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    Coffee with a Journalist: Rebecca Pifer, Healthcare Dive

    This week on the show, we have Rebecca Pifer, senior reporter at Healthcare Dive. Rebecca covers the business of healthcare with a focus on health insurers and public policy.


    During the episode, Rebecca discusses the nuances of healthcare journalsm, the instances where it's ok to ping her multiple times with an idea, and the ideal elements of a standout subject line. Hint, it's all about short, sweet, direct, and relevant. 


    Follow her on LinkedIn and X/Twitter


    Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:




    CWJ View Transcription CTA


    The Nuances of Rebecca & Healthcare Dive's Coverage


    [0:02:03] BB: Yes. Excellent. For those who don't maybe know, I do ask this of every outlet, even like The New York Times.


    What would you say is the coverage encompassing Healthcare Dive, and then specifically yours? Because there's lots of nuances to healthcare. How would you describe it? 


    [0:02:19] RP: Definitely. Yeah. We're again, we're a business-to-business publications. We write about the business of healthcare for an audience of healthcare business executives.


    That runs the gamut from hospital executives, insurance executives. The wide variety of companies that operate in the healthcare space. We're targeted at getting them the news that they need to do their jobs more effectively. 


    [0:02:41] BB: Good to know. Then more specifically for you, what's the kind of content you like to do because, for instance, I see you're talking about Medicare, Medicaid, Scripps. You're talking to House Committee, so you're based in DC. You're talking politics and things like this, CBS, so it's quite wide, it sounds, but also probably government leaning. 


    [0:03:02] RP: Yeah. I cover a lot of stuff. Right now, my bead is more so focused on health insurance, but I'm also really interested in retail health and PBMs and public policy, but yeah, it's a mismatch of stuff and whatever strikes my fancy, at a particular moment. 


    [0:03:22] BB: Or maybe what strikes your inbox, so let's talk about that. How is your inbox? 


    [0:03:27] RP: It's good. It's pretty full. 


    [0:03:29] BB: Okay. Wow. But no one usually comes on here and it's like, it's good and full, though. It's usually like, there's two emails and I'm happy. This is odd. Okay. It's good and full, full with, what's in there? Pitches? 


    [0:03:43] RP: A lot of pitches. Yeah. I guess when I say it's good, I mean, more so it's very healthy. There's a lot of it. I think that this is actually a good reminder for me, honestly, that I need to go through.


    I haven't gone through my pitches today. I try to do that every morning, but yeah. Lots of different stuff in there. 


    [0:04:01] BB: Okay. Do you have an organization system for this inbox? 


    [0:04:07] RP: Honestly, not really. I definitely should. I've thought about a lot of different ways I could. Mostly, what I do is every morning I go through and I mass delete things that have absolutely no like relativity to anything that I cover, right?


    It’s like a large variety of pitches that A, aren't even about healthcare or are about healthcare, but are more consumer focused and aren't anything that I would cover or they're about companies that are outside of my beat. So, I'll just go through and I'll just delete all those pretty much based on subject line. 


    Then everything remaining based off if I know the person or if the subject line is important, I'll click those, I'll open those and read through them in the morning.


    Then by the end of the day, I try to go through everything else and delete everything else. If it's not important or like flag it for potential follow up or something like that. But I don't use folders as much as I probably should. 


    [0:05:02] BB: Okay. Not a folder flag girl. Got it. But it sounds like you're a delete, so are you inbox zero camp?


    [0:05:08] RP: I definitely try to be. I try to by the end of every week, get it down to zero. I tried for – yeah, for a long time. I was like by the end of every day. Then I just couldn't keep – 


    [0:05:19] BB: Couldn’t keep up. Yeah.


    [0:05:20] RP: Yeah.


    Pro Tips for Pitching Rebecca


    [0:05:24] BB: Yes. Okay. You earlier mentioned like a great subject line. Can you get a little bit more into that? What is a subject line? You're like, “Oh, yes. I need to low. I need to do that.” 


    [0:05:34] RP: Yeah. This I imagine it would be really hard for, you know my heart goes out for publicists and for PR people, because it is difficult having your work sort of judged by five to 10 words, but for me, a good – 


    [0:05:49] BB: No pressure.


    [0:05:49] RP: No pressure. Yeah. For me, a good subject line is A, related to what I cover. I mean, that's like the biggest thing. I get so many emails that again have nothing to do with anything that I cover and those just get deleted immediately.


    Those you can pretty easily tell from the subject line. If it's too long or too complex some subject lines, they try to get like witty or do some a metaphor or something. I'm like, I'm a business reporter.


    [0:06:19] BB: Yeah. 


    [0:06:19] RP: Direct into the point. 


    [0:06:20] BB: Yeah. 


    [0:06:22] RP: Sometimes that will cause me to be like, huh, and does exactly engender me to open those or to do like a heavy read of those. So, yeah. Good ones are short, I would say, and direct and relevant. 


    [0:06:35] BB: Short, direct, relevant. That's good. Source. Why? Source wise. What or who are you looking for? 


    [0:06:43] RP: Good question. I definitely do get sources from pitches, but they have to be a really good source. I got a lot of outreach from people putting up an executive at a company to comment on a trend when they might not be like the best third party, non-biased person to comment on that trend.


    I'm always looking for sources who are academics, who are researchers at think tanks, analysts, financial analysts, lawyers are always incredibly helpful. Yeah, right now specifically, if you're knowledgeable about like PBM business models, or the intricacies of the Medicare Advantage space, or antitrust policy, very interested in those areas right now, so hit me up. 


    [0:07:40] BB: Okay. This is good. 


    [0:08:07] BB: Then for those sources, you get someone you see an email, what's the ideal pitch for a source of those that you just listed? Is it hey, this person's available? Here's the points that they could say. Is it, these are their credentials and take what you want from that? Like how do you suss out that?


    [0:08:27] RP: Yeah. That's a good question. I think tying in how your source might be relevant to an interesting story right now is always helpful, so you know, the subject could be like I don't know, let's say your source is a lawyer in the antitrust space.


    The subject line could be like legal expert on FTC non-compete ban in healthcare or something. Short to the point says who they are, says why they're relevant to me.


    Then, referentially, the email would be short to, source the name, why they're relevant. If you want to include a brief one, two punch on their background, that can't hurt, but also, I'm going to do research into these people myself before I reach out to – 


    [0:09:08] BB: Yeah. 

    [0:09:09] RP: Yeah. I would say, keep it short.


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    Rapid Fire Pitching Preferences


    [0:15:31] BB: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, boy. Okay. Thank you for clarifying that, Rebecca. That is good to know. Don't get on the banish list publicists.


    We have a rapid-fire question part, Rebecca, that I think you might find interesting/intriguing. Some of the points you already covered off on, but here we go. If you're ready. 


    [0:15:51] RP: I'm ready.


    [0:15:52] BB: Video or phone interview?


    [0:15:54] RP: Oh, I personally prefer phone. 


    [0:15:57] BB: Okay. Yeah. Phone is coming back. 


    [0:15:59] RP: I would say, but – 


    [0:16:00] BB: Oh, in person. Yes – we also talked about already bullet points or paragraphs, so we covered that. Images attached or drop box zip file?


    [0:16:09] RP: Attached. 


    [0:16:09] BB: Email or a DM of some sort? Somewhere, who knows where.


    [0:16:14] RP: Email.


    [0:16:14] BB: Email. One follow-up or multiple?


    [0:16:18] RP: Oh, preferably just one, although I would say that there has been a few situations over my career where people have reached out to me, like three or four times, and I just missed it the first few times, and then I was really glad they did follow up with me. 


    [0:16:34] BB: Oh, there you go. 


    [0:16:35] RP: If you've done your research and you think it's something really relevant to me, I will not be angry if you follow up multiple times, but if it's something totally unrelated and you follow up multiple times, then that's slightly annoying. 


    [0:16:48] BB: Yes. Okay. Noted on that front. We already talked about director creative subject lines. How about press release or media kit? 


    [0:16:55] RP: I don't really have a strong opinion, honestly. I think whichever medium you feel will give us like the most and the clearest information. Just go with that. I think it's more so about how it's written than the medium in which it's delivered, because a lot of press releases nowadays are really either filled with a lot of jargon or they like seem they're written by AI and you can't even really get a sense of what – 


    [0:17:19] BB: Yeah. I know.


    [0:17:20] RP: Trying to say. 


    [0:17:23] BB: I know. Yeah.


    [0:17:24] RP: Yeah. Don't do that. 


    [0:17:25] BB: Don't do that. Okay. Is there a particular time you read pitches? 


    [0:17:29] RP: Mostly in the morning. Yeah. Pretty much first thing in the morning. 


    [0:17:34] BB: Okay. 


    [0:17:35] RP: Yeah. 


    [0:17:36] BB: First thing in the morning. Then again, the next day?


    [0:17:40] RP: Yeah. So, usually I'll go through when I start working, just scan my inbox and yeah, if there are things that seem interesting, I'll open and read them then before I get started on the rest of my day. Then I try to finish everything else up by the end of the day, and then, yeah, process starts again next morning. 


    [0:17:56] BB: Okay. She's back at it with that. Okay. Then lastly, is there anything we can highlight, promote, tout about you? 


    [0:18:04] RP: Oh, sign out for Healthcare Dive. I would say. If you're in the healthcare space, we have a daily newsletter that goes out around like 11 AM noon-ish every day, and then we have two weekly newsletters. We have one on Wednesday that's focused on the health insurance sector and then one on Thursday that's focused on health IT. Yeah, great source for a variety of business news in the space. 


    [0:18:29] BB: Okay. We're going to sign up. Thank you so much, Rebecca, for being on today. 


    [0:18:35] RP: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. 


    [0:18:38] BB: You got it. Rebecca Pifer from Healthcare Dive. She's a Senior Reporter. Don't invite her to coffee, because she's not going to drink it, but everything else is good. 


    [0:18:47] RP: Excellent. 



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