Healthcare Public Relations: In The Driver's Seat? - Pharmaceutical Executive


Healthcare Public Relations: In The Driver's Seat?

Pharmaceutical Executive

Client's View: Roche Spokesperson Carolyn Glynn, VP, Public Affairs

Public relations is increasingly becoming part of the pharma industry's marketing mix, joining the more established disciplines of medical education, professional and consumer advertising, and direct mail. But, despite PR's advances, it continues to suffer from a perception that it fails to drive business or product success. In fact, when done right, PR can be a major strategic partner with marketing in enhancing brand identity, driving consumer demand, and facilitating appropriate product use.

Although the field is expanding and demonstrating that it can deliver value to brands, it will remain vulnerable to budget fluctuations because of the lack of industry-wide standards for evaluating PR's impact on sales. The profession needs to grapple with that fundamental issue: how to consistently measure the impact and value of public relations across all its facets. The days of assessing PR results through media impressions are long gone. Now, we need to demonstrate the value of earned media for driving consumer interest in our products, leveraging third-party and advocacy support, and expanding the impact of professional communications on appropriate product use.

We must find common terms for communicating to marketers where and how PR affects the prescription algorithm. Measurement is not just taking impressions one step further. It's the ability to discuss what we do and demonstrate it through a common language. What is PR's impact? How does it influence consumers? How does it influence professional perceptions of the company and its products? How does it influence third-party advocates and neutralize critics?

We talk about all the great things PR can do for corporate reputation and image, but in the traditional environment for marketing pharma products, that skill isn't always visible in how it influences a company's brands. We've all heard brand managers say, 'I don't want people to know what the company name is. I just want to market my brand.' But reputation-pertaining to specific products or to a company-will eventually affect decisions by professional customers and patients about the use of your products.

It took the industry a long time to realize that many external constituents touch the lifecycle of a prescription medication. For decades, our focus was on communications with doctors and other healthcare professionals. More recently, the healthcare system has evolved to include key influencers such as managed care, hospital systems, government and regulatory officials, consumers, and ultimately, patients. It took the industry a while to understand that some of those groups may not appreciate or fully understand the extensive research, development, and marketing processes that are necessary to deliver quality medicines. As a result, the industry was faced with the urgent need to explain itself and relate to those new customers in unfamiliar ways.

As simple as it may sound, we arrived at the point where we said, 'There are all these other parts of our society that we must communicate with. We have to start telling people what we do and demonstrate the cost-effective value that our products provide.'

The PhRMA advertising campaign, which is only one part of a broader industry initiative, was established to help give the industry a more personal and familiar face that our constituents could relate to and support. That's why the ads over the past few years feature real company researchers and real patients.

Everyone knows the value of prescription medicines for improving health and saving lives, but few understand the rigorous process, time, and expense that the industry invests to deliver those products to the marketplace. PhRMA's ads are one way to communicate that important information.


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