Public Relations: It's Your Day (or Month) - Pharmaceutical Executive


Public Relations: It's Your Day (or Month)
Health observances are a powerful way to build disease awareness.

Pharmaceutical Executive

What will it cost? Determine whether you have the resources to truly amplify the health observance. Because these events are not inherently newsworthy, you need to invest in creating news for the media to cover.

How does it look? Consider the corporate reputation advantages of being associated with the non-profit group and a worthwhile cause.

Potential Partners While it is possible to ride the coattails of a health observance, the greatest credibility and exposure come from partnering with the non-profit sponsor. However, because these organizations typically do not allow branding, marketers need to identify innovative ways to promote their brands (see To Brand or Not to Brand sidebar).

For example, in 2003 famous fashion designers partnered with NHLBI on the Heart Truth campaign. Retailers like Wal-Mart joined the effort by selling red dress pins. Media outlets, including Glamour magazine, provided exposure by espousing the cause of women and heart disease. Another boost came when the American Heart Association launched its Go Red for Women initiative in 2004. Corporate sponsors, such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, also provided resources to increase the visibility of the issue. Government, non-profits, corporations, media, and the fashion industry joined forces to make the red dress a symbol of the impact of heart disease on women, and February a time to communicate about it.

Don't Publicize—Emotionalize To make your campaign stand out, marketers must forge an emotional bond with patients. Borrowing a page from breast cancer and heart disease campaigns, here are some tips to help marketers make their messages resonate:

Conduct research to determine patients' emotional triggers (NHLBI research showed that women forge strong emotional ties with a red dress).

Interact with patients in a meaningful way at seminars and events.

Initiate a national overlay to raise the importance of the issue beyond the local.

Identify non-traditional venues for communicating with your target audience.

Create emotionally-relevant touch points. For example, engage spouses if research suggests that loved ones play a critical role in treatment or compliance.

Use personal anecdotes No one speaks more credibly about a disease than a patient with a compelling story.

Make your campaign iconic by creating a symbol or tagline that represents awareness about or the fight against the disease. The pink ribbon, for example, gave women a way to demonstrate their support of the fight against breast cancer.

The Eyes Have It
Health observances offer an excellent backdrop for launching a campaign or issuing news about a brand. By tapping into patients' emotional drivers and presenting compelling stories to the media, marketers can make an enormous impact year after year.

Megan Svensen is executive vice president of Healthcare at Marina Maher Communications. She can be reached at 212-485-6866.


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