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Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

When it comes to finding the right PR and marketing agency, is bigger better?

It depends who you ask.

Early in my career as an agency leader, I was surprised that it was Amendola’s largest Fortune 500 clients who most clearly understood and could articulate the benefits of working with a smaller, boutique agency. As time passed and a few comparatively smaller clients switched to a bigger agency (often in response to reaching a major growth milestone) and subsequently came back, I realized that the larger, more well-established companies simply had the benefit of experience. They’d previously worked with one or more large corporate agencies, and already understood the advantages and drawbacks.

So why do many of the world’s largest, most successful healthcare and technology companies prefer to work with smaller, highly specialized agencies? It’s a fair question, and the answer can help healthcare/healthcare IT companies of every size find their ideal agency fit.

Depth of understanding is even more key in a complex industry

Many of Amendola’s largest clients voice frustration with the inconsistent levels expertise at big agencies, especially those that don’t focus exclusively on healthcare and healthcare IT.

As one Fortune 500 client said in our initial conversation, “We don’t feel like we’re getting any value from [large corporate agency]. They understand tech in general, but don’t really have a clue about healthcare IT. And they don’t seem to have any of the media relationships we need.”

Another prospective client put it more wryly: “We spend half our time explaining value-based care, and the other half reminding them to stop talking about it like it’s brand new.”

To be fair to larger agencies and the hardworking folks who make them hum, it’s all but impossible for anyone to be an expert on multiple complex industries. Especially if one of them is healthcare. In fact, that’s why Amendola serves only healthcare and healthcare IT clients, and has since the outset. There’s always something new to learn in healthcare, and always something on or just over the horizon that will impact the industry in unexpected ways. If you don’t eat, sleep, and breathe it, how could you possibly keep up?

Still, I can understand these clients’ frustration. If an agency needs constant coaching on what’s happening in healthcare, the best case is that the relationship becomes more time-consuming for the client.

The more realistic case? Missed opportunities, muddled messaging, and even missteps in the market.

It’s harder for large and multi-industry agencies to develop strong healthcare/healthcare IT media relationships

Clients also often mention that a larger agency they worked with was unable to secure high-quality (or even very many) media opportunities. I’m never surprised to hear it. After all, any junior PR professional can pitch journalists all day every day every…but how effective can they be if they don’t really understand the story they’re pitching?

Yet inconsistent expertise isn’t the only contributing factor. The fact is, large agencies have several things working against them when it comes to healthcare/healthcare IT media relations.

Imagine you’re a healthcare reporter. You’ve just been assigned a 1,200-word article about how healthcare organizations are screening for unmet social needs and addressing SDoH, especially within their high-risk/high-cost patient populations. Your editor would like to see you include perspectives from at least three different organizations. Either vendors or providers, but at least one of each. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow. End of day today would be better.

Now ask yourself who you’d reach out to:

  • The comparatively junior contact you have at a big corporate agency—you know, the one who keeps pitching you out of the blue about the same one or two clients.
  • The comparatively senior contact you have at a smaller, healthcare-specific PR agency—you know, the one with a diverse client portfolio who can probably be your one-stop shop for all three of the interviews you need to conduct.

Actually, any chance you could turn the article around sooner? It’d be great to get it out on social ASAP.

The hotter the topic and the busier the news cycle, the higher the demands on journalists’ time and attention. During the weeks preceding HIMSS, it’s not uncommon for a healthcare reporter at a top-tier publication to receive well over 200 pitches a day. From a purely practical standpoint, the only way they can wade through the noise is to focus on their most reliable agency contacts (who, by the way, have been regularly pitching and checking in on HIMSS opportunities for months, not weeks).

How much of a difference do strong media relationships make? Consider the Fortune 500 client I mentioned earlier.

In our first month working together, we secured more media opportunities for them than their most recent large corporate agency had secured over the course of three years.

Now, did our agency-wide expertise in healthcare and healthcare IT enable us to craft higher quality, more sophisticated pitches and thought-leadership content? Absolutely. Did we also do a better job targeting the right reporter/editor/publication with the right pitch at the right time? You bet your bylines.

But the wealth of opportunities we had to choose from were partly a function of a fundamental truth about healthcare/healthcare IT PR. As a boutique agency exclusively serving healthcare and healthcare IT clients, we hear about opportunities that larger and less focused agencies don’t—because healthcare journalists’ lives are already hard enough.

Another key difference: Who’s *really* doing the writing?

The complaint I hear most frequently from prospective clients is the amount of time they spend rewriting the content their current agency produces. The shared sentiment is, “in the time we spend rewriting everything, we could have just drafted it ourselves.” And that isn’t just an idle thought for many companies—when I spoke with a large publicly traded company last week, they explained they use their current agency for media pitching only, having brought all content creation back in-house after years of constant rewriting.

Obviously, any agency of any size can hire bad writers. And, at least conceivably, any agency with the resources to do so can hire good writers.

So where’s the breakdown?

First (and this is the last time I’ll mention it), lack of expertise plays a role. If the writers assigned to the account aren’t strong on healthcare/healthcare IT, there’s no covering it up. Especially if they’re writing based on input from deeply knowledgeable subject matter experts.

Second, depending on the agency, even a reasonably large healthcare or healthcare IT company might be comparatively low-priority when it comes to resource allocation. The bigger and less healthcare-focused the pond, the more likely that other accounts or client-types will be seen as the truly big fish. And the big fish gets the worm, which in this modified idiom represent the more senior writers.

It sure would be nice if there was a just a checklist of what to look for in an agency

Wouldn’t it? I’ve always thought so. So here are consolidated insider tips and key questions you can use to streamline your search for the perfect agency.

Expertise – Do they know your space? Do they understand the lingo? Have industry connections? Will they have senior level executives on the account, or will you be delegated to a junior team? Check references and make sure the agency is everything they actually say they are. If you’re making your decision partly based on writing samples, make sure you see the samples of the writers you’ll actually be working with.

Range of Services – Do you need a PR firm only, or are you looking for an integrated marketing communications firm that can handle all of your marketing needs? If the agency only handles one service line, do they have partner agencies for other areas?

Team – Make sure you ask to meet your team. Very often with a big agency, the high-level execs you met at the presentation aren’t the team who will be working on your account. That’s unfortunate, because experience and compatibility matter.

Ideally, at least one of the people who would be on your team will also be at the initial presentation. If they are, chat them up. Are they someone you would enjoy working with on a regular basis? Remember—this is going to be a close relationship, so comfort and rapport are key!

Budget/terms/scope of work – Be sure to compare apples to apples when assessing services and quantities/deliverables. Are you going to engage in an annual retainer program or project work? Will you be billed by the hour or by scope of deliverables? Based on my experience, the latter will get you more value. Teams won’t be clocking out the second your hours for the month are used up; instead, they’ll work tirelessly to successfully execute your campaigns with no limit to the time they put in. And don’t get caught in the trap of assuming a higher retainer equals better service, especially if you aren’t going to be one of the agency’s largest accounts or if they don’t specialize in healthcare or healthcare IT.

The fit matters

Once you’ve narrowed the field of potential agency partners to a fully vetted top five, you can reasonably assume that any of them are capable of handling the nuts and bolts of PR and marketing. That’s why I recommend focusing on the fit to help you make your final decision. Does it feel right? Is this the company and are these the people that you want to serve as an extension of your own team? And where do you fit in their agency world—or to put it another way, what’s the pond look like?

Ultimately, every organization has to decide what’s right for them based on a host of factors. Understanding how agencies differ beyond the simple metric of size will help ensure the strengths of the PR and marketing agency you do select align with the work you want them to do and the results you want them to deliver. In some cases, a bigger agency can be better—but as many of the largest healthcare and healthcare IT companies already know, it isn’t always best.

Five Big Changes in Media Relations and How HIT Organizations Can Adapt

Five Big Changes in Media Relations and How HIT Organizations Can Adapt

A recent webinar sponsored by Cision explored several changes in media relations over the last few years and offered tips on steps healthcare IT (HIT) organizations should take to prosper in this new reality.

The webinar was led by Michael Smart, a PR pro who says he has trained more than 7,000 communicators in his career, and is based on a white paper he wrote. Smart notes that, in his own observations, he’s seen far too many organizations chase the “Holy Grail” of coverage in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to the detriment of smaller, lesser-known publications that in some cases could deliver even more value to clients.

Refreshingly, Smart also offered among the sharpest denunciations I’ve come across of the corporate scourge known as multi-tasking, stating, “I hate multitasking. It’s this thing we were all excited about 10 years ago until we realized it’s awful, much like kale. I seriously think it destroys potential and it’s killing a lot of PR pros, and so I’m on a mission to defeat it.”

Amen, though I will admit to enjoying kale in the proper context. To Smart’s comments, I’d like to add my own sarcastic slogan for multitasking, to be emblazoned across inspirational posters hung above the busy cubicles of America: “Multitasking: Why do one thing well when you can simultaneously do 10 things poorly?”

While many of the changes in media relations that Smart describes will be familiar to PR veterans, a refresher never hurts. In that spirit, I attended the hour-long webinar and condensed the five key points down into this quick, bite-sized summary.

  • Expand your definition of the “media” in “media relations” to include any third-party trusted by your audiences: In other words, explore nontraditional outlets that may be easier to work with and have similar reach and credibility to the old guard. This can include well-known and widely read sites like Vox that have only been around for a few years, or even corporate blogs. The key is simply whether the site has earned your desired audience’s trust. How do you know which of these sites are worth pursuing? Start by using SimilarWeb to research site traffic and use Moz to examine domain authority.
  • Journalists’ incentives have changed. They must increasingly focus on web traffic: Again, no shocker here for anyone who’s been paying attention. But this new reality opens up new possibilities for HIT organizations. Smart suggests that journalists will be more receptive to your pitches if you can show you’ll be able to distribute their content to a wider audience yourself, ideally by leveraging a social account with a lot of followers or an email newsletter, for example.
  • Get noticed before you pitch: All experienced marketers know that journalists will be more receptive to their pitches if they’ve been able to previously establish solid working relationships with those journalists. But Smart offers good advice for establishing those relationships, which are especially important given that there are four PR pros for every professional journalist in the U.S. and U.K., according to statistics he cited during the webinar. He suggests developing a key list of 10 influencers, and then devoting 10 minutes per day to reading content they’ve produced, and when appropriate, reacting to the content with a compliment or a few kind words. He touts this as a simple daily task to “dramatically” increase your response rate. A private Twitter list is a great way to keep up-to-date with content from your top influencers.
  • Faux customization often fails: Specific and sincere customization can help you stand out. Smart warns to avoid beginning pitches with broad, non-personalized statements. As supporting evidence for journalists’ frustration with this approach, Smart cites data from Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report. When asked to improve the situation, journalists’ two most frequently cited pieces of advice were, first, to research and understand the media outlets they’re pitching, and second, to tailor their pitches to suit those outlets.
  • Journalists don’t have time to do the legwork anymore: Reporters are always on deadline. They don’t have as much time as they once did to research sources or story ideas and they have an “insatiable need for visuals,” which can often be hard to acquire, according to Smart. The big change here is how much of this unglamorous legwork journalists will let HIT organizations do for them once they’ve proven to be trustworthy and credible, Smart says.

No doubt the practice of media relations will continue to change just as quickly as the media ecosystem itself does. But HIT organizations looking to keep pace with this evolution would do well to try implementing some of Smart’s advice. Smarter, more targeted pitching could help free us of our quality-killing, attention-sapping multitasking obsession.

customer talking at business meeting

Customer Spokespersons: The Path to PR Success

For companies looking to breathe new life into a PR or marketing campaign, product launches are exciting, as is news on awards or other recognition. But, nothing is more powerful than an advocate who can praise your company without sounding like an insider – yes, I’m talking about customers. Customer spokespersons are the special sauce of any PR campaign.

Like it or not, they are often more credible than any internal research, or any executive on the payroll. A customer is a seemingly unbiased source who used a solution, found success, and is now telling their story.

To many journalists, there is no better evidence of a product or service’s effectiveness than the testimony of a user. Here are a few ways to leverage customers to effectively enhance your company’s marketing and messaging through shared storytelling.

Write a case study.

This is an easy one, right? Case studies are powerful tools for pitching journalists and getting a message out to the media, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about them. For starters, some case studies make the mistake of NOT being as customer-centric as they should be. Many will focus too much on the solution and the product, when the goal of a case study is to “soft sell” through a real-world example of the solution being used. Marketing for the product can happen at another time.

A case study is your customer’s story, and it follows a proven formula: outline a problem they had, the solution (your solution!) the customer used to overcome the problem, and the specific results the customer achieved. Add in a customer quote or two – a very genuine customer quote that doesn’t sound sanitized – and you have yourself a legitimate story.

As much as possible, a case study should stick to these facts and include as much data and numbers as you can muster to really make it feel like a journalistic endeavor. Once published, case studies are perfect for handing out at conferences, sharing on social media, and scoring expanded coverage. Case studies can also be living documents with many chapters: A single case study can be expanded upon as a relationship with a customer evolves and new improvement numbers make their way into the mix, making them a powerful tool for ongoing content-driven PR.

Include customers in press releases.

I’m personally a big fan of press releases. And keeping the media (and other potential customers) up-to-date on any partnerships and relationships is usually a good idea. If your company signs a new customer, announce it in a press release with some details on the relationship. When they adopt a specific solution, or when you write a case study, announce the results with another press release. Keep the media apprised of the relationship to the best of your ability as a feeler for future promotion. For maximum success, include a quote from a customer in press releases whenever possible, and be sure to include a media contact and information on the customer, as they should be the primary focus of any such release.

Keep quotes at the ready.

I like quotes. Having customer quotes on file for marketing and PR to use while pitching media and developing promotional material is valuable to add credibility and context to virtually anything. These quotes are also good to post on your company’s website. Remember, to many journalists, there is no one more reliable than a customer, and what a customer says can be as good as gold.

Ideally, a customer would draft their own quote. But writing a quote for your customer – and getting their approval – is a great way to save them some time and stress. Be up front about how the quote will be used and make sure they are OK with it. Openness and honesty is the key to maintaining their happiness into the future. Remember, a customer is best served as an independent voice, not a calculated company mouthpiece.

Ask them to present at an event with you.

This one is a bit of a challenge because it involves a major time commitment on part of the customer, but if it’s possible without straining any relationships, having a customer speak at trade shows and other events is a great way to put a spotlight on both them and your solution. It may be nice to offer to pick up travel expenses, hotel, and even meals if it’s within your budget and acceptable within the customer’s corporate guidelines. Also, be sure the customer spokesperson you choose is personable and able to deliver a message clearly. Doing so will benefit everyone, most of all your audience.

“Goodwill” coverage is good for everyone.

As mentioned above, customer stories are great to pitch to journalists – in fact, many journalists will only speak to customers. There’s no secret that getting a customer to namedrop your company or solution is always a win. But, some outlets won’t allow company names to be mentioned. Further, sometimes a line of questioning can make it challenging for your customer to naturally squeeze your name into a conversation with a journalist.

But, that’s OK. First, allowing your customer to take the spotlight is good for relations with them – coverage on their story is as much about them as anything else. Secondly, this “goodwill” content is still perfect to share on your company’s social media outlets and website. A relationship with a customer is a partnership, and their testimony and participation should never feel forced. Let them be the central focus, and don’t be afraid to promote your customers (with their approval), even if your company isn’t getting a mention.

This brings me to an important final note: Respect your customer’s time as if it’s the time of your own CEO. Never, ever abuse a relationship with a customer by coaching them heavily on what to say, making too many requests for media interviews, or linking them to PR campaigns without their permission.

Make sure to have discussions about time commitment limitations up front, and always respect a customer’s wishes if they decline to speak as often as you’d like them to. A constant, open line of communication is the path to success, and keeping a customer spokesperson happy will naturally push them to speak on your behalf and tell their story.

Changes around daily newspapers are creating a chill for journalists

The Dog Eat Dog Days of PR in the Internet Age: Part One

Who watches the watchdogs?  It’s a phrase that conjures the creation of police commissions or intelligence oversight committees.  But if you’re a believer in the sanctity of the Fourth Estate (and God knows we need them now more than ever), then the watchdogs who need watching are journalists.  And no one watches – or analyzes, or critiques – journalists in greater depth and with sharper insight than the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University.

The purpose of the Nieman Lab is to figure out how journalism can adapt to the Internet Age while remaining relevant and profitable. Recently, in “Newsonomics: The 2016 Media Year by the Numbers and a look toward 2017,” the Nieman Lab’s Ken Doctor turned up some fascinating trends that will both bedevil and delight those of us in PR and business who strive daily, with more or less success, to earn the media’s adoration and praise.

Have Your Fake and Eat it Too

The bedeviling side of Nieman Lab’s look back at 2016 is the messy shift from print to digital, a transformation long underway that is weighing ever more heavily on the news media. The industry-rocking trend of 2016, of course, was the rise of “fake news” – or rather the rise in awareness of fake news, thanks to the Presidential Election.  Doctor takes some easy swipes at Mark Zuckerberg for his much-publicized claim that 99% of Facebook’s content isn’t fake. “Ever heard a publisher proudly proclaim, ‘We get it right 99 times out of a hundred?’” he asks.

But the fake news phenomenon isn’t going to have much impact on the field of technology PR.  More significant for the business of Media Relations is the sharp increase in the number of PR “targets” as the Internet continues to make it easier for small, independent content producers to compete with the mainstream media. This democratization of publishing and broadcasting offers both more opportunities and more diluted opportunities for getting the word out about a company, a product, or a thought leader.

The Young and the Restless

Here’s Nieman Lab’s take on one of the biggest online outposts, a not-so-new media that has finally come into its own after a decade of unrealized promise and that is quickly disrupting its Old Media birthplace, radio:

“Podcasting now reshuffles the deck, mixing and matching talent on scheduled airtime and on demand, with unpredictable consequences. The movement of younger talent within the emerging podcast economy poses both a great opportunity and threat for public radio as we know it, and is a boon for newer entrants like Gimlet Media, Panoply, This American Life/Serial, and Midroll Media.”

A related trend that accelerated in 2016 and into 2017 is the flight of ad revenue from mainstream publishing as advertisers spread their dollars online in search of eyeballs (and now ears, too).

“The Wall Street Journal lost more than a fifth of its overall advertising revenue in the third quarter of 2016,” Doctor writes. Other blue ribbon outlets suffered similar losses: The New York Times saw print ad revenue decline by 18 percent; McClatchy reported a 17 percent loss; Gannet lost 15 percent; and Tronc (the former Tribune Company) lost 11 percent.

To compensate for those huge loses, publishers are seeking revenue directly from readers in the form of digital subscriptions and add-ons. That requires high-quality content and attractive digital platforms – something that “only the national/global dailies have been able to achieve,” according to Doctor.  How will the rest of the nation’s dailies fare amid this historic transformation?  Judging by the number of journalists losing their jobs, not so well.  Nielsen Lab counted just 27,300 journalists working for U.S. dailies in 2016, 4,000 of whom work for the four national titles.  The size of the local press has declined by half, according to Doctor.

Heads Up to PR customers

What does that mean for PR? The math is pretty simple.  With an ever smaller number of traditional publications managing to keep the lights on, the competition for coverage among the dailies is becoming downright cutthroat. The days of guaranteeing that a successful company in a hot market will be covered by The New York Times or Wall Street Journal are over.

So what’s the answer?  How can companies in search of media coverage adjust to this fast-evolving environment?

You can read the answer in Part Two of this post.  In the meantime, a few hints: Traditional PR is dead.  The press release as many people think of it is a goner. Thought leadership will be a key PR budget priority. Content is (roll your eyes if you must) king.

But in the end, it’s still all about relationships.

Amendola Communications Expands East Coast Presence with Seasoned Senior Executives

Heather Caouette of eClinicalWorks and Julie Donnelly of Boston Business Journal to lead key client Healthcare IT initiatives

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2016Amendola Communications, a nationally recognized, award-winning healthcare and healthcare IT public relations and marketing agency, announced today that it is expanding its operations to Boston to better serve its growing roster of East Coast clients. The Arizona-based company, with staff in Silicon Valley and in Chicago, is pleased to establish a presence in the key healthcare and health IT hub of Boston.

Boston operations will be led by Director of Marketing and Public Relations Heather Caouette, an accomplished public relations leader who most recently spent 10 years with the Westborough, MA-based electronic health records vendor eClinicalWorks. While at eClinicalWorks, Caouette was responsible for the development and execution of the company’s global PR and marketing activities, which helped grow the company from 250 to 5,000 employees and included marketing, PR, events, social media, digital marketing, branding and messaging. She also assisted a variety of technology innovators, from start-ups to industry leaders, in meeting their public relations goals while with Schwartz Communications. Her work has received multiple Publicity Club of New England’s Bell Ringer Awards and she has been recognized as one of PRSourceCode’s ‘Top Tech Communicators.’ Caouette holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University and an M.B.A. in Finance from Bentley University. At Amendola, she manages key client accounts, constructing and executing integrated marketing and public relations campaigns that align with key business objectives.

Caouette is joined by Senior Writer Julie Donnelly, an award-winning former journalist who spent more than five years as the healthcare reporter for the Boston Business Journal. She has won an Edward R. Murrow Award and has been honored by the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. Donnelly holds a B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College and an M.A. in International Journalism from City University in London, U.K. She currently provides custom content to healthcare and HIT clients including blogs, contributed articles, white papers, website copy, news releases and executive speeches.

“Boston is, without a doubt, one of the most important healthcare clusters in the country, so we need to be here,” said Jodi Amendola, CEO and founder. “As we build our roster of clients along the East Coast, we’re pleased to offer PR and content marketing pros that can quickly respond to client needs across all U.S. time zones.”

 

To download a headshot of Heather Caouette, click here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36981810@N07/30327996951/in/dateposted-public/

 

To download a headshot of Julie Donnelly, click here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36981810@N07/29782681444/in/dateposted-public/

 

About Amendola Communications
Amendola Communications is an award-winning national public relations, marketing communications, social media and content marketing firm. Named one of the best information technology (IT) PR firms in the nation four times by PRSourceCode, Amendola represents some of the best-known brands and groundbreaking startups in the healthcare and HIT industries. Amendola’s seasoned team of PR and marketing pros delivers strategic guidance and effective solutions to help organizations boost their reputation and drive market share. For more information about the PR industry’s “A Team,” visitwww.acmarketingpr.com, and follow Amendola on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Media Contact:Jodi Amendola | (480) 664-8412 ext. 11

Listicles about cats can't hold a candle to the work of great healthcare IT journalists.

5 of the Greatest Trade Journalists in Healthcare IT

One of my favorite pages on Funny Or Die, the online comedy collective launched by Will Ferrell and friends, is their hilarious send-up of listicles. You know listicles – those ubiquitous numbered lists that grab eyeballs by hitchhiking on a sub-culture’s favorite passion. They’re definitely a favorite in Healthcare IT.

While most digital editors can only dream of having the freedom to post 10 Photos That Will Make You Question Why You Are Wasting Your Time With This Slide Show, or 10 Pictures of Adorable Cats That … I’m Pretty Sure There’s Something I Needed to Do Today, you can bet at least one listicle has made their Top 10 Best Story Ideas list.

Personally, I’m no fan of the genre. Listicles may make for easy reading (or more likely, skimming) but they also minimize the qualities that make good journalism such a joy to read. Insight. Perspective. Intelligence.

So no, I’m not a fan of listicles but there’s no denying their amazing power to hook readers. Which is a long-lede way of explaining why I’m writing a listicle on journalists for this blog. How else was I going to get you to read about some of my favorite journalists in healthcare IT?

Journalists: The cats of the PR world?

No, we don’t spend our evenings surfing for videos of journalists toying with a rubber mouse or playing a piano (that’s the other species of cat).  But all of us who work in PR are fans of journalists, sometimes adoring fans. And not just because we rely on them to tell our clients’ stories.

We’re fans of journalists because we love good journalism.  In fact, many of us used to be journalists ourselves and some of us would return to the business in a heartbeat if we could.

So just for the fun of it – and because journalists don’t get enough recognition for the work they do – what follows is perhaps the first-ever list of the most interesting trade journalists in healthcare IT.  It doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive list. I left out the Steve Lohrs and Vanessa Furhmans of the world because I wanted to focus on the trades, not the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  And I ignored the Matthew Holts and Anthony Guerras of the industry because I want to save “The Best Bloggers in Healthcare IT” for another post.

Time was also a handicap. I had to change the title from “The 25 Most Interesting Journalists in Healthcare IT” after I realized completing the list would require giving up my day job. So there are only five for now.  Don’t be surprised if you check back next month to find 10 or 15.

In the meantime, these five are simply those who first came to mind, based on 12 years of working in healthcare IT as both a journalist and PR pro.

Elizabeth Gardner, Health Data Management, others – Elizabeth is a true veteran of healthcare and health IT reporting, having launched her career in 1987 as a technology reporter for Modern Healthcare.  She moved on from healthcare to help document the development of the Internet as a writer for Internet World. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism, Elizabeth spent the early 2000s covering micro- and nanotechnology as a contributing writer for the magazine and website Small Times (which she calls “one of the greatest titles ever dreamed up for a business publication”). But healthcare is the biggest and perhaps most interesting market in America. Elizabeth was drawn back into the field and today contributes regular stories to Health Data Management. Her articles are inevitably well-researched, thought-provoking and most of all fun to read. Several have been finalists for the Jesse H. Neal Awards from the American Business Media Association.

Mark Hagland, Healthcare Informatics – Anyone who has ever met Mark is likely to remember first his warm, welcoming smile. Profoundly intelligent, Mark is also one of the friendliest and most genuine people you’ll ever meet. A Northwestern University/Medill School of Journalism graduate, Mark is a longtime Chicago resident who has been writing and speaking about healthcare for nearly 25 years. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare Informatics since 2010 after many years as a contributing editor. His writing has earned him numerous national awards, including from the National Institute for Health Care Management, the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors, and the Healthcare Financial Management Association. Mark is also the author of two books — “Paradox and Imperatives in Health Care” with healthcare futurist Jeffrey Bauer, Ph.D., and “Transformative Quality: The Emerging Revolution in Health Care Performance.”

Bernie Monegain, Healthcare IT News – Bernie is the former editor of Healthcare IT News, now the magazine’s Editor At Large after moving to North Carolina, far from the publication’s headquarters in Maine (yes, Maine, that center of all things tech). Everyone in HIT PR knows Bernie. She’s among the nicest human beings you could imagine meeting, a quality that enlivens her relationships even with PR folks, despite the fact that we all want something from her (a story!). Bernie joined Healthcare IT News when it was launched in 2004, after a four-year stint at another business publication that focused on communications technology. Before that she was an award-winning reporter – and later a city editor – of The Times Record, a daily newspaper in Brunswick, Maine, where she reported on healthcare, business, technology and other topics.

Neil Versel, MedCity News – Neil started covering health IT as a freelancer in 2000, before the “industry” was an industry. Through skill and persistence informed by a deep curiosity about healthcare technology, Neil gradually developed a reputation for intelligent in-depth coverage of the technologies that are transforming healthcare.  A contributor to US News & World Reports, as well as Forbes.com, he was previously an editor for Fierce Healthcare. Neil has grown up in healthcare IT and is a genuinely nice guy. In 2014 he launched an 850-mile charity bike ride  in honor of his dad, Mark Versel, who died of the rare disorder multiple system atrophy (MSA). Neil’s blogs from the trip were inspiring to anyone who has ever wanted to do something meaningful in memory of a loved one.

Eric Wicklund, mHealthIntelligence – Like several others on this list, Eric paid his dues in daily journalism, working his way up from beat reporter to columnist to managing editor of the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier in Maine. His proximity to the Portland, Maine headquarters of Healthcare IT News probably explains how in 2006 he ended up writing and editing for the publication (though I’ve never asked Eric how that happened). Eric rose to be editor of Healthcare Finance News (another HIMSS Media property) before moving into coverage of telemedicine as editor of mHealthNews (ditto) and finally departing the Mother Ship in 2015 for rival XtelligentMedia, where he’s editor of one of what is fast becoming one of the most interesting sites in mobile healthcare, mHealthIntelligence.com. Beyond journalism, Eric is a Dad, an avid soccer player, skier and bicyclist who for years was a team leader and board member of the American Diabetes Foundation’s Tour de Cure.

Do you have favorite industry journalists of your own?  Please help add to this list by leaving a comment.