Marketing Career PR and Communications

Healthcare PR Career Advice From 10 Veterans

Public Relations (PR) in healthcare isn’t an easy career, but it is very rewarding to work in an industry that has a significant impact on people’s lives.

To round out our month-long look at healthcare PR, we asked 8 PR veterans to share career advice for those that may be just starting out, here’s what they said:

Stephanie Fraser, Director of Communications and Media Relations at NextGate

For PR newbies, it’s easy to get discouraged. Know that rejection is an inevitable part of the job, especially if you are a beginner. Any experienced pro will tell you PR is all about relationship building, so not every pitch you send is going to land—or even be acknowledged. If you don’t hear back, move on. Following up from time to time is okay but use good judgement. The last thing you want to do is be blacklisted from a reporter’s inbox. It’s possible that your story idea isn’t a fit now but may work for a future article. Further, journalists receive oodles of pitches a day, and breaking news will always take top priority.

PR is not a 9-to-5 job. Be prepared to work long hours, including weekends and holidays. You have to stay on top of deadlines and cater to clients who may be in different times zones. You also have to be ready to respond to breaking news. Staying up-to-date on the news is a big part of your job. News never stops, so even when you’ve stepped away from your computer for the day, you should be on your phone scanning social media feeds and various news outlets for PR opportunities while keeping yourself and clients informed.”

Regan Wynne, Sr Director of Brand Marketing & Communications at TigerConnect

The main thing to consider when starting out in PR is that the PR landscape is constantly changing and has been for some time now. Marketing and PR are more integrated than ever before. I’ve seen 15-year PR veterans transition from the agency side to the client side and immediately get thrown into the deep end where they are responsible for creating blog content or producing events. If you haven’t studied the PESO model and embraced it, start now.

Chintan Shah, Principal at KNB Communications

I suggest 3 ways to begin in PR: 1) Listen and learn from those with more experience; 2) Prepare like no one else; 3) Ask questions that anticipate what is next.

Be humble in your approach and sidle up close to one or more PR professions. Emulate their work ethic and learn from their passion. Prepare, research and educate yourself on the industry landscape, the players and the connections–especially within the complex healthcare ecosystem. No one should out prepare you. Once you have done your homework, you should be able (and should not be afraid) to ask difficult questions that anticipate what may transpire next. Marry those attributes with continuous improvement in writing and you will start your career in communications off in a strong way.

Additionally, it is key to keep up with various media channels and read as much as you can to understand what reporters cover, why and how. This will give the necessary background for thoughtful and productive media relations.

Christine Slocumb, President at Clarity Quest Marketing

Don’t be an order taker. Stop doing what you are told and THINK.

Clients will always keep an individual on their team when they value their opinion and work. I’ve found that new PR team members, while working to deliver results, often focus so hard on making a mark that they forget to step back, ask questions, and think about the best approach. This turns them into order takers.

For example, if a client or leader asks you to write a press release, ask why. Dig deep until you have a clear understanding of what they want to accomplish. If there are better ways to achieve the goal, don’t hesitate to say no, explain your ideas, and show how they will deliver better outcomes. Be willing to challenge the status quo with open-minded, deep questioning, and thoughtful, innovative ideas.

It’s your responsibility to provide the best counsel you can, and then to deliver results.

Beth Friedman, Founder & CEO at Agency Ten22

Writing a good pitch is important, but building relationships is critical. The best PR professionals begin by knowing each editor they are trying to reach. In our case, healthcare IT editors. Relationship building takes effort and sincere personal outreach. But time spent building these relationships pays long-term dividends for your PR career.

In addition to knowing your editors, take the time to truly understand each outlet’s target audience and match every pitch correctly. Misaligned pitches are the bane of most editors we meet. Finally, take time to find recent industry data, surveys and studies to frame your pitch. Editors appreciate background data. It validates industry trends and supports the urgency of covering your story or source.

Tania (DiVito) Rai, Corporate Communications Manager at PointClickCare

I began my career on the agency side, and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing. The agency experience allowed me to work with many different clients across many different industries, so I really got to learn a lot and truly discover which industry sparked my interest. My advice would be, don’t shy away from agency life. The hours may be long at times, but you really will learn a lot and it will afford you the opportunity to dip your toes in a lot of different things.

Scott Collins, President & CEO of Aria Marketing

Get comfortable being curious. Embrace your inner geek. I this work we are constantly learning a new market, a new niche a new company or product. You have to be able to geek out on the details, learn it, love it and tell the story to anyone who will listen.

Tom Keppeler, Director of Communications at InterSystems

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that this is a strange world we’re living in; the effects of COVID-19 on our economy are both wide-ranging and, I believe, long-lasting. Companies are going to be very conservative about hiring, yet the need for communications support has never been greater. If you’re having difficulty landing a full-time position, consider freelancing – both PR agencies and in-house shops will be relying upon contractors to help shoulder the load, and this is a great opportunity for young and talented PR professionals. Barring that, always write. Write literally like your job depended upon it. Keep that tool sharp, and the offers will follow.

Nicole Brooks, PR Consultant & Vice President at Innsena Communications

PR is a craft, and it takes practice! Understand that you’re in an industry where relationships are key: your interactions with clients, journalists, peers should be based on mutual respect and appreciation.

Davida Dinerman, Director of Media & Influencer Relations at Look Left Marketing

Dig In and Be Informed. Dig in and really understand what you are pitching. Look for patterns and unique opportunities. And read. Read a lot. Carve out time to review who is writing what, who’s quoted and what’s catching in the headline. There are so many relevant news outlets, let alone social media, that we can tend to skim. That’s ok to get headlines, but you also have to pause and dig into the meat of the publication and the story.

PR Favors the Bold. Raise Your Hand, Volunteer, and Ask Why and How. Volunteer to try new things. Write that pitch. Learn about that new measurement app. Write everything you can from blogs to releases and get constant feedback to make it better. If you’re learning a lot from someone, ask them to be a mentor, and every week set aside time with a list of questions and discussion items.

Seek out a Mentor and Network. If you’re learning a lot from someone, ask him or her to be your mentor. Set aside a time each week with a list of questions and discussion items. Also, find out which events and associations are important for your industry and your clients’ industries. These not only present learning opportunities, but they are also perfect for networking.

Image Credit: Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

About the author

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Colin Hung

Colin Hung is an award-winning Marketing Executive with more than 15yrs of healthcare and HealthIT experience. He co-founded one of the most popular healthcare chats on Twitter, #hcldr and he has been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare IT Influencers”. Colin’s work has been published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, American Society for Healthcare Risk Managers, and Infection Control Today. He writes regularly for Healthcare Scene and here at HITMC.com. Colin is a member of #pinksock #TheWalkingGallery and is proudly HITMC. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

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About HITMC

The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!