Rants 'n' Raves|15/03/2012

The Press Release and Medical Tourism

Medical TourismIs the endgame of the Press Release in Medical Tourism engagement or entrapment?

I was skimming through Google news last Sunday morning, and stumbled across this press release headline: “Vancouver Company Featured in Medical Tourism Magazine”.  The sub-heading read: “What being a medical tourism facilitator to the public is not always clear”.  (Note to author, neither is that subheading!)

This is one of thousands of press releases produced and distributed annually by companies in the medical tourism space trying to grab the attention of readers, like me, and the crawl-bots at Google.

The press release talked about the role of the facilitator in medical tourism, and the importance of talking about this role in the Medical Tourism Magazine.

With the large number of medical travel companies available around the world today, the need for a clean and easy to understand view of the medical tourism field was clear.”


Is this really news? How many more of these were there? I clicked “see more medical tourism articles” and bingo.

One headline proclaimed: “The revenue from medical tourism is set to grow 250 per cent between 2010 and 2015 from Rs 4500 crore then to a whooping Rs 16000 crore.”  Whooping.

Another one beamed: “Ruby Hall bags award for best medical tourism facility in country”.  Bagged it.  Well done, Ruby Hall.  Anyone ever hear of this place?

This got me thinking about how the medical tourism industry is using press releases, and whether the examples provided ultimately hurt or help industry.  In isolation, one press release doesn’t tell much of a story, but in aggregate a picture emerges of an industry that is trying hard (maybe too hard) to get noticed.

In the old days (pre Google), sending out a press release was a big deal…and expensive too.  Public relations firms were called in to produce and distribute the release, and the objective was simple: to get your company in mainstream media.  A global press release could cost upwards of $75,000, so whatever you had to say better be worth it.

Today, blasting out a press release globally costs $250 or less.  There is no barrier to entry, and the objective is less to produce something people will read and more about creating something people will click.  The click is all that counts.

So then… is the end game engagement or entrapment.

When caught in a rhetorical trap, like the one I find myself in now, I find it always best to consult the oracle, and by oracle I mean Google.  So I query: “What makes a press release effective?”

Everyone says it’s about content, structure and relevance, but everyone means it’s about SEO (particularly if you read the comments).  The golden nugget came from Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, who says a blog is more powerful than press releases.  Her comments appear during a Q&A interview in the February issue of PR Week.

Says Arianna, “I think a lot of them (PR pros) are recognizing that it is more effective now to blog about something, to have the principals blog about something, rather than send press releases. The world of the press release is dramatically changing.”

So there you have it.  Quit wasting your time on press releases and start wasting your time on blogs, because that’s where people, not Google, are trolling.

I should know.  My one reader tells me so.

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