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Best Practices for Healthcare Industry Event Pitching: Q&A with Ron Southwick, Senior Editor at Chief Healthcare Executive

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Making a splash at industry events is a pivotal component to a well-rounded public relations strategy. It provides the opportunity to network with other industry leaders, showcase thought leadership through speaking engagements, and connect with well-known journalists on hot topic trends.

Leading up to key healthcare conferences, including ViVE and HIMSS, the PAN Healthcare Team sat down with Ron Southwick, senior editor at Chief Healthcare Executive, to learn what works and what doesn’t when pitching journalists for industry events. Chief Healthcare Executive is a leading healthcare trade publication written for healthcare C-suite and decision-makers that focuses on efficiency, patient outcomes and profitability.

Ron shared best practices for media outreach, what makes a pitch stand out, optimal timeline, and of course, what not to do when crafting a pitch! Keep reading below to see what insights Ron had to share with our team.

Q: How many emails do you get leading up to an industry event?

Ron: Is gazillion a real number? It’s a lot, and that’s great, which is why I don’t mind receiving a follow-up that says: “Hey, I haven’t heard back from you. I sent you a note last week, just wanted to make sure it didn’t get lost in your inbox.”

Sometimes when I haven’t replied, it could be because I missed it, or because I’m genuinely still trying to figure out my schedule. At some point, you run out of hours in the day to get back to everyone, especially in the nine to five workday, which I try to stay away from emailing outside of unless it’s something mission critical. Sometimes too, with the volume of requests, it’s not a lack of interest, but there truly are only so many meetings you can make time for, especially during conferences like HIMSS or ViVE.

For journalists, there are a lot of sessions we tend to go to because there’s interesting content that we know our audience is going to enjoy. Between attending sessions and interviews, you also must write, which usually gets done at night and doesn’t leave a lot of downtime to explore the city the conference is in.

Q: How quickly does your schedule fill up? How early should PR people be pitching a conference?

Ron: It’s never too early! Frankly, I’m still figuring out the timeline myself. I don’t think I’ve cracked the secret sauce for that yet. I’m trying not to book too much for upcoming conferences, because what I found is there are always late requests from people I had interest in meeting with, so I want to leave space in my schedule. With that said, I’d say to start pitching three weeks to a month out, but if you learn a week out that your client is unexpectedly available, it’s still worth sending the pitch. Also, if I can’t meet up with someone during the conference, I’m always open to setting up a virtual meeting once the conference is over.

Q: What makes a pitch stand out?

Ron: Making sure the pitch and topic are relevant to my audience and timely. I hear a lot from vendors, but if there are customers in the hospital leadership roles working alongside vendors, I’d love to see more of that, especially at conferences. Sometimes I go into conferences with the themes I’m interested in speaking with executives on or attending sessions on, but I’m always keeping the audience and those topics in mind.

Related content: Q&A with Gabe Perna of Digital Health Business & Technology (a Modern Healthcare Brand).

Q: What are your personal preferences for pitching?

Ron: Email is probably the best first point of contact, but I don’t mind a follow up call a day or two later if I haven’t responded. I would say just from my perspective that pitching on Fridays is not the best thing. I usually take the day to wrap up the week and plan for the week ahead, which is why I don’t typically schedule interviews for Friday either. If I see an email come though at 4:45 pm on a Friday, it’s like it’s asking to be ignored! With that said, morning or mid-morning is typically the best time to pitch me because I’m starting to set up and plan out the day.

Q: What are your PR pet peeves?


  1. Asking for a list of questions for an interview — this doesn’t allow for a spontaneous and natural flow of a conversation.
  2. Asking to see the story before it is published — unless we’re checking to ensure quotes are scientifically or medically accurate, this is a non-starter.
  3. Offering a spokesperson and then switching them out — unless something unforeseen came up, I agreed to the interview with the specific person. It feels like a bait and switch otherwise.
  4. Make sure your spokesperson doesn’t speak in jargon — even though I write for a healthcare audience, the spokesperson should be speaking for a general audience, keeping it accessible.

Media teams at PAN love creating organic and positive relationships with key industry reporters and understanding best practices on how to most effectively engage with them. Doing so allows for continued success and relationship-building across the practice. Conference attendance is a crucial element to an effective communications strategy, and connecting spokespeople with reporters at these conferences allows for our clients to advance their thought leadership on timely and important topics. Candid conversations with key reporters, such as Ron, enable our teams to further optimize our media relations craft as we continue to offer first-class support for our clients across industries.

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