Three Wise Dames

Marketing in the Life Science Industry

Press Release Distribution Services: Are They Worth It? July 15, 2013

My favorite newswire services

My favorite newswire services

Whether I’m working with a start-up or a Fortune 500 company,with the marketing or communications teams, all of my clients are looking for ways to make their budgets go farthest. So I sometimes get asked if it’s worth it to use a news distribution service, such as PRNewswire or BusinessWire, for your press releases.  And the answer is they’re even more valuable today than ever.

I had one new client recently who, for years, had been issuing a steady stream of news releases.  But when doing some basic internet research, no news came up in Google searches. I learned that the previous PR person never used a wire service, and only emailed them out to her media list. The releases were not being made available online and media pick-up was minimal. Years of opportunity… lost.

Yes, They’re Worth It: These days, the value of a press release is not only about the media that covers your news. It’s also about maximizing your online visibility through search and getting easily found.  In short, if you send out a press release without using a distribution service, the company is missing out on most of the benefits of doing a release, which include:

  • Expanding media coverage online, locally and nationally–PR Newswire is a trusted source of news (as is BusinessWire)
  • Reaching investors and prospective partners, as well as getting your message directly in front of potential customers
  • Increasing traffic to your Web site through search engines
    • What makes press releases valuable for SEO is not the release itself; it’s when news sites pick them up and spread your news
    • News releases issued through the right distribution  services automatically get syndicated to MarketWatch, Yahoo, MSN and other major news sites, and that’s what will enhance your company’s search rankings
  • Enhancing credibility–Your release is more likely to be included on major news sites, and it will be included alongside news from larger companies
  • Reaching social media and bloggers with tools designed to maximize your online exposure
  • These services provide reports that help you measure your reach

Best Practice:  Media relations best practice is to:

1)  Issue the news release over one of the distribution services (I recommend PRNewswire and BusinessWire)

2)  Follow up one-on-one with emails and/or phone calls to your target reporters

Here’s a good example of why:

  • When we issued a release for one of my clients over PRNewswire, we knew it was not the most exciting news, but it was one part of the ongoing story we wanted to tell about the company.
  • The Wall Street Journal Online ran the release, and that outlet was not on our email distribution list for this news.
  • The story also ran in Medical Device Daily and Orthopedics This Week, among other outlets, which came about as a result of our outreach efforts.

Resources:

PR Toolkit: The Benefits of Distributing a News Release

Google Says Press Releases Don’t have SEO Value – Or Do They?

© 2013, Merryman Communications, All Rights Reserved

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Do’s and Don’ts in Communicating about FDA-Regulated Products January 29, 2013

ImageIn response to a special request, this post provides some general guidelines on communicating about FDA-regulated products.  However, let me start by emphasizing that I am not a regulatory expert.  I have a lot of experience with FDA-regulated products, and I’m offering this from a communications perspective. So here are my product communications Do’s and Don’ts:

Do:

1. Work closely with regulatory counsel.  I’ve always valued a close and collaborative relationship with the folks in regulatory and I try to involve them in the planning process as well as the document review process.  Sitting across the table from them helps because when I understand why they say “No, you can’t do or say that,” I brainstorm with them to get to the “Yes, you can do or say that.”  I’ve also learned that, just like with doctors, lawyers and even marketing communications people, recommendations vary from expert to expert and client to client.  Often regulatory guidance comes down to a judgment call on the level of risk the client is or is not willing to bear.

2. Include risk information in appropriate materials.  The challenge surrounds what the appropriate materials are. Some are straightforward, such as advertisements and collateral and of course these must include fair balance.  I won’t tread into social media and the guidance (or lack thereof) as it’s a subject that’s been beaten to death. But how about press materials?

  • Press Releases:  One client’s regulatory counsel has advised that press releases remain one exception, and we still don’t include fair balance in our releases for that client.  A colleague who works for a large agency shared the opposite – that they include fair balance in all press releases they develop for pharma and med device clients.
  • Pitch letters:  This short, simple medium was never intended for the public.  Pitch letters are one-on-one communication directed at the media from a company or agency to interest them in your latest news and information. But a pitch letter recently received a red flag from the FDA, and now we’re all waiting with bated breath to see if we need to start including risk information in them.  Guess what?  So far it depends on which regulatory person you ask! (Read more about it here:  http://www.prweekus.com/pharma-communicators-keep-eye-on-fda-after-it-singles-out-product-pitch/article/270458/)

3. Present risk information in a balanced way. Including the fair balance information at the end isn’t enough.  You need to be sure that you (or your spokespeople, such as patients) tell your story in a evenhanded way.

  • Don’t let your spokespeople minimize the risk information. (One celebrity spokesperson declared during a national TV interview: “Oh, drug companies just have to say that…”  The drug company and agency had to work with the outlet to have it corrected immediately.)
  • Testimonials can’t overstate the product’s benefits. (For example, “Because of this product I improved my golf game” needs to be something more along the lines of: “Because I use this product, I feel better and because I feel better, I play golf better.”)

4. Ensure adverse event reporting processes are in place. As you all know, adverse event reporting has been a big reason some pharma or device companies have stayed away from product-oriented social media initiatives.  One client worked with her regulatory team to develop a weekly reporting process, and also relies on frequent check-ins with regulatory both at her business unit and at the corporate level. As we’re all learning, it can be done.

5. Understand the difference between the FDA and SEC. Regulations from each guide your communications recommendations for publicly traded companies and their products.  It’s important to understand whether your information is material and the level of flexibility you have in what to convey, timing your announcements or launches, etc.

Don’t:

1. Don’t provide information on off-label uses.  Controlling off-label statements presents a challenge in two-way social media channels, but now we have FDA draft guidance on this issue.  You can find a great at-a-glance diagram of this guidance here: http://www.doseofdigital.com/2012/01/translating-fda-social-media-guidance/.

2. Don’t overstate claims or claim superiority if you don’t have data to support it.

3. Don’t give medical advice. Instead we include a call-to-action that directs potential patients to speak to their doctors.

This is my general guide on communicating about FDA-regulated products. But please keep in mind:

This information reflects my experience in working with FDA-regulated products and teams on the client side.  It is based on a snapshot in time because policies at the FDA can (and do) change.  Please only use this is a guide, and if you need the final word on matters, talk to your regulatory expert!

Now let’s hear about your experience!

 

The Scariest Thing About Blogging October 31, 2012

Filed under: Betsy,Leadership,Public Relations,Reputation Management,Social media — betsymerryman @ 11:14 am

Blogging can be scary.  Maybe not scary in the same way as the haunted house my neighbors are building down the street.  But scary in that….  What if I’m left in blog hell where no one reads what I blog?  Or what if I get negative comments to what I blog?  What’s worse: no comments or negative comments?

The scariest thing about blogging is figuring out what to say that adds value and not noise.  Let me know which of the following topics you want me to cover in future posts, or anything else you’d like me to blog about:

  • Interviewing others about their successful healthcare communications case studies
  • FDA device approval process (because a description of it doesn’t exist anywhere else)
  • General summary of do’s and don’ts in communications for FDA-regulated products
  • Ongoing examples of “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”
  • My reactions to campaigns, news, events or trends

Maybe it would be helpful if I revisited why I blog:

  • As a healthcare marketing and communications consultant, I have recommended blogs to many, many clients, and some have even taken my advice.  So, I want to learn more about blogging and the credibility and communications results it generates since I feel like I should walk my talk.
  • As a consultant and as a professor, I have a responsibility to my clients, my teams, the universities where I teach, my students, and my network to stay current and share information and knowledge about healthcare, communications and marketing.
  • HubSpot, a pioneer in inbound marketing, says I should because “blogging is a critical piece of a company’s inbound marketing strategy.”  Blogging greatly increases my chances of being found online, reinforces my position as an expert and thought leader, and helps me stay top of mind – and that’s what I’ve been telling clients.

So, now that I’ve blogged today, I’m going to go visit the haunted house down the street.  I’m up for another good scare….  Happy Halloween, everybody!

 

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should November 29, 2011

I saw the results of a study recently that supports the practice of doing colonoscopies without sedation.  Now, I know one person who, for reasons that are still a mystery to him, had a colonoscopy without sedation, and I can tell you he wouldn’t recommend it.  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

I find myself saying the same thing with so many marketing and communications practices today, especially those are easy to do it yourself.  Just because you can blog, Tweet, send out a press release or whatever, doesn’t mean you should.  What sometimes gets lost and forgotten is that strategic fundamentals haven’t changed, despite the excitement around new channels and ways to reach target audiences.

I once had a client suggest that we should send out a press release every week so that we could then Tweet it.    While I’ll be the first person to agree that press releases are valuable beyond communicating with the press, I believe you should issue a press release to announce news that supports your communications objectives, and you should Tweet things that would be of value to your followers. It isn’t about making noise.  It’s about building your credibility, brand and/or reputation.

Strategic fundamentals include asking yourself at the outset, among other things:

  • What you are trying to achieve and does it help you achieve your business objectives?
  • Who is your target audience and why should they care?
  • What do you want them to do with your information?
  • Is this channel the best way to reach and influence your target audience in these ways?
  • And does it further your overall product brand and company reputation?

The bottom line is that tactics shouldn’t drive solid marketing and communications.  Strategic fundamentals should.  And just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t fit strategically.

As for me, sign me up for sedation with my colonoscopy.  How about you?

(C) 2011 Merryman Communications, Inc.; all rights reserved.

 

3WD Interview–Betsy Merryman June 21, 2011

Filed under: 3WD Interviews,Barbara,Betsy,Public Relations — Barbara Kowalski @ 4:23 pm

Betsy Merryman and I worked together at Fischer Health before it was purchased by Porter Novelli. Betsy was a true mentor, and even though we’ve both moved on we
have continued to stay in touch. She recently started Merryman
Communications
.

Betsy Merryman

  • How did you arrive in your current role?

Because I decided I wanted to quote Frank Sinatra and “Do it my way.”  Seriously, I wanted to find a way to do what I do best (partner with clients and team members in strategic communications) but without having to do it the typical agency way, which always burned me out with hours that were too long and too much travel – all of which took me away from my family too much.  Now I get to do what I like and be home for dinner.

  • What do you love most about the work you do?

I LOVE (and yes, with a capital LOVE) learning, and I’m always learning from new situations and opportunities, clients, team members, colleagues (including the Three Wise Dames) and my students.

  • Where is the most exotic place in the world that you’ve eaten?

The Peking duck was better in Hong Kong than it was in Beijing.  But then again that was a long time ago – and telling you how long ago will make me feel old.

(c) 2011 Modern Health Communications, Inc.; all rights reserved.

Related:

Merryman Communications Home Page

Twitter: @betsymerryman

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Public Relations For Business Results August 9, 2010

“It seems obvious to me (and research backs me up) that we are most productive, persistent, creative, and flexible when we’re engaged in precisely the combination of activities that brings us maximum fun.” —Martha Beck, O Magazine- May, 2002

Well, work may not be all fun, but I am a firm believer that we should do work that we love and love what we do for a living. Life’s too short to do anything less.

For me, that means counseling clients on their business. More precisely, providing strategic counsel on how the communications programs I implement can impact their business. What’s that I say? Linking public relations and marketing communications efforts to business results?  Yep.

Another one of my firmly held beliefs is that public relations is NOT the same thing as publicity or media relations.  In fact, the role of public relations goes far beyond just awareness building. Or at least it should.

I’m not the only one who thinks this.  A few weeks ago, a group of public relations organizations met and developed principles that guide the measurement of communications.  The seven principles the organizations agreed to are:

  1. Importance of goal setting and measurement
  2. Measuring the effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs
  3. The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible
  4. Media measurement requires quantity and quality
  5. Ad value equivalents (AVEs) are not the value of public relations
  6. Social media can and should be measured
  7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

In future posts, I’ll go into detail about each of these principles and how healthcare organizations can apply them to see greater results from their marketing and public relations efforts.

Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts on achieving business results through public relations.

© 2010 Modern Health Communications, Inc.

 

It’s Not About What You Say April 8, 2010

The recent explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia is bringing renewed attention to the mine’s owner, Massey Energy.  Like most people, I realize that coal mining is an inherently dangerous job, and unfortunately, accidents happen.  If that were only the story here, it would be sad enough.

Instead much of the attention has focused on the 3,000 plus safety violations Massey has racked up since 1995. Yet, as of April 7, the home page on the company’s Web site still proudly proclaimed that 2009 was “another record-setting year for safety.”  Hard to believe. (As of today, they finally removed that article from the home page.)

In fact, the company’s statements declaring the importance of safety are in direct contrast to its record of egregious safety violations and the reports that Massey’s chairman and chief executive, Don Blankenship, allegedly told workers to ignore the orders of those who instructed them to construct support beams and ventilation shafts for safety purposes and just “run coal.” It is companies like this that give capitalism a bad name.

The Lesson To Learn

What can healthcare companies learn from this tragic incident?  It’s simple. Always remember that actions speak louder than words.

No matter how many times your top executives express concerns for patient safety or piously proclaim that their mission is finding better treatments or cures for disease, if the company is rushing a drug to market before its full side effects are known, it’s a lie. If they are pushing a device through trials and suppressing negative evidence that would keep it from FDA clearance, it’s a lie. If your hospital touts patient safety, but every staff member isn’t following strict protocols to combat healthcare acquired infections, it’s a lie.

Words vs. Action

Communicators use words.  Lots of words.  We draft mission statements, company vision statements, key messages and yes, even positioning statements.  But no amount of words can take the place of action.

Action is key to reputation.  Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason—even at the expense of short-term profits—builds positive reputations.  And reputations are valuable.  A good reputation adds to the bottom line and helps companies weather the storms of crisis.  Just ask Massey Energy, whose stock has dropped nearly 12 percent and whose credit rating was downgraded below junk.  If that’s not enough to convince you, then just ask the families of those miners in West Virginia.

 

 
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