Breaking the taboos: promoting embarassing products

Promoting sensitive healthcare products can be embarrassing for all involved. Three PR professionals tell Kate Magee how they overcame the shame and gained the media's attention.

Breaking the taboos
Breaking the taboos

Recently, PRWeek received an email from a PR professional asking for advice on how to promote a rather embarrassing product.

The email read: I am trying to PR a mid-stream urine collection system for women. If you've switched off there, you've hit the nub of the problem. The product doesn't conjure visions of the most compelling editorial, and yet it can save the NHS around £70m a year on retesting. I'm baffled, but mine can't be the only product with the same problem.

This individual is not alone. Both PROs and journalists have ample stories of embarrassing pitches. Press Ahead director Chris Lines recalls his evening spent sat behind a one-way mirror at a consumer focus group for a digestion aid client in the early 1990s. 'Over the next few hours, I was presented with detailed and sometimes graphic accounts of said ladies' digestive problems,' he says.

Meanwhile, one national journalist remembers a call from a male PRO telling her about a revolutionary new gadget for cervical smears to make the whole experience 'more comfortable'. 'I told him that I could not take the word of a man that anything could make the experience more comfortable. He conceded I had a valid point and hung up,' she says.

Breaking down barriers about health and providing support to sufferers is not only worthwhile but can also save lives.

In the following three case studies, PRWeek interviews PROs who have successfully handled the same problem, and presents key tricks on how to promote the embarrassing.

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