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How to Make Your Alliance Stories Newsworthy (Except When You Don’t Want Them to Be!)—Part Three

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Updated: Saturday, September 30, 2017

In a lively presentation punctuated by pithy quotes, interesting cases, and vivid stories underscoring the “dos” and “don’ts” of alliance public relations, Lori McLaughlin, corporate communications director at Anthem, and ASAP Chairman Brooke Paige, CSAP, staff vice president, strategic initiatives, and chief of staff, HealthCore, explored the topic in their Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference session, “Why Keep the Good News to Yourself? Internal Partnerships for External Promotion: How to Work with Your PR/Communications Lead.” ASAP Media’s coverage of the session concludes below in Part Three of this three-part blog series.

 

Elaborating on recommended practices for sustaining stories, Paige noted that HealthCore maintains an editorial content calendar tracking key events, key milestones in collaborations (and whether they are newsworthy internally or externally), major publications or presentations, and significant accomplishments. “Not only does this become a huge part of our potential press, items on our website, LinkedIn and Twitter, but the story could make our company newsletter, our Anthem intranet, it could become talking points for senior executives in a variety of settings, and so on. So these elements are very much reused and the story is extended,” she explained.

 

“No presentation about PR would be complete without the ‘know your role in the event of a crisis’ topic,” Paige continued. “We say we need to err on the side of transparency. When a potential threat becomes known, advise your alliance partner around the possible impact.” The presenters then cited a real-life case of a reporter who believed that a partnership created a conflict of interest—and was sniffing around for proof of his allegations after discovering an old press release announcing the partnership. “We contacted the partner, said here’s the essence of allegation, the reporter is claiming some sort of conflict of interest, then we told the partner the facts and why we didn’t think there was a conflict,” Paige explained. “The partner prepped their leaders. The story did come out but it amounted to nothing. Still, we wanted to make sure we covered all our bases.”

 

McLaughlin and Paige’s final checklist for partnering with communications to tell your alliance stories:

  • Make sure you know who to work with in PR long before ready to share story.
  • Approach the team long before you’re ready.
  • Don’t ask for a press release. “Ask how they can help you tell a story to a specific audience or broader audience. That will make you look so sophisticated as you make that request,” McLaughlin emphasized.
  • Understand news value and lead with it when pitching the story to your communications team.
    Coordinate with alliance partners. Share talking points and plans across collaborators.

In response to a session participant’s question, McLaughlin wrapped up the discussion by returning to the importance of ensuring your alliance announcements are newsworthy stories—and of NOT pushing an announcement that the media would consider a throw-away put out by PR hacks.

 

“More than putting out press release, it’s pitching the story,” McLaughlin explained. “Reporters say they like me because I don’t pitch a story unless I have one—so they at least give me the benefit of doubt. [That’s important] because they get so many stories thrown at them. Certain companies shoot out a release when anything happens, but this so-called ‘news’ is not really relevant, and therefore, they don’t have that credibility that I’ve earned with media. That’s your long-term argument” when you push back on your boss’s request to issue a release on a story that isn’t so newsworthy—“you want that credibility.”

Tags:  alliance manager  alliance partner  alliances  Anthem  AstraZenica  Brooke Paige  credibility  Dow Jones News Service  FiercePharma  HealthCore  Lori McLaughlin  Medical News Today  news value  newsworthy  partnering  Pharmacist elink  pitching story  press releases  SmartBrief  spokesperson  threat  WSJ.com 

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How to Make Your Alliance Stories Newsworthy (Except When You Don’t Want Them to Be!)—Part Two

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Updated: Saturday, September 30, 2017

In a lively presentation punctuated by pithy quotes, interesting cases, and vivid stories underscoring the “dos” and “don’ts” of alliance public relations, Lori McLaughlin, corporate communications director at Anthem, and ASAP Chairman Brooke Paige, CSAP, staff vice president, strategic initiatives, and chief of staff, HealthCore, explored the topic in their Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference session, “Why Keep the Good News to Yourself? Internal Partnerships for External Promotion: How to Work with Your PR/Communications Lead.” ASAP Media’s coverage continues below in Part Two of this three-part blog series on the session.

Once you’ve identified something you believe is newsworthy, your next step is to identify all of the extended team members who have corporate communications, PR or external promotions roles, and introduce them to your alliance counterparts; then find their counterparts. Some of the titles involved could include corporate communications leader, public relations director, content manager, social media manager, marketing leader, digital strategies manager, communications director, media director, external communications, and internal communications.

 

And then the next step is to approach one of these folks and ask them to write a press release—right?

 

No, no, no. As McLaughlin emphasized, your colleagues in communications inevitably bristle (now you know why) when you approach them saying, “we need to do a press release on this!”

 

Instead, there’s a more detailed process involved in launching the story—which may or may not include doing a press release. Indeed, you need to get good at explaining to your boss why in many cases you do NOT recommend doing a press release. “Brooke and I have to work it out—does it make sense to do press release, or maybe a webinar,” or something else, McLaughlin said.

 

“Another big issue—how to find the right spokesperson,” she continued. “You can get help from communications, but communications needs your support. People often look for the biggest title but it’s not always best. The media like someone who really knows the content. If you put a high-level person on the phone with the SME [Subject Matter Expert] that helps, but it can be awkward because the journalist doesn’t necessarily know who is talking. But also sometimes the people extremely in the weeds aren’t the right person either.”

 

A key exercise is to “develop your elevator pitch and core messaging, which guides us to tell what it’s all about. How can you sell someone your story in 30 seconds?” McLaughlin said. Paige recalled that she and McLaughlin found it useful to use HealthCore’s Twitter description to hone down its messaging. “Prior to that, it was difficult to understand that really we’re a research company.”

 

Once you’ve launched your story, you need to think about how to sustain it. Using the example of the announcement of HealthCore’s partnership with AstraZeneca, Paige and McLaughlin illustrated this principle with a story that started as an exclusive offered to Dow Jones News Service (the reporter got the story “under embargo” and was able to write the story and publish it first, an hour before a press release hit the newswire). Subsequently, over time, a variety of news outlets covered the story—including WSJ.com, FiercePharma, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s SmartBrief, Pharmacist elink, and Medical News Today. Finally, no news cycle should end without your alliance story being told internally. The partnership with AstraZeneca received extensive media coverage as well as internal publicity thanks to a variety of activities that kept the story “alive.”

 

Continue learning about the approach to public relations that Paige and McLaughlin use at Anthem and HealthCore in Part Three of ASAP Media’s coverage of their Friday, Sept. 18, 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference session, “Why Keep the Good News to Yourself? Internal Partnerships for External Promotion: How to Work with Your PR/Communications Lead.”

Tags:  alliance manager  alliances  Anthem  Brooke Paige  credibility  FiercePharma  HealthCore  LinkedIn  Lori McLaughlin  major publications  news value  newsworthy  partnering  Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s Smart  Pharmacist  pitching story  presentations  press releases  spokesperson  Twitter  WSJ.com 

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How to Make Your Alliances Newsworthy (Except When You Don’t Want Them to Be!)

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Friday, September 22, 2017

“If it bleeds, it leads.” (the succinct definition of “newsworthy”)

“If I had only two dollars left, I would spend one on PR.” (Bill Gates)

And one of my favorite quotes of all time: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” (Mark Twain)

 

Punctuated by pithy quotes, interesting cases, and some vivid stories underscoring the “dos” and “don’ts” of alliance public relations, this was one fun 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference session—and not just for me and other folks in the room with journalism and/or corporate communications experience. But the two presenter—Lori McLaughlin, corporate communications director at Anthem, and ASAP Chairman Brooke Paige, CSAP, staff vice president, strategic initiatives, and chief of staff, HealthCore—tackled a serious topic: “Why Keep the Good News to Yourself? Internal Partnerships for External Promotion: How to Work with Your PR/Communications Lead.”

 

From the beginning, McLaughlin and Paige emphasized the importance of a strong relationship between corporate communications and alliance management. Paige started with how the two of them work together at Anthem—one of the largest payers/insurers in the US representing one in eight American lives—to promote the company’s partnerships with biopharma companies.

 

“A bit about our relationship first—HealthCore is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anthem,” Paige said. “It is HealthCore that holds primary responsibility for alliance relationships in the life sciences space.  So it is Lori and her team who help get our alliance stories out. She also coordinates our media training for our senior executives and company spokespersons. She has been an incredible asset to us in telling our alliance stories both internally and externally.”

 

Starting with the “if it bleeds, it leads” dictum, McLaughlin dove into the rich topic of the session by focusing on what makes an alliance particularly “newsworthy” to communications colleagues—and how alliance executives can help identify opportunities to highlight their collaborations. She emphasized that while many people know advertising, they fail to recognize that many brands have been built largely or entirely via public relations. That takes understanding that “novelty, human interest, tragedy, conflict, timeliness, celebrity, extremes (superlatives)—these are all things that make a story ‘newsworthy’ in the eyes of the media,” McLaughlin continued, illustrating her point by noting that Anthem has been covered in the media (positively) for its efforts to help combat the heroin epidemic, certainly an ongoing story that “bleeds.”

 

Applying this to alliance news, McLaughlin suggested you ask the following questions to help determine if something is newsworthy:

  • Is this really new and different? And for whom?
  • Does this create market disruption?
  • Does this solve a burning problem?
  • Ask yourself the “So what? Why should my aunt care?”

Once you’ve identified something you believe is newsworthy, your next step is to identify all of the extended team members who have corporate communications, PR or external promotions roles, and introduce them to your alliance counterparts; then find their counterparts. Some of the titles involved could include corporate communications leader, public relations director, content manager, social media manager, marketing leader, digital strategies manager, communications director, media director, external communications, and internal communications.

 

And then the next step is to approach one of these folks and ask them to write a press release—right?

 

No, no, no. As McLaughlin emphasized, your colleagues in communications inevitably bristle (now you know why) when you approach them saying, “we need to do a press release on this!”

 

Instead, there’s a more detailed process involved in launching the story—which may or may not include doing a press release. Indeed, you need to get good at explaining to your boss why in many cases you do NOT recommend doing a press release. “Brooke and I have to work it out—does it make sense to do press release, or maybe a webinar,” or something else, McLaughlin said.

 

“Another big issue—how to find the right spokesperson,” she continued. “You can get help from communications, but communications needs your support. People often look for the biggest title but it’s not always best. The media like someone who really knows the content. If you put a high-level person on the phone with the SME [Subject Matter Expert] that helps, but it can be awkward because the journalist doesn’t necessarily know who is talking. But also sometimes the people extremely in the weeds aren’t the right person either.”

 

A key exercise is to “develop your elevator pitch and core messaging, which guides us to tell what it’s all about. How can you sell someone your story in 30 seconds?” McLaughlin said. Paige recalled that she and McLaughlin found it useful to use HealthCore’s Twitter description to hone down its messaging. “Prior to that, it was difficult to understand that really we’re a research company.”

 

Once you’ve launched your story, you need to think about how to sustain it. Using the example of the announcement of HealthCore’s partnership with AstraZeneca, Paige and McLaughlin illustrated this principle with a story that started as an exclusive offered to Dow Jones News Service (the reporter got the story “under embargo” and was able to write the story and publish it first, an hour before a press release hit the newswire). Subsequently, over time, a variety of news outlets covered the story—including WSJ.com, FiercePharma, Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s SmartBrief, Pharmacist elink, and Medical News Today. Finally, no news cycle should end without your alliance story being told internally. The partnership with AstraZeneca received extensive media coverage as well as internal publicity thanks to a variety of activities that kept the story “alive.”

 

Elaborating on recommended practices for sustaining stories, Paige noted that HealthCore maintains an editorial content calendar tracking key events, key milestones in collaborations (and whether they are newsworthy internally or externally), major publications or presentations, and significant accomplishments. “Not only does this become a huge part of our potential press, items on our website, LinkedIn and Twitter, but the story could make our company newsletter, our Anthem intranet, it could become talking points for senior executives in a variety of settings, and so on. So these elements are very much reused and the story is extended,” she explained.

 

“No presentation about PR would be complete without the ‘know your role in the event of a crisis’ topic,” Paige continued. “We say we need to err on the side of transparency. When a potential threat becomes known, advise your alliance partner around the possible impact.” The presenters then cited a real-life case of a reporter who believed that a partnership created a conflict of interest—and was sniffing around for proof of his allegations after discovering an old press release announcing the partnership. “We contacted the partner, said here’s the essence of allegation, the reporter is claiming some sort of conflict of interest, then we told the partner the facts and why we didn’t think there was a conflict,” Paige explained. “The partner prepped their leaders. The story did come out but it amounted to nothing. Still, we wanted to make sure we covered all our bases.”

 

McLaughlin and Paige’s final checklist for partnering with communications to tell your alliance stories:

  • Make sure you know who to work with in PR long before ready to share story.
  • Approach the team long before you’re ready.
  • Don’t ask for a press release. “Ask how they can help you tell a story to a specific audience or broader audience. That will make you look so sophisticated as you make that request,” McLaughlin said.
  • Understand news value and lead with it when pitching the story to your communications team.
  • Coordinate with alliance partners. Share talking points and plans across collaborators

Tags:  alliance manager  alliances  Anthem  Brooke Paige  credibility  FiercePharma  HealthCore  LinkedIn  Lori McLaughlin  major publications  news value  newsworthy  partnering  Pharmaceutical Care Management Association’s Smart  pitching story  presentations  press releases  spokesperson  Twitter  WSJ.com 

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ASAP BioPharma Conference Keynoter Dr. Sam Nussbaum: ’An Industry under Siege Must Take on a Different Social Contract’

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A couple of weeks ago, renowned physician Dr. Samuel Nussbaum—who served as chief medical officer for Anthem through 16 years of dramatic change in the healthcare industry—took the stage at the Sept. 7-9, 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference in Boston with a big grin, twinkling eyes, and an embrace of new ASAP Chairman Brooke Paige. Paige introduced Dr. Nussbaum and noted that speaking in Boston was a homecoming for “America’s Physician,” who trained in internal medicine at Massachusetts General and then in endocrinology at Harvard. Indeed, Nussbaum, who is now strategic consultant for EGB Advisors, paid homage to the Boston and Cambridge, Mass., area’s medical science history and still-expanding potential for academic partnerships.

“One only has to go a few blocks west of here to see where Merck began to work with Harvard; Novartis has a research center near MIT in Cambridge,” Nussbaum noted. Then he turned serious. “It’s great to be here,” he began, “but it’s also an extraordinary time in healthcare, an industry, a space, under siege. It’s no longer fully understandable to say we discover, we cure, we make health better for the world. One has to take on a different social contract … and drive collaboration.”

Nussbaum echoed Dickens’ famous description of the Elizabethan era in England.

“We live at a time which is unprecedented. It’s the best of times, because we are in an age of unprecedented advances in medical technology and human science, yet it’s the worst of times, because we have a healthcare system in the US and around the world that doesn’t provide access for everyone. The state of public health is not a focus; the quality of medical care doesn’t keep pace with the science. Looking back to halcyon days, we had a great healthcare system [in the US] and research leading to some of the most extraordinary advances in healthcare. Yet we have storm clouds on the horizon.”

Nussbaum discussed a variety of driving forces vs. restraining forces

  • Breakthrough science vs. affordability for government and private payers
  • Personalized medicine vs. reputation issues
  • Technology, big data, bioinformatics vs. value-based payment models, bundled payment
  • Patient-centered outcomes and clinical design vs. impact of consolidation

He juxtaposed several triumphs of modern medicine with what has become a key factor in recent news coverage of the pharma industry and in the run-up to 2016 US presidential election.

“Cardiac death rates dramatically reduced. Antiviral drugs transform HIV into a chronic illness vs. a killer. And screening and better drugs improve cancer survival. But there is anger, there is outrage,” over high-profile drug price increases in the US and lack of access in other places in the world. “Why are people so angry? Because they can’t afford, and as nations, we can’t afford, the cost of healthcare,” he said. “Over the last decade, the average US family wage hasn’t changed much—from $49,309 to $53,800. Why the movement to Sanders or Trump? Capitalizing on outrage.”

He further explained the context of this outrage—and why expanded coverage (in Massachusetts and across the US under Obama’s Affordable Care Act) hasn’t been the cure-all for healthcare in the US.

“Massachusetts was the first state to have universal coverage. It was done under ‘Romney Care,’ similar to ‘Obamacare,” he said. The problem? “In Massachusetts, healthcare costs went up $5.1 billion and everyone applauded that type of access. But look what happened to other essential services: public health spending down 40 percent; mental health spending down 33 percent, etc.” In other words, Nussbaum explained, “We stole from what are called the social determinants of health. We know that education and housing leads to better health and better health outcomes,” while costing less. In other words, prevention costs much less than the healthcare cure.

“More importantly,” Nussbaum continued, “we are not using our $3.2 billion wisely—30-40 percent of healthcare spending is wasted on unnecessary services, administrative costs, prices, fraud. This is what we have to contend with. That’s why it is about collaboration, why it is the focus of the Obama administration, and of private business, to introduce reforms.”

Don’t miss “Dr. Sam Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time,” my colleague Genevieve Fraser’s previous blog coverage of Dr. Nussbaum’s keynote address

Tags:  Anthem  ASAP BioPharma Conference  big data  bioinformatics  Brooke Paige  bundled payment  Dr. Samuel Nussbaum  driving forces vs. restraining forces  EGB Advisors  Harvard  healthcare  Merck  MIT  Novartis  Personalized medicine  reputation issues  Technology  value-based payment models 

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‘Dr. Sam’ Nussbaum: Healing the US Healthcare System One Politician at a Time

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 8, 2016

As chair of an action network progress tracking group, Dr. Samuel Nussbaum has been busy tracking the progress of alternative payment models for health care payments.  Dr. Sam, as he is known informally, claims we are in the best of times and worst of times, citing unprecedented advantages such as mapping the human genome.  But despite one of the greatest achievements in the history of human exploration and extraordinary medical breakthroughs, despite the thousands and thousands of drugs under development which are the fruits of basic research, many of which were government funded, we have created a healthcare system that scientifically, in terms of delivery and accessibility, has been less than socially responsible.

“People can’t afford the cost of drugs. Over the past decade the average wage has not changed, but look at the cost of healthcare!”

Dr. Sam points to the populist enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. During their primary campaigns, both capitalized on the type of anger that is the natural outgrowth of this dilemma, he said.

Sharing insights gained from 15 years as executive vice president and chief medical officer of Anthem, Dr. Sam ticked off the issues. We’re spending more, and through the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, there’s better access. But spending on other services that also play a vital role in health and wellbeing is down—public health, mental health, dental care, education, housing, and the list goes on.

“We stole from other investments to increase access. We are not using our trillions wisely,” he claims.  “Thirty to 40 percent is wasted on poor services, admin costs, fraud, etc. Obama tried to introduce reforms, to deliver care differently and provide more integration and coordination of care. But pharmaceuticals remain front and center. Chronic illness treatment is all about drugs. Granted, there have been extraordinary strides made toward cures and better management of chronic illnesses, but this comes at a cost. In 2015, health care spending topped $3 trillion.  Twenty-five percent was spent on drugs, particularly specialty drugs,” he said, emphasizing how much more of the healthcare pie is being taken by pharmaceuticals than in the past.

People want price controls, Dr. Sam reminded the audience. Seventy-five percent of the American public believes the drug companies are taking advantage. The USA pays the highest prices for drugs. The pressure is building, and it’s playing out in the 2016 campaign.

Donald Trump claims the drug companies are lobbying the politicians and that’s why costs are exorbitant. Clinton is adjusting her opinion, borrowing from what worked for Sanders during his campaign. With the pressure on and the public outcry growing louder, Nussbaum said Congress can be expected to act, regardless of who wins the presidency. 

Will the ongoing reform of US healthcare now start borrowing from the single payer model? According to Dr. Sam, “Unless we find a way to solve this ourselves, there will be increased regulation. We need to figure out these new models of value. Few want price controls because it hampers innovation. We need financial incentives that provide an engine for innovation. But egregious price increases are driving political blowback.”

Concerning the election, with Clinton, Nussbaum expects there will be a continuation of alternative payment models and cost controls, including less than full access to all drugs. As for Trump, he is quick to condemn Obamacare and threatens to repeal it. But Nussbaum also reminded the audience of Trump’s son-in-law, real estate entrepreneur Jared Kushner, whose brother Josh is co-founder of Oscar Health, a health insurance company that, as a licensed health care provider, sells to individuals and families in the marketplaces created by Obamacare. Perhaps, he suggested, the real differences in healthcare policy between Clinton and Trump might not be so great post-election.

Nussbaum currently serves as a strategic consultant to EGB Advisors, Inc., consulting arm for Epstein, Becker & Green, where he advises life science companies, hospitals and health care systems, and physician and provider organizations. 

**Footnote: Dr. Samuel Nussbaum was the Conference Keynote at the 2016 ASAP BioPharma Conference.

Tags:  Affordable Care Act  Anthem  Clinton  congress  Donald Trump  Dr. Samuel Nussbaum  pharmaceuticals  US Healthcare System 

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