Crisis comms and alternative papers, patient advocacy, more

What's the best strategy to follow when an alternative newspaper is developing a negative story on your organization?

What's the best strategy to follow when an alternative newspaper is developing a negative story on your organization?

"It may be tempting to dismiss these free, weekly tabloids as news for the counterculture, but be careful," advises Ken Haseley from the Ammerman Experience.

Alternative papers still do most of the original reporting, he adds, and other news outlets rely on them to do news gathering. So the story you ignore may take on another life elsewhere. Moreover, because they often devote significant space to a story, these publications may be your best opportunity to get your side of the story out in some detail.

While most journalists who write for these papers lean toward the investigative, notes Haseley, they are trained, serious reporters, and some may end up working for what your management considers the "legitimate" news media.

Haseley notes that the best strategy is to afford these outlets the same respect and courtesy you give other media: Return phone calls promptly. Put your content expert in direct contact with the reporter. Follow up if you say you will.

"And don't merely be reactive in the interview," he says. Have one or two short, core messages, and bolster them with quotable analogies or stories.

Patient advocacy

How can you make the most of your relationship with patient advocacy groups?

The changing landscape for healthcare has posed new challenges, especially a rising skepticism by consumers and media, says Valerie Itkin of Porter Novelli Life Sciences (PNLS).

"PR pros have increasingly targeted third-party advocacy groups to reach patients, help influence policy, and ultimately add credibility to their programs," she says. "However, it
is important to choose the right advocacy partner."

Most large healthcare companies have longstanding relationships with established groups that expect significant grant funding. Mid- to-small healthcare companies don't have the same resources.

"Partner with a smaller advocacy group," suggests PNLS' Holli Kolkey Dickson. "They're often eager to work with companies that provide even modest financial resources, which they view as an opportunity to improve visibility."

"For example," she adds, "the advocacy partner may be willing to speak with media or they may need patient materials for members. As part of an education grant, you may be able to contribute to content and sponsor design and printing costs. This can ensure a mutually beneficial relationship."

Press conferences

What can PR pros do to create a more newsworthy press conference featuring new products?

"PR pros can present enthusiastic customers or other experts that have improved ways to solve old problems using the new products," says Mark Hart of OpLaunch.

He suggests providing opportunities to interview these evangelists and showcase new applications for new markets that are made possible using the new products.

In addition to a company spokesperson and a static PowerPoint presentation, Hart suggests exploring other options, such as showcasing the products using both live and prerecorded demonstrations.

"Minimize the time devoted to discussing minor improvements to product specifications," he adds. "Restrict the reporting of the company's financial results to a few summary statements. Acknowledge that the 'details' are in the press kit and devote most of the time to interactive communication."

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