SHIFT Healthcare Q&A Part 1: Tradeshow Outreach

Event outreach for PR professionals can be a daunting task that starts months and months before the actual event. But all of that planning is done in vain if the execution isn’t perfect in the 2-3 weeks leading up to the event. It’s these critical couple of weeks where all the planning turns into action and PR professionals must sometimes juggle outreach for multiple clients attending the same show, trying to capture the attention of some 200+ reporters who are getting upwards of 500+ emails per day. How do you rise above the noise? How do you create a truly targeted pitch?

On the heels of conference season – CES, RSA Conference, HIMSS16, etc. – the SHIFT healthcare team sat down with our friend Mike FeibusPresident and Principal Analyst, FeibusTech, as well as regular contributor for USA Today and now Fortune, to get his perspective. Mike shared tips and tricks for PR professionals along with his personal pet peeves, the latest healthcare trends and other general media pitching advice. The conversation was so fruitful that we decided to break it up into a two-part blog series. Here is the first on tradeshow outreach:

Q: Mike, you had a busy first quarter attending several industry conferences such as CES, Mobile World and HIMSS. What was it like scheduling and managing your meetings for each event? And juggling writing assignments?

A: Well, juggling is difficult with a big show like CES. But then with events like Mobile World Congress and HIMSS – two big ones back to back – I got snowed under and couldn’t keep up with the avalanche.

As far as assignments, I don’t really have them. Things do pop up at shows and I write about them here and there but I’m not a news guy, so I don’t have a beat. And generally speaking, I don’t really go into a show thinking about generating copy. I might do it but typically, I write a column going into the event and collect for future work while I’m there.

Q: Are you always thinking long-term like that, where you’re primarily there to collect information for future pieces?

A: You know, it’s somewhere in between. I’ve usually got half a dozen things in my head that I’d like to pursue. Which means that I’ll use them in the next three months. I have had meetings and quoted people as far as six months later.

Q: When you say you got snowballed – what does that mean? What did your inbox really look like?

A: In general, I hate it when I have more than 100 unread emails. But around the shows, it’ll get up to 350-400 in just a few hours. I have so many reasons to hit the delete button. Just trying to whittle that down and get what I need to get to, it’s hard to do much of anything else. My inbox in Outlook is set up so that I see the subject header and first three lines of the message. Within five seconds – hopefully less – I’ll either hit the delete key or enter key to read further. So my advice is don’t dawdle. Get to the point quickly and succinctly. Anything you can do to make it quicker and easier for me to see why this story is significant, the better off we’ll all be.

A couple other do’s and don’ts:

Don’t say “It’s that time of year again and I know you’re bombarded with HIMSS pitches…” – that’s your five seconds. Delete. Another one is “Here are our clients who will be at HIMSS.” I never open those. That’s for your benefit, not mine. If you can’t sift through them and tell me which one is relevant for me then I’m sure as hell not going to do it.

Avoid buzzwords. Everyone else that’s pitching me has “the most advanced, comprehensive end-to-end solution” and I can’t tell you how many times I see that. It’s difficult to sift through that and find what’s truly meaningful. So if y’all(!)  can take a minute to think about what’s really different, what’s really groundbreaking – say it in English, not Corporatese – that can go a long way.

Don’t think about the pitch at hand in a vacuum either, but as one of a packet of pitches you send. Whether you know it or not, I start to recognize your name in my inbox. You’re starting to build a brand, a reputation in a way. So once I see enough bad pitches, I just set up rules to ship your stuff off to the junk folder. For example, there are some folks who send a high volume of releases and follow-ups that are so-so and not relevant. Those are the ones that get shipped to the junk folder where your pitch will never see the light of day.

Q: What was it like scheduling at events?

A: It’s different with different shows. I try to do it geographically with large events like CES or Mobile World. It breaks down invariably when folks are in the wrong spot, you can’t find each other, etc.

To leave room for that, I do try to leave empty-slot bookends at the beginning and end of each day. So if absolutely have to squeeze a meeting in, I can wake up early and have coffee with them before the show opens or after it closes. But that’s only if I absolutely, positively have to have this meeting.

Q: Which of the events was the most press friendly i.e. best set up, access to sources, etc.?

A: If I have a quiet place to sit and work with internet to regroup and charge my batteries – both personally and for my devices – and something to drink, I’m pretty good. No real standouts.

While Mike’s words on event outreach might point out the obvious for many, there is one simple principle that all PR professionals can follow to be successful (and this rings true outside of event pitching as well): be smart. Do your homework and understand who you are targeting and what they will be interested. Reporters and writers can easily see when a pitch is truly tailored and although that might not garner an immediate response, it is being read. And don’t underestimate the “R” in PR – you are building a brand and persona with every email which are critical in building your Relationship with the media. Treat every email as if it is a direct reflection of your hard work, dedication and smarts.

Looking for more insights from Mike? Our next installment will delve deeper into Mike’s personal style – his writing habits and how he files his pitches – and switch gears to an overview of where the healthcare industry is now and where he thinks hot topics like consumerization and interoperability will go.

Victoria Khamsombath
Account Manager

Continue on to part 2 of this Q&A

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Posted on May 10, 2016 in Healthcare

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About the Author

Victoria Khamsombath is a healthcare communications professional who is dedicated to all things that help people live healthier lives in our hyper-communicated and connected world. Since her initial PR work with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ consumer affairs branch, Victoria expanded to the healthcare industry in 2010 and has since worked on a little bit of everything health-related, from substance abuse to healthcare IT. When she’s not in the office, Victoria is focused on various self-improvement projects. For now that includes mastering new yoga poses, searching for recipes that have the perfect “cooking-effort to eating-enjoyment” ratio and enjoying all that her new home city, San Francisco, has to offer.

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