THOUGHT LEADER: Global pharmaceutical PR requires strategies and planning on the local level

Although the news media differs drastically around the world, the concept of leveraging and coordinating global PR campaigns on behalf of pharmaceutical products has become more and more commonplace. The mass expansion of web-based media outlets in the last five years has rapidly increased the process of information dissemination, which in turn has led to the blurring of national boundaries in the sharing of information.

Although the news media differs drastically around the world, the concept of leveraging and coordinating global PR campaigns on behalf of pharmaceutical products has become more and more commonplace. The mass expansion of web-based media outlets in the last five years has rapidly increased the process of information dissemination, which in turn has led to the blurring of national boundaries in the sharing of information.

Within the healthcare industry, the emergence of global brands like Viagra has increased consumer demand for information, enabled the globalization of media, and contributed to the emergence of direct-to-consumer communication in countries where it did not previously exist. Establishing an internationally "local" consumer media presence has been shown to have profound reach and influence among key stakeholders such as physicians, advocates, policymakers, and patients worldwide. A favorable and high-profile media presence is a critical success factor in the advancement of a pharmaceutical brand's marketing initiatives. Earned media offers a trusted vehicle to educate consumers, patients, and physicians in a credible context that supports "bought media" or advertising through editorial content. A global approach to public relations will enable pharmaceutical brands to increase share of voice, bolster awareness, and reinforce brand confidence among physicians and patients through testimonials and endorsements to ultimately drive demand. The global public relations role incorporates many different voices - advocacy groups, thought leaders, and patients - to communicate a complete story through media coverage that can educate consumers about disease state, quality of life, new treatments, and medical breakthroughs. When third parties are aligned with the brands' communications goals, they bring credibility that enhances consumer trust. A global PR plan that ensures all affiliates and company representatives react in a consistent way is imperative given that national stories can now become global controversies in a matter of minutes. The challenge is putting such a plan in place. This requires careful coordination and cooperation among global, regional, and local company representatives. Confronted with the management of local regulatory restrictions and reimbursement policies, differences in the management of the news media, and recognition of cultural nuances, the operation of a global PR account needs careful and sensitive management to ensure success at all levels. Managing the business in a strategic framework and avoiding involvement in operational activities is critical to the success of a global PR approach. It is important to set a global strategy, but gain local understanding. Some ways to do this include inviting a core group of the affiliates to be a part of the development of the global strategy, and establishing distinct lines of communication between the global business unit and the regional/local representatives. Getting affiliates to agree to and work from a message blueprint is critical to the success of a global approach. Develop core messages by bringing together various internal company stakeholders to participate in a collaborative process that thoroughly characterizes the products in the franchise. Capture these messages in a structured, dynamic database that becomes a snapshot of the franchise and its products at a moment in time, and could be used to consistently shape all communications relating to the products. Differences in local disclosure policies cause variations in how PR opportunities are pursued at regional and local levels. Reconciliation of PR activities globally can identify regional and local synergies, reconcile messages, and propel stories to a global level. Today's media environment is a global one. Manage the information flow among worldwide communicators to ensure that no one market is taken by surprise by a story announced in another market. Information-sharing structures should be set up to ensure that news announcements are coordinated and monitored. Share results of media pickup so that everyone in markets around the world is aware of how and where the story was covered, and support the handling of the story pitch if the news is of corporate relevance, i.e., crises or product approvals. Affiliates will look to the global plan and activities of the global agency to save costs at a local level. Ensure that all members of the worldwide communications team are aware of global PR offerings that they can leverage for local use. Use acquisition of the global account as an opportunity to bring in your local agency network. With one-stop agency shopping, clients feel the benefit of an integrated approach among agencies that communicate regularly and freely. If you want to succeed in a global environment, you have to understand the global vision, but be prepared to relinquish control of the operational pieces to local company affiliates. There might be a global plan, but there's always going to be a local approach.
  • Charlotte Wray is an SVP with PR21.

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