At a glance: BIA refreshes its comms best practice guidelines

What is the BIA?
The BioIndustry Association was set up in 1989 as a lobby organisation for the bioscience sector in the UK. It exists to promote emerging businesses, in particular, to stakeholders such as politicians and patient groups. It has 300 members, including pharma companies and biotechs, as well as accountancy firms, legal practices, and even PR agencies.

So what's this initiative?
A new version of its best practice code, launched in 1999 and updated in 2001, for members on financial and corporate comms. The wider aim is to ensure continued investor confidence - and therefore the sector's growth and stability, which is why it has support from the Financial Services Authority, London Stock Exchange and the Department of Trade and Industry Bioscience Unit.

Has so much changed since 2001?
The financial and regulatory landscape has altered considerably in the past few years. The BIA's updated version takes in new Listing Rules brought in last year, as well as this year's Turnbull Guidance, which sets out best practice on internal control for UK-listed companies. It also covers the FSA's new Combined Code, introduced in June, which focuses on issues such as board composition, remuneration, accountability and relations with shareholders.

Does the BIA see itself in a comms leadership role?
Yes. It expects quoted companies to be already aware of their comms responsibilities, but BIA media relations manager Francetta Carr says smaller and private companies will benefit from this pulling together of relevant regulation into a bioscience setting.

Is the BIA doing anything else?
As part of the initiative, the BIA has introduced a foundation course in corporate comms for small bioscience companies. For £4,500, they get a two-day comms workshop run by external consultants, plus 15 hours of ad hoc phone or email support in the following year.

So is this taking work away from PR agencies that could advise firms in this area?
The BIA says not. Its line is that the course - which covers how to write press releases, handle media interviews and consider different audiences - is designed for start-ups or small companies that are not yet at the stage of retaining their own agency.

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