HIMSS 2013 MEDIA RELATIONS PLANNING January 2013 5 Steps to Gain Publicity at HIMSS Make the most of your investment as a HIMSS 13 exhibitor by taking these basic steps to obtain news coverage at the conference. This expert reportt covers company positioning, news release writing & distribution and media contact tips.
WestsidePR.com HIMSS Publicity GuideObtaining News Coverage at HIMSS1. Get Started Early.HIMSS 13 begins on Sunday March 3. Ideally, all of your company’s news releases, fact sheets andproduct brochures should be drafted by December and finalized in January. If you are planning a newproduct launch, but don’t have all the details on the product, at least get a three-paragraph overviewof the product that you can use to pitch reporters in January.More than 100 reporters, editors and bloggers are expected to attend HIMSS 13. The top reporters forthe biggest trade publications (e.g. Health Data Management, Healthcare IT News) will start filling theirschedules in January and many will be completely booked-up by February 1. To interest a key editor inyour company or product, you will need a first-class pitch and well written fact sheets to support youridea. Not launching a new product at HIMSS? Consider offering reporters a briefing by your CEO, CFO or CMO on an a new technology or an industry trend.2. Describe Your Offer: New Product or Expert Interview.In addition to policy announcements (e.g. an HHS official announces new Medicare rules), reporterswill be filing two types of stories at HIMSS: new product announcements and trend articles.If you have a new product that you want to announce at HIMSS, plan on distributing the news releasethe week before HIMSS (see below).What if you have a new product that looks promising but still in beta testing and not ready forconsumer market? Should you announce it as a new product at HIMSS?There is no simple answer. If you present a product as market-ready but in reality has numerousglitches, you will be putting your company’s credibility at risk. On the other hand, staking a claim to aleading edge technology could attract investors or corporate partners. Page 1
WestsidePR.com HIMSS Publicity GuideReporters covering the healthcare IT beat are tech savvy and have seen “vaporware” before. However,most will have only will only have 5-10 to view an exhibitor’s demonstration and they will assume thecompany’s senior executives are accurately describing the product.3. Prepare Your C-Level Expert.If you are not debuting a new product at HIMSS, it may still be possible to get mentioned in conferencemedia coverage if you have a C-level executive who is an expert on a topic of interest.Who qualifies as an expert? A company could present a CTO who recently worded for the federalgovernment, or a CMO who was previously associated with an academic medical center.Being an executive from a small company is not necessarily a handicap. Most reporters talk frequentlywith experts from Cerner, HP and other large vendors. They want to hear from smaller, entrepreneurialcompanies that may have new technologies or new approaches to common problems. Reporters are snobs about executive titles. Unfortunately, most will not interview a sales and marketing VP – even if he has detailed knowledge of the industry. Leary of receiving a product “sales pitch,” they want to interview CEOs, CFOs and CMOs.Your media interview invitation (delivered via email or phone) should start with the topic your expertcan discuss (e.g. meaningful use, BYOD policies, and encryption) and include a one-two sentencedescription of his background.Make sure your C-level expert is prepared with in-depth knowledge and industry statistics. As JoeGoedert, the news editor of Health Data Management, noted in a blog post about HIMSS interviews,“We already know you are having a great year, that your product is the best and your competitorsstink. We want real insight from folks in the trenches about industry trends.”Customers, particularly those from large medical groups and hospitals can make excellent experts.Healthcare technology reporters are always looking for experts from provider organizations. Anenthusiastic customer can describe how your company’s products helped him solve an importantproblem. Smaller companies, however, may not be able to afford paying for customers travel andexpenses. Page 2
WestsidePR.com HIMSS Publicity Guide4. Distribute Your News Release on a Wire Service.BusinessWire, a leading national news release distribution service, is offering all HIMSS 13 exhibitors afree, three-file Online Press Kit. To take advantage of this email the wire service firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that this is a passive, archived list of HIMSS exhibitor documents;reporters will have to go to BusinessWire and search for your company.We recommend taking the next step and paying for local/regional distribution of your news release onBusinessWire. This distribution should cost $400-800, depending upon region, size of file andattachments (e.g. logo, photo). While cheaper news wire options are available, BusinessWire reachesmore publications and their SEO optimized releases score higher in Google search.The headline of your news release is critical: many reporters will not read further. Make sure to includeyour company name, the product and HIMSS 13.For example: “MediWidget Launches MDWizard at HIMSS 13, New Software for Medical GroupsCombines Clinical, Financial Applications in Cloud-Based Platform.”HIMSS provides a news release template here:PR TIPS & PRESS RELEASE - HIMSS Vendor Center5. Obtain the HIMSS Media List, Contact Reporters.HIMSS exhibitors and their PR representatives are entitled to receive a list of “registered” reportersand editors. To obtain your list, email Virginia Geoghegan, a HIMSS marketing services contact. Notethat some senior reporters choose to remain anonymous and are not listed. You will need to use amedia directory obtain their contact information.Review the list of registered media and select the reporters most likely to be interested in yourcompany. It is a waste of time on both sides to contact all 80+ names. For example, reporters atpublications that cover radiology and PACS will not be interested in vendors offering e-prescribing orsupply chain management software.Put “HIMSS 13 exhibitor” in your email subject line. Your invitation or pitch should be 60-100 words, nolonger. Include a link to your company’s home page. Don’t include any attachments.Individually contacting dozens of reporters is laborious job, many marketing directors will want todelegate it to a PR firm or a trusted assistant. Make sure the contact person has been thoroughlybriefed and can answer questions from reporters. Page 3
WestsidePR.com HIMSS Publicity Guide “Explain in 30 seconds what your product does without any marketing buzzwords, and in plain English that your mom would understand.” - Joe Goedert, news editor, Health Data ManagementWhat kind of response should you expect? A smaller company should obtain a 10-20% positiveresponse rate if you start in January. For example, if you contact 30 reporters, four-five should agree toan interview. Large, publicly held companies and vendors with a genuine “breakthrough” product canobtain much higher rates.Individual contact of reporters serves several purposes – even if you land only one or two interviews.First, pitching gets your company’s name and product in front of reporters – possibly for the first timethis year. Second, schedules and priorities often change at the last minute. If a reporter has aninterview cancelled at the conference, he may decide to visit your company after all.One key task that is frequently forgotten: post-conference follow-up. Too often marketing executives,tired and low on budget after the conference, prematurely end their media contact effort. This is short-sighted. Healthcare reporters have to file stories year-round, 52 weeks of the year.About ten days after HIMSS has ended, send all the reporters on your contact list a follow-up emailwith a message indicating how your product fit into one of the overall trends of the show (e.g. BYOD,meaningful use, analytics). Include a link to your news release or product information page.The annual HIMSS conference is a unique opportunity for healthcare technology companies to displaytheir products and reach new customers. Savvy marketing directors will make their HIMSS mediaoutreach the first step in a well-planned, year-long PR campaign. Westside Public Relations is a national provider of marketing services to healthcare technology companies. Our clients include software vendors, device makers, hospitals and financial service providers. For more information contact James Harris, senior partner: JHarris@WestsidePR.com O: 310-398-5565 C: 310-780-7107 www.WestsidePR.com Page 4