I recently attended the 2018 PRSA Health Academy Conference where hundreds of top healthcare communicators gathered for two jam-packed days to discuss the latest trends in media relations, healthcare policy communications, disease awareness campaigns and all things healthcare marketing.

All the interactive sessions and discussions offered diverse perspectives on campaign development, crisis management, and best practices for healthcare systems and agencies. However, there were three overarching themes regarding the state of the media industry today that resonated across all presentations.

While these recurring messages were tailored to healthcare communicators, the general themes can be applied to any sector of public relations and reflects the changing state of the entire media industry.

The Newsroom is Changing – and We Need to Adapt

Gone is the old school newsroom with dozens of frantic reporters phoning sources and furiously typing away on bulky desktop computers – automation and cutting-edge technology is in. Newsrooms are becoming quicker and more real-time than ever and using more integrated resources to generate effective multimedia content. Associated Press, for example, has begun using artificial intelligence to generate text for earnings releases for certain pharmaceutical and medical devices companies.

Aside from the way the newsroom operates, the healthcare media landscape itself is evolving in terms of content. Healthcare news has been largely dominated by changing policy since the 2016 election, meaning that relevance and timeliness is even more crucial to getting your client’s story and message through to reporters.

Virtual Reality Isn’t Just for Video Games

The application of virtual and augmented reality in marketing is still somewhat of a grey area – but many healthcare communicators are already using these technologies to simulate diseases and close the empathy gap in patient-centric communication. For example – researchers at the University of Southern California are using a virtual reality system called Bravemind to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in army veterans who served in Iraq.

Whether it’s using VR to transport terminally ill patients to a tropical paradise, inviting media to experience what it’s like to suffer from autism or schizophrenia using new mixed reality smart-glasses developed by Microsoft called Hololens, or using AR for viewers to experience a walk through dementia, the possibilities for immersive technologies are endless and we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in reaching their potential.

The Death – or Rebirth – of the Term “Expert Source”

Thanks to the very real “fake news” epidemic that’s plaguing traditional and social media, reporters are more selective than ever when vetting an expert source for their stories.

To determine if a source is expert-worthy, reporters revealed that they are likely to evaluate all papers they’ve published, conferences they’ve spoken at, media appearances, publications they’ve appeared in, and industry awards they’ve won – and a four-digit number of Twitter followers doesn’t hurt either.

For communicators, this means encouraging clients to take advantage of every professional opportunity that comes their way to earn accolades and grant them “expert” status.

In short, it’s important for communicators across all disciples to know and understand that these three trends are taking place and affecting the media industry. The changing newsroom, integrating immersive technologies into media, and establishing credibility in the “fake news” era are takeaways that all PR practitioners should take into consideration for their communications and marketing strategies.