The importance of strong life science trade media relationships (and how to build them)

15 March 2023| by Tom Hope

Life sciences trade media relationships

Effective Public Relations (PR), the process of building mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and its publics, is critical for successful life sciences marketing. When done well, life science PR offers a bounty of benefits — from raising awareness among your target audiences, to boosting company credibility and authority. Ultimately, effective PR helps you to elevate your life sciences brand in a cost-effective way.

But none of that is possible without strong, fruitful relationships with the media. Indeed, such relationships are at the heart of a successful, thriving life science PR campaign.

Building those relationships, though, is no easy feat, and takes a significant investment of time over years to do. Organisations must know the dos and don’ts of media interactions, understand the needs and interests of publications and their often-overloaded teams, and navigate a frantically changing landscape. Perhaps most importantly, though, they need to establish trust, which is created slowly, with each positive interaction.

Fail to tick any of those boxes, and you could be unnecessarily suffocating your PR success, unable to land consistent high-quality coverage, missing timely opportunities, and expending more energy and resources than needed.

In this blog, we share our five top tips for building lasting life science trade media relationships so you can unlock better, more frequent coverage — with less time and effort.

1. Know your media

First and foremost, those looking to build great mutual relationships with the trade media should get familiar with publications and their editorial staff. Familiarity covers three key areas:

The right topic

There’s little worse for a publication than receiving a pitch for a topic that doesn’t fit its focus. Inappropriate pitches sap valuable editorial team time and show that you haven’t taken the time to properly explore their publication. And that can harm your chances of a successful pitch when you do have relevant and timely topics to share.

Inappropriate topic pitches also don’t make business sense. Successful PR demands you target the right publication so that you effectively reach your key target audiences. Putting together a personalised pitch and following up with an off-target publication wastes your time and resources.

Several simple tools can help you quickly get familiar with potential trade media targets. First is a publication’s media pack, which usually details information such as publication scope, audience demographics, and the editorial calendar. Website ‘about’ sections can also be great for understanding a magazine’s focus and audience.

The right format

Aside from knowing the magazine’s focus, make sure you know the types of content that it accepts and publishes. This can vary quite widely, with significant impacts on what you can achieve with a piece of content, and how long it will take to create.

For instance, some publications may not accept vendor-authored content at all, or if they do, they may require it to be co-authored by a customer. Other publications may only accept long-form pieces that could take up more time to create than you have available.

Thankfully, a quick look through a publication’s website can give you a good idea of the types of content that they frequently publish. (Just keep in mind that accepted formats can change, so you should keep a close eye on what’s going on across publications.)

The right contact

Even when you have the publication and content format figured out, not every editorial contact will be right for your topic. Indeed, editorial team-members often cover a specific sub-topic area in their publication. To make sure that’s the right one for your pitch (and to save the editorial team having to pass your pitch to one of their colleagues), be sure to check the contact’s profile on the publication’s website, as well as their recently published work. You can also scan their social channels to get more insight into their current topic interests.

The bottom line? Bringing highly relevant pitches to the right people, at the right publications is critical for building a fruitful relationship that maximises your chances of success.


2. Make life easier for editors and journalists

Working as a trade media editor or journalist is challenging. Now more than ever, editorial teams are burdened by huge workloads, tight deadlines, and a never-ending inbox full of pitches and requests. Ultimately, that means your pitch risks being lost or deprioritised.

While the high-pressure situation is certainly not always fun for editorial teams, it does offer opportunities for you to make their life easier (thereby helping you to nurture relationships and build trust):

  • Keep it clear. When editors are faced with uncountable emails and complex requests, clarity is king in your pitching. Make sure you understand and implement best practices for email communications — short emails that get to the point swiftly and have clearly defined actions and takeaways. Such emails drastically cut the time it takes for an editor to read — and most importantly, understand — your email. It also shows them that you respect their time.
  • Keep it compelling. Similarly, you should understand how to write a compelling pitch — one that enables an editor to quickly gauge the focus, importance, and timeliness of your topic or news.
  • Anticipate needs. Aside from crafting clear, easily digestible communications, you should make every effort to anticipate an editorial team member’s needs post-outreach. In practice, that means supplying everything the editor might later request, as early as possible. Think they’d benefit from a more detailed overview of your product to properly evaluate your pitch? Supply additional material, such as brochures, app notes, and reports. Got a time-sensitive story and think the publication may require a quote/interview? Have a contact ready who can quickly provide one.

These simple steps can have a huge impact on the relationship with your editorial contact. Implementing them will mean you’re seen as a proactive, thoughtful, and reliable media ally.

All being well, you’ll be a little higher on their list of go-to experts when the time comes to source knowledgeable topic input. And, with such a relationship in place, you may also find that the trade media start approaching you with opportunities. No pitching required.


3. Get the follow-up balance right

Knowing when to follow up on a pitch is difficult. But it’s a critical skill to master if you want to build good relationships and maximise the impact of your PR activities. Success ultimately comes from the balance of getting timely, relevant pitches in front of editors and journalists, which often includes carefully timed follow-up communications. Done well, you’ll be helping them; done badly and you could end up impeding their work or potentially even being an irritant.

Those who don’t strike the right balance end up adding to editorial team inboxes without increasing the chances of placement or coverage. In the worst case, you could end up blocked.

So, how do you get the balance right?

Unfortunately, there aren’t any hard and fast rules. What’s more, the optimum approach varies widely between contacts, and often demands familiarity with their day-to-day operations and preferences.

That said, it’s worth keeping in mind the following general points:

  1. Don’t follow-up on the same day, unless your news is highly relevant and very time sensitive.
  2. Use a communication form that best suits your contact. Many people assume a phone call is the best way to reach journalists and editors. Phone calls, however, can be incredibly disruptive. That’s why many editors and journalists prefer to be pitched by email, where they can scan, digest, prioritise, and take any actions when it suits them. Again, knowing which approach to use hinges on knowing your contact’s preferences. If in doubt, try emailing first.
  3. Keep time zones in mind. Knowing the time zone in which your target contact works can prevent the need for follow-ups altogether. That’s because, armed with time zone knowledge, you can time your initial pitch or outreach to land in their inbox a) when they are awake, and b) when they are most likely to notice it (think ~9 am on weekdays, not 7 pm on Friday). The same principle applies to follow-ups.
  4. Be aware of key industry events (and attendance patterns). Publication teams will likely have a calendar packed with events. That means the person you’re trying to reach might not see your email for a while. So, if your contact is at an event, allow for longer than usual for their reply. Alternatively, see if there is a suitable contact that isn’t attending that event (publications will rarely send their whole team to events).
  5. Limit your follow-ups (generally) to two. Editors and journalists won’t appreciate being emailed repeatedly about the same topic. If they haven’t responded after two follow-ups, they likely aren’t interested or simply aren’t available. In this situation, it’s worth reaching out to a different (but still appropriate) contact or exploring different publication options for your pitch.

4. Deliver high-quality content

Publications need a consistent flow of high-quality content to engage and bring value to their readers. To do this, many publications rely to varying degrees on contributed content from industry experts. That’s great news for knowledgeable vendors, as it’s a chance to support a critical pillar of information dissemination while also better connecting you with your audiences. But if the quality, format, tone, and style of your contributed content don’t meet publication specifications, it can leave editors with a hefty review and editing job. Sub-optimal content can also mean extensive back-and-forth between the editor and author to get the piece right, drawing unnecessarily on both sides’ time. In the worst cases, you could even find that your content does not get published.

If you can deliver ultra-high-quality, on-spec content to publications, the benefits are great and extend to both parties. First, you’ll take a chunk of editing work off your contact’s plate. Second, you and your expert authors will be seen as a valuable and reliable content provider that understands the publication’s needs. As a result, you’re more likely to be top of mind when the right topic comes up, increasing the chances that editorial teams bring opportunities directly your way.

However, producing such content isn’t simple. It requires the right blend of knowledge about writing engaging, compelling pieces, and striking a balance between communicating your story and meeting strict editorial requirements (such as being non-promotional).


5. Work with experts

Adopting and implementing these tips can leave you with solid, lasting life science trade media relationships that benefit both you and your media partners. However, many of these steps and approaches take time to master. Even when the skills are learned, relationships and trust are built over years, and require frequent touch points to maintain. In today’s frantic world, most companies simply don’t have the capacity to build and maintain these partnerships.

That’s why working with life science PR experts can be a great option.

Reputable, specialist PR agencies will already have established, trusting relationships with the life sciences trade media, built over many years of collaboration, ready for you to immediately draw on. Knowledgeable PR agencies will also have robust systems in place to keep pace with the rapidly changing trade media landscape, ensuring you can keep a pulse on changing publication relevance, and be able to quickly build relationships as new media players emerge. If such agencies specialise in content production, too, then they can also support you to develop content that serves both the media and your key messaging.

Overall, working with PR professionals can save you significant time and resources in your PR pursuits, meaning you can focus on other pressing business matters.


A smoother route to PR success

Getting regular, consistent coverage in key life science trade media publications is fundamental to successful life science PR. But to succeed, companies need strong media relationships built on trust.

Building these relationships can be daunting. However, with the right approaches and systems, you can streamline your route to success, achieving more high-quality coverage, and with the media approaching you for exciting opportunities.

Critically, drawing on deeply experienced PR partners can significantly simplify the relationship-building process for your organisation, giving you a powerful shortcut to more effective PR.

Discover how BioStrata’s expert PR team could help you maximise trade media coverage for greater brand awareness, credibility, and authority.

Learn more about our life science PR services