Cross-Discipline PR Teams Are a Boon to Agency Clients

Lisen Syp

My absolute favorite thing about working in PR is the constant opportunity to learn. In our rapidly paced profession, every new client, and every new project, requires us to dig deep and figure out, very quickly, what will help our client stand out in the amazingly rich media environment we work in today.

I’ve spent the bulk of my career focused on consumer brands and brand marketing. Every client I’ve had has taken me into new worlds, and I can tell you about sustainable rubber farms (to make an eco-friendly hiking boot sole) the experience of putting a client through the paces on a crash test race track, and how a paper bottle label, made thinner, can save millions of pounds of paper a year…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I love the process of digging in and figuring out what I need to know, and there’s no better professional satisfaction than seeing media relations strategy success translate into a pile of glossy feature stories.

As diverse as the consumer brand space is, because the audience is the consumer end user, media relations are specifically focused there. Of course trade and business press strategy is always in play, but it’s primarily a B to C environment. I’ve done this work for more years than I like to admit, and it’s a comfortable space for me. However, time goes on and I’ve been eager to extend my skill set into a different area- and I’ve been given that opportunity at PAN.

PAN Communications has three practice areas, tech, consumer, and healthcare, and while each group is comprised primarily of experts with deep seated, far reaching industry knowledge, certain clients can benefit from a PR team that includes a team member from a different discipline.

I write this post from experience, as the newest member of a healthcare team with a client on the back-end-tech side of the benefits provider space. The products the client offers are, at their core, intended for “back-end” users, so in the media work we do it’s very important to reach a focused business and trade audience. Technically our media strategy is primarily B to B, and I’m looking forward to harnessing best practices from Consumer PR media strategy to extend our reach into new arenas for our client, largely due to a market and business shift to consumer-driven healthcare.

As we all know, but sometimes minimize when dealing with it in from an academic, business perspective, healthcare is extremely personal, impacting each of our lives and the lives of those who care about us. Therefore, it is important to blend that philosophy into communications approaches, programs and strategic recommendations for clients. As storytellers we are able to frame our clients work into the context that is most meaningful for people, personalizing our clients and establishing trust in their brands.

With the aforementioned consumerization of healthcare, PR practitioners in the healthcare industry have a monumental opportunity to work with their clients to consider new ways to reach a larger sphere of stakeholders. Studies show that consumers, in general, are surprisingly uninformed about their healthcare choices, and spend very little time considering what’s best for them in their individual situations. More than ever before, consumers are in the drivers’ seat and in a position to influence how they manage their healthcare, from participating in private or public exchanges to choosing from a variety of saving or spending benefit accounts, and from making more informed decisions about their care and treatment options to engaging in wellness programs to impact their quality of life or better manage chronic conditions. Consumers in the know can make their voices heard so that their employers, health plans and clinicians will best meet their needs.

Of course, to realize what they should be asking for, consumers need to be educated on what’s out there, and that is where thoughtful and bold PR strategy is a major asset to healthcare products and services-focused organizations. I’ve been humbled by the brilliant strategies executed by my healthcare-focused colleagues at PAN, and with my own experience with consumer facing media, we’ve quickly found synergies that open new media doors for our clients.

For certain client accounts, a cross-discipline team can best effect highly successful results by working together to explore client storytelling from every angle, and at PAN, I see this come to life every day. My colleagues share strategy and ideas from group to group in an open flow of conversation, and every day our teams bring in media results that are incredibly impactful for our PAN clients.

Some tips on how cross discipline teams can best work together:

  • Discuss each team member’s most frequently pitched beats and publications and brainstorm creatively how the client might fit. For my benefits platform- focused client, Human Resource and TPA trades certainly make sense, but so do personal finance writers focusing on a wide range of topics from minimizing your taxes to household budgeting. Moving further out, lifestyle writers might also be smart target if a pitch can be created that explains different types of benefits appropriate for life stages.
  • Draft an initial pitch geared to the most obvious beat, then consider what to add and subtract to make it relevant to other (completely different) targets. A trick I use is to ask myself “So what”? The answer will be vastly different for a women’s lifestyle editor focusing on managing your domestic budget compared to a business insurance writer focusing on advice for executives on how to reduce operating costs.
  • Consider third party data, e.g. survey results most interesting to each media category, and use to emphasize the relevance and timeliness of your pitch

The sky’s the limit with cross discipline team structures, and I’d love to hear from other PR pros on how they work together. What are some of your secrets?

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