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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.

 

So, you have a great biotech story idea that you want to see in print? To grab the attention of a reporter or editor, and convince them to write about your idea, you’ve got to play by the rules. And the first rule is an important one: Don’t be a pest!

CanaleComm recently organized two panels featuring award-winning biotech journalists who provided a glimpse into their busy day-to-day lives, with discussion moderated by Carin Canale-Theakston. They divulged their pet peeves and shared valuable insights into the best ways to work together with biotech companies and PR professionals. In the interest of helping you step up your media game, here are their top 7 annoyances…along with advice on how to steer clear of these common mistakes.

  1. Not knowing the reporter’s interests. Before reaching out to reporters, read their articles, get to know them as people and make an effort to understand how to best work together. Bruce Bigelow, editor of Xconomy San Diego, said it best: “Pitching is more an art than a science. You have to know a reporter’s beat, personal interests and their bandwidth.” We couldn’t agree more.
  2. Using complicated jargon. Keep in mind the audience of the publication you’re approaching. While you may have a Ph.D. in neuroscience, a reporter may not—and same goes for his or her readers. A good pitch is highly customized to what readers will find to be most interesting. You have to make your topic understandable to a general audience; jargon interferes with readability.
  3. Calling reporters…especially if they’re on deadline. All reporters agreed on this one: email first! Reporter didn’t respond? Email again. And please, if you must call, ask first if they are on deadline. Don’t just jump into a pitch.
  4. Pitching a story idea on Twitter. Just don’t do it.
  5. Instant follow-up calls. In addition to time travel and teleportation, the ability for reporters to instantly understand and analyze press releases is on our list of things we’d love. Until then, give reporters enough time to process your email.
  6. Embargoing everything. If you are following rule No. 1, you’ll know which news items will or will not be of interest to each reporter. Embargo accordingly.
  7. Generic pitches. Two reporters on our panel received emails stating, “Dear Reporter” and “Hello First Name.” That’s two too many if you ask us. Sending out mass emails to reporters is an easy way to ensure your pitch will quickly found its way to the trash bin.

Interested in learning more? Tune in to the full media panel discussion. Videos of the San Francisco and San Diego events will provide even more takeaways on how to get your story told in the press.

Finally, CanaleComm would like to give a big thanks to the reporters who took time out of their very busy days to participate on our panels:

  • Bruce Bigelow, editor of Xconomy San Diego
  • Mandy Jackson, west coast editor of Scrip Intelligence
  • Brittany Meiling, biotech reporter for the San Diego Business Journal
  • Michael Fitzhugh, staff writer, BioWorld Today
  • Ron Leuty, biotech reporter, San Francisco Business Times
  • Susan Schaeffer, editor, BioCentury

It’s a question that is far more divisive than it seems: Do trademark symbols and registered symbols belong in a press release?

On one side of the issue, you have life science companies and their lawyers. These are companies who are deservingly proud of their trademarks—whether unregistered or registered—and want to minimize any legal risk of other companies claiming those marks to be their own.

On the other side, you have journalists. Writers and editors at pretty much any publication will universally remove those little TM and (R) marks. It’s safe to say you’ll never see those symbols appear in the editorial content of a respectable newspaper, magazine or website.

Somewhere in the middle of these two groups lies the CanaleComm content team. We want to ensure that the legal needs of life science companies are being met while also satisfying our friends in the media. With most press releases, the end goal is to obtain media coverage, so it makes sense that we want to encourage companies to present their press releases in the most publication-ready form as possible. This is why we also edit press releases to meet other AP Style guidelines, such as for job titles, dates and acronyms.

Over the years, we have consulted many sources in our pursuit of press release excellence, and we’ve landed on this rule: If a company or its lawyers feel strongly about including a trademark, service mark or registered mark in a press release, do so only after the first reference of the product or service within the body of the release. We discourage companies from using marks in headlines, as these symbols often become corrupted when resurfaced on other websites and can even trigger spam filters (we hear this firsthand from representatives at the two main press release wire services).

But we’re not the only one with an opinion on this tricky subject. For more information, please read the following articles:

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