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Career Story: Public Relations Consultant In The Healthcare Industry

Public Relations Consultant In The Healthcare Industry

Job Title: Public Relations Consultant

Education: BA, Dartmouth College

Previous Experience: I started out as an high school English teacher, then decided I like to write more than I liked to teach people how to write. So I became a daily newspaper reporter. I worked at newspapers for about a decade before I made the jump to publice relations (PR). My first job was working in the communications office of the state medical society.

Job Tasks: I am a PR consultant to several health care nonprofit organizations. These include an organization of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who take care of all of Boston's homeless people; a foundation that raises money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research and treatments; and a nonprofit that runs programs that tries to make doctors, nurses and other health care professionals more compassionate.

A large part of my job is getting journalists to cover my clients' staff, programs and activities. I do this by acting like a reporter within these organizations: seeking out interesting people and asking them about what they do and what they're working on as well as attending their programs. I also meet weekly (on the phone) with a contact from the organization to stay connected.

Then I write pitches and send them to reporters, or call them. I also write and distribute press releases when the client wants a more formal announcement of news and run press conferences.

Once I get a reporter interested in writing about a client, I schedule interviews (which I attend when they're in person) and do any other follow-up required, like getting them background information, seeking out other people for them to talk with, etc.

I also track all of my clients' news coverage and keep a clip book to document it.

The other part of my job is writing. I do any kind of writing my clients require: newsletter stories, speeches and web copy. I also ghost-write for clients - for example I recently ghost-wrote a column for a nurse from the homeless organization about memorable homeless patients she has cared for. It was published in a nursing publication under her name.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I love the variety of topics and people I deal with, and the fact that I am constantly learning. I also feel good about the organizations I work for. They all do good, important work.

The worst part of my job is dealing with clients' sometimes unrealistic expectations of the coverage they think they should be receiving. Everyone thinks their "news" is worthy of story in the Boston Globe. Unfortunately that is not true. Also, people sometimes blame the PR person when a story doesn't come out how they hoped it would, or if a reporter didn't call them to comment on a story they think they should have been included in.

Job Tips:
1. Start off your career as a reporter. You will learn how to write well and on deadline; you will know the types of stories that appeal to reporters; and you will understand the inner workings of a news organization work - things like deadlines, beats, etc.

2. Work for an organization(s) you feel good about. It will make it much easier to be their pitchman.

3. Develop an area of expertise. I specialize in health care, and that's been very attractive to prospective clients.

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