Pharma comms chief warns healthcare PR professionals of social media pitfalls

The healthcare PR industry is overlooking traditional media outlets in the rush to improve online communications, a senior pharmaceutical communicator has warned.

Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics director of communications Jo Taylor was speaking at a PRWeek Conference in London last week.

The one-day conference aimed to address frustrations within the healthcare communications industry that it cannot use social media in campaigns because of the strict guidelines governing the pharmaceutical industry.

Taylor told the packed conference hall: ‘My concern... is that we are throwing away our skills. Traditional media should still be the mainstay of a public campaign.'

She claimed that many healthcare PROs were too quick to consider online at the expense of traditional outlets.

‘It is easier to make a video and put it on YouTube than to try to sell in a video to the BBC,' said Taylor.

‘There is a growing conservatism of losing control when using traditional media, but the lack of control and the independence is what makes it more influential.

‘There is a lot of misinformation about healthcare, and a piece in The Times will drown that out more than bloggers.

I believe we are good at working with traditional media, but we need to be careful not to lose these skills while rushing towards new media.'

Taylor conceded that social media was useful for tracking public sentiment and providing issues preparation. She added that it can help to highlight topics that the traditional media are less interested in covering.

Also at the Engaging & Compliant: Healthcare Communications conference, Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority director Heather Simmonds said the ABPI Code allows firms to do more online than they currently realise. She said: ‘The starting point is to have reference information on their websites before considering using digital comms.'

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