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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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‘Collaboration Is Not a Natural Phenomenon’: Mapping a TE-AM Road to Successful Alliances, Part Two

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Thursday, September 14, 2017

“Study after study has shown that collaboration is not a natural phenomenon. It’s more normal to be competitive or to work within your team (tribe),” according to Lynda McDermott, (CA-AM), president of EquiPro International, Ltd., an international management consulting firm which specializes in leadership, team and business development for the Fortune 500, midsized companies, and professional services firms. McDermott made this assertion during her pre-conference workshop, “Next Gen Alliance Management: Moving your Organization to Ecosystem Performance Excellence,” one of the sessions on opening day of the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference, “Accelerating Life Science Collaboration: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes,” held September 13-15 in Cambridge, Mass. USA. (See Part One of ASAP Media’s two-part blog coverage of the workshop, a highly abbreviated version of the customized all-day ASAP TE-AM Training course McDermott offers to alliance professionals.)

 

The purpose of the all-day workshop McDermott teaches is to make alliances future proof. Based on exhaustive research, the ASAP TE-AM Training is designed to help put that structure in place so that teams that undergo the training can become a preferred alliance partner. The question is, how do we get from a non-collaborative group to one that effectively functions as a team and actively collaborates with partners?

 

McDermott took a head count of how many attendees considered themselves to be alliance professionals, regardless of their title. Most in the room raised their hand, except for one man who is involved in creating a start-up. She then asked, as alliance professionals, what skills or knowledge do they need? The responses ranged from the ability to communicate, having an awareness of resources, and seeing the overall picture, to understanding their roles and learning “what can be shared and what can’t, and when to share.”  

 

Even if people are not in an official role, they need to be on board with creating and sustaining an alliance, McDermott asserted. They need to know what the best practices are as well as which skills are needed.  But even after acquiring the needed skills, rarely might individuals be truthfully assessed as being part of a partnership, even an informal one. Partners need to do more than exchange business cards and talk on the phone periodically. For many, despite their training, nothing further happens because their training was geared toward individuals and a development of their unique skills. It is not targeted to acquiring group skills with a team that can then move on to build an effective alliance.

To address this oversight, ASAP applied mapping to figure out which techniques might work and which might not.  The result was an approach to creating better alliance teams—an approach intended to be customized to individual organizations.

 

The mapping involves the creation of three benchmark assessments with corresponding questions. The questions are grouped around a Framework assessment, Team Dynamics assessment and a Lean and Agile assessment. Based on responses to the questions, teams can assess what works and where they were most weak. Following the assessments, a road map can be based on areas that need the most development. This roadmap is a work plan that requires team action—which requires achieving a buy-in specific to that team.

“It’s important to get them on the same page,” McDermott explained. “The point is to teach people collaborate skills that involve skill-building exercises and debriefings. Sometimes, these assessments need to be refreshed every six months or so to keep the team on track,” she added.

 

“It’s also important to build a network that respects differences. There will always be cultural differences. The dynamic of adversarial conflict vs. building trust is always present. If a team isn’t having conflict, they will not be able to effectively organize,” she cautioned. (Be sure to read the Q3 2017 Strategic Alliance Magazine’s in-depth coverage of the topic of conflict management—which includes insights from McDermott and other experts on how to use creative conflict to advantage.) “Ask, how can we work together? The degree to which this can be accomplished improves the efficiency of an alliance, despite conflict. Truthfully, there will always be conflict, but you learn to manage it.”

 

Additional words of advice McDermott offered include:

  • Never believe that people naturally behave collaboratively.
  • Remember, you are not a therapist but a facilitator.
  • You must talk at deep level when something’s not right—for instance, there may be power issues, gender issues, etc.

Finally, McDermott noted, the TE-AM workshop is fast. It helps to focus on the strategic side of alliance management. It provides a process to uncover the gaps. “It allows the group to discover the group,” she said.

Tags:  alliance  alliance manager  Framework assessment  Lean and Agile  Lynda McDermott  partner  Strategic Alliance Magazine  Team Dynamics assessment  TE-AM Training  training 

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Learning How to Choose the Best Options and Moves When Negotiating the Alliance Management Playing Field

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Assessing strategic options is at the heart of alliance management practice, especially in the negotiation processes. Game theory is the science of strategic decision-making, helping to streamline areas such as internal alignment meetings, steering committees, and alliance sub-committees. A new game theory workshop debuted front-and-center at the 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference “Accelerating Life Science Collaborations: Better Partnering, Better Outcomes” at the Royal Sonesta Boston, Cambridge, Mass. on Sept. 13. “Strategic Decision Making & Negotiations: Learnings from Game Theory and AM Practice,” facilitated by Harm-Jan Borgeld, CSAP, and head of alliance management for Merck KGaA, and Stefanie Schubert, professor of economics at SRH University Heidelberg, guided participants through the playing field of game theory, providing insights on the speed and quality of decision-making practices. I spoke with the facilitators after the workshop about this fascinating topic and the practical applications for game theory.

 Stefanie: Game theory can be applied to any kind of situation. The basic idea of game theory is that you try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and figure out what they will do before you make your own decision. It helps you find the optimal decision. It requires that you think about the player—the people who have to make a decision—possible strategies, and assess possible outcomes.

Harm-Jan: Game theory helps you understand how people think. In our workshop, we used game theory to enhance the decision-making, negotiating, and influencing skills of the alliance manager. It also teaches how to prepare for a negotiation and facilitates discussions on out-of-the-box thinking.

Stefanie: Influencing benefits from creativity. There are plenty of uncreative ways to influence, such as signing a contract or delegating. But why not be creative? The workshop uses lots of real-life cases, games, and exercises. For example, we use a simple negotiation game where two participants share a real cake. One player divides the cake; the other accepts or does not accept the division. If it’s a cake, it’s common to split it down the middle. But if it’s money, a company will not do it. Game theory takes the position that everyone loves the cake and wants the biggest piece, and it is strategic to offer only a small piece.  We use this game to discuss how to leverage negotiation power and discuss alternatives for optimal decisions.

Harm-Jan:  The workshop is practical and uses video clips and exercises as teaching tools.  We want participants to be able to use what they learn tomorrow. The cake actually is an analogy for dividing [assets]. It helps you understand how the other person makes decisions and prepares for disagreements. We also talked about how to build trust. There are certain ways to establish trust. One way is to always do what you say: Be predictable, engaged, and treat opponents as equals, and not engage senior management without agreeing beforehand. Most trust is created [and maintained] if not broken.

Stefanie:  When applying game theory, you need to simplify. It’s an analytical framework: If you have to make a decision, the outcome depends on the action of someone else. Central to game theory is the question: What is optimal for me to do if the outcome depends on the other party’s action? And it works in every culture or environment. 

Tags:  alliance management  alliance manager  alliance managers  decision-making  decision-making practices  engage  Game theory  Harm-Jan Borgeld  influencing skills  Merck KGaA  negotiating  outcomes  SRH University Heidelberg  Stefanie Schubert  strategies 

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Competencies versus Characteristics in Driving Partner Performance

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, March 20, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 17, 2017

The use of competencies as a hiring tool has evolved into a gold standard for many professions, including alliance management.  But can competencies as a stand-alone tool effectively identify those who will be successful in the role? 
 

The question was front and center at the sessionTraits and Attributes of Successful Alliance Managers” as Andy Eibling, CSAP, vice president of alliance management at Covance, and Kerri Lampard, CSAP, director of the global services center of excellence in the global partner organization at Cisco Systems, reviewed how and why competencies alone should not be used to hire alliance managers. The session was part of theDriving Partner Performance” offerings at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Partnering Enterprise,” which took place at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California. 
 

“So, how do you locate, develop, and hire alliance managers? Why do some excel and others struggle? What are the traits that help people to succeed?” Lampard asked as she posed a string of key questions at the opening of the session.

 

Lampard’s overall answer? Competencies can be taught, she explained. However, characteristics are more locked in. Companies need to align the candidate with the organization and look at overarching characteristics, she said. “For, example, Big Pharma can be change adverse. There’s a natural trepidation built into the culture due to the length of time it takes between the inception of a project, the roll out, and the cost.”

Andy Eibling focused on traits that help people succeed such as vision - the ability to see the big picture possibilities. “When a person has vision, they have the natural curiosity and desire to learn and balance change, to decide the appropriate time and place to take risk, to pivot and think about where they're going.  Their role is to strategize and then get people to buy in.”

Advocacy is also important, Eibling stated. “It’s important for an alliance manager to be able to see both sides and understand why someone is acting the way they do.  Folks who can step back and fit into someone else's shoes, advocate for them and articulate issues, can take conflict and make it productive. They move the process forward.”

“One of the most important characteristics is the ability to engender trust,” he added. “Employ the Vegas rules. What is said in a conversation stays in the conversation. The ability to engender trust is crucial. People within an organization and partners need to know they can have a candid conversation before it becomes a big issue,” he also noted. “It’s important to understand, as [Henry] Kissinger once said, that ‘Competing pressures tempt one to believe that anissue deferred isa problem avoided; more often, it is acrisis invited.’”

Tags:  alliance manager  alliances  Andy Eibling  Cisco Systems  Competencies  Covance  engender trust  hiring tool  Kerry Lampard  partner performance 

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