When I began my current job, it was not only the start of my public relations career, but it was my first job having anything to do with healthcare. I had absolutely zero experience in health and that’s not always easy in an industry as intimidating as healthcare. Politics kept me interested and involved in healthcare policy, but I was fine with being a spectator on the bench. To actually be involved in the business was a whole other game, and not one that I was sure I knew how to play.
However, in a matter of months, I already feel like I’ve gained a second education from being exposed to a variety of health client work. And while the road can be rocky at times, I’ve condensed some of the things I learned along the way into four points that can benefit anyone who is looking to get their foot in the door of healthcare PR.
1. It’s okay to not know
I still find this to be true every single day that I come to work. The fact of the matter is that most PR professionals in the health industry are PR professionals first. While some may have prior health backgrounds, odds are that the majority of us didn’t go to medical school, and that’s okay. Terms, devices, medical conditions, you name it – they inevitably come up and sometimes you may not know what it means, or even how to spell it. (Trust me, trigeminal neuralgia is not something that is easily auto-corrected). But it’s not the end of the world, and more importantly, not the end of your career. The most important thing to do is be a sponge; absorb all of the information that you can, and never be afraid to ask questions (or use an expertly executed Google search).
2. Invest time in reading
This goes hand in hand with my last point; if you’re unfamiliar with something, make time to become familiar. The best thing you can do for yourself is try and grasp at least a basic understanding of whatever the subject matter is. Reading publications or even quickly scanning updates on the news will always be beneficial. The more involved you are, the more you’ll gain perspective, stay on top of trends, build inspiration and show commitment to your team members – which certainly pays off in the long run! If you’re looking for outlets to check out, here are some of the publications I follow: SmartBrief, PRWeek- Healthcare, and Medical Marketing & Media.
3. Pay attention to brands that are doing it right
Walgreens, Mayo Clinic, Make A Wish – all large national brands that continue to set good examples in health PR communications practices, and have had the success to show for it. Take time to notice campaigns, social posts, design copy, ads, etc., and look into strategies that win and how they’ve evolved. It may help inspire new ideas in the future, and if not, you will at least have an understanding of major players in the industry.
4. No task is too small
Even the most meticulous research project, or hours spent on the phone pitching to the media, will always serve a larger purpose. While they may not be the things you’re racing to do, they will always teach you something, and that’s exactly what you need to land your first healthcare PR job. Take everything as a learning experience, because it is! The more you raise your hand to get involved, the more experience you’ll ultimately gain. You don’t always see an immediate return on this investment, but it will pay off in the long run.
Every workplace is different, but a willingness to learn and grow will take you far, no matter where your career takes you. Now I’m following my own advice and asking those wiser and more experienced than me to chime in. PR pros, what advice would you give to us newbies? Share your words of wisdom in the comments.