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How’s your PR?

Probably lousy, maybe okay, and just possibly pretty good.
Last week I received a PR email from a work comp services company that had me shaking my head. After I reattached my jaw.
I won’t get into the generalities, much less the details, but it was just not helpful to the company behind it.
Public relations is (pick one or more)
– grossly misunderstood,
– complicated and complex,
– overly involved and time-consuming,
– usually poorly done,
– not worth the money, and/or
– critically important.
My vote is “most of the above”, especially when we’re talking health care/work comp/health insurance.
Public relations deals with a couple areas – building brand and addressing problems. PR is MUCH more important for building brands than advertising – advertising claims aren’t credible, it’s much more expensive on a cost-per-impression basis, and no one believes advertising (especially when it’s from an entity you haven’t heard of or don’t have a solid brand impression of).
There’s a lot of attempted differentiation in the managed care space, but the differentiation exists mostly in the minds of the execs leading the vendors’ efforts. What they see as a definite, valuable, obvious difference their market either a) doesn’t see or b) doesn’t care.
I can’t remember all the times I’ve heard “the market just doesn’t get it” from a CEO lamenting their inability to break thru the clutter and get the market to understand just how great their product/service offering really is. But here’s the key – the CEOs are right, sort of: the market doesn’t get it because it hasn’t been explained to them in a way that will resonate and stick.
The way PR works in building brand is
– credible third party sources
– discuss, debate, define,
– an innovative product or service,
– in mass media, online vehicles, or public forums.
How that happens is the tough part. Press releases about relatively unexciting issues don’t work to build brand (they can have other uses); some press releases (such as the one mentioned in the lead) hurt the brand by confusing the reader, clouding the message, or because they’re just plain unprofessional.
What works is discussion of that brand, product or service by credible sources. But you can’t just get a reporter or writer to blather on about yet another predictive modeling approach, surveillance company, UR firm, disease management concept, network enhancement.
What reporters want to write about is stuff that’s new, different, exciting, fresh. They’re bored to tears writing up stuff they’ve written about countless times; they want something that’s really new, really different, really interesting.
So here’s the hard part, where most companies make a critical mistake. Writers and reporters don’t care what YOU think is new and innovative. It has to be really new and innovative, obviously so. And, except in rare circumstances, if it takes more than fifteen seconds to explain and they still don’t think it’s cool, you’re toast.
That’s where the hard work of PR comes in. Developing and refining your approach, critically thinking about positioning, getting past long-held ego-based self-held ideas about how great/important/innovative your company is, and instead looking in from outside, comparing what you do and how you do it to competitors, and paring down your message to its core.
What does this mean for you?
Most won’t be able to do this, as it can be painful. But those who can, and do, will be much more successful.

One thought on “How’s your PR?”

  1. As a famous CEO once said, “think differently”. Coventional thinking often results in conventional outcomes.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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