In the age of news at our fingertips 24/7, COVID-19 has and will continue to dominate the news cycle and engagement on social media while fuelling the ongoing “war on truth.” However, what has not disappeared is the value of foundational media relations as an important cornerstone of healthcare storytelling.
So, what’s on the horizon for 2022 and what tools from the toolbox will help us effectively tell those stories?
- The answer is no, COVID-19 won’t go away any time soon. While it may seem there’s a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind for healthcare reporters for a long time. While we all wish we had a crystal ball, none of us can see or understand the pandemic’s entire impact, and reporters will need to focus their work on telling us that story as it unfolds. While proactive pitching and newsjacking will continue to serve as strategic tools for storytelling, make sure you do two things. One, monitor individual reporters’ specific coverage and/or beats over time, so you can find the best opportunity to reach out appropriately; and two, provide news that will be worth their and the publication’s interest and time regardless of if they cover COVID-19.
- The health equity conversation has just begun. Many of the inequities surfaced by the COVID-19 have unfortunately existed for minoritised communities for decades. It’s important for us to learn and acknowledge the social determinants of health these communities often face, such as homelessness, food insecurity, limited transportation, isolation, discrimination and bias, and how these factors can directly impact individuals’ wellbeing. To support and improve health and wellness in these communities through storytelling, highlight innovations and initiatives that remove social barriers and leverage spokespeople ingrained in these communities who can provide a unique perspective about addressing inequities. Not only will this better resonate across reporters, verticals, publications, and communities, but it can also serve as a catalyst for societal change.
- It will always be about numbers. PR has always been about storytelling. However, the media landscape no longer accepts opinion at face value. In today’s world of fact-checking, reporters and media outlets will continue to rely heavily on facts, figures and stats. It’s up to you to use numbers to create, tell and support a compelling story and narrative. For healthcare media specifically, numbers that demonstrate improved outcomes, decreased costs for patients and the system at large, and a sustainable model of care will win the day.
- The future of media relations is personalisation. The pandemic has reminded us of the value and importance of human connection. Healthcare reporters receive hundreds of pitches a day, some of which can impact their mental health over time. Discovering ways to cut through the noise beyond a generic email – whether that’s checking in to see how they are doing, reading up on their latest coverage, engaging with them on social media, sending them a congratulations note on a major life milestone – will go a long way in helping to build trust with media and becoming a go-to resource for storytelling.
While storytelling in the COVID-19 era will continue to evolve, going back to the basics of foundational media relations and continually educating yourself on the healthcare media landscape will be more important than ever as we start 2022.
As a Director in A+P’s media department, Emma Mulvaney is focused on supporting agency-wide earned media execution, media strategy and supporting healthcare account teams to successfully deliver results that contribute to the overall business goals and priorities of the agency and agency clients.