An HIT Moment with ... is a quick interview with someone we find interesting. Liz Roop is president of NPC Creative Services, LLC of Tampa, FL.
What are the biggest mistakes companies make in their public and media relations activities?
Failing to articulate how your product or service delivers on its sales promise. With PR, you have to go deeper than the sound bite. If your advertising promises that your software helps an organization achieve Meaningful Use, transition to ICD-10, or comply with core measures, you better be able to explain how. This is especially true for niche health IT products and services.
Failing to commit the necessary human resources to PR, especially at the executive level. Nothing backfires quicker than telling an editor that the CEO isn’t available on the day of a major announcement, or that the CMIO is going to miss an article deadline.
Basing PR decisions on what competitors are doing rather than what customers and prospects are saying. While it is important to understand the competitive landscape, it’s a strategic misstep to do something just because it was done by a competitor. That kind of “me too” public relations undermines a company’s credibility – and is how we wind up with so many nonsensical catch phrases and buzzwords.
Last is not listening to the experts retained to manage the company’s public relations. That’s how the other mistakes happen.
Where should a small, newish company trying to get a foothold in a competitive market with a modest budget and minimal in-house PR expertise focus its energy to get the word out?
The best approach is one that connects a company with its prospects and customers when they are in decision-making mode. I may be biased because this is where NPC specializes, but the best place to make that connection is in the trade media. Think of it this way: when was the last time you were contemplating order set software or patient satisfaction survey tools when you were reading your local newspaper?
The catch is that while it doesn’t require a lot of expensive bells and whistles, trade media relations does require a comprehensive understanding of the issues your product or service addresses and the ability to articulate how it does so. If your internal team is struggling for whatever reason to stay on top of how industry changes are affecting your customers, you need to explore an agency relationship. That’s true even if your budget is modest. Boutique PR firms are surprisingly affordable.
Old-school PR involved schmoozing a handful of glossy magazines mostly looking for ad revenue and hoping they would pick up a press release for a mention. How has that changed with the advent of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter that stream non-professionally produced information almost in real time?
It has definitely changed the role of the press release. In the past, the release was written for the media with the hope of enticing a reporter to pick up the phone, ask a few questions, then write a little something about the announcement. With the advent of social media and online newsfeeds, press releases must now be written for the customer. They must also be written to accommodate the lack of professional editorial gate-keeping in terms of how the news is abbreviated as it goes viral.
Press releases aside, the real-time nature of today’s media actually makes schmoozing more important than ever. It’s just handled differently. Substantive coverage still comes from cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with the appropriate media. However, today, those relationships are typically established electronically rather than over lunch or with the old-fashioned media tour. So while many of the rules remain the same, the methods of communication are definitely different.
We like to make fun of bad press releases. What are some classic bad ones you’ve seen? How can companies write better ones?
Oh boy, that’s a loaded question. I enjoy making fun of bad press releases as much as you, but I also know that none of us is immune from sending out the occasional stinker. Sometimes it’s a matter of being human. Sometimes it’s because we have to pick our battles. So I hesitate to cast stones in the vicinity of my glass house.
But since you asked…The release that stands out to me as truly awful was issued several years ago. I could almost get past the multiple typos and punctuation errors in the headline and the first two run-on sentences. But I couldn’t get past its claim that the firm was a key advisor to the Obama administration’s healthcare transition team. It took two more paragraphs to learn the real story. The company’s executives were members of a subcommittee that was part of an association’s workgroup that issued unsolicited recommendations to the administration for advancing health IT.
To write better press releases, companies need to avoid making outrageous claims and focus on stating the news clearly and concisely. Exhaustive detail is exhausting for the reader. So edit. Then proof. Then edit and proof again.
If a company wanted you to help them come across as brash, fun, and outrageous, what would you do?
I would advise them to proceed with caution. There’s a fine line between edgy and cartoonish. Crossing that line can do irreparable damage to a company’s credibility, especially if the customer base doesn’t respond well to brash or outrageous.
There are ways to inject fun without overpowering the informational or educational aspects of public relations. Find-A-Code’s ‘Yeah, there’s a code for that’ ICD-10 videos are a great example of doing it right. They’re funny and educational. It’s all about striking a balance.