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.


Earlier this month, I attended  a great MIT Enterprise Forum  discussion on new medical devices designed to provide low cost tests far from laboratories or medical centers, in the developing world.

At the meeting, held by the Forum’s Health Care and Life Science Special Interest Group at the British Consulate in Cambridge,  former Mass Biotechnology Council  President Una Ryan described the paper-based  medical testing technology that her new nonprofit enterprise,  Diagnostics for All  (DFA), has licensed from the George Whitesides Lab, at Harvard.

The technology allows bodily fluid to accumulate in patterns on postage-stamp sized pieces of paper–to be used for  multiple  tests simultaneously. DFA’s first project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a liver function test to monitor the effects of drugs for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to help manage viral hepatitis. Such tests, which ordinarily require laboratory evaluation, will first be sold in convenience stores in Africa at a cost of approximately ten cents each, Ryan said.

Bill Rodriguez, CEO of Daktari Diagnostics, showed a handheld, point of care, battery-operated diagnostics device the size of a small lunch box or portable radio that will first be used to test for AIDS in Africa–at a cost of $1.50 per test–starting next year. He pointed out that while drugs are available to treat the  33 million people worldwide who have  HIV– “ten million of them don’t know it.”

Scientia Advisors Partner Arshad Ahmed, who  served as moderator, (and is my client) pointed out in a recent blog that emerging markets may have the opportunity to adopt the latest point-of-care products, leapfrogging developed countries, in some instances–and that “emerging markets are where we will see the first application of low cost and inovative disruptive technologies at work.” Launching in the developing world allows companies to test out and market technologies before going through the rigorous approval process required in the developed world.

I was blown away by the prospects for  devices like these and asked when and how they will affect the  costs and structure of, say, US healthcare–and whether those who make and market our costly technologies will try to keep these new testing devices out.  While Ryan, whose nonprofit will have a commercial wing, responded that she does not expect opposition from stakeholders in our current system. But can that possibly be right?

Anita M. Harris

Anita M. Harris is President of the Harris Communications Group, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in health, science and technology industries, worldwide.


 

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.


Pharma execs with blockbuster drugs on the market should be up staying at night strategizing in case someone comes up with a “companion diagnostic” that the FDA requires before the blockbuster  can be prescribed.

So write Scientia Advisors authors Amit Agarwal and Jonathan Pan in “Theranostics and Already Approved Drugs: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You,” published in the 2010-2011 Parexel Yearbook.

Disclosure: Scientia is my client.

In the article, Agarwal, partner, and Pan, senior associate, describe the situation that led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require warning labels and recommend diagnostic testing for the blockbuster drug Plavix more than 10 years after the anti-thrombotic hit the market.  Plavix is marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis to prevent myocardiofaction (MI) or strokes.

As early as 2001, when Plavix had been on the market for four years, studies began to show that Plavix helped certain patients more than others, the authors write. By 2008, genetic testing by a competing pharmaceutical company showed that nearly one-third of Plavix users did not fully benefit from the drug.  Based on these and other trial results, in 2010 the FDA required that the manufacturers include a “black box” warning label and a diagnostic testing recommendation for the product.

In 2009, Plavix had worldwide sales of $9.5B including $5.6 B in the US. As a result of the FDA diagnostic testing recommendation, the authors project that by 2012, BMS and Sanofi Aventis will lose $450M to $575M in sales in the US alone– and more if regulators in other nations add requirements. “Given the need to maximize revenue in the face of generic competition across their portfolios, it is a significant amount to offset.” Other drugs, prescribed in conjunction with Plavix, will also most likely be impacted.

Agarwal and Pan recommend a number of actions that pharmaceutical executives can take to mitigate such potential post-launch losses.

  • Expand competitive landscape and threat assessment coverage to monitor the diagnostic environment for new research and clinical trials which could potentially impact the sales of marketed drugs
  • Upgrade skills, capabilities, reporting relationships and the organizational clout of the theranostic function
  • Develop organizational structures that allow knowledge of new biomarkers and clinical trials to reach commercial decision makers

Scientia Advisors’ article is available in the PAREXEL’s Bio/Pharma R&D Statistical Sourcebook 2010/2011 at Barnett Educational Services.

—Anita M. Harris, President, Harris Communications Group

Scientia Advisors, located in Boston and San Francisco, is a management consulting firm specializing in growth strategies for major and emerging companies in health care, life sciences, biotechnology and nutrition.

HarrisComBlog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, an award-winning public relations and marketing communications firm in 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.

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