On another note altogether (I'll get back to "As the Glucose Meter Turns" soon enough), I am pondering the PR question again today. I am doing this because I've received an advance invitation to be part of a panel discussion on how healthcare and pharma enterprises should approach bloggers in "serious disease categories" -- i.e. bloggers like us. Big question.
I have worked on both sides of the communications fence and understand the in's and out's pretty well. But back in my day, there was no such thing as Social Media (i.e. blogs, podcasts, message boards, vlogs, etc.)
And now, as a diabetes blogger being ever-more-aggressively inundated by organizations hoping to promote various products and initiatives, I must admit I am not exactly clear on how I would instruct them to do things differently in an ideal world.
First off, there's been much tadoo over the death of the press release (kicked off by Financial Times refugee Tom Foremski). The idea being that the "Old School" method of crafting a carefully worded announcement and blasting it out over the wire isn't going to cut it with today's interactive media. We want something less "fluffy," more concise, and certainly more genuine.
In fact, when Business Wire recently hosted a gala event marking the 100th anniversary of the news release, one fearless PR agency asked, "Shouldn't it be a wake, rather than a birthday party?":
"If the low-hanging fruit of boring corporate releases is in the process of becoming irrelevant, what does this mean to companies like Business Wire and PR Newswire? Well, join the club! Newswires, PR agencies, corporate communications departments, journalists, bloggers: we all have the *opportunity* to rethink our jobs and the reasons for our professional being: adding value."
So in our case, a bunch of companies out there want to promote their health books, informational videos, diabetic-friendly foods, D-gadgets and devices, etc., etc. How should they approach us? And how can we cover their stuff without coming off like commerical mouthpieces?
Rethinking the format of the traditional news release is a start. But to me, the guidelines for approaching us patient bloggers are much more elemental:
- send me a personal note, rather than a "form pitch"
- tell me in 25 words or less why your stuff is truly interesting and newsworthy (how does it change patients' lives?)
- offer me something concrete to go with the announcement, like an interview with a luminary, or a trial version of your software (ideally online where anyone can try it)
Stuff like that. * HEY! HEALTH BLOGGERS OUT THERE, DO YOU AGREE? * Got any tips on how companies should best interact with you? (Certainly not by asking how they can "use" your site to promote their own new website, as the agency for one Pharma giant recently tried to pull...)
btw, on the blogging ethics issue, have you heard of Flogging? Yeah, Wal-Mart recently got caught with its pants down trying to parade some cutsey, ostensibly grassroots RV-trip-across-America blog that turned out to be nothing but a staged PR campaign in disguise. Bad, bad, blogging practice!
Note that Dmitriy K over at The Medical Blog Network (TMBN) is working hard to establish a new set of standards for integrity of health/medical blogs. See the HealthTrain Manifesto, and sign on to support the effort if you see fit.
I also happen to know that the UK medical journal The Lancet is currently working on a story about potential conflicts of interest in blogging and the practice of Flogging -- the use of blogs as promotional tools, masquerading as genuine citizen journalism. Somebody grab that dagger!