Guide provides best practice tips on approaching health journalists

The UK’s Healthcare Communications Association (HCA) and Medical Journalists’ Association have launched a new best practice guide on approaching health journalists with a media story.

Based on research by the Medical Journalists’ Association and feedback from their members, the guide aims to help all those working in healthcare PR understand how best to approach journalists with a media story,

It highlights many of the common “do’s and don’ts” that can impact the working relationship between journalists and PR professionals.

The new guide forms part of the HCA’s continued drive to help set best practice standards for the healthcare communications sector.

As the new chair of the HCA’s Standards and Best Practice committee, Alister Sansum, director of scientific and medical communications at Publicis Health hopes all practitioners will use the guide as a useful reminder.

The six-point guide urges healthcare PRs to:

  • Ensure the story is relevant to the journalist’s area of interest
  • Provide a short email outlining the idea and story elements available
  • Ensure the story is clearly outlined in the headline and first paragraph of a press release
  • Provide rapid access to source material, possibly ahead of time if under embargo
  • Make credible spokespeople available
  • Include images and footage

Sansum said: “It is so important that everybody acts responsibly in dealing with healthcare journalists. Not following these simple principles damages our profession’s image with these important partners in our work.

“Agencies please use this guide when planning campaigns with your clients and vice versa. As a sector, it is important we maintain and build our relationship with journalists as we all have the same desire to see accurate and informative health information reach our target audiences.”

Mike Dixon, CEO of the HCA, said: “The HCA regularly invites health journalists to speak to our members. It is frightening to hear the consistency in how journalists want to be approached and then the degree to which this is just not happening appropriately.

“At best this puts a journalist off working with the particular individual or their organisation, at worst it taints their view of the whole healthcare communications profession, lessening their enthusiasm to engage with us at all.”

The guide available via the HCA website.

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