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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

“So do you do investor relations or public relations?”

It’s a question that the senior team of CanaleComm encounters often when out and about in the biotech world. The answer is both. But it’s an answer that many life science CEOs aren’t accustomed to hearing.

Too often in corporate communications, public relations and investor relations operate in silos. This can produce inconsistent messaging, lost opportunities to tell the corporate story in investor-facing materials (which often are consumed by media and other sources) and unremarkable investor presentations.

A successful investor relations strategy should be planned and executed hand-in-hand with public relations—collectively, we call this strategic communications. It accounts for what bankers and investors “expect to see” from an emerging life science company: the facts and figures, the investor overview slide, the milestone timeline. But it adds color to the black-and-white through storytelling and polished imagery, which also is leveraged in press releases, website content and media outreach. It demonstrates how you’re not just fitting a trend, but starting a trend.

With a strategic communication strategy inclusive of investor and public relations activities, you’ll optimize your story on every front. It’s not just about the numbers. It’s how you got to those numbers and where you want to go. It’s the story that investors really want to know.