Want to get ink from Health Data Management and other trade publications? Here's how:

* Follow the rules. Each publication has it own way of wanting to be pitched. Most of you know this but few want to bother customizing your approach to each publication. Ditch the cookie-cutter approach.

--Don't pitch a client that clearly isn't appropriate to talk about the issue being tackled. Don't call and ask if we are working on any stories for which your client or their customer could provide comment--or ask that we keep your client in mind for upcoming stories. Do your homework and know what we're doing and when.

--Most publications have an editorial calendar and tip sheet--get them and follow them. For HDM, send e-mail to Greg Gillespie, editor-in-chief, if you have questions about the focus of an upcoming feature or appropriate sources. Greg assigns the stories and sends pitches to the assigned reporter. Remember, we occasionally will talk to vendors, but most stories focus on the end users of information technologies. You also can pitch to Greg a standalone case study anytime, as well candidates for our Executive Session story. Send me (joseph.goedert@sourcemedia.com) press releases for consideration as news bulletins; also send releases on new contract wins to Gary Baldwin (gary.baldwin@sourcemedia.org) for inclusion on our Contracts Page.

* Writing a usable press release: Press releases are a great way to get out the news of new vendor products, enhanced products, partnerships and other initiatives. The problem is that most releases are not written for reporters, but to get the approval of marketing and C-level executives, not to mention the lawyers. Consequently, they don't say anything meaningful, or are so full of marketing jargon and marketing quotes that the actual news gets lost.

-- Releases that use plain English are releases that can quickly be turned into news bulletins. But from top to bottom, most releases are written in language that sounds good and explains nothing. A certain vendor, for instance, explains itself as "a leading provider of collaborative healthcare management solutions." You have no idea what the vendor's products do and the sector it serves. This vendor--veteran enough to know better but stuck in the grip of corporate speak--has plenty of company. In addition, don't make a reporter have to schedule interviews and scroll through corporate Web sites--looking for basic details not in a press release--to write a news bulletin on routine vendor news. And yes, 99 percent of vendor news is routine.

-- Most press releases on vendor partnerships or acquisitions don't explain the relationship well. Skip the long paragraphs about how happy everyone is to be working with each other and give us details, in plain English, about what specific software, services and capabilities each company brings to the alliance. Announcements of new versions of existing products should clearly explain which features within the product are truly new. Most such announcements include bullet points that list new and existing functionality. The folks writing and approving the announcements know which features are new, but reporters don't. A couple other points: Use full corporate names, identify the Web site URL and city location of each mentioned entity, paste releases in the body of an e-mail even if you attach them, and make sure the contact names on the release are folks who are in and return messages.

* Know the media you regularly deal with. Learn the characteristics and quirks of each publication and its reporters. There are folks I've dealt with for years who have never listened to advice on writing clearly and never changed their ways. You can't satisfy all of the wishes of all of the reporters, but at least try to meet us halfway.

-- Learn reporters' interview styles. Some are aggressive and play "gotcha" journalism, but most just want straight talk and to learn from sources. A reporter probing for details isn't pushy, but thorough, and the story will be better. Some reporters, including me, don't mind when you sit in on interviews. But don't continuously interrupt with talking points that the interviewee isn't bringing up, or try to steer me away from certain issues. I usually make clear in advance the issues we're going to talk about because a prepared source is a better source, and one who appreciates being treated respectfully and will talk to me again. Besides, its my interview, not yours. And don't demand to see the copy before publication. Work out any arrangements before the interview for a source--and only the source--to see his or her quotes.


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