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


Healthcare Public Relations: In The Driver's Seat?

Pharmaceutical Executive

Media Lens

With innovative new therapeutic agents moving from the lab to the bedside, the pharmaceutical industry is enjoying the best of times. There was a lot of encouraging news in the fight against cancer this year, partly because newly developed therapeutics didn't fall into the traditional triad of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Gleevec made big news, because it was a proof-of-concept drug-one that illustrated an effective new way of attacking the disease.

It's also the worst of times, because pharma companies have an image problem.Many medicines that patients must take for the rest of their lives are very expensive. That's good for pharma companies financially, but it's a serious image problem for them when patients can't afford or access medicines through a company insurance plan.

Through education of the public and the consumer media, public relations professionals can help pharma's image problem. But local general assignment and medical reporters covering pharmaceuticals are not always that sophisticated about costs and other issues involved, so that makes public relations' job all the more difficult.

Because of that, PR people need to build anticipatory relationships with print and television reporters. They need to know who they are, who they need to talk to, and to cultivate relationships with them ahead of time. It's awfully tough during a crisis to build trust with reporters, and that's when those relationships are most valuable.

PR pros can also dramatically increase their success in placing stories by having a video in hand, especially one that puts a human face on the disease. If the story is about a drug for rheumatoid arthritis, the gnarled fingers and the ulnar deviation tell the tale. Otherwise, it's just a lecture to medical students.

Many therapies, especially those with interesting new mechanisms of action, scream for animation. A company may be able to explain how they work in two minutes, but if they show pictures, that tells the story better than 15 or 20 minutes' worth of explanation.

It serves everyone in the long term to have a better educated population that understands how drugs work, why they work, and why people are excited about them. Otherwise, the patient will say, 'I get a piece of paper from my doctor, I go to the pharmacist, and it costs me $1,000 to get this drug!'"

Article by: Max Gomez, PhD, health and science editor and medical correspondent for WNBC in New York, shares the media's view of public relations.


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