While a lot has changed in the Twin Cities, we still have one of if not the most dynamic healthcare landscapes in the country. In fact, according to the Medical Alley Association, in 2017, a record $735 million was raised by 85 companies in medical device, digital health, biopharma and diagnostics. On Wednesday, some of the Twin Cities’ most influential med-tech and health professionals gathered under one roof for an enlightening panel discussion with four members of local and national health media – Michelle Cortez of Bloomberg News, Joe Carlson of the Star Tribune, Kathy Grayson of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and Chris Newmarker of WTWH Media. The panel was moderated by Hyedi Nelson, who leads the Bellmont Partners Health Practice Group.
This latest event in our Talking Points Discussion panel – “In The News, In the Know” – co-hosted with Arik Hanson of ACH Communications, in partnership with The Medical Alley Association and Device Talks, brought us together to discuss trends, opportunities and tried and true best practices for working with journalists. Going straight to the source, we talked with these reporters about what they’re seeing in the industry, what they’re looking for in a good story and how medical companies (regardless of size or stage) can be better prepared to pitch them newsworthy content.
Make your story compelling
All of the panelists agreed on one thing that almost goes without saying – the story needs to be compelling. Joe Carlson pointed out that Minnesota is home to upwards of 500 health-related companies, and he needs to bring a good case to his editor before putting a company in ink. While financial updates can provide good milestones or substantiation, Michelle Cortez explained she’s looking for something bigger – “a story your neighbor would want to know about if they weren’t already interested in your job.” And to that point, the story should be something that your neighbor can follow in layperson’s terms. Even the most technical stories can be broken down and Michelle reminds us of the importance of good spokespeople (even outside of the C‑suite) – using metaphors and similes where necessary to share the story for the widest audience.
The makings of a good story
While numbers are important, companies don’t need to share enormous earnings or earth-shattering innovation to offer a good hook. Start-ups can share relevant “firsts”: the first pilot with a health system, a first customer, new clinical data or a round of funding. There’s often an unexpected angle that’s newsworthy. Is your headquarters moving but your operations staying in town? “The landscape is changing,” Chris Newmarker explained. More traditional med-device firms are hiring increasing numbers of software developers and evolving to service-based solutions. Kathy Grayson in particular is interested in how the new consumer-focused tech companies are making their mark on the industry.
Getting in on the bigger story
The panel also suggested opportunities for companies to tie themselves to a bigger national story or topic – from cyber-security to virtual reality, retailization of healthcare and more.
For example, Amazon is moving into distributing supplies to hospitals. There would be a good opportunity for any local hospitals utilizing the service to be a part of that bigger, national story. You don’t have to be the one making the news to share a valuable perspective about it.
Pitching dos and don’ts
Before contacting any of them, however, keep in mind a few best practices. Do your research on the outlet and the reporter. Include a good (available) media contact in your pitch and news release, and have high-resolution art ready to go (for example, a product photo and headshot of the executive being interviewed). But above all, put yourself in their shoes, and the shoes of the readers, to share the most compelling story.
We covered a lot of ground in our one-hour panel, and thanks again to the journalists who took time out of their schedules to share their insights on the health and med-tech landscape with us, and to the industry leaders who joined us for the event. Be sure to check out some photos of the event on the Bellmont Partners Facebook page!