4 Strategies to Earn Media in a Difficult News Cycle

With frenetic news cycles and overworked editorial staff, it’s getting tough to earn media. What’s a pharma company or brand to do if it finds itself ready to announce a milestone in a busy news cycle or with no news at all?

1. Get Creative with Timing

When a breaking story is dominating the news cycle, not much else gets attention unless it’s a highly anticipated regulatory approval or something juicy like a scandal. While executives may be chomping at the bit to communicate, holding news (if it’s not market moving) for a week or two could mean the difference between earning coverage and being ignored.

One more thing: In slow news cycles, announcements aligned with disease awareness days can increase a story’s timeliness and likelihood of being covered.

2. Offer an Incentive

While the oldest trick in the book is to offer a story as an exclusive, consumer-focused brands can offer another incentive: Creative brand mailers for beauty and lifestyle editors.

As an example: For acne awareness month (June), the theme of a mailer for a mature prescription acne treatment was to only wear the spots you choose this swimsuit season. The pitch invited editors to pick a designer polka dot swimsuit in their size and schedule an interview with a dermatologist spokesperson to discuss body acne treatments. Alongside the swimsuit, information about the skin condition and brand were included in the mailer. The campaign resulted in 10 interviews with consumer outlets which led to a feature story, mentions in a dozen listicles/trend stories, and an editorial award.

3. Build a Story

If an announcement went uncovered due to a difficult news cycle or if you don’t have much news at the moment, do a little sleuthing to find an angle that speaks to a larger trend. Identify which journalists are writing those trend stories and pitch a story larger than your company or brand, but one which includes it. While feature stories are coveted, mentions in trend stories can be advantageous for positioning purposes and to increase share of voice.

Another route is to offer an interview with a disease sufferer or patient (not in the public domain) to feature writers in mainstream news outlets as a hook to understand the challenges a pharma company or brand is solving.

4. Leverage Bylines

Another option is to place contributed articles by healthcare professional spokespersons in medical media. This can be a really helpful tactic if there’s a dearth of peer-reviewed data publications and you want to ratchet up peer-to-peer education about a key topic where a brand mention fits in seamlessly. The trick is to ensure fair balance so the piece isn’t perceived as too promotional to publish. Instead of one-off bylines, map out various topics, ambassador authors, and target publications to create a steady drumbeat of coverage throughout the year.

A tone-deaf spray and pray approach to pitching isn’t going to get any brand very far. It’s critical to be thoughtful and targeted to earn media in a difficult news cycle.

  • Shalon Kerr (née Roth)

    Shalon Kerr (née Roth) is an award-winning author and has contributed to PRWeek, PR Moment, Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Strategies & Tactics, PRsay, Muck Rack, Bulldog Reporter, and Ragan PR Daily. In 2018, she founded PR-it, a global collective of seasoned, independent healthcare communications, public relations, and creative experts that are curated into virtual flash teams to deliver results-driven projects.

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