Companies should certainly prepare for the possibility of a product recall–but  “no matter how prepared you are,  you will never be prepared enough.”  So said Lisa Adler, VP Corporate Communications at Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company,  in moderating a panel  on “Communications During Product Recall.”    The panel, held on September 19,  was sponsored by the company and MassBio.

In her experience, Adler said, “things never go smoothly.  You need to anticipate that. ”

Panelists recommended that companies have a “war room” in which stakeholders–including  decisionmakers from legal, regulatory,  and other key departments– gather to approve everything that goes out.

Manisha Pai, Millennium’s PR director pointed out the importance of being prepared to use–and respond to– social media. “While you can’t get your entire message out in a 140-word Twitter message,”  she said, you can link it to more complete information on your home page.

[Boston Globe Reporter Rob Weisman and  thestreet.com ‘s Adam Feurstein both said that while they might follow a few companies on Twitter they consider such communiques “tips” or alerts” to follow up on, rather than news items in themselves.]

When Weisman asked fellow panelists whether companies’ communications efforts in recalls  are  meant to protect the company or the public,  Pai, of  Millennium responded, “It’s both. ”

As a consumer-focused company, she explained, “our reputation rests on our responsibility to consumers and on our role as a public citizen. We need to protect the public–and also the company. ”
Adler added that,  for Millennium, protecting the public comes first.

Feuerstein and  Arlene Weintraub,  Xconomy’s New York City bureau chief, both emphasized the importance of transparency–and telling the whole story as soon as possible.

Feuerstein said:  “Coverup is the biggest crime.”  It’s better to risk getting some negative press in the beginning if need be–because if you wait a few months to come forward,  the analysts “will nail you….You often can’t recover from that.”

Anita M. Harris, President
Harris Communications Group

HarrisCom Blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning  public relations and marketing firm located inCambridge, MA.  We also publish New Cambridge Observer. 

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The days of using  media hits  to measure public relations success  are long gone, according to research-and-measurement expert Ann Getman, Principal of Getman Strategic Communications in Cambridge, MA. 
At a recent meeting of the Independent Practitioners Network of the Public Relations Society of  America’s Boston Chapter,  Getman, who works with companies and nonprofits, advised measuring outreach campaigns in three phases: outputs, outtakes, and outcomes.
Outputs
Outputs are “short-term quantitative measures of what was put out to target audiences, including process measures (activities directed at raising visibility) and product,”  Getman said. Outputs include events, meetings, appearances, presentations, trade shows, or press release, press kits, brochures, trade show booth, tweets and the like.
Traditionally, she  said,  PR  firms have measured their success by counting the number of times an organization’s name  appeared in print on broadcasts; column inches or length of broadcast;  potential exposures if every reader or viewer in the market saw the article or segment;  the comparable cost for  reaching as many people with paid ads;  or public opinion polls measuring awareness, opinion and intent at one point in time.
Outtakes
A more effective measure, in her view,   is of  “outtakes.”  That is, what audiences take away from the communication–whether messages were received, understood, recalled or retained.
 Outtakes may be  measured through direct responses via mail,  phone, fax, email or  Web pages; letters to an editor, organization or individual; calls to a hotline or 800-number;  recall and retention studies; visits to an office, program or site,  reported intent to behave in a certain way;  requests for information or materials; visits to a question and answer or FAQ page on a Web site, focus groups demonstrating a change of awareness; “before and after” surveys, or mentions in blogs.
Content analysis assigns quantitative values to the key elements of messages in order to measures changes in the tone, language or topics of media coverage; accuracy of key facts and points, or  sources cited. 
Outcomes
Outcome research, Getman says, measures the impact of communications programs on behavior and how well a campaign has fulfilled an organization’s  objectives in launching it. Was there a change in the communications flow, employee participation or retention? Were desired actions taken by opinion leaders? Have donations increased?  Response rate to direct mail improved?  Was the quality of job applicants effected?   The amount and quality of media coverage? What about the company’s market position,  customer awareness levels or recognition of its name?
Getman says it’s important to include measurement in a communications campaign before allocating resources for outreach. ” It’s impossible –and disingenuous–  to attach meaningful measures after the fact, and knowing in advance how you’ll evaluate will keep you on target and in focus.” 
I find that my clients m are sometimes  tempted to look directly at the bottom line in measuring success:  has increased media coverage led directly to increased sales?   Depending on the product and the type of company,  the answer is, sometimes, “yes.”
But, more  often, the coverage leads to Web hits or inquiries;  if the right audiences have been  targeted, it’s then up to the sales team to bring the customers in.
At times, though, it’s difficult to quantify just what led to a specific goal.
For example,  after a conference for which I garnered  national and international media coverage, my client, a small research institute,  received a  multimillion dollar grant from a health insurance company to launch a new research center.  Did the increased visibility and prestige help
Probably. Would the hoped-for grant have come through anyway? Much as I believe in quantifying success…that’s something we will never know.

Anita Harris

Anita M. Harris is president of the Harris Communications Group, a public relations and marketing communications firm in Cambridge, MA.


 

The Harris Communications Group is pleased to present:

Branding for Startups and Emerging Companies: What, How, and Why for Busy Entrepreneurs.

A nuts and bolts workshop with Julianne Zimmerman, strategic consultant.

Moderated by Anita Harris, President, Harris Communications Group, and hosted by the Cambridge Innovation Center.

4 pm Thursday, December 9
Cambridge Innovation Center
1 Broadway 4th floor, Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA
Followed by networking at the Venture Cafe

The first in a series of workshop/seminars sponsored by the Harris Communications Group  at  the Cambridge Innovation Center

RSVP http://brandingforbusiness-harriscom.eventbrite.com/
Pre-registrants attending the workshop will be entered in a drawing to receive a complimentary hour of consulting with  Julianne Zimmerman or Anita Harris.

*


Julianne Zimmerman provides high-value strategic guidance to entrepreneurs and executives of small and early-stage organizations.  She is an accomplished veteran of boutique and startup companies, with more than 20 years’ experience in technical, strategic, and communications leadership roles,www.juliannezimmerman.com or www.linkedin.com/in/juliannezimmerman .

Anita Harris, president of the Harris Communications Group, is an award-winning strategic communications consultant specializing in marketing communications, media relations and social media for emerging and established companies. www.harriscom.com.

Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) is the largest flexible office facility for growing technology and life sciences companies in the Greater Boston area.

The Venture Café, currently in its alpha stage, is in session each Thursday from 3-8pm. The cafe is a resource for the Boston entrepreneurial and innovation communities with the mission of creating fresh and useful conversations. As the Venture Cafe prepares to enter its permanent home in Kendall Square, the founders project that the marriage of innovation and creativity with a European-style cafe space will facilitate collaboration and build a greater sense of community in Kendall Square. www.venturecafe.net. Information: Carrie Stalder, Founding Manager for The Venture Café, 617-329-1324, carrie@venturecafe.net


Explaining how agencies charge for media outreach is always an interesting challenge. Most work on retainer (receiving a monthly fee in return for promised services). Some operate on a project basis, or charge an hourly fee. The other day, someone wrote in to Harvard-Startups, a list-serve to which I subscribe, asking if some public relations firms work on a “results” basis–that is, get paid only for coverage they obtain, not just hours.

I was impressed with a response from  Sylvia Scott, who has worked in public relations and is now  Creator & Director of Realizing A Vision Conference, Girl’s CEO Connection. She said it would be fine for me to share it, so here goes:

By “hours” do you mean paid by the hour? Most good ones are not paid on an hourly basis as the norm may be a specific number of hours devoted to you per month and the fee is determined by many variables.

Paid by results –well let’s see-an article in the New York Times may be valued at $10,000 for some companies. For others it may be more- if your PR firm gets you on Larry King vs. say GMA how would you differentiate. I got a client on Fox Morning show in San Diego-now
what would be the difference in fee from San Diego and say Chicago or Dallas? AND if you get editorial in the Tulsa World that is picked up by AP and then the article or or let’s say you get a call to be interviewed by the New York Times how do you pay for that?

Some results may take 3 months and then others 6 months-also, if the pitches are going on and accepted yet there is another scandal in the White House like it happened with Bill Clinton and the scheduled interview or placement is moved or forgotten-which is not the fault of the PR firm-are you going to not pay them for their work?

I know I did not answer you directly-just wanted you to see that “results” may not always be the same and some times one result leads to another even though no extra hours were put into place.

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I  chimed in  that the Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics frowns on promising results that can’t be guaranteed, so most PR consultants won’t work with clients on a straight contingency basis. Because it can take three-to-six months to build relationships with reporters on clients’ behalf, I prefer to work on retainer. But I have occasionally worked on a project basis–charging a minimum fee to cover time and effort with a bonus for major media “hits”.

Media relations is a tricky business–especially in today’s shifting media landscape. If you’re hiring, I’d advise paying more attention to a PR consultant’s track record than to promises, plan on a six month minimum and, for that period, at least,  keep the faith.

—Anita M. Harris
Anita M. Harris is President of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.


The New York Times doesn’t need me to provide free advertising (I hope!) –but I found today’s business section fabulous for anyone interested in social media and media relations and thought I’d share some of the wealth.

First–David Carr, in The Zeal of a Convert to Twitter writes about  how long-form magazine journalist, Buzz Bissinger,  the author of “Friday Night Lights,” got hooked on twitter… 

Then, there are Noam Cohen’s piece on Wiki Leaks: A Renegade Site, Now Working With the News Media

and Claire Cain Miller and Ashlee Vance on   Bing and Google in a Race for Features .

 Robert Cyran opines on how the growing popularity of the Ipad could present problems for many tech industries in  iPad shift may wreak havoc on parts of tech sector

and Jenna Wortham describes “tumbler,” a blogging platform that sounds like a cross of Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress, and which, supposedly, many media companies are starting to use to promote themselves.  Media Companies Try Getting Social With Tumblr .

There are also articles on the UAR’s attempt to block blackberry messaging unless BB allows government monitoring, there, and  Clarie Miller’s piece,  New Site Aims to Connect Reporters and Publicists , which describes  NewsBasis,  a site on which journalists can get queries to potential sources, which  launched today.

Founded by Darryl Siry, a freelance writer for Wired and a marketing executive,  the new site sounds much like Peter Shankman’s  Help a Reporter Out, (AKA HARO) in that it allows journalists to post questions or search for sources–  asking questions anonymously to avoid tipping off competitors. 

Speaking as former journalist, I can’t imagine giving away ideas, even anonymously–tho fishing in public is certainly easier than digging for sources.

Evidently,  on NewsBasis, sources can also add a footnote to articles across the Web, so when reporters are doing research using their Web browser, a tab will appear indicating that a NewsBasis source has offered a different point of view or corrected a fact.

I hope this wasn’t too much information for one shot…but, hey, it’s the information age, we’re talking about here.  I’ll be interested in seeing how all of this works out.

Anita M. Harris

Anita M. Harris is president of the Harris Communications Group, a marketing communications, media relations and social media firm in Cambridge, MA.


Sorry to read in today’s Boston Globe that both Business Wire and PR Newswire -which are paid to send out press releases–were hornswaggled by a media relations imposter for whom each posted fake stories.

According to Globe reporter Todd Wallach, last week, PR Newswire   sent out a fake press release claiming President Obama had ordered a probe into General Mills.

And on Friday, Business Wire sent a release falsely claiming that Javelin Pharmaceuticals had won a 5-to-4 victory before the Supreme Court with the aid of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In both cases, the releases were rescinded  before they could affect the companies’ stock prices, Wallach reports.

Both  included a New Zealand phone number at the bottom. 

When Wallach called the number,  Matt Reed, a 30-year-old database designer in Auckland told him that he’d sent the General Mills release to discredit President Obama.  And that he’d sent the Javelin release to push Business Wire and other press release companies to step up their security to prevent future hoaxes.

Odd, to say the least–but definitely a cause for concern.  And, Wallach reports, an FBI investigation.

As a media relations professional, I’ve found both Business Wire and PR Newswire (as well as Marketwire) to be above-board and careful–but can see how hoaxes like these can easily be perpetrated by anyone who has a credit card.

 Not sure if paid wire services need to require background checks before posting releases or if I‘d be willing to undergo one…but do think there’s a need for greater scrutiny of press releases–not just by the paid wire services but by bonafide journalistic wire services, as well.

Again, under my media relations hat, I was delighted when, several years ago, the Associate Press ran a press release I sent on behalf of a client verbatim–except for one minor change in wording.  (Uncredited, of course).

I like to think it was such a great release that nothing needed to be done to it–or that perhaps my reputation for honesty was known. 

But, under my journalist’s hat, I was appalled that no one from AP called me or my client to confirm that we had actually sent the release–or checked the facts– before disseminating it to the world.

Today the situation is even more serious: anyone with a computer and an Internet  can post anything to the world. 

On the one hand, this great boon to free speech and the sharing of ideas and information.

But on the other, the burgeoning of Internet use has eroded the readership, financial position and  gatekeeping power of the traditional press. In financial distress,  news organizations are cutting corners–and staff. Reporters and editors are being asked to do more, faster.  

 Not only is there less coverage, but it is becoming more to difficult trust the accuracy of what is covered. The traditional press has long been our nation’s main bastion for protecting the marketplace of ideas from the spread of disinformation. 

I hope that media organizations, bloggers, anyone in a position to disseminate information will do so responsibly. And that my readers, business owners, the American public,  will subscribe, buy ads, do what you can–to prevent a potentially dangerous situation from getting worse.

Here’s a link to the Globe article:  http://www.boston.com/business/healthcare/articles/2010/06/23/cambridges_javelin_is_latest_target_of_hoax/

Anita M. Harris, president of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA, is a former national journalist who has taught journalism at Harvard, Yale and Tufts Universities and at Simmons College.

HarrisCom blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer and Ithaca Diaries.


A kazoo that records the air composition  in your lungs? Pill bottle caps that tell your doctor if you’ve take your medication?  A headband that measures how well you sleep? A gadget that relays your blood sugar  level to your doctor’s office—through your Smart Phone? Those are just a few of the new devices in the growing field of “local health monitoring” —through  which people can keep track of their own health conditions without setting foot in a hospital or doctor’s office.

Those gadgets—and others—were described at a recent panel discussion sponsored by the Medical Development Group, a Boston area organization for individuals involved  in medical technologies.

Frank McGillin, Vice President of Global Marketing for Philips Healthcare, which markets a variety of home monitoring devices, emphasized the importance these devices in light of growing health care costs.

He cited government statistics showing that  health care current accounts for 17.6 percent of the  gross domestic product in the US, and that by 2050, half of the population in the developed world will be chronically ill—making traditional medical care  fiscally overwhelming. 

Monitoring devices and telemedicine are already used for coaching patients remotely–and monitoring may also soon be available to determine measuring cancer patients’ readiness for—and the effectiveness of—chemotherapy—from home.

Ben Rubin, Co-Founder and Chief Technology officer of Zeo, in Newton, MA, described a headset and device that monitor an individual’s REM sleep and factors influencing sleep patterns.  Knowing how well you sleep is important because sleep is closely tied to health conditions like obesity, depression, diabetes and the like, Rubin said. “If you measure it, you can manage it.” 

The devices, which cost $250,  connect to  an Internet site. For an additional $100, ZEO provides email advice coaching to help individuals improve their “sleep hygiene.” 

 I’ve since learned of a Smart Phone application designed to promote better sleep:  using the Ap, you put your phone under your pillow to measure your movement (and restlessness) during sleep.

David Rose, Chief Executive officer of Vitality, Inc., in Cambridge, MA—explained that the above-mentioned pill bottle “glo-caps” can “ sense”  when a patient takes a medication, and, via a wireless Internet connection, show health care professionals whether reminder calls should be made. The caps illuminate, play a melody, and even ring a home phone to remind patients to take their pills.  The caps can send weekly emails to remote caregivers, create accountability with doctors through an adherence report, and automatically refill prescriptions. 

Glo-Caps are not currently available for purchase by individuals, but they are being used by patients enrolled in programs sponsored by certain health insurers and pharmacies.

Rose, who teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, previously founded and ran Ambient Devices, where he pioneered embedding monitoring devices in everyday objects such as:   umbrellas that can sense if it is going to rain; bathroom scales showing trend lines for weight-loss or gain; objects that measure air quality; a spirometer “kazoo” that measures the chemistry of air expelled from the lungs, and a telephone that uses an individual’s vocal qualities to measure depression. 

Devorah Klein, PhD, a principal at Continuum, in Newton, MA, designs and studies the effectiveness of self-monitoring and other devices. 

 An expert in patient adherence to therapy regimes for diabetes, asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and erectile dysfunction, she described the importance of understanding how users interact with devices. Simple designs are key because “many patients are not all that interested” in devices— learning how  to use them, or how they work.

Panelists also described use of  Internet tools such as Google to measure flu trends; Healthmedia, through which Johnson & Johnson provides digital coaching for managing stress and chronic disease, Philips Direct, which provides live coaching over email, and various “calorie and other body monitors through which individuals can receive online coaching through gyms

David Barash, MD, president of Concord Healthcare Strategies and the panel moderator, pointed out that local monitoring devices are growing in popularity in sync with an aging population, increasing chronic disease, and new Internet technologies. 

According to a recent review by my client, Scientia Advisors, remote home monitoring, with a market size of 1.8B in 2007,  is growing at a combined annual growth rate of 15% per year–which makes remote monitoring  the fastest growing segment in a home health industry projected to reach $200B by 2012.

However, Barash said,  business models for many remote or local  monitoring products are, as yet, unproved.

One problem  is that, in the absence of adequate clinical trials, insurance reimbursement is limited, which makes doctors reluctant to adopt remote monitoring, Scientia found.

There are also questions about how doctors will be able to handle potentially huge quantities of data, potential liability issues,  Barash said, and  about the usefulness of  data from a myriad of individual monitors—when so many health conditions are interconnected. 

 “It’s very important for companies to ask, ‘Do people want this device? Will they use it?’” Barash said.

After the meeting, I mentioned to an  MDG board member that I don’t want all of this surveillance. “I’m just not that interested in my bodily functions,” I said.
“Just wait ten years,” she assured me.  “You will be.”

—Anita M. Harris

Anita M. Harris is the founder and president of the Harris Communications Group, a public relations firm in Cambridge, MA.  HarrisCom publishes the HarrisCom Blog and New Cambridge Observer

All rights reserved; please email us at info at harriscom.com for permission to use or reprint this material. Thanks!  

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