Here’s the situation:
Through your media relations efforts, you heard through the grapevine that a writer, journalist, producer or the like is interested in telling a story with ties to physical therapy. Maybe it’s a story about preventing back pain while running, dealing with chronic pain, preventing injury or surgery … or even simply picking out a pair of shoes for flat-footed people.
Regardless, your instinct is immediate: You want to be part of this story.
So, how do you make this happen?
The short answer is, “It’s simple.” Making a story pitch to a writer or journalist isn’t a science. In the end, they’ll either like your ideas and feel you’d be an ideal source for their story, or they won’t. In all its subjectivity, media relations is funny like that.
And yet … if you don’t play the game, you risk that the story of movement will be told (and will continue to be told) without physical therapy ever making an appearance. Considering that movement-related stories are told every day by small-town journalists, regional TV news anchors, and big-time blog and publication writers all across the country, it’s safe to say that we in the profession want PT front and center within the narrative of these stories.
It can be good for your individual clinic, but it can also be incredibly great for the PT profession. Education is a marketing mandate, after all.
So with the question of “Why bother?” all shored up, let’s circle back to the question of “How?” And while pitching a story isn’t rocket science, as we said, you can certainly improve your chances of making yourself and your profession part of the narrative by considering the following tips:
Be quick. Journalists, writers and other news people work on tight deadlines. It’s the nature of the business. So once you hear someone is looking for you (or someone like you) to round out a movement-based story through information, comments, perspective, etc., don’t hesitate. Reach out ASAP. Email is fine — in fact, the following tips are based on an email pitch — but if you have a contact number, a quick phone call can work great, too.
Get to the point. No need to exchange pleasantries. In the first line of the email pitch, tell them why you’re reaching out. “I’m reaching out because I heard you’re working on a story about chronic pain, and as a licensed physical therapist, I can add value to your piece.” People are so busy these days, so make it easy for them to understand why they’re reading your email.
Why you? This is where you start to build your credibility. Tell them about yourself, specifically as it has to do with the topic at hand. But please, avoid relaying an entire curriculum vitae. You want to keep this part brief, too … perhaps even one sentence. “As a doctor of physical therapy for 15 years, working out of Everytown, USA, I’ve helped countless patients over the years manage and overcome chronic pain through manual therapy, movement and exercise.” End of first paragraph.
Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. Starting with the second paragraph, lay out some of your thoughts for their story. In other words, tell them what information you have to share with them which you feel will help enhance the story they’re trying to tell — specifically as it has to do with your unique position as a physical therapist. Consider other professionals, like M.D.s, chiropractors, athletic trainers, and those talking up alternative therapies, will also be trying to get in on the action, so focus specifically on points that are specific to the PT profession (i.e., specific studies, treatments, perspectives … even maybe a little more about you, as relevant). You can lay these out in a single paragraph, as bullet points … whatever you feel comfortable with. Just keep in mind that the goal is to pique their interests in you, not to necessarily provide them full interview talking points.
Make yourself available. Before you sign off, make sure the recipient of your pitch knows exactly how to get in touch with you. Include your email address (and any alternative addresses), your phone number(s), and even social media info, as some people may prefer that direction. And if he/she reaches back out to you? Stop what you’re doing (as best you can), and respond ASAP. This means your pitch worked, and you don’t want to lose the connection.
Set the right expectations. Not all people to whom you send story pitches are going to get back in touch with you. In fact, most won’t, which is good to know right upfront. But don’t let this discourage you. There’s a bigger play here as it relates to educating not just the masses, but also writers and journalists about the critical role physical therapy plays (and can play) in people’s health care. Such education is key to long-term coverage and developing a higher level of cultural literacy when it comes to the PT profession.
But when you do find success, the value is incredible. Not only are you doing your part to promote the profession, but you’re also generating an incredible amount of marketing capital you can use to boost your professional credibility within your local market. Such media coverage is truly invaluable.
If you have any questions about making a story pitch specifically or working with the media in general, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-896-0181.