show them off. Burying specifics in the text of a press release is meaningless when the goal of a press release is to earn media coverage anyway.

If you don’t have data, avoid assertive claims. Unless you back them, they shouldn’t be in the headline, since that is just asking for a journalist to press the issue. But when you can, having specific data and numbers is always welcome, since that’s ultimately the meat of any story.

Take an Active Voice

Let me correct what I said above: Product X Shows 10 Percent Rise of Satisfaction in Study. Even if this news is in the past or it’s old news, stick to active voice. Always take the philosophy when writing a headline that this is happening right now. That sends a message that this story is ongoing, worth attention, and hasn’t been covered yet – all of which are necessary to earn media coverage.

Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun

Have you checked the President’s Twitter feed? This is the era of informal communication. The days of a stoic, professional headline for press releases is over. Don’t be afraid to have fun and show a little personality, especially if that’s consistent with your company branding. Even though press releases seem like a formal event blasted through professional channels, they can still be fun. There are no rules here, and creativity is definitely welcome. In fact, a creative, fun headline may help your release standout, especially when a hard news angle isn’t particularly applicable.

Write the Header Last

When I write a press release, I use an ALL CAPs, nonsensical placeholder title, until it’s time to write the real thing. Once the full press release body is written, it’s then that I am able to summarize the story content and get a sense of its tone – which is what a headline is supposed to do. It may seem counter-intuitive to work the header last, but it’s an almost necessary part of the press release writing process. A press release headline comes after the story, because if it’s written right, it contains a one-sentence summary of what’s to come.