Healthcare PR: A Galaxy-sized Challenge in 2024

By Dan Ventresca

Predicting healthcare trends is like forecasting the weather…on Mars.

But in the aftermath of last month’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference – and the increasingly positive sentiment around the state of the business of healthcare – we pulled out the telescope and identified several trends that healthcare PR teams should keep in mind as we settle into 2024.

Generative AI – Friend or Foe?

There are two distinct realities within healthcare PR in the generative AI era:

First, we need to find unique ways to tell uplifting stories of generative AI’s potential and success. Health systems and hospitals are already demonstrating deep commitment to developing the technology. Generative AI has already proliferated in doctors’ offices nationwide, and legions of PR practitioners have a story or a use case to share, making effective storytelling paramount to earning media coverage.  

The second reality: As care providers and tech companies embrace generative AI, PR teams must approach the technology with caution within their own operations. Original content is increasingly valuable as tools to detect generative AI-produced content are emerging parallel to the technology. Those who attempt to take shortcuts will be easily identified and the content simply won’t stand up against authentic writing.

Nimbleness in Uncertain Times

The economic rollercoaster ride from the post-pandemic boom to the rash of industry layoffs that characterized much of 2023 has thrown communications plans for a loop the past few years. Those of us waiting for the rollercoaster to slow down can’t help but see the 2024 presidential election coming and brace for its ramifications in the marketplace.

The PR teams that can best adapt to market instability are the ones poised for success. That may mean finding ways to achieve PR initiatives with a reduced staff, a smaller paid content budget or fewer trips to industry conferences.

A strong PR team should view a slimmer budget as an opportunity for creativity, rather than a handicap. Having fewer people involved often lends itself to more cohesion and spurs proactivity from each member of the team. Even in the face of budget constraints or a reduction in staff, bottom line results do not have to suffer.  

Healthcare Media’s Evolution

Media relations will present new challenges as newsrooms – even as prestigious as the Los Angeles Times and Business Insider – continue to shrink or consolidate.

Building and maintaining healthy relationships with industry reporters is critical in an environment of short-staffed news outlets. In addition to having fewer resources, reporters now have the ever-present concern of AI “deep fakes” that have made it even harder for them to discern fact from fiction. The value of reliably connecting reporters to subject matter experts cannot be overstated in these times.

Effective healthcare media relations strategies have also emphasized quality over quantity in a consolidated media landscape. The PR teams that foster those media relationships, drive quality in each piece of coverage and carve out space in a competitive environment will deliver ROI for their partners.

The outlook for healthcare PR is not nearly as frosty as the weather forecast on the Red Planet, but the ebbs and flows of our business are sure to keep it interesting.