PR as important as sales forces, says HCA survey

More than three quarters of pharma companies are increasing their use of PR, according to a survey.

The Healthcare Communications Association's (HCA) first poll of pharma firms' in-house staff assessed 17 companies, with just half of those polled working in comms and the rest in marketing/commercial and procurement.

Respondents were asked to contrast how they personally valued different comms methods with how they thought their company perceived those methods' relative worth (see chart).

On a scale of one to ten, companies seem to rate sales reps most highly (9.4), compared with a score of 6.2 for PR. But respondents' personal views scored PR and sales teams equally (8.1). They also felt corporate hierarchies overrated advertising and under-rated med ed.

Media relations continues to be the activity respondents most commonly associate with PR, followed by 'opinion leader development' and crisis management. This finding contrasts interestingly with an HCA survey earlier this year that showed agencies earn less than a quarter of their fees from media relations (PRWeek, 15 July).

This year has seen the Health Select Committee inquiry into 'The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry' and the agreement of the ABPI's tougher code of practice (PRWeek, 18 November) – both aimed at improving transparency.

But more than two thirds of HCA respondents said increased scrutiny could slow internal processes, as firms took greater care to ensure compliance with laws.

In a separate finding, pharma firms admitted frustrations with 'large' staff turnover at agencies – and, a perennial complaint from clients to agencies, lack of access to senior staff after campaigns have kicked off.

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