February 20-22 a team from Fleisher Communications Group attended the HIMSS (Health Information Management System Society) conference in Orlando, FL. We were there with 31,000 other attendees, the largest conference of its type for this industry. What follows are the lessons learned straight from the convention floor.
It has been a truly incredible 3 days at the HIMSS11 (Health Information Management Systems Society 2011) Conference. Fleisher Communications Group Client, Health Care DataWorks (HCD)urged us to attend the conference with them in hopes of securing media coverage, creating buzz, momentum, excitement and interest. HCD was well aware that conferences are not our thing, but having worked with the tech startup for over a year now we know their story best, so they urged us to take the plunge. Plunge we did! We had a plan going in, and prepared well. I am happy to report that our efforts went according to plan–how often does that happen?! Our strategy to reach out to reporters was effective too. Here are the conference rules we lived by.
**Nothing beats a face-to-face interaction with a reporter.
In the weeks leading up to HIMSS11, we individually pitched 141 reporters. While the general pitch was the same, we tweaked it to fit each reporter’s individual beat and outlet. While this led to some interest, my in-box was not exactly flooded, which is why we sought out every reporter we could at HIMSS—this meant a log of hanging out by the press room. 99% of the reporters we approached were receptive to our introduction and pitch. Many were genuinely interested once they heard the HCD story. In fact the face-to-face encounters led to several sit down interviews that we are optimistic will lead to comprehensive profiles. A number of reporters actually complimented us on our eagerness and told us we were the hardest working pr peeps at the conference. And while one reporter referred to the tactics as gorilla-like, she made it clear the remark was intended as a compliment. It led to a one hour sit down interview with her, so call my tactics “gorilla like” anytime you want!
The best part of these brief encounters we created is that it is the first step in building a relationship with the reporter. The 50 reporters we spoke with one on one will be the first ones we go to when HCD has news to share. It is invaluable and worth the wrath of only one blogger who likened the approach to being “accosted.” Every other reporter seemed to appreciate that we took the time to say hello, pass on information, and learn about what he or she covers and who they write for. Heck, I may have even made a new friend or 2.
**Leave the buzzwords and talking points behind, and let your enthusiasm show.
This won’t work for every client, but we are very fortunate that in this case our clients know how to explain what they do in terms everyone can understand and why it matters. At HIMSS the reporters are smart. They have to be, they cover health IT, a field that is changing at a rapid pace. But they still want to write stories that you don’t need a technology degree to understand. The reporters we met with loved that we could give them real life examples of how our product is utilized. They appreciated our excitement and enthusiasm and I am confident it will show in the stories they write.
**Do not underestimate the value simply telling your story has.
There were lots of great moments at HIMSS, but one that I am really pleased with is the impromptu team meeting we had with the client immediately following an hour-long interview with a reporter. The interview had gone great. The reporter was receptive and excited about our company, product and prospects. She “got it,” no doubt. The boost that gives a company, particularly when you are at a conference like HIMSS where hundreds of companies have a story they believe is compelling is invaluable. It felt great to have a trade reporter who has heard and seen it all single you out and tell you, you are really on to something!
The days and weeks to come post-HIMSS will be filled with loads of follow-ups. The e-mails, tweets and calls to remind reporters of who we are and why our story matters will take time and effort. However, it must be done. But because the groundwork was laid at the conference I’m confident the road ahead will surely be smoother.