Healthcare Public Relations 101: The pro guide to medical PR

Join us as we teach you everything related to healthcare PR. Written by our agency, that possesses extensive industry expertise, this guide will be your medical public relations bible as we explain why PR is vital in this field and show you how to begin implementing a strategy.

published: May 24, 2024
updated: May 24, 2024

If you use press releases, media placements, or other communications campaigns to promote a product or idea in the health field, you're doing health and medical public relations, and the messages you send will be consequential to many. Both healthcare professionals and the communications teams that support them have a tremendous duty to be knowledgeable, precise, and sensitive.

Doing all this alone means brainstorming how best to reach people, braving the world of health regulations, and second-guessing many things. If you hire a healthcare PR agency, then you yourself are in the care of professionals.

In this article, we'll first examine what Healthcare PR is and why it is important for healthcare companies.

What is healthcare PR?

Healthcare public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and sharing information with carefully selected audiences to manage the image and reputation of healthcare-based organizations or professionals.

It seeks to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between these establishments and audiences through well-placed efforts to engage, educate, and elicit trust from healthcare stakeholders such as customers, medical patients, the media, and the public.

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Why is medical public relations important?

Public relations (PR) has proved to be an important vehicle for helping healthcare organisations share their message. Medical PR informs and reassures people when making important personal health choices. PR in healthcare is essential to building trust and advancing conversations. Here are some more reasons why it’s important:

1

Raining brand awareness

PR can raise brand awareness and share your brand's narrative in a way that engages people and makes them want to learn more. It's about educating and attracting. With an understanding of a client's target audience, PR professionals will know how to get their clients noticed and what their audience wants.

Brand awareness is achieved through being relevant.

Your brand needs to mean something to people and become integral to their lifestyles.

There are numerous ways to do this, including press releases, LinkedIn thought leadership and events. It largely rests on your audience.

2

Developing communications strategies

The fundamental goal of public relations is developing and implementing long-term communication strategies. These strategies are carefully created to influence people’s opinions in favor of the provider and strengthen its reputation. PR works to enhance current perceptions.

Everything the company says or does is geared toward advancing its business objectives and boosting its image to achieve long-term business goals.

Although healthcare provides significant benefits, companies sometimes get their message wrong and fail to present these benefits in the best light, opting for a salesy approach instead.

Public relations can be enormously useful for framing stories to ensure that key benefits are not overlooked inadvertently.

3

ROI

Dollar for dollar, PR has repeatedly shown that it works out better over other methods for ROI.

For example, printing an ad on a highway billboard can be pretty costly, especially when you factor in that many will ignore the ad, and you'll probably need to create and produce the ad yourself. However, if you get coverage in a magazine, then the chances are more people will pay more attention. After all, they are there to read stories when they pick up a magazine. People driving on a highway don’t do so to read billboards.

This makes PR superior and more sustainable than advertising, especially for a smaller firm or startup.

4

Credibility

On the above subject, when people note that their favorite magazine chose to feature you, it gives a lot more credibility than if you paid to be there.

You are automatically seen as being newsworthy and having something valuable to offer.

This is the importance of third-party credibility.

Unsurprisingly, credibility is highly valued and highly sought in health public relations. An agency will work to discover everything about your brand and its story to create a clear and consistent message that positions you as a credible entity.

From this point, you can now work to maintain and build this trust with relevant audiences, positioning your organization as an expert in healthtech, medicine, or patient care. PR specialists can turn your messaging around on its head if it's not having the desired impact.

5

SEO

With so many products on the market, how will people know about yours? Many of these companies are household names and spend gigantic amounts on advertising. There’s no way you can compete, right? Actually, there is. An SEO-friendly website can go a long way. Patients routinely use search engines to find healthcare providers and for health product reviews.

PR professionals can earn you backlinks through media pitches. A backlink is a link to another site. Getting your links published on certain websites can increase traffic and build up 'domain authority.' Google scores sites according to relevance and quality, and backlinks help a lot here.

The creation of new content also helps companies appear higher on search engine results pages (SERPS). Most people only check the first 5-10 search entries, so it's important to rank highly.

6

Reputation management

In the world of healthcare, you need a glowing reputation. Public relations can show you in the best possible light by carefully strategising and disseminating information that demonstrates your expertise and positive patient outcomes. Garnering positive reviews can also be very powerful in healthcare.

PR works to manage your reputation, both proactively and reactively. Health PR agencies don't just sit and wait for news to be shared; they go out and create it. By consistently highlighting USPs, joining in topical discussions, and engaging in corporate social responsibility, the health company is never far from public view and positive discussions. This is proactive reputation management.

When it comes to being reactive, and the reputation you built up threatens to come undone in times of crisis, PR can implement crisis communication protocols to mitigate the damage caused.

What are the specificities of PR for the healthcare industry?

Due to its importance to almost everyone, public relations and healthcare as a subject demand certain expertise and insight. Health and medical communications also present a unique set of commercial and regulatory challenges.

There are several distinctions that make it a bit different to doing 'regular PR.’ Here are some specifics:

1

The importance of media coverage

Public relations is mainly earned media. This means media outlets choose content because it's perceived as valuable to their audiences. While this coverage is great, it's not always guaranteed.

Health PR professionals follow wider health news and trends, as media outlets often jump on these news stories due to high interest (think COVID, Bird Flu, etc). Timing is crucial here.

Tailoring or producing content to align with trends can be instrumental in getting featured.

It can often lead to follow-up articles, too, or being asked for your opinion on a range of important issues.

These media opportunities allow you to show your knowledge, promote an idea, and earn the public's confidence.

2

Narrative importance

Many healthcare initiatives offer substantial benefits. It's important to avoid putting on a 'hard sell' as this will cause audiences to lose interest. Health PR must develop and promote narratives that firmly show the benefit the product or initiative brings, and the backstory behind it. You should aim to look at your achievements and activities from the angle of stakeholders and only share what is genuinely newsworthy.

PR can frame your news to show how the item will positively impact people and communities.

3

Content and publication hurdles

As with all PR, there are no guarantees. Even if the media decides to write about you, it may not be how you want it to be. Sometimes, your press release will be published in full. Other times, modifications may be made, such as shortening, or the angle it’s presented may be different from what you intended. This may be the case if you pitch to tech outlets over health and medical ones, for example.

You cannot always control the spin they put on it.

By tailoring your content to specific outlets, you can reduce the chance of your message being misconstrued. Get your team to hammer out the core of the message and make it as clear as possible so nothing is lost. Re-read over and over to ensure clarity.

4

The importance of sensitivity

Another aspect to think about, when it comes to doing PR around health related issues, emotions are very important. It's just very important to be aware that people who are suffering from certain diseases might have very strong emotions about the content that you publish. You want to find the sweet spot between highlighting the potential of your technology and being realistic and not creating false hopes.

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Our healthcare PR strategy: Step by step

Running a healthcare public relations campaign can improve patient care and empower knowledgeable decision-making, but public relations in healthcare organizations can be complex and multifaceted. Through various tactics, you can create a strong reputation in the industry and become a highly trusted source - but a comprehensive PR strategy is needed. Luckily, we've got you started with some points to consider:

1

Decide target audience

Before you begin, you need to understand who your audience is. This decides how and where you reach them. To maximize your PR reach, invest time in understanding what media they consume and what their pain points are. What problem are you solving? What evidence do you have that your product works? How do they access it? What is the cost to them?

If aiming for multiple audiences, there could be some key traits they share you can capitalize on. For example, if you work in medical research, you may want to target company founders, investors, and pharmaceutical departments who all have a vested interest in new drug development (how you do this may differ, however).

Use online media monitoring tools to evaluate which publications write about relevant topics and competitors, and check which outlets use which keywords. Once you’ve made a list, divide it into subcategories, e.g., national, international, general, and industry-specific. This will help you decide what gets pitched and where.

2

Competitor analysis

People will compare you to whatever else is on the market. Understanding your competitors and the landscape in which you operate is key to developing a PR strategy. This is where a competitor analysis comes in.

The benefits are twofold.

First, it allows you to see where the industry is and identify popular topics with audiences. Secondly, it gives you insights on how best to differentiate from them. For instance, competitors may lack a social media presence or a thought leadership strategy. This provides a great opportunity for you to engage in these tactics and stand out..

3

Decide goals

Now, work out what you want to achieve, such as a 15% sales increase, attaining investment, or increasing brand awareness in a new market.

Your PR strategy's objectives must be clearly defined.

Make goals SMART; specific - what exactly do you want to achieve, measurable - quantify it, achievable - realistic with the resources available, relevant - (to wider goals), and timebound - when should this be done? This will give you a focus and allow you to track progress, so you know you're on the right track. Everything you do should relate back to these goals.

You may do this in stages. For example, a 5% sales increase in month 1, a 10% increase in month 3, etc…

4

Choose key messages

You now have a target audience in mind and specified goals. Now, it's time to decide on the key messages to send to the media.

These messages must convey your Unique Value Proposition (USP) and stand out to audiences.

Your messaging needs to be authentic and tailored to your key audience. These messages form the basis of all your communication going forward, so make them clear and concise. If your goal is to demonstrate proficiencies in new tech, then your key message needs to show how this leads to better, faster, superior patient outcomes.

Pay close attention to the problem you're solving, the evidence you're relying on to make this claim, and how it beats your rivals. Pay close attention to the price in relation to all these things (if relevant).

5

Decide on tactics

Earlier, we established goals and focused on the need to make them specific, measurable, achievable, applicable, and have a certain timeline attached to them. These should always be in mind when selecting the tactics and methods to carry them out. In other words, each tactic, method, or message should correlate to each goal. Its how you measure success. See below for possible tactics:

  1. You can make the most of current industry talking points to help build momentum behind a message. What topics are dominating right now? AI in healthcare might be one example. Create content around this and send it to outlets to test the waters and gauge journalist receptiveness. Apply what you have learned to the next piece of content you produce.
  2. Show your expertise with thought leadership content. This could lead to interview opportunities and work to establish brand awareness and credibility. Thought leadership works hand in hand with healthcare public relations. Thought leaders are trusted voices who explain industry developments and guide people on their medical journeys, offering a reassuring and caring voice. It also gives a face to a brand.
  3. Regularly updating social media is another excellent way to connect with people and deliver a message. LinkedIn is great for sharing news with professional audiences and investors.
  4. Getting published in industry journals is a winner, too. Many medical and health publications have extremely high readership among relevant audiences, even if they do not have high circulation overall among the general population. Also, why limit yourself to health publications? Some medical equipment and software fall under tech. Consider pitching to tech outlets or building relationships with influencers. It's no secret that influencers are the preferred PR method among younger audiences. Make the most out of their audiences and yours.
6

Make a content calendar

Having developed key messages, identified target media, and selected tactics, you must integrate your content plan into a calendar. This calendar lays out the broader strategy for you and your team. It sets deadlines, marks milestones, and provides a detailed breakdown of what gets published, where, and when.

It describes exactly which type of content and message is being pushed to the media per month. Depending on results, impact, or industry shifts, it can be edited or changed. For example, a thought leadership piece can be brought forward if it is more relevant and topical at that moment.

7

Promote and reuse

Gaining overage in your desired outlets doesn't mean your PR efforts stop. Your public relations campaign doesn't end.

Coverage has a snowball effect and can lead to more. You should amplify the coverage received. Share on your social media channels. To ensure maximum reach, tag the journalist and media outlet and hashtags that may apply. Keep the tone upbeat and compliment the writer. Tag any relevant partners. If you have an online newsroom, segment the news into different sections to make it easy for journalists to research you.

Include a link to the story in your blog post if you elaborate on the topic or offer a different perspective. You may also update an older post and re-promote it with the news media mention and other new information. Add to conversations in the comments section. Thank people who comment and reinforce why it's an important topic.

“This is an important topic because ….." This can reinforce your expertise.

Develop favorable news articles about your organization as marketing collateral or promotional pieces to add notable coverage to your investor decks and sales presentations. You can incorporate it into a company brochure, case study, or other marketing literature your sales staff can distribute to prospects.

Incorporate in the company newsletter, an email announcement, or a link to an internal site like Slack to share with co-workers, business partners, and family members. Communication methods need to be used to keep employees informed of positive news mentions since those outside the communications department may not know about them.

8

Review results

Now, it's time to review your Healthcare PR campaign so far. Check what went well and what didn't. Could anything be better timed and planned going forward? Straighten out any barriers that hampered your goals.

Social monitoring is a powerful tool to assess impact. Social conversations can be tracked in real-time, allowing you to stay informed and updated. Compare these to the goals you set at stage 1 earlier.

Note: Receiving coverage involves conducting research, translating it into content appropriate for the right outlets, scheduling and publishing the content, pitching it, obtaining approval, and determining what works and doesn't. Therefore, immediate results should not be expected.

HealthCare PR best practices

The power of human stories

While cells, enzymes, and proteins are interesting to many, they aren't relatable when told in human stories. When it comes to patient stories, you want the reader to think, 'This experience seems a bit like mine.' Relatability is everything in health sector stories. Also, there is no need to seek out emotionally charged or dramatic stories for the sake of it.

A simple patient story can have just as big an effect.

One best practice is to direct your attention to the patient's journey, not the medical facility. Avoid excessive promotion and focus on the human aspect. This approach will guarantee that your audience will feel more engaged.

Showing direct impact

As we've established, passing off an ad as news won't work. Outlets won't want to promote it, and their audiences won't trust it. A big part of PR is building trust and credibility. You need to focus on the genuine impact the product or service will have on people.

Use real-life stories (get permission beforehand), customer reviews, and case studies, and back up claims with scientific yet easily digestible information.

Making this accessible and jargon-free for all audiences is often the work of a professional.

When in doubt, seek experts out

Expert opinion reassures people and helps reduce any anxieties they feel. It is a staple feature of Medical PR.

Experts can also provide precise, meaningful quotes on press releases that make excellent soundbites for other content you produce. They can also assist with FAQs on your website so potential customers can refer back to them as they make their decisions. Experts can also check compliance with regulations and the accuracy of facts presented. There should be a thorough and transparent process for this. There can be harsh penalties for giving wrong or misleading information. It also works to safeguard your reputation.

Helpful tip: Webinars and in-person events can also highlight thought leadership and expertise and discuss the less mainstream topics on which the public may lack information.

Use plain language

This is so everyday readers understand it. If I told you about a medical condition where the processes that control cell behavior fail, and a rogue cell becomes a progenitor of a group of cells that share its abnormal capabilities, you'd have no idea what I was talking about. In fact, this is the scientific explanation of cancer. But with cancer affecting so many people, you'd instead say cancer is a disease where bad cells grow and spread.

Plain and understandable language is key to transmitting your messages. And your achievements. Using plain language does not have to mean dumbing down. Good PR will demystify this for them without doing this.

Adopt a serious tone

In general, Healthcare PR is not the place for humor.

You could always be the first to show otherwise, but given the nature and seriousness of certain health-related topics and the consequences of misreading the room and risk to reputation, why risk it? it's generally wise to steer clear and adopt a more serious tone.

Remember, people’s health is not a commodity.

The industry is also heavily regulated. Ensuring compliance and seriousness in all communication is, therefore, of the utmost importance.

Think local

On the subject of relatability, stories in national outlets can seem distant to many audiences. But a story right in their backyard can hit home and leave a lasting impact. Localized stories can be powerful. Tie them in with a story or event connected to local events.

You could also look to partner with local health authorities. They can potentially share news or press releases with local audiences, which could lead to future partnerships and greater brand exposure.

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Why hire our specialized Healthcare PR agency?

At PRLab, we create news where there is none. We scratch beyond the surface to create unique brand stories that mean something to audiences. If you’re not constantly trying to disrupt the market, you risk being out of sight and out of mind.

One way we keep you at the top of minds is through thought leadership. We did this with our client Siilo, a secure medical messaging app. As they prepared to increase their global visibility and become a point of reference in the Dutch medtech market, we inserted them into conversations about how their product could help improve cooperation and compliance between various fragments of the Dutch healthcare system for the betterment of patient care.

PRLab monitored relevant news to insert Silio into conversations and craft well-timed pitches to outlets. With over 100 pieces of coverage secured, today, they’re the biggest medical network in Europe with a quarter of a million members.

Differences between Medical PR and PR for HealthTech

Healthcare stories are never far from view in the media. Digital innovations in the sector have only increased interest. PR can bring your brand story to life, why your firm exists and what you want to do, giving your firm authenticity in the process.

PR builds credibility and trust with various stakeholders and raises a company's profile in the ever-increasingly competitive healthcare landscape. A healthtech PR agency can bridge trust gaps between customers and stakeholders. It can help firms gain market recognition and educate the public to make informed decisions.

It's also necessary to understand the distinctions between Medtech and Healthtech PR.

While these terms are often used interchangeably, they represent different aspects of the life science industry. Medtech companies specialize in producing devices, software, and machinery usually used in hospitals. Healthtech refers to apps, wearables, and other devices designed to boost consumer health and wellness. Medtech tools are heavily regulated because specialists and professionals use them. Healthtech is more consumer-based. Messages will focus on innovation and usability and with mass adoption. Medtech focuses on improving medical practices and outcomes and the impact research has had on this.

Conclusion

As we've seen, PR is crucial to building long-term, meaningful relationships with customers and the public. PR professionals create interest among your target audience and position you as a valuable knowledge source in your sector.

You need a modern PR agency with a new take on obtaining results and collaborations. At PRLab, we bring our skills and insights to Medical and Healthcare PR. PRLab has a uniquely modern approach to public relations, combining traditional PR with modern-infused methods to get you the traction you're aiming for.

Our track record speaks for itself. We've successfully partnered with numerous healthtech and medtech companies, leveraging our expertise and experience to help them achieve their goals. If you're searching for a Healthcare PR agency to guide you through this, speak to us to see how we can help you with a winning personalized PR strategy.

May 24, 2024
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