Jillian Spitz is a senior account executive at WV Fetching, the pet and veterinary practice division within the communications agency French West Vaughan.Read Articles Written by Jillian Spitz
Sure, you might advertise your veterinary practice to nearby pet owners so that they learn about your services and expertise. But how do you reach the masses?
One often underutilized tactic is media relations. Here is how to promote your practice by publicizing interesting client cases.
Let’s assume that you want to reach a larger audience of pet owners, not only to maintain visibility with your current clientele but also to grow your practice by bringing in new clients. We call this target market a consumer audience, which can be regional or local in scope. These people use online, print, radio and TV outlets to obtain news.
To pitch a story to editors, producers or reporters at a local media outlet, you must provide an idea that is not only compelling but also relevant to the community. An educational angle helps, too. Consider the clinical cases you’ve had recently. Which ones might resonate most with the community?
The Needs of the Press
Once you have identified a case, you need a method of delivery. The vehicle for sharing your story idea is the press release, which, when formatted accurately, clearly outlines the case and the supporting facts. The press release must be written in the objective third-person voice and strictly adhere to the facts. You’re not writing an advertisement, so don’t use boastful language. Rather, the release must contain the information necessary to develop what is called editorial coverage — the articles or TV segments you read or watch to get your news.
Before you develop a press release, I recommend taking time to learn its function and format requirements. You can read a blog post with four tips for writing a properly formatted, media-friendly press release at http://bit.ly/2D58H8R.
4 Points About Content
A reporter or producer who reads your press release may not regularly cover pet news, so explain the most important points in a clear and concise manner. Convey medical lingo in laymen’s terms whenever possible.
Here are points to consider as you develop a case study press release:
- What ailment brought the pet to your practice? Was there anything unusual about the illness, diagnosis or treatment? Did the pet have a condition you never saw before? Was the condition relevant to your area because of the environment or weather? Does the ailment or condition affect many dogs or cats?
- Does the case have visuals that can be easily shared? Can you share photographs of the pet and its owner? What about X-rays, 3-D models and images of your staff with the pet?
- Did you work in tandem with another veterinary practice? If so, is that practice amenable to being part of the pitch and any resulting publicity?
- Are the veterinary professionals comfortable discussing their treatment of the pet and potentially being on camera? Is the client happy with the pet’s outcome and willing to discuss the details with a media outlet?
Once you have written your release, you’ll want to share it with the pet owner and veterinary team to obtain their approval of the language and any quotes you included. Make sure your last paragraph — the description of your practice — is up to date. Then, take one last look for poor grammar and factual errors. Now you’re ready to move to the next step: pitching the media.
Know Who to Approach
The practice of media relations is more art than science, but research is required. Those who excel at earning media placements do their homework before they send a single pitch.
The rule of thumb is that you must know who you are pitching. This means the reporter who receives your pitch should be interested in that type of news. How do you figure it out? Just about every outlet has a masthead or web page listing its staff. You may think that sending a pitch to the top person on a list, such as the newspaper publisher, makes sense, but you would be wrong.
Instead, you must do research and determine who is responsible for what subjects. You may not find a “pet reporter,” so look for someone whose stories have included coverage of pets or animal wellness. Find a key media contact at each outlet, obtain an email address, and you’re ready to distribute the release.
Getting the Word Out
Once the contact list is pulled together, a personalized email should be sent along with a short note explaining why the release that follows will be of interest. The release should follow the introductory text and not be an attachment.
Now comes the art of public relations. Typically, a reporter will not respond immediately to your story idea. You’ll need to give the person a bit of time and then follow up with a phone call or email. Don’t ask, “Did you receive the release?” Instead, explain why the content of the release is of interest to that person’s audience. From there, you will learn whether the contact is interested in your case and the next steps the contact wants to take. These steps typically include telephone or in-person interviews, possibly at the practice, and with the pet owner and animal involved.
There are no guarantees in public relations. Some stories hit and others miss, so regularly pitch persuasive and compelling case studies. A good pitch and a smart press release will earn media coverage either in the format of an article, online post or TV segment.
The upside for the media is a story that educates the audience of pet owners and animal lovers. The benefit to your practice is the simultaneous promotion of your practice and expertise.