Local Veterinary Public Relations, Part II: Getting Started
In part one of our public relations (PR) series, we discussed why you should consider adding veterinary public relations to your long to-do list, but how exactly can you get started?
PR Framework: 5 Steps to Publishing an Article in Your Local Paper
Veterinary PR can be a major boon to your practice, and the best place to start is with this five-step framework for writing and publishing an article in your local paper:
The first step is to brainstorm what topics might be the best fit for your community and the season — and you can do this by reading the local newspaper you want to target.
Browse the lifestyle or local news sections to familiarize yourself with the types of articles they run and what might work for you. For example, in wintertime, you could share tips on protecting paws in the cold or helping pups get enough exercise when they can't go outside to play. Spring would be a perfect time of year for an article sharing your ideas for tick-borne diseases.
You should also look to see who, if anyone, is covering animal health topics to avoid topic overlap and identify where you can add the most value.
Once you have an idea, it's time to write. A veterinary public relations piece should be a few hundred words long and written in clear language for your audience.
If you're still looking for a topic at this point, consider the conversations your staff has each day in the exam room. You've probably memorized dozens of talk tracks without even realizing it — what do you say when a new kitten comes in, a dog is overweight, or it's time for an annual wellness visit? Each of these talk tracks will easily translate into a compelling article.
Once you've drafted your article, find at least two critical readers whom you trust and ask for their honest feedback — and don't forget to proofread! One of these reviewers should not be in the veterinary industry, so they can tell you if the article is too technical. Don't forget to include your practice name, website, and your credentials at the end of your article.
Now that you have an article written, edited, and proofread, it's time to pitch it. Newspapers' mastheads list the editors for the various sections. (Smaller papers may only have one editor — typically a "news" editor.) Find the editor's email address and phone number — both should be available on the website, but if not, you can call the publication and ask for them.
Write a brief note to the editor summarizing your idea, and attach the article to the email. Once it's sent, wait a week or so, and then follow up by phone. It may seem old-fashioned, but newsrooms continue to rely heavily on the phone, so if you want to find out whether the editor read your pitch, give them a call.
So, your article was accepted and you have a run date — now what? Wait for your article to appear online and then share, share, share!
Post it to your practice's post to your practice's social media profiles, and don't forget to share it with your personal LinkedIn network, encouraging your colleagues to do the same.
If that first pitch isn't accepted, try again — maybe for a different season, in a new publication, or even with a different story line. Public relations isn't an exact science, but your practice can gain tremendous authority and visibility from a well-placed story.
Missed part one? Check it out!