Tools and Tips

At Medtrade and other large HME trade shows, thousands of products for patients, caregivers, administrators and dealers are on display. Many of these products break new ground, are innovative and are designed to improve patients' quality of life and speed their recovery or rehabilitation. There are a few new products at each show that are standouts. The reason for this is because some products receive more publicity than others. Maximizing your publicity opportunities should be a year-round goal for every organization in the HME industry.

Here are ten approaches you can take to make your organization's marketing publicity campaign more effective:

1. Know Your Audience

It is vital to the success of your publicity campaign and the growth of your business for you to know your target audience and what media it listens to, reads, and watches. Don't limit your publicity to a niche market. Consider the interests of your real client base. This will help you define the message you want the media to say about you. Who is your ultimate customer? Where do they live? What is their profession? Target media in three categories: consumer, business and trade. Each of these categories cover a variety of publications focusing on sports, medicine, health, fitness, seniors, women and men's general interest or business. In addition, most people read their local daily and weekly newspaper. Knowing how your company can interest these publications and knowing how to approach them is key.

2. Know the Editors and the Target Audience

There is nothing more essential than knowing the editors of the trade and consumer media, and what they need and want for their readers. How can you find that out? Read their publications. Learn about the interests, concerns and issues of the publications. Contact the publications for an editorial calendar to use as a guideline for topics and deadlines. Come up with trends and updates about your company and industry which may be of interest to specific editors. Make time to speak with reporters at their convenience because their deadlines leave little room for flexibility.

Publications have various lead times, so start early. Trade magazines need notice between three weeks to six months in advance. Daily newspapers should be contacted at least two weeks in advance. If you have a visually interesting product or demonstration, consider contacting the local TV stations.

Expositions, conferences and association meetings present ideal publicity opportunities. Schedule new product introductions or a corporate announcement in sync with the event and prepare news releases about the activities. Media may pay attention to your company or product if you are topical, informative and available. Emphasize anything unique or resourceful about your organization. Try to find a local angle such as employees or clients residing in the city of the event.

3. Make a Good First Impression

Companies often spend thousands of dollars on creating expensive, elaborate press kits. You don't have to pay lots of money for your organization's press kit. Though an attractive press kit gets attention, once an editor has expressed an interest in your pitch, a press kit should provide the necessary background information that an editor will need to complete a story. Press kits should include straightforward, informative and newsworthy press releases, facts and statistics about your company and industry, specific story ideas and bios of key team members. Make sure it is spelled correctly and free of grammatical errors. Add several brochures or visuals, and the image of your company will be reflected in your press kit without making a huge investment.

4. Train Media Personnel

Whether you are introducing a new product, reintroducing an established product, launching a new company, or a service, everyone who speaks for your organization needs to know its messages. They need to deliver those messages in a memorable way so editors will want to quote them in their stories. A good one-on-one interview will often result in publicity and journalists will begin to see the company spokesperson as a reliable source and will call for quotes regularly.

Quotable quotes are ideal for every journalist and guaranteed to be remembered. Keep your answers brief, sharp and memorable. Throw in compelling statistics and anecdotes whenever possible. Be aware of when to use layman language or technical terms. Each question you answer should express your point and if you don't have the answers try to use it as a bridge for something else you want to express. And remember, nothing is ever off the record.

5. Don't Call Without A Story Idea

The media needs news. Having several good story ideas about your products or services is crucial whenever you speak with editors. Always let the media know about new inventions, where to find them and how or why they were developed. In addition, everyday rituals that companies take for granted may be an editor's find. Your sales staff is a great source for this information and they will appreciate being involved in the public relations process. A growing demand, such as more home-based diagnoses, an increase in hospital referrals, or requests for devices for at-home self-monitoring effects of medication, are examples of good trends to cover. Good copy is one way of grabbing media attention. Without using too many buzz words, draw on the insight of employees to create media alerts on relevant topics. Try to piggyback on major news events or develop useful statistics for inclusion in an editor's national or local story.

6. Select Good Photos

A selection of good photos of your products can make a big difference in how your story appears in a magazine or newspaper. A good photo can be the catalyst for an editor to select your product for inclusion in an industry wrap-up article. Back up story ideas with visuals. Have both 35mm slides and high-resolution digital photography available if possible. Find a photographer, who specializes in magazine photography and be sure to secure photography rights.

Photographers own their work and will require that they be credited, whenever the images are published. Buying the rights is a long-term and worthwhile investment.

7. Make Celebrity Connections

We love them and we are often influenced by celebrities' recommendations. Having a celebrity who uses your products can be a powerful way of gaining media coverage. Contact managing companies to find a celebrity's publicist and offer free publicity. Invite them to a product launch or charitable function your company is sponsoring. Ask for a photo, a written statement or if they'd like to do a special segment on an entertainment news program. Both the company and the celebrity will receive excellent publicity. Work with local government officials, journalists, TV news and weather people, and athletes for opportunities in the local media.

8. Contact Production Companies

Ever wonder how certain products show up in movies and on TV shows? It's the job of the show's stylists and prop masters to find those products that fit into each scene of the film or the television show. Whether your organization offers hospital beds, wheelchairs, prostheses, or bandages, the decision-makers at movie companies and TV shows should know what your company provides. Contact the production companies and let them know what your company has to offer.

9. Use Promotions

Take advantage of joint promotion opportunities to work with local businesses, as well as medical and nursing organizations. Become actively involved with those that can recommend your organization and its products to patients and care givers. Have your sales team arrange appointments in hospitals, group practices and nursing associations to explain the benefits of your products, offer free samples and leave your contact information. You may want to distribute small usable items like key chains or mugs so your company name is always available.

10. Merchandise Your Publicity

Don't keep your lamp under a basket. Let it shine brightly by merchandising your publicity results to your target audience and those who influence them. Reprints can be an extremely effective way of accomplishing this objective. The public views articles in the press as objective, informational stories. Turn newspaper articles about your company into ready-made implied third-party endorsements. Reprints of the articles will help new or potential customers get to know your company quickly and efficiently. Clips usually present important information in a more concise, captivating way than you can convey in a brief office visit. Mail clips out or leave them behind on sales calls.

No matter what your product or service, the HME field is filled with competition. These days, it's more important than ever to publicize and promote your organization and your products. Following these tips, and incorporating them into your marketing programs will enhance and strengthen your organization's chances for success.

This article originally appeared in the January 2002 issue of HME Business.

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