Shani LewisShani Lewis

You’re in a kick-off meeting with a new client when they let you know: they need to be in The New York Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. The client is a scrappy, life-science company with an intriguing product that still needs to be reviewed and approved by the FDA. It has advanced science with wonderful theories but nothing in the clinic. No patients. No data. No media experience. Just a faith and conviction in their work and the possibilities.

No one wants to be a “Debby Downer” and immediately respond that the likeliness of those outlets covering your client is nearly impossible at this moment. Instead, give your client a plan to show them the steps they need to take to one day be included in top national media.

The importance of trades

For companies working in health and science innovation, it’s important to explain the value of trade publications in their field. Trade publications lay the foundation for a company’s reputation. Unless you have a completely original story that resonates with a larger audience, can provide patient testimony, photos, video and clear data, it is unlikely you’ll be able to break into top-tier markets.

This doesn’t mean trade media is the bottom tier. These outlets have their fingers on the pulse of the most recent news in your industry. They have their eyes on top industry leaders and breakthrough science. Reporters from trade publications only work on your industry news and have a deep understanding of the technical areas. Therefore, trade publications can cover an industry in more detail than mainstream publications. And they often serve as a first “vetting” for national media. When they cover a story from a trade perspective, national media may be likely to pay attention.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '22 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Although trade outlets maintain a specialized focus, they offer a range of useful industry information. Trades publish content on various topics including: the latest industry news, case studies and research, educational surveys and statistics, special reports and opinion and feature articles on new developments and practices within a field.

Additionally, if any laws that affect the industry are passed or are currently under debate, a trade publication will usually discuss the implications for those in the industry which can allow for clients to provide their own commentary on the issue.

Finally, many trades operate under “controlled circulation.” This means the publishers of trade journals will send out free issues to qualified individuals or offices within an industry allowing more people to access the news to better reach niche audiences.

How to develop relationships with media

Now that you have piqued your client’s interest in trade publications, next steps involve planning how to develop relationships with media. The approach is multifaceted.

Use social media. Something as simple as following a reporter’s and outlet’s social accounts is an easy step. But you cannot only follow them; you must also engage with their posts, highlight any relevant news on your client’s social channels and read their articles. Part of our job as PR pros is to monitor pertinent news and flag it to clients. If a reporter has covered something like your client’s work, then it’s your responsibility to connect with that reporter. Let them know you read their piece and mention you have a client doing similar work, or maybe work that contradicts their story, and you’d love to set up an introductory call for the reporter to learn more about the client. Will a meeting like this result in media coverage? Not necessarily, but it’s a great start. Now, this reporter is familiar with your client and can come to your team for a quote or a reference for other articles.

Building a positive rapport with reporters keeps your client top of mind and eventually, outlets may make space to cover the news.

Opportunities with media

In the interim of awaiting organic earned media coverage, especially if a client does not have any upcoming press releases or news, clients should tap into bylines. A byline article is an article acknowledged in the publication to have been written by a subject-matter expert rather than a staff reporter. Byline articles are one of the most effective tools available for establishing credibility with a target audience because they showcase the client as a thought leader. Media outlets like bylines from subject-matter experts because it offers more content freeing up reporters’ time from having to write and research new information.

Bylines are also appreciated by local media. As we know, local media today is not what it used to be and for health and science innovation companies it can be difficult to get media interested in covering them. There are few reporters who have a strong grasp on health and science topics; rarely are there any health and science reporters outside of national top-tier outlets. If you want coverage in a particular outlet, you need to make it easy for them to cover, otherwise, they’ll end up ignoring the story.

However, it’s important to remember that with a byline you cannot write whatever you want. There are specific guidelines to adhere to, such as word count and prohibiting promotional content. This allows a company leader or subject-matter expert to showcase their knowledge in the field as a thought leader.

For those who aren’t as interested in bylines, a Q&A is a helpful format as well. In addition, podcasts are another great earned media platform opportunity. On a podcast, your client can promote their company while simultaneously presenting themselves as a thought leader. Listeners and the host get to hear your client’s personality and a deep dive into the company’s history. Finally, podcasts allow your client the opportunity to practice for traditional interviews. Many trade outlets have podcasts now, so participating in a podcast could offer more than one opportunity to be included in the outlet.

Whether or not a client is included in top-tier media, all these steps outlined above are beneficial to your client’s reputation in the media and as well to their investors. Top media are more inclined to cover your clients if they see other value in the work they are doing. It may not start off with a huge front-cover feature, but it could be a mention or maybe something as simple as a meeting to have them learn more about your work. Media relations is a marathon that takes time and consistent effort for both PR pros and their clients.


Shani Lewis is an Assistant Vice President, Media Relations, at LaVoieHealthScience and has nine years of experience in PR working closely in healthcare, government and nonprofit sectors.