The importance of traditional news media coverage in a 3.0 world

Laura Liotta

Sam Brown, Inc.

With the deafening noise about social and digital media, it’s important to remember that traditional media still plays significant role in the communications mix. Laura Liotta shares her insight on how to successfully work with traditional reporters as part of a brand’s integrated public relations and communications strategy.

It has been more than a decade since media platforms such as blogs, forums, online communities and social networks emerged with a grandiose display of technological innovation. This revolution has given us more channels and more choices for where we get our news and how we consume it, and it has morphed audience participation habits.

Yet legacy news organizations and traditional news media such as wire services, newspapers, magazines, and television, still have an important role in reporting healthcare information and news and will continue to be a conduit for reaching professional and consumer audiences – even as their underlying business models change to adapt to the technological and engineering strides in mobile and expanded online social platforms. News reporters should not be overlooked and indeed should be part of a brand’s integrated public relations and communications strategy.

Why? Here are just a few reasons:

Medical publishing continues to grow – In the world of pharma and biomedical discovery, where it is so important to fully and accurately communicate scientific details and interpret the value of a drug for clinical, research and investment communities, this offers an excellent platform.


“News reporters should not be overlooked and indeed should be part of a brand’s integrated public relations and communications strategy.”


Standing out – Traditional print media is more culturally grounded in content creation and long-form journalism that engages in meaningful coverage. It seeks to build context around controversy and impassioned ideas. It offers an opportunity to stand out with solid, skeptical and substantive reporting amidst a thicket of seemingly shallow, single-source rip ‘n’ read stories that dominate digital mediums.

Healthcare reform – People still turn to mainstream media for their ‘hard news’ and to newspapers as their primary source for news about civic and government affairs. This is an important consideration at a time when healthcare reform is so prominently discussed and impacting your business.

Low volume, high impact –Traditional media activity is quite effective in lending broad, mainstream attention to topics. It can influence online behavior and increase the amount of social media ‘buzz’.

News brands – News websites and mobile apps are playing an increasingly important role and mobile devices are adding to our news consumption, but this is actually having the affect of strengthening the attraction of traditional news brands.

The new media ecosystem

That said, traditional and social media communications outlets are interconnected and interdependent more than ever, and both types should be seen as a single media ecosystem. They carry out different but complementary roles in disseminating information and both have an influence on the other.

For example, traditional media can be used to break a story, while social media can broker its transfer and contagion – and even serve as a bridge between different traditional ‘nodes of influence’. Conversely, social media can propagate information from obscure outlets, build awareness through real-time high-volume presence, and eventually pique mainstream media’s interest in stories.


“Brands that are winning have an integrated communications perspective…”


So today, it’s about being able to tell your story in different ways, to mix and match different media, and to strategically leverage their influence.

Brands that are winning have an integrated communications perspective and target both traditional and social media channels to impact marketing performance. They not only deliver the message, but engage people so they believe the message.

What pharma and biotech companies need to know

So what do pharma and biotech companies need to know? Here are some current insights and tips for navigating traditional news opportunities in a 3.0 world:

Focus – National newsrooms continue to slash staff and budgets, and because of this it is becoming tougher to get the reporters who remain to focus on non-breaking and early development news.

Competition – It is important to understand journalists are looking for accurate and relevant news and information and are concerned about being out there first. They have more competition than ever before from the online world and have to perform in an immediate news environment. Don’t waste their time. Instead, help them get it right by giving them the info they need and by checking the details.

Patient impact – You will have a greater chance of securing news coverage if you can link to a growing trend or a large population impacted. The smaller the patient population the less reporters can justify covering your story.

Data – Updates to existing data that have already been covered by the news media seldom result in additional news coverage. In some cases, it is not worth the effort to try to publicize it.

Embargo – Offering embargos for big news is still a good way to go to secure coverage in traditional media outlets. Offer quality content and experts that differentiate your point of view.


“The media landscape will continue to change at lightning speed before our very eyes.”


Press releases – Reporters aren’t using PRNewswire and Businesswire as news sources as much as they used to. However, press releases can create presence on the web and serve as the foundation for additional tactics. If your plan calls for a press release, make sure it is optimized for search engines, otherwise it could be missed in social media reporting. Set it up to include keywords, hyperlinks, video and audio components, and even pictures to enhance visibility and click-throughs and social sharing.

Relationships matter – Make a point to have virtual and ongoing relationships with journalists. Talk with them over the phone, and by email. Follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs, “friend” them on Facebook and connect to them through LinkedIn. Pay attention to the way they want to be contacted. Give them useful timely information without inundating them or burying the lead in our pitch emails. And respect their journalistic independence.

The media landscape will continue to change at lightning speed before our very eyes. Sensor-journalism is already here, which allows anyone to easily and inexpensively gather data and information from sensors in the environment and in smart phones to help shape their own stories. There may come a time when robots and sophisticated software write the reports we read daily and when this so-called ‘robo-journalism’ becomes the ‘new normal’. But until then, we need to communicate in the media ecosystem that exists today and traditional journalists remain an influential breed.


About the author:

Laura Liotta is the president and founder of Sam Brown, Inc., a leading independent, healthcare communications agency that has been serving the life science industry for 14 years.

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Should pharma continue to pitch traditional news media to garner media coverage?