PHARMA'S PR DIAGNOSIS: Pharmaceutical industry's cure lies in hands of PR pros, says Trombetta

NEW YORK: Dr. Bill Trombetta, professor of pharmaceutical strategy and marketing at St. Joseph University, delivered an enthusiastic call for PR professionals to come to the rescue of the pharmaceutical industry at PRWeek's healthcare conference last week. His presentation noted PR's role in industry trends that have contributed to an increased focus on integrated communications.

NEW YORK: Dr. Bill Trombetta, professor of pharmaceutical strategy and marketing at St. Joseph University, delivered an enthusiastic call for PR professionals to come to the rescue of the pharmaceutical industry at PRWeek's healthcare conference last week. His presentation noted PR's role in industry trends that have contributed to an increased focus on integrated communications.

Trombetta began by framing the current drug-industry climate in historical terms. As the prevalence of blockbuster drugs rose through the 1990s, so did controversy over how much money drug companies were making. Trombetta hypothesized that PR can help educate industry leaders on how to communicate messages about the effectiveness of their drugs in the face of criticisms of greed.

"The press release is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a new drug," said Trombetta. "People at the top of the drug companies need to be educated so they can respond to bigger issues like consumers being mad at the industry for making so much money."

Trombetta also said PR people should help train and educate salespeople.

Heightened scrutiny over what perks are permissible for sales teams to offer doctors in hopes of getting them to buy certain drugs has resulted in a "wide-open opportunity" for PR people.

In addition to education, Trombetta said PR pros need to direct the focus of the messages about drug companies. Since the Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom debacles, "financial data is the last thing people want to look at," he explained. "Analysts are looking for other things that indicate a company is decent."

This theory, according to Trombetta, has led to the "four P's" - price, product, place, and promotion - being replaced by the "four R's": relationship, recruit, retain, and reward. Trombetta called upon PR pros to highlight these new elements when speaking to stakeholders.

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