Become Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert
Promote yourself to local publications, television programs and radio shows as a credible source for health and wellness advice
It is vitally important for the public to understand that community pharmacists do much more than count pills. Otherwise, you could be undervalued as healthcare professionals.
“And the best way to get the message out is through the media,” according to Tina Pugliese, a coach with Pugliese Public Relations in Boynton Beach, Florida, as stated in her book, Public Relations for Pharmacists.
The idea is to become a resource that media representatives will turn to when they need to interview an expert about everyday health and wellness issues. Eventually, you may become such a trusted source that editors or producers might ask you to appear regularly on television or radio — or to write a blog or column.
“Becoming a media source is a great way to establish your reputation as a healthcare expert,” explains Pugliese, who certainly understands the challenges that the pharmacy industry is facing after spending 10 years as the director of public relations for the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
Just remember that local media typically are looking for local experts to explain what things mean to their local audiences. “If you can tell them what impact a national news story — like the flu vaccine shortages we have had for the past several years — is having on your community, they will love you for it,” says Pugliese.
Talking to the Media
- Before each interview, prepare three top messages detailing what you want to communicate. For each, have supporting statistics, data and examples.
- Keep your answers short and to the point, and stop talking when you’ve finished answering a question (hard to do!).
- Never make any comment that you view as “off the record”; assume everything you say could end up in the news story.
- Follow up after the interview to clarify important points. If possible, provide additional information that makes your story stronger and more compelling.
Source: McKesson’s Guide to Developing Your Own Local Public Relations Campaign. Contact your McKesson sales representative for more information.
Tom Wullstein, owner of Brandon Health Mart Pharmacy in South Dakota, and Christine Jacobson, owner of Wasatch Pharmacy Care in Utah, have both used a media source strategy to promote their healthcare expertise and their pharmacies.
- Wullstein currently appears on a weekly radio segment titled “Brandon Health Mart Monday.” Listeners can submit questions to “Dr. Tom” on his website, and receive answers on the next show.
- Jacobson cultivated a relationship with a local TV news show and appeared as a regular guest to talk about health topics such as anti-aging tips and migraine headaches. See clips of some segments on her website.
Five Key Action Steps
If you are ready to get started on creating your own local PR, then consider following these steps:
- Identify area media targets. Identify the reporters and editors who cover healthcare issues for your local newspapers, as well as local television and radio programs that focus on healthcare. Next, you’ll want to find the niche publications, blogs and podcasts that serve your community.
- Introduce yourself and show that you are a “credible expert.” Send those media contacts an email introduction. A good way to gain attention is to make a comment on one of their stories. Tell them what you liked about it and how you could add value to it, and offer to help them find similar stories in the future.
- Build relationships. Periodically, send media contacts important health and wellness information (for example, new studies, trends, advice, and so on). Offer to help them in any way you can — explaining to consumers “what the research means” or “what actions they might take.” But if the subject matter is not something you are particularly knowledgeable about, offer to put reporters in contact with someone who is.
- Invite contacts to visit your store. This is the time to get personal about your operation and your career. Pugliese recommends showing them the range of what you do and talking about the difference you have made in people’s lives.
- Ask for a regular gig. Once you have established an ongoing relationship with a media person and have shown that you are a credible expert, you can ask to appear regularly on a show, or write a column or blog.
A Final Thought
“With all the cutbacks in media, reporters are doing 10 times the amount of work they did before,” says Pugliese. “So if you make it easy for them, if you become a trusted resource, they will come back to you again and again. That’s what you want to become: that ‘go-to’ person.”
- Public Relations for Pharmacies, available on Amazon, is Tina Pugliese’s step-by-step guide to working directly with the media and using public relations professionals.
- Helpareporter.com is a network that pairs reporters with sources. Sign up as a source for a nominal fee and HARO will send you daily emails listing stories journalists are developing.
- Radioguestlist.com is a network that matches small local TV and radio talk shows and podcasts with expert guests. Sign up as a source and the site will send you listings of shows looking for guests.