Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: 10 Tips for Pitching Health-related Stories to the Media

10 Tips for Pitching Health-related Stories to the Media

Senior Communications Strategist

Getting coverage in a national media outlet doesn't just happen. It takes planning, preparation, persuasion, persistence, and in most cases, lots of patience.  Here are 10 tips to help you create a winning media strategy.

1. Determine your ultimate goal: Think about what you want the media coverage to achieve. Is it visibility for a new organization, service, or product? Participation in a clinical trial? With your goal in mind, identify your key audiences. Who are you trying to reach? What media does this segment of the population follow? Knowing your ultimate goal and audience will help you find the best media to deliver your client's message.

2. Do your research: Identify which media outlets are reaching your audience. Is it national, regional, local? Print, TV, radio, or online? Which outlets are covering topics similar to yours? Which reporters are writing stories like the ones you envision? You need to be able to pitch the right story to the right reporter. 

3. Time your pitch accordingly: Typically, magazines are working on a 6-month lead time, and major stories can take up to a year. The lead time for weekly print magazines is generally 3 to 6 months, and for dailies, it's usually 1 week to 1 month. Online outlets have the shortest lead time, usually 1 day to 1 week.

4. Determine the angle: You will need to look for opportunities to tie your topic to something timely. Reporters are not generally interested in general announcements, but if you offer them a story on the advances of detecting a particular disease, they just might be interested. Look for timely events, such as New Year's resolutions, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, the Great American Smokeout, and Men's Health Month.

5. Develop supporting materials: You'll need a press release and factsheet. Be sure to include any data and statistics that are relevant to the audience, as well as real life examples. Be sure to check your facts and have a source for every item. You'll also need a brief bio for your expert or spokespersons. These materials need to be clear and concise--no more than one page each. The idea is to capture the reporters' interest so she can pitch the idea to her editor.

6. Prepare your spokesperson: In most cases, the reporter will want to interview an expert on the topic. Make sure your spokesperson is trained and prepared. You'll want to develop a Q&A to help prepare your spokesperson. If your spokesperson is new to media interviews, provide media training.

7. Write the pitch: You've got 30 seconds or less to capture a reporter's attention. Your pitch needs to be clear and concise. Include what the story is, what makes it important to the audience, and what makes it timely.

8. Make the pitch: Most reporters prefer to receive story ideas by email. Be sure to follow up with a phone call. Always ask the reporter if this is a good time to talk (they may be on a deadline). If the reporter sounds interested and says she'll consider it or discuss it with her editor, ask when you should follow up.

9. Follow through: You'll want to make sure the reporter has everything she needs to write the story. If there's something that you really want in the article, like your web address, be sure to tell her why it would be helpful to her readers, and be sure she's got the correct address.

10. Follow up: When the story runs, be sure to thank the reporter. If there are any errors, let her know right away.


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