PR and Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is all the rage yet very few companies understand how public relations actually works. Luckily, Lea Chatham is here to help clear things up. Lea is the Director of Content Marketing at Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. In this 3-part podcast interview, Lea gives insights on everything from outsourcing your PR to knowing when to opt for paid media placements.

In our chat, we cover:

    • Part 1: When Should You Outsource Your PR? (8:34)

Find out the key ingredient behind any successful PR campaign – and how to choose the best PR consultant.

    • Part 2: How to Position Your Company as a Thought Leader (7:27)

See how thought leadership goes beyond content marketing – and how to choose the right person for the role.

    • Part 3: Earned vs. Paid Media – and Why You Need Both (10:45)

Discover how earned and paid media can work together – and what reporters really want to know.

This is an episode of the Leading with Health podcast, formerly titled “Healthcare Lead Generation.” In this podcast, healthcare IT disruptors, innovative healthcare providers and health sector company leaders join host Jennifer Michelle to discuss growth strategies and navigating change.

Jennifer Michelle, MPH, EMT is a marketing consultant specializing in the healthcare sector. President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, she has a Master’s in International Health & Epidemiology and currently volunteers as an EMT. Her unique background allows her to bring unexpected insight and depth to every interview.

Part 1: When Should You Outsource Your PR? (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:03 Hi everyone, I’m Jennifer of Michelle Marketing Strategies and today on Healthcare Lead Generation we’re talking with Lea Chatham of Solutionreach. Lea is the Director of Content Marketing at Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. They can be founded Today, we are talking about when should you outsource your public relations. In fact, in our three parts … as you know, we always do three parts … about all things to do with public relations but, in this first part, it’s specifically when should you outsource and how do you know that you’re getting the best person for that. So Lea, welcome. It is just a delight to talk with you here today. I’m so glad you were able to come on the podcast.

Lea: 00:44 Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’m really happy to be here.

Jennifer: 00:53 Awesome. So let’s dive right in. PR is something that is a little nerve wracking for companies. It’s definitely something that people feel they don’t necessarily know very much about. Even marketers often feel they don’t know much about it. So, what do you think is the first thing people should understand about it?

Lea: 01:08 Well, I think the important thing to understand is that PR really is a lot about relationships and, as a company, you need to think both about that and resources. It really is a skill set that people have the ability to kind of understand how to make those relationships and sustain those relationships in your industry or across other publications. And so you have to sort of ask yourself, do we have an internal resource that can support that? Who has those skills and relationships or not – because you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t want to have to build PR necessarily from scratch in that way. Right. So, it’s important to understand that there is a very specific skill set and set of relationships that comes with a skilled PR person. And if you don’t have that in-house, right, you think about whether or not it makes sense to outsource that to someone who has that skill set and can support that.

Jennifer: 02:13 Let’s talk about that now. I think anyone can reach out to an editor but, when you talk about sustaining those relationships, that’s really kind of the heart of it. I mean, how do you think a good PR person does that?

Lea: 02:27 I think there are two parts to that. One is sort of the skill building or skills around building new relationships, and one is around sustaining relationships – and they are slightly two different things. So you may have new publications or you may be looking to expand your reach to other publications. Having someone who understands the process around finding the editor, getting the right material to that person or building a relationship with that person is important. And that’s really about understanding who that editor is, who that publication is, what they’re looking for, and being able to reach out in a meaningful way to say, “Hey, I think we may have what you’re looking for.” They may also be able to tell you if you need to do some paid media with them or some advertising with them to get an initial entree into that publication and that can be helpful.

Lea: 03:20 And then there’s the piece that’s really about sustaining relationships, which, again, is about understanding who the editor is, what they’re looking for, what’s that market, what is that publication all about, and being really relevant and useful and responsive. So always letting them know if you see something on the editorial calendar you think you can help with or saying, “Hey, anytime you need to talk to a customer in this space, we can probably find someone for you. Or we have some executives who are experts in these topics who are happy to be available anytime you need to interview someone,” and really trying to provide sort of useful, helpful relationships, contact information, reaching out regularly and sustaining those relationships. Checking in, you know, to say, “Hey, I noticed that you guys are looking for someone for this” or “I noticed that you’re going to be doing some articles on this topic.” And that’s the part about PR that really is about resources because a lot of PR is just reaching out all the time, checking in, looking for opportunities and consuming.

Jennifer: 04:26 I think that also you hit the nail on the head with something, which is they have such tight calendars that letting them know you will make people available to them on short notice is a big help to them.

Lea: 04:38 Yes. And sometimes that also requires having someone who can go in and do background source calls with different people on your team or with different customers who might be willing to talk to the media, and having someone who really looks for what are all the key places or key opportunities where we could use this person. And then having someone who can then coordinate that so they reach out and say, “Hey, we noticed you’re looking for someone for this topic. We have someone.” And then sort of doing all that facilitating and coordinating and follow-up. Again, very time consuming and someone who really knows what they’re doing can make those things happen more quickly and be very efficient. It’s a better use of time if you have someone who kind of understands all those processes.

Jennifer: 05:25 Absolutely. And you were saying, in some cases, obviously people are going to have all those skills in-house but, let’s face it, a lot of marketing teams do not. I think it’s much more likely in your marketing mix to not have the PR person than to not have a content person. So if they do want to outsource, what have you found? I mean, you’ve been dealing with this a lot in your career, what do you look for when you’re outsourcing it and what are the things that most people maybe forget to look for?

Lea: 05:53 I think the top thing is to look for a company that specializes in your industry. So, for example, we’re in health IT, there are several PR firms that just focus on health IT. And I think that there’s a lot of value to having a partner who specializes in your area of technology. So that’s the first thing is do they really specialize in your area and already know your industry and probably most of the publications and podcasts and thought leaders and influencers. And then really to ask them strategic questions about what you’re trying to achieve, so you should absolutely have calls to multiple firms and say, “Here’s what we’re looking to achieve here. Our goal is … how can you help us with that?” And be very thoughtful about are they forward thinking, are they aware of what’s happening in the market? Are they aware of what’s happening in marketing and PR and media? Right now, video is sort of the hottest thing. If they’re telling you that you should be doing all print, maybe they’re not someone who’s really keeping up, you know, in marketing. So, ask a lot of questions and really be focused on what your goals are. But definitely the number one thing is look for somebody who really knows your industry and already has all that industry expertise and knowledge and relationships.

Jennifer: 07:15 You know, I, I think that is tremendously helpful because I think people often think, “Well, we’ll just send out a press release” and it is so much more than that. In fact, I think press releases are probably the smaller part of good PR at this point, which is a challenge.
Lea: 07:30 I would agree.

Jennifer: 07:31 Yeah. And a lot of execs, especially if they’ve been in the field for many decades, they don’t understand that and they want to invest in those to a large degree. And I’ve been on the side of trying to explain that that’s not where you’re going to get your impact and that’s not where you’re really going to start developing that reputation. And, Lea, that has been tremendously helpful and I think that brings us to the end of Part One. Thank you so much for talking to us about that.

Lea: 07:31 Thank you for having me.

Jennifer: 08:01 Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. I’m looking forward to the second and third parts. For everyone who’s listening, we’re talking with Lea Chatham of Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. They can be found at We just were speaking about how do you really determine what you need in PR, and should you do it in-house or if you should outsource, When we come back in Part Two, we’re going to talk about how to position your company as a thought leader. So I hope you come back and join us then. Lea, thank you so much.

Lea: 08:31 Thank you.

Part 2: How to Position Your Company as a Thought Leader (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:06 Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Healthcare Lead Generation. We are speaking with Lea Chatham of Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. They can be found at In Part One, we talked about when should you outsource your public relations and how do you choose the best person for that. Now we’re entering Part Two and we’re going to talk about how to position your company as a thought leader. Obviously, that’s a huge part of public relations. Leo, welcome back. Thank you so much for joining us again. This is such a big topic. This is something I do a lot of work with and it’s something you hear about everywhere. It’s, how do you become a thought leader? What are your thoughts on that?

Lea: 00:48 Thanks for having me, Jennifer. This is something I also do a lot of work around. This is a big piece of what I do and it really can be a really challenging piece, as well, because, obviously, everybody has their regular job, right? Everybody has their regular nine to five job and, when you’re trying to position your company and your executives or other folks on your team as thought leaders, that can be challenging because, while you want to have that presence in the industry, people are busy.

Jennifer: 00:48 Ideally they’re busy – that’s a good company!

Lea: 01:26 Ideally, that’s a good problem to have, exactly! So, it is important to think about all the ways you can position your company as a thought leader. And so you have all these pieces around content marketing where you may be developing checklists and guides and webinars and videos and doing all of those kinds of things.

Lea: 01:39 And those are great. It’s a great way to bring people into your funnel and generate awareness. But there still is a piece where you have to find a way to get some real people because people who are looking for solutions are people and they prefer to connect with other people. So, it’s wonderful to have all that content that people can download and look for. But the reality is that, generally, there’s something sort of important and valuable about reading articles written by real people or listening to podcasts with real people or just anything that allows you to feel like this is a real person who’s actually talking about this topic, who knows about this topic and is sharing their insights with me. That is the piece that can be challenging because people have their own jobs and you’re trying to ask them to do something else.

Jennifer: 02:38 I think one thing you bring up there is about content, but I think when we talk about thought leadership, it really is about a person’s experience and what they’ve seen and what they know about it. Healthcare, in particular, has so many different aspects. Sometimes you just can’t know all the different issues going on, even if you’ve been working in hospitals or as a vendor for decades.

Lea: 03:05 It is really important. I think, whether it’s customers or executives, people like to hear real experiences or they like to hear your real thoughts about what someone’s perception is of a certain issue.

Jennifer: 03:18 Yeah. So it’s such a key thing that you just said about real thoughts, meaning somebody who’s actually looked at this and has a vision of what would help it, even if it’s just a tiny piece of the puzzle. I think that’s so much more interesting for people than just rehashing what they already know about the way it’s being done currently. And it’s harder to find than you think.

Lea: 03:37 Yes, absolutely. And there are some things that I’ve learned over my many years of doing this and that is that you may start with a very long list of all the people in your company or all the customers who you think might be good for this, but you’re going to probably end up with a fairly small pool of people ultimately who will be able to do this with you. Because you have to choose people who really are ready and invested and say, “Yes, absolutely, if you call me and say, ‘Hey, can you be available for an interview tomorrow,’ I’m willing to make my schedule work for that.” They have to be people who are willing to potentially be coached or trained, people who are going to feel comfortable in some kind of setting like that, where they may be speaking at an event or doing an interview. So there may be 20 people who you think are going to be potentially good but you’re going to end up with three.

Jennifer: 04:38 Well, and that’s if you’re lucky because one thing I’ve noticed is that, especially in healthcare IT companies, the founders are usually from sales or they’re from development. So you get these people who really love what they do and they’re very tech focused. In sales, that means they want to talk products and features. And on the developer side, they want to talk to you about every single part of the code or API. And as a marketer, you’re just in the middle of it going, “No, nobody wants to hear about that. Nobody.”

Listen Now: Is Your CEO the Best Choice for Thought Leadership? (2:34)

Lea: 05:15 It’s terrible. And I have been in that situation where I’ve had somebody come in and they’re supposed to be the experts and you get them going and you’ve done all this work and then you get them on a webinar or an interview, and I had one case where we did a webinar and the first 10 minutes were fine. But at about 15 minutes, he just started sales- pitching and demo and talking features. And we saw that half the people on the webinar dropped off in the next 10 minutes. It was absolutely terrible. And you really can put some proof points behind it, that it is not what people want when they think they’re getting really intelligent thought leadership.

Jennifer: 05:53 People do that and they see everybody drop off and, at the end, they’re still saying, “Oh, I got a lot of good feedback. Everybody loved it. ” Okay. Live in that world. You know what I mean? It’s amazing.

Lea: 06:04 Honestly, it’s not even to say that there aren’t times where that’s appropriate. You know, I went back to that guy and said, “Okay, this is not the right fit for you. You know, there are other things we can do a better fit for.” There may also be times where having your Head of Product who is more an engineering-focused person, get involved doing something that is much more engineering focused, or your HR person maybe gets involved with something that’s really about thought leadership on recruiting or something like that. It’s about being thoughtful about what is the opportunity? Who is the person? There may be opportunities to have a very salesy person, but those real thought leadership pieces that are about the things you’re trying to talk about, really around problems you solve, are not those opportunities.

Jennifer: 06:47 No, I, I think that cannot be said enough. Cannot be said enough. Lea, thank you so much for talking with us. Again, that brings us to the end of Part Two. For everyone who’s listening, we’re talking with Lea Chatham of Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. They can be found at We’ve spoken with Lea in Part One about when should you outsource your PR and we were just talking with her about how to position your company as a thought leader. Please join us back here for Part Three when we will be talking about earned versus paid media. Lea, thank you so much.

Lea: 07:23 Thanks for having me, Jennifer.

Part 3: Earned vs Paid Media (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:05 Hi, everyone! Welcome back to Healthcare Lead Generation. We are speaking with the amazing Lea Chatham of Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. They can be found at Now, in Part One, we spoke about PR and outsourcing your PR and, in Part Two, we spoke about positioning your company as a thought leader. Now, in this part, Part Three, we’re going to be talking about earned versus paid media and why you need both. Lea, welcome back.

Lea: 00:33 Thank you so much for having me again, Jennifer, it’s been great.

Jennifer: 00:37 Absolutely. Now, for everyone listening, we’ve had a couple of technical glitches this round, so Lea’s been an amazing sport with this. Lea, let’s dive into earned versus paid media. This is a huge part of content marketing and PR. And sometimes earned media is seen as something that you want to do exclusively and paid media gets a bad rap, which I don’t think is necessarily deserved. So tell me your thoughts about that.

Lea: 01:03 You know, I totally agree with you. I think they both play really important roles in your content marketing and PR strategy and your thought leadership strategy. They are different but they really can support one another and they can kind of help you. Each one can help you get the other one, and they play slightly different roles. So paid media, in particular, can be a really important piece when you don’t quite yet have a presence or you’re trying to build up a presence in some way and maybe you don’t have the connections or you don’t have placements for earned media. This is a great way to help make those connections. As part of an advertising strategy where you say we want to have some digital ads but we’d also like to do some of these paid media placements that are case studies or talking about certain topics. It’s a good way to get in and start building those relationships and be able to talk about exactly what you want to talk about. You get to control the message. The downside is it’s going to say it’s paid or sponsored content, but that’s okay. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not useful or that people won’t find it valuable and it can help you get in there and get those initial connections and earned media.

Jennifer: 02:32 I’ve actually been reading more about millennials and next generation involvement with content. And sponsored content and native advertising are not turning that generation off. And millennials are now in a lot of executive positions. A lot of them are in their thirties right now. That’s not something that’s just new and not quite here. In healthcare, that’s already playing a role and having an impact

Lea: 02:57 Really, it’s going to be about what you put in that. If that content is really useful and you can get that message across in the headline and the first paragraph or so, and it’s clear that it’s interesting and it’s relevant, people will read it. Even if it says that it’s paid content. Now I think that you do get a little more validation when it’s earned media and you’re doing articles written by your thought leaders or your thought leaders are being interviewed for articles. You’re doing things that clearly are unbiased but there’s a downside there, too. I have these conversations with my SEO guy and he’s always like, can’t you get us more back links from these articles in these publications because they have such a good authority.

Lea: 03:43 And I say, well, no, because, when you get earned media stuff, you’re lucky if they’ll put your link in the bio. They really don’t like to do linking to companies. They don’t like to put in links to anything that’s gated content, a case study that you did. They’re going to want it to be totally ungated and available or they’re probably not going to link to it. And that’s kind of the downside on earned media. So you may get some reputation building and some good branding off of that. And some good thought leadership building but the downside is you’re probably not going to get those strong validating backlinks.

Jennifer: 04:17 No. And it is frustrating because I’ve been the marketer there who is saying why can’t we get a link in the bio, why can’t they do that? And sometimes I’ve been able to push for it and sometimes not. It’s a bit of an uphill battle in a lot of cases. And when it’s a really good publication, their reputation, they get to call the shots. So that’s how it goes. Lea, could you talk to me a bit about your thoughts regarding earned media and building relationships in earned media?

Lea: 04:47 Yeah, absolutely. So we talked about this a little bit when we talked about thought leadership and a little bit when we talked about whether or not to outsource your PR. The earned media piece is the piece that really ends up being a lot about, do you have those thought leaders and do you have the relationships with the publications to be able to get those media opportunities? So it’s really if a publication has some stuff on their editorial calendar that’s a good fit for you, or you see something come across in a HARO [] request and you think, “Oh, we can do that.” You know, can you quickly respond and have what they need at that time? Do you have either a bank of quotes ready on those hot topics that you can pull from? Or do you have a thought leader on your team who can quickly be available for an interview, or a customer? That’s where the relationship piece and showing your value and proving that you’re reliable, that you can get them the content that they need quickly. You’re going to respond right away to them and be available and have what they need. That’s really how you build those relationships and become that go-to person you know, that they think of, eventually, off the top of their head. “Hey, we’re doing an article on this topic. Boy, those guys were so great. They always respond right away and get us exactly what we need to have. Somebody who can talk to us. Let’s just call them directly.” Eventually, that’s what you want to get.

Jennifer: 06:11 You’re totally right. And when we were talking about social media earlier in Part Two, I think that plays into this because sometimes just being available for them to reach you by social media can make it a lot easier, and it’s quicker usually. So, if they don’t have your phone number right there but they know of you, they can, you connect in that way. Even get a quick quote from you. It can be a way to do that even if you’re not going to be able to do a half-hour interview. And I think flexibility and availability are the two things that reporters probably want most from anybody they’re having to talk with.

Lea: 06:45 Yeah, I totally agree. And I will say that the people I work with the most consistently, the most regularly, the one thing they always say to me is, “I like working with you because you are so responsive. You know, you’re always on time. Like, if we schedule something, you show up, you never flake out, you always respond to our emails.” Those are the kinds of things that I hear from editors when they say that that’s why they like to work with you guys. That’s why we come to you. Those things really are important for editors who frankly are really busy and getting hundreds of emails a day, and they just don’t want to have to wade through all that. They don’t want to have to go out and find what they want. They want to know someone is going to be responsive and available and show up and have what they need.

Jennifer: 07:28 Absolutely. And I think it’s also, as someone who’s had to build PR relationships from the ground up, I find a couple of things helps them. One of them is you do your research so you know what topic that you can provide and who is going to be interested in that. Because if you can’t have the pitch really clear, and I know some people are big on really descriptive emails to editors but I am a fan of the much shorter pitch to editors because they don’t have time. Can you give them an interesting headline? If you can do that, sure. they might tweak it or make it better or more the way they want, but something that instantly says, this is what this topic is and this is what we can do for you. That is a huge help right there. Because I think the number one thing that you have to know about the media is, they don’t have time.

Lea: 08:19 It really is can you save me time and not waste my time. I mean, I think those are pretty critical things.

Jennifer: 08:27 I think it’s amazing. And then getting someone who also knows how to talk about the topic, which is what we covered previously in Part Two on thought leadership, is such a tremendous thing. Now Lea, I know we were talking all about thought leadership and media and all of these different things in our three different parts today. But one thing I always like to ask about at the end, just because I think it’s a little more fun than always talking shop, which is, what are you reading right now that you really recommend? Or that you just enjoy the most? I love sharing books with people.

Lea: 08:59 Well, I will tell you, actually I just finished the best book were so I will share this book with you, but I also will share something that I think is a great resource for anybody around these topics. I just finished reading A Gentleman in Moscow, which I highly recommend as a great summer read. If you’re going to the beach or something, it’s long and it’s really engaging and it’s so good. So I will suggest that as a fun summer read but, for people who are listening to the podcast who are looking for resources, the absolute best resource I find for me, that I use all the time, is the Content Marketing Institute. I get their print magazine and I get their emails and I read everything they send me and I’ve gone to their events. I think that’s a great read, a great resource in a lot of different ways to consume because, of course, they know their stuff and they know how to reach us.

Jennifer: 09:50 They’re a great resource. In fact, they had a great one on public relations this week versus content marketing and what the differences were, and I thought it was brilliant.

Lea: 09:57 Oh, good. Perfect. Go read that everyone.

Jennifer: 10:03 They’re fantastic. Lea, thank you so much for coming on this interview. And, as all of you who have been listening to all three parts know, there were a couple of technical glitches. So thank you for bearing with us and still sharing your insights here. For everyone listening, you can learn more about Lea’s work at Solutionreach, which helps medical practices improve the patient-provider relationship. You can find them at We’ve talked about everything PR today, everyone, and if you want to learn more about lead generation for healthcare, obviously come and say hi to me at later. Thank you so much.

Lea: 10:38 Thank you so much for having me. It was great.

Jennifer: 10:40 Thanks everyone. Catch you next time.