On Monday, September 11, 2017, we (VIVA! Communications) staged our annual workshop at Doltone House, Jones Bay Wharf, Pyrmont to reflect on our many achievements over the past year, chew the fat on our business goals, and define our objectives and strategies moving forward.

Chaired by VIVA! Communications’ Managing Director, Paul Jans, our off-site meeting afforded all team members an invaluable opportunity to learn more about our agency’s 15 year-long history, the competitive industry in which we operate, and the various skills and tools of the trade required to continue to kick industry goals.

The workshop also provided insights into the work performed by GLOBALHealthPR (GHPR), with video presentations by GHPR founder, John Seng, current President, Jonathon Wilson, and GHPR Senior Vice President, Tim Goddard.

In the video presentations, John, Jonathon and Tim all discussed the purpose of our GHPR network, the aims of our global partnership, and reasons why VIVA! was invited to represent the network exclusively in Australia. All GHPR representatives further expanded on the significant contribution VIVA! has made to the network over the past six years, culminating in the opening of the GHPR APAC office in Singapore on December 1 last year.

This year’s annual workshop also involved several guest speakers, including a keynote presentation by Australian Journal of Pharmacy (AJP) Editor, Chris Brooker.

Having pitched stories to Chris since the founding of VIVA! in 2002, our team was eager to glean his insights as to how the industry has changed, and to gain best practice tips and tricks to performing best in practice health+wellness PR from a journalist’s perspective.

Our team was interested to hear that Australian Journal of Pharmacy [hyperlink] is in fact, the oldest, continuously published publication of any kind in Australia, stretching back to 1886

Over time, the publication has worked hard to reinvent itself, to maintain its relevance.

Nowadays, the magazine is published monthly in hard copy and distributed daily in e-newsletter format from Monday to Saturday each week.

The Monday to Friday editions aim to feature eight stories, while the Saturday issue is half the size, comprising only four stories. The publication aims to publish breaking news, product information and to support the needs of Australian pharmacists.

During his presentation, Chris reflected on the current nature of the Australian media landscape, citing a major shift from the traditional models of television, radio and print news media, to digital, and social media.

Although traditional models continue to exist, Chris explained how the newsrooms are downsizing to cater for the increasingly fast-paced industry dedicated to delivering stories in real-time via social media and digital platforms.

The growth of online has fostered a rebirth in breaking news journalism" - Chris Brooker

The growth of online has fostered a rebirth in breaking news journalism” – Chris Brooker

“The growth of online has fostered a rebirth in breaking news journalism, which is particularly evident in specialty media, such as health,” said Chris.

According to Chris, video for use on digital platforms, and social media are becoming the preferred methods of content delivery – areas that AJP is increasingly focusing on.

“The great thing about this shift is that it has led us back to pure journalism, and breaking stories. However, it makes us [journalists] very busy, as we now multi-task across traditional journalism, social media, and even video production and editing, among other things.

“We are now measured by clicks, views and hits, which is still new for journalism,” Chris said.

Chris further provided some valuable “do’s and don’ts” for PR practitioners in relation to pitching a story to his news team.

He strongly advised against making repetitive calls, which he considers “annoying”, explaining this behaviour tends to push a story to the back of the queue, and furthermore, many even result in a journalist refusing to run any future stories from this “serial offender.”

Chris explained that it’s not good practice for PR practitioners to call more than one journalist in an office, citing “We sit next to each other, so don’t call me, and then each of my colleagues, as we all hear you!

“Sure, if I don’t answer, it’s okay to call one of my colleagues, but if I’ve told you I’ll look at your story, I have it on my to do list, and calling my colleague will only push this lower in my pile of things to do,” said Chris.

Some other tips shared by Chris included:

  • Learn “who is who” in a newsroom, what role they perform and what content they write about.
  • Think of the publication’s audience prior to pitching a story. If a story won’t work for their audience, they won’t run it.
  • Prepare for your media release, or media materials to be heavily rewritten by journalists from time to time, and always include pictures where possible to enhance uptake.
  • Beware of deadlines. Don’t pitch a story into a publication that’s on deadline.
  • Think about what medium best suits your story – print, radio, TV, online or social?
  • Keep media releases to the point, but don’t try to write the lead for a journalist.
  • Aim to understand the field you work in, by attending educational events and conferences to grow your knowledge.

“When a good PR person pitches a story to me, I personally like an email followed up by one phone call. It isn’t too confronting, or harassing, but is actually a useful reminder,” Chris said.

“The best PR is done by people who seem genuinely interested in, and have a good knowledge of the field they are working in. This is becoming more obvious today, as PR campaigns become more complex.”

Chris concluded his presentation by commending PR practitioners, citing “you have a tough job!” and that when performed well, PR is very beneficial to journalists, and will serve to foster good, longstanding professional relationships.