Essential Advice from Biotech Journalists: How to Cut Through the News Clutter

As the life science industry expands in new and exciting directions, there are more biotech companies than ever. This means more companies seeking the media limelight, and more press releases about executive hires, clinical trial data, regulatory successes and more.

However, there is still only a small cadre of biotech news reporters to vet this growing stream of information and decide what gets published for the world to see. With such a small funnel, there’s intense competition for news coverage. If you’re a life science company who wants to get your story told, your media pitch must be nothing short of captivating.

That was among the many valuable nuggets of advice to emerge from a widely-attended panel discussion Monday at the BIO International Convention, where CanaleComm CEO Carin Canale-Theakston moderated a conversation with four national biotech journalists.

The panel featured Michael Fitzhugh, staff writer at BioWorld; Damian Garde, biotechnology reporter at STAT, Brady Huggett, business editor for Nature Biotechnology; and Luke Timmerman, founder and editor of the Timmerman Report.

Here are a few more highlights from the discussion:

What’s the surprise in your story? Timmerman remembers his former Bloomberg editor saying “news is a surprise.” If you want your news to warrant press coverage, frame it in a way that will surprise the audience with something new. Also, clearly spell out the impact of your news, and why readers would think that it matters. Don’t expect busy reporters to piece it all together.

Share interesting anecdotes about executives. Who is the person behind the role of CEO or CSO? Humanize the leaders at your company by sharing anecdotes that highlight their personality or unique vision, suggests Garde. That will help differentiate your company from the hundreds of others that are seeking news coverage.

If you propose a media interview, be ready to talk. Among reporters’ top pet peeves is when a biotech company pitches a great story idea and offers an interview with an executive, but then the executive can’t make time for the interview or suddenly “disappears,” says Fitzhugh. Don’t be a flake; make sure executives are on board with interviews before you make the pitch.

Envision how the article looks at the end. Before reaching out to a reporter, think bigger than the single newsworthy event at your company. How does your data roll into a bigger trend? Who else, besides people at your company, would fit into this story? Garde, who is bombarded with press releases daily, says he would find it helpful if biotech companies thought more about what the finished story looks like before they crafted their pitch.

For more coverage of #BIO2017, follow @CanaleComm on Twitter.