Attention health information technology vendor and consultant CEOs: Are you happy with the ink you get in trade publications?

Before we start, I must emphasize that there are very talented and productive PR and marketing people in health I.T.; I do not wish to paint your outreach people with a broad brush. But... the really good ones are a distinct minority.

With multiple print publications that also have online news and daily newsletters, it is ridiculously easy to get ink in the health I.T. trade press. But the majority of PR people are missing those opportunities a majority of times because they want to do things their own way or just don't do their homework.

Many publications, including Health Data Management, have editorial calendars showing topics for the magazine cover stories and features scheduled for the coming year, as well as a tip sheet for pitching stories or news bulletins. But most PR professionals don't get the calendars and tip sheets, and half who do don't follow them. They'd rather go fishing, casting a line in the water and hoping something bites.  Yes, following different procedures for each magazine is a pain and added work. But the reward is a much higher rate of success.

On Dec. 8 alone I got pitched to write stories about access management, data center transformation, data breaches, user authentication, user testing, board engagement, flu shots, e-discovery, electronic recycling, master data management, payer analytics, performance measurement, cloud computing, language interpretation, research facility requirements, transforming your business and a 2012 forecast.

That's 17 stories, not counting pitches unrelated to health I.T. No one pitched me for the story I'm actually working on now-the drug shortage and the role of I.T. to mitigate issues. That story isn't on the editorial calendar, but no one asked what I'm working on. They just went fishing and came home with an empty bucket.

Here's other stuff your PR folks, whether inside or outsourced, should not be doing:

* Returning phone calls or e-mails late and saying, "I didn't know you had a deadline." Really.

* Having your news of an acquisition or other major development leaked early and telling other publications you'll issue a press release in two days and will be happy then to talk about it.

* Issuing a release bragging of a client winning a HIMSS Davies award three months after the awards were announced and publications covered them. That just makes you look silly.

* Asking to be notified when the magazine will be writing stories on specific issues.

* Sending requests to meet at a conference after the conference.

* Pitching news that's already on the Web site or newsletter, or a magazine story that was just done.

* Sending out a press release with the contact information for a person not in the office that day.

* Describing your company in marketing jargon that sounds good and explains nothing: "the revolutionary cloud-based healthcare management solution provider."

* Not knowing what your company or client does, except in the most general terms. A representative for a customer relationship management vendor should know the difference between CRM and EHR software.

* Interrupting a reporter during an interview with a company executive or client to steer the conversation to specific "talking points."

* Not knowing the reporter doing the interview, his or her style and knowledge of the subject. A lot of the trade reporters have been around for a long time--your people ought to know how to deal with them.

If you're thinking of outsourcing your PR, here's a couple issues to keep in mind.

The size of the outsource company does not matter--a national firm is no better than a 10-person shop or even a solo professional. What matters are the experiences, institutional knowledge, relationships and work ethics of the people doing the work.

Many companies outsource PR and retain in-house staff. But if you outsource there's a reason you did that, so make sure your internal staff are listening to the ideas and advice of the outside professionals. With no oversight, internal staff often will insist on things operating just as they always have and spend most of their working hours bickering with the outsiders. If you are wondering why company mentions in the trade press went down after outsourcing, it's often because your outside help isn't being allowed to do their jobs.

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