Insanely Simple? Or is it?

Recently, I had the opportunity to review some of my fellow publicists’ work, since I was on the press list for the mHealth Summit. I learned a lot about healthcare apps and devices for mobile phones and tablets, including the “game-i-fication” – that’s a real word – of apps that maintain your health records, apps that remind you to take your medications, blood pressure, insulin, etc., as well as devices that plug into your iPhone to take your blood pressure, blood-sugar levels and even diagnose what’s ailing you. The summit received a lot of coverage because it is an interesting, quickly growing and controversial industry.

Instead of delving into that massive area, I’m offering a few simple observations and questions. And keep in mind that while these things may be insanely obvious to all of us, they are not to the average CEO (which is a good thing because this why they need to hire us).

Observation: Mass Blasts. I’m assuming publicists pitched in advance individual reporters who they know or who work for major outlets. But many sent invitations to their booths and info about their clients the whole registered press list.

Question: Is it worth sending blast emails at all? Maybe. You can’t know everyone, and it’s free. But don’t harass writers. I received many pitches at the end of the week before the Summit, which was too late. I already had my agenda planned.

Observation: Email Content. Styles ranged drastically from just the traditional press release (centered headline, subhead and text) to a meandering “Hi I’m here, I’m authentic and enthusiastic and want you to talk to my client.” One publicist even pitched her PR firm before the client.

Question: Are these good pitches? Just say, “NO.” A short, sweet note will do it with links to the client’s website, press release and product page. You might paste in the release at the bottom of the page. But no PDF files; would you open one?

Observation: Press Releases. Some companies had 8 ½-by-11 paper releases.

Question: Is it worth writing a traditional press release? YES. But I wouldn’t hand it out. The process of writing a press release can be a great way to help a client better understand how targeted audiences will see their company. Post it on the client’s website and link to it. Reporters will have more info, it’s a good record, AND reporters might not write about your client, but they might Tweet about it. So you need that unique URL up BEFORE you pitch.

Observation: Press Materials. Many companies had 4-by-6 glossy cards with a colorful, basic pitch, a URL (or two), and a CR code. You might say a “PR-i-fied” collateral piece. GREAT idea.

Observation: Last Minute Contact. I received a couple of emails an hour or two before the press conference, which I read on my phone.

Question: Should you send an email at the last minute? I’m not sure about this one. On the one hand, you are probably annoying the writer. On the other, I like being reminded of something I’m interested in and might have missed while in a session. (And, see my first point in my previous post; think carefully before holding a press conference at all.)

Obviously, there’s a lot more I could have added about the pitches I received at the Summit, among them: email subject lines, topper content, press release styles and SEO, etc. Maybe I’ll touch on these in the future.

Season’s greetings.

Vicki Stearn, principal of Think Out Media, is an adept generalist with an expertise in strategic planning as well as end-to-end communications implementation.  She is successful in a variety of industries and is currently expanding her practice to include the mHealth and eHealth sectors. Follow her at or @vickistearn.

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