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Supplement Perspectives

For the Media, the Proof is in the Science

Ive made probably a few thousand pitches to reporters during my career in PR, and theres one demand each and every reporter has made: Show me the money.

Not literally, of course. Being the cynical creatures they are, journalists wont take a companys or a PR reps word that products including dietary supplements do what they say. In this case, the devil truly is in the details.

I pitched a story a short time back to The Wall Street Journals Aches & Claims columnist. Laura Johannes is an old-school journalist whose first question was, Are there any clinical studies about this product? Fortunately for us, we had great science to back up the claims and Laura wrote a fair, balanced review of my clients supplement.

Dietary supplement manufacturers should automatically assume the media will demand scientific support for any product pitch. If the clinical proof isnt there, most reporters especially those writing for general consumer and business outlets wont give your product a glance.

With clinical verification of health claims in hand, pitching a story to local, national, and trade media is relatively simple. Here are a few tips to increase the chances of coverage:

1.) Educate Yourself. Before sending a pitch email or picking up the phone, know the clinical study information inside and out. Journalists likely will ask questions about results and will expect answers at that moment. Saying Im not sure or Let me check on that and get back to you can be a death knell to any coverage.

2.) Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Unless they are total science geeks, journalists are not going to read an entire clinical study down to the fine details. Prior to pitching, create a summary sheet of clinical outcomes and key points that show how the product performed. List researchers names and credentials, including where the study was done.

3.) Have Your Experts Ready to Talk. Its not uncommon for a reporter to request an interview with the clinical study leader the same day you pitch. That may not be feasible, but if experts can be on call for interviews, youll increase your chances of securing a story. And make sure spokespeople are armed with key talking points and copies of pitches sent to the reporter.

4.) Follow Up. After an interview, email or call the reporter and offer to send additional information about the clinical study, your experts, or general details about the product. Offer to send product samples, digital images of product packaging, and experts. Its OK to ask when a story will be published. And be sure to thank them for their time and interest.

One last point: There are no guarantees that a strong clinical study, smart spokespeople, and detailed preparation will result in media coverage. Ive gone through the motions more times than I can count and saw nothing come of it. Its all about being persistent and prepared.

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