Create Buzz for Your Pharmacy
Use public relations to promote your pharmacy’s newsworthy actions.
The best advertising for your pharmacy may not be an advertisement you pay to place. Instead, consider how a news story or feature article on your pharmacy can reach new customers in a credible way and build your pharmacy’s reputation.
While you don’t pay for press coverage, this type of marketing isn’t completely “free” either. You need to invest in planning interesting, newsworthy activities and forging relationships with media contacts. Here are a few suggestions for becoming a hit with your local media.
Schedule Marketing and Public Relations
Start with a calendar and plot out opportunities that will keep your pharmacy in the public’s eye. Don’t rely on news that simply pops up. Scheduling activities allows you to manage your PR and marketing budget, and reach out to the media in plenty of time to arrange coverage.
“It’s good if a pharmacy can map out a year in advance,” said Liz Tiefenthaler, president of Pharm Fresh Media, which offers marketing solutions to independent pharmacies.
For example, collect unwanted medications on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, recognize staff members during National Pharmacy Technician Day and American Pharmacists Month, and educate patients throughout American Diabetes Month — and then tell your community about your activities.
Reach Out to Media
When businesses shoot off a generic press release, they are likely to receive little response. But by getting to know your local media contacts and selling your story as newsworthy, you can get attention for your professional expertise and build your pharmacy’s reputation.
Start by deciding who should be responsible for your public relations. In many cases, it makes sense for the pharmacy owner to also own this function, but maybe you have a tech or front-end employee who would find this to be a rewarding addition to their responsibilities. Then start creating a list of media contacts. Identify key staff members at newspapers, radio stations, broadcast and cable TV stations, and even local websites and blogs. Send your press release to a specific person, not a generic “news” email address, and add a personal introduction or note to let them know why it is important or how you could add additional value.
Update your media list frequently, and add notes about the best way to work with each person and their deadlines. Connect with reporters throughout the year, not only when you want coverage. Ask what topics they are working on, and suggest other possible resources for them.
Also let reporters know that you can be a valuable resource for health and wellness topics. (Learn how to become a media source in “Become Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert.”)
When you pitch a story, target the right person with a relevant angle. “Spin it so you give someone a story,” Tiefenthaler explained. For example, when sponsoring a drug take-back event, instead of contacting the business editor, explain to the environmental editor how this event will protect local water supplies or talk to the family life editor about preventing accidental poisoning of children.
Make your message’s subject line specific and compelling. For example, instead of “Press Release” you might write “Got drugs? Safe disposal event March 26.”
Your press release should be around three paragraphs, just enough to grab the attention of busy reporters, editors and producers scanning their overflowing inboxes. Paste it into the body of your message, so the recipient can start reading immediately, without having to open an attachment.
Answer these questions:
- What is new, different or special about what you are announcing? Include supporting facts and statistics.
- How does this benefit the community?
- Why is this topic important to the reporter? Does if fit a broader issue the person has been covering?
- What human angle can the local media highlight?
- What other sources are available? Can the person interview one of your customers or another expert?
Follow up with a phone call a day or two after you send the email to succinctly explain why the topic will interest that person’s audience.
Think about what will make your event interesting for different media types. What can a TV station capture on video, or what story can be told on radio? If you are holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for your grand opening, invite local dignitaries and celebrities, such as the mayor, city council members or a sports star.
Newsroom budgets are stretched thin, so be willing to work with the media. If they can’t send a photographer, offer to provide pictures. If they can’t promote the event in advance, perhaps they can use information afterward, such as a press release about how many pounds of drugs you collected for safe disposal.
When you buy advertising, ask about additional ways to promote your pharmacy or event. For example, perhaps a newspaper where you are buying ads will write an article about an event at your store, or a radio station you are advertising on might do a remote live broadcast from your store.
Focus on Customers
Live reports on the local radio station are just one feature of the popular annual Holiday Open House at Lloyd’s Drug Mart in Norfolk, Nebraska. Parents can take photos of their children with Santa, owner Chris Vincent explained. The pharmacy also hands out cookies to children and offers special sales during the event.
When you plan an event, make it about your customers rather than your business. Make a grand opening truly grand. “You only get one,” Tiefenthaler noted, so include refreshments, educational programs and health screenings, along with the ribbon cutting. And when your store celebrates an anniversary, “make it a special day about the patient being well,” she said.
Partner for Broader Appeal
Reach a wider audience by collaborating with another business or organization. For example, Tiefenthaler noted one pharmacy owner who was interested in environmental causes held an event to recycle electronic devices. He also spoke at a shoe store that regularly held seminars about foot health, reaching people who may not attend educational events in his store.
Vincent collaborated with the company that shreds documents for his pharmacy to offer a shredding day at his store. By thinking beyond healthcare you can introduce your business to a wider group of potential customers.
Be Where the News Is
Speaking out on community issues is another way to gain news coverage for your pharmacy. Write letters to the editor and speak at town meetings. When the U.S. Postal Service proposed closing a local mail sorting operation, Vincent explained to a local television station and during a public forum how that could delay the next-day mail out services that his pharmacy offers to their customers.
Gain When You Give
Independent pharmacies tend to be generous to their communities, and you can convert your donations into marketing. “Don’t be shy,” Tiefenthaler encourages pharmacy owners. “If you’re giving, it’s OK to ask for something back.” If you’re working with a charitable organization, for example, ask it to include you in its publicity efforts.
Lloyd’s Drug Mart sponsors the Elkhorn Valley Cycling Club. It’s a good fit for the pharmacy, because it’s promoting healthy activity and Vincent is a triathlete. The members’ jerseys include a pharmacy badge on the sleeve, so photos of cyclists at events promote the business.
The bottom line: With a year-round marketing and public relations plan, your pharmacy can be in front of customers and potential customers in diverse ways, boosting the credibility, reputation, traffic and sales of your pharmacy.
Download “Conduct Your Own Public Relations Campaign: A Guide For Independent Pharmacies” from McKesson for additional details on developing and executing a PR campaign for your pharmacy.