With a little over one month left before the start of HIMSS, many healthcare technology companies are racing to put the finishing touches on their PR activities. FYI, it starts March 10 and the registration deadline is February 10.
We here at Swyft have been busy for the past three months assisting one of our innovative healthcare technology customers, ClearDATA, as we seek to maximize their media coverage at the annual conference held in Orlando.
But what if your company is late to the game? What if you haven’t been busy planning your communications strategy and mapping out a PR plan for the world’s most influential healthcare technology conference?
Fear not, the Swyft team has provided you a list of PR tips for HIMSS to help you get more media coverage about your company. (FYI, we also wrote a prior article on how to win more media coverage at HIMSS in June of last year.)
Research the media
Time is truly of the essence since you’re down to around 30 days. Our advice here is to quickly research what your competitors and partners received in terms of media coverage at last year’s HIMSS. This will help you twofold: 1) you will learn what kind of messages get media attention at HIMSS, and 2) you will figure out the names of media outlets and journalists that typically attend the event.
Prepare a media hit list with the names of the journalists who are most likely to attend. If you plan to have a trade show booth at HIMSS, then you should receive a list of media scheduled to attend. Do your best compile the necessary contact info like name, media outlet name and URL, email, phone number (if available), Twitter profile name, particular news beat (topics they prefer to cover). Put their contact information into a spreadsheet you can organize your pitching before, during and after HIMSS. Add columns for contact dates, status, and notes. That way you will have a well organized campaign document to track your progress.
There are some tools that can automate this process, but if you are already this late to preparing your PR strategy it won’t make much sense to try and find, purchase and implement one.
Conduct message discovery
Just because you know what the media likes to cover at HIMSS doesn’t mean you have the necessary ammunition to win similar coverage. You’ll need to do a rapid query with your product marketing team to see what kinds of products they plan to launch either at or around HIMSS. New products, version upgrades, product extensions — anything and everything should be inventoried at break-neck speed to give yourself enough time to create the necessary PR content for your media outreach campaign.
Not every message worth sharing is about a product. If your company is planning to ink a deal with a major hospital organization in California, then that almost certainly merits an announcement, provided the hospital is on board.
Another shareable news announcement are any strategic partnerships you ink with a major healthcare or technology enterprise, or a merger with another company. These are trickier campaigns to develop and are far less likely to happen. Should this be something that is in the works at your company then it’s worth adding to your messaging to the media.
As part of the message discover, be sure to document the message points of each announcement, including quotes from related internal and external spokespersons. This will become the basis upon which you will build out your press release.
Write your press release(s)
Speaking of, you will want to start fleshing out the press release(s) as soon as possible. Why? Because gaining consensus for the key messages contained therein and obtaining quotes from any 3rd parties can take an excruciatingly long time. And time is not something you have much of with a month or less to go to HIMSS.
If you are planning to launch a new product, then be sure to add information toward the end of the release about when and where the demo will be held. Typically this happens at your booth, so mention your booth location along with the demo times/dates.
We’re not going to give you tips on the press release itself. We assume you know how to write one or can enlist the support of an outside PR firm for assistance. The bottom-line, however, is that you should create an attention-grabbing title and pack it with solid, substantive facts that a journalist can quickly rely upon when using as source material for an article, podcast or video.
Don’t forget to include links to any product landing pages you may have created, and a directory where you can store product photos and other supporting content.
Create a press kit
Another item to check off your list is a press kit. You can create a virtual one by using the directory mentioned in the press release point above, or you can create thumb drives to hand out to journalists as they drop by your booth on the HIMSS trade show floor. Since time is of the essence, Swyft recommends you take the virtual route. It’s free, easy to set up and practical for journalists to access.
Content you should include in the press kit:
- Product fact sheets
- Product photos
- Press release(s)
- Company information and history
- Spokesperson(s) photos and bios
- Relevant case studies
Find a quiet meeting spot
Another logistical issue is finding a place where you can schedule one-on-one meetings with journalists. The trade show floor is not always the ideal place to hold interviews given how many people are streaming by at any given time. If your booth has a small meeting table away from the sales team and video demos, then that can certainly work. Ideally you can gain access to a private room somewhere in close proximity to the trade show floor. That gives your spokesperson and the journalist enough quality time to cover any number of angles related to your key news announcements.
Pitch the media
As soon as you possibly can, start contacting the media outlets and/or journalists who plan to attend, and even those who may not have plans but who nonetheless wrote about healthcare technology in the recent past.
For reference, Swyft starts doing its preliminary pitching as early as 90 days out from the event. You won’t have that luxury at this stage of the game, but any major delays in your first round of pitching could adversely impact your media coverage at the event.
Start by emailing all media contacts, and making a note of when you reached out in your media contact list spreadsheet. Feel free to reach out by Twitter at the same time to give the journalist a courtesy update, adding that you hope you can meet up at the event.
Your ideal ask at this point is to book an interview with one of your official spokespersons. Don’t expect a meeting to last more than 15-30 minutes. As you can imagine, HIMSS is an incredibly busy time for the media.
Key spokesperson contact info and schedule
You’ll absolutely want a document that shows all of your official spokespersons, their contact information and schedule of availability. That way if a journalist expresses interest in your news announcement, you are not stuck having to track down the executive and figure out the best day and time for the interview. Make sure this is up to date even the day prior to the start of HIMSS as you may get last second interview requests. Perhaps most importantly, get the mobile phone numbers of each spokesperson in case an interview pops up or a journalist asks to move the agreed-upon time. This happens all too frequently so warn your busy executives ahead of time so they don’t go ballistic and take it out on you.
Journalist bios and interview guidance
This is a final, critical step. You should always prep your spokespersons before each and every interview with a brief bio of the journalist and what they have written about on any relevant topics. Include a description of the media outlet as well so that the executive can have a macro understanding of the outlet and a general sense of where the interview might head. Speaking of, provide your own interview guidance based on that research. For instance, state that Katie Smith of XYZ HealthTech Times is most interested in cybersecurity breaches among hospitals and the growing risk of loss of PHI confidentiality as major cloud providers like Google extend their reach into healthcare.
Create talking points
Congratulations, if you have made it this far in such a short period of time, then you are close to pulling off a minor miracle in the world of trade show communications. Take a little time to create a list of talking points for your spokespersons. If you plan to use different spokespersons for different announcements, then organize the talking points accordingly. Almost certainly you C-suite should have all of the talking points and be able to speak fluently about the key announcements. This ensures that the right messages get in front of the media, avoiding potential confusion and even embarrassment if somebody forgets a key point or gets the facts wrong.
Do a media training
You may not have enough time for this, but if you can, squeeze in a brief media training with a skilled media trainer. You can do that at a conference room at your hotel, or immediately prior to departing for Orlando. By then, all spokespersons should have a briefing on the major announcements and key talking points. Conducting media training with a skilled trainer, who will often act the role of a journalist, helps your spokespersons become adept at delivering their messages and ensures the best results possible from your trade show communications initiative.
Good luck! Swyft hopes you get the best media results possible at HIMSS this year.
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