The Truth About Healthcare PR

A client contacted us recently asking if we can guarantee press coverage.  The answer is no and any agency that says they can is not being straight with you.  But this question of what you get for your money, what bang do you get for your buck is an interesting one and I’m going to give you the straight answer here.

Firstly if you want guaranteed coverage in the press then don’t hire a PR firm – take out an advert.  You control the copy and you can measure the outcome, test, tweak and repeat until you get it right – in the long run it’s probably cheaper.   PR isn’t free advertising. Your story has to be pitched to a journalist, it has to get past an editor and ultimately it has to compete with other pitches that are out there. There is no contractual obligation in place and the publication doesn’t have to run your story. The only way a publication will guarantee to run your story is if you pay for it. Which is advertising.

Secondly, many dream of getting in the Daily Mail or Sun or Sunday Times and being seen by millions of readers.  Getting into these places is difficult, but not impossible (I’ll come onto that later), the problem is the expectation of what you get once there.  We got a client in one of the mainstream daily papers towards the end of last year.  The set up was time consuming.  We had to arrange a case study to go to London for a photo shoot, there were interviews with the surgeon and the whole saga took about a month to put together.  On the day of publication we were excited about the outcome.  But the reality was that the phone didn’t ring off the hook.  There was a negligible blip on web traffic for a morning and aside from the “ego boost’ of appearing in the mainstream press I could tell the client was a little disappointed at the response.

There is a myth that one appearance on TV, Radio or mainstream print or web media will cause your phone to ring off the hook and your website server to go into meltdown.  Certainly with some products and services it can.  Tech, low value consumer impulse products and services, fashion and lifestyle products will see a huge crank up of the dial if they manage to hit the zeitgeist sweet spot.  Health marketing will not.  Health, medicine and professional beauty are all very considered purchases. You aren’t dealing with a twenty quid pair of shoes – this is someones body, their very identity.  The sales cycle on a tummy tuck is four years – this is the time it takes from somebody acknowledging they want to have a TT to actually having one.  Even people having botox will research, talk to friends, research some more and finally they may be nudged into action by an article in the Daily Mail.  Even then when they are nudged the provider who ends up with them as a client is probably not going to be the person name checked in the article.

The stark truth, if you want the truth, if you can handle the truth, is that your article in The Times about your rhinoplasty is more than likely going to result in some other surgeon somewhere getting the client, not you.  The article could be the tipping point for patient taking action to have the procedure, but not necessarily with you or your clinic.

PR is a long race.  Those who do it well get their PR machine working and stick at it, they do it endlessly day after day, year after year.  You probably already know who they are.  You see them in the paper again, see them on the breakfast TV couch all the time.   What you don’t know is that it’s nothing to do with one lucky splurge in the paper, it’s all about a thousand small victories.  It’s comments to a local paper, it’s an interview for a small niche blog, it’s an accumulation of getting themselves endlessly out there. It’s not a three month campaign, it’s a lifetime campaign that never ends.

The media environment has changed beyond recognition.  There is a hunger from journalists and editors across all mediums to fill their publications with content.  There are actually more media outlets than ever before and the truth of the matter is that there is a shortage of content. If you have new product or service, an interesting case study, an expert opinion, you will get coverage.  Each piece of exposure you get will result in a tiny uplift in profile and traffic.  An almost intangible outcome. Then you need to do it again and again.

Those wanting to run a three month campaign and expect a guaranteed result will be disappointed.  If you’re going to play the PR game then you need to go all in and play the PR game.  If you’re going to fiddle around the edges you’ll fail.