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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 Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Highlights Exceptional Contributions: Part 3—From Great Platforms to Epiphanies

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, August 17, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The following is a continuation from Part 2 of the ASAP Summit Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A Panel session, which took place last March at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Part­nering Enterprise,” held in San Diego, Calif. Highlighted on the podium for their exceptional company contributions were Celine Schillinger of Sanofi Pasteur; Chris Haskell of Bayer; Maria Olson of NetApp; and Kevin Hickey of BeyondTrust. The session was moderated by John W. DeWitt, CEO of JW DeWitt Business Communications and publisher and editor of ASAP Media and Strategic Alliance Magazine.  After DeWitt finished his questions, the audience jumped in with their own, one of which is included at the end of this post. 

Describe the greatest epiphany of your career, something that changed your worldview and made you a better executive or leader.

Maria: This was definitely an epiphany: I started working in the supply chain and felt like I was always in the trunk and someone else was driving. I wanted to get in the car. I had more value to give. I then tried product management and was lucky to work for a small division in telecom. I felt like a high tech janitor. And when you try to do everything, you don’t really do anything right to some degree. But in the end, that was all great training ground. My most challenging job, the one I didn’t like the most, was the most beneficial.

Chris: When you do the drug discovery business, 20 to 30 new drugs are approved each year. The more I stepped back, the more I realized my passion was about connecting and empowering rather than being an adventurer and discoverer. I began looking for ways to impact the company, writing strategies on how to create this hub, referring to how to move things along. And advancing the technology to beat cancer I get such joy out of being part of that.

Kevin: I worked for IBM and became one of the glorified gophers for the chairman’s office. Years later, I was sitting in a boardroom seeing a patient system that was broken. It was just so bad. It was a great and fabulous company, but at that point, I realized I wanted to go somewhere smaller.

Maria, FlexPod is a platform. Solutions die very quickly. You created a platform that was able to evolve, and you won an ASAP award several years ago because you took the time to get it right.

Maria: At NetApp, we do it similarly to what Kevin has described [see Part 2 of this blog series]. We step back, ask “what is the value we are delivering,” and hold ourselves to a higher level of thinking.

Celine: I would advocate to go faster and refrain from overthinking. In pharma, every step becomes huge and complicated. It’s as if it feeds itself with its own complexity. We spend more time building than actually doing it. It’s important to realize when perfection is needed, and when it is not.

Audience question from Luna of Belgium: How do you organize this? I understand that purpose, mastery, and a sense of perfection need to be everywhere. But do you create mastery throughout the organization, or do you create the silo for really good professionals? What is the tradeoff between mastery and autonomy? The silo is so natural for pharma.

Chris: Bayer went through a transformation of its alliance structure years ago. There are other parts of the organization in alliance management, and now we are starting to develop best practices and work with them. There are different frameworks within the organization. We’ve also started talking about rolling out trainings that we think are valuable for this transformation.

Maria: I work for companies where alliances are spread out, corporate strategic alliances are all over the map. HP brought the question to a leadership council and surveyed top strategic alliances. At the end of the day, [leadership recognized that] we need to stop having four to five people calling us from your company, and the decision they made was to pick new patterns from a management standpoint. It’s very different to manage everything strategically.

Kevin: It shouldn’t just be executives making decisions. You want to find the right people who have a great viewpoint, such as a systems engineer, and you pull them in. You need to find the knowledge workers to help your collaboration. You have to find the right people. Executives are not looking at all of the details every day.

Celine: There’s often a long debate in companies about quality belonging to the quality department. Actually, quality belongs to everyone who wants to own it. Co-create the purpose. It’s attractive to be co-owned. Anyone who feels they can contribute to the way we work is welcome. Boundaries become less important. What is important is how motivated and connected people are in the organization. Instead of appointing teams, we called for volunteers and asked why they wanted to lead the change initiative. We ended up with a team of 25. The jury, which is made up of half volunteers and half leaders, needed to focus on emotional intelligence and a willingness to help. It’s a peer-to-peer network. People want to make a difference. When you tap into this pool, you achieve miracles.

This concludes ASAP Media’s three-blog series covering the Spotlight Leadership Forum Q&A. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.  http://membersstrategicalliances.site-ym.com/blogpost/1143942/ASAP-Blog

Tags:  alliances  Bayer  BeyondTrust  Celine Schillinger  Chris Haskell  frameworks  Kevin Hickey  Maria Olson  NetApp  network  product management  Sanofi Pasteur  strategic alliances 

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Collaborating at Digital Transformation Speed: Report from the ASAP Tech Partner Forum, Part One

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Monday, June 12, 2017

ASAP Media Managing Editor Cynthia B. Hanson and I caught up with leading ASAP members from the ASAP Silicon Valley Chapter—and one from the ASAP Midwest Chapter—in an 8 a.m. Pacific debriefing the morning after the inaugural ASAP Tech Partner Forum in Santa Clara, Calif. Despite the early hour, triumph and excitement remained palpable on the conference call as the group of executives described the fruits of more than six months spent planning the event in conjunction with ASAP staff executive Diane Lemkin.

“It was pretty amazing. It all came together. I can’t believe it actually all happened after all that effort,” enthused Erna Arnesen, CSAP, chief channel and alliance officer at ZL Technologies. “Seventy-four people showed up. A few people registered right at the end. One guy signed up that morning—he came from Tahoe. The group of people was very diverse, coming from across Silicon Valley from most of the leading companies and from startups, so there was a very wide swath of companies represented.” Also, she added, “It was a good cross-section of ASAP members and nonmembers.”

Leading tech companies represented included Cisco, NetApp, Intel, SAP, GE Digital, VMWare, Citrix, Splunk, Oracle, ServiceNow, Cognizant, Microsoft, and Xerox. Aside from Silicon Valley, attendees came from San Francisco and points across the Bay Area. “We had quite a few people from Southern California,” noted Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, principal of Phoenix Consulting Group. Her Phoenix Consulting colleague Ann Trampas, CSAP, flew in from Chicago where she also is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Trampas chimed in, “We also had folks from Scottsdale, and someone came down from Seattle from JDA Software” to join several other JDA colleagues, “there were several execs from Hitachi Data Systems, including one from Minnesota, and we had several people fly in from the East Coast,” she added.

“From the perspective of an attendee, the quality of the program was exceptional,” Trampas said. “It was right up there with the quality of ASAP Global Alliance Summit presentations, but in a more intimate environment allowing you more access to those speakers. So I was blown away by the program.”

“A lot of attendees said they liked the intimate grouping, the roundtables, that the room was ‘comfortably full,’” Watenpaugh said. “And by staying with the high-tech focus for the entire event, they felt the topics were targeted and addressed issues that participants had really dealt with in their companies. It was not a generic ‘this is how you do metrics,’ but rather, ‘this is how you work in high-tech partnering in the context of digital transformation.’”

After the welcome, host sponsor NVIDIA kicked off the ASAP Tech Partner Forum with what our group of reviewers described as an impressively relevant and “buttoned-up” presentation by John Fanelli, product vice president for NVIDIA GRID, and Olimpio DeMarco, director of strategic alliances for manufacturing & Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industries for NVIDIA, a maker of graphics processing units (GPUs) that is evolving beyond its roots in making graphics processor boards for gaming. Beyond gaming, the company is developing technologies that venture into the real world and virtually real world: supercomputing, artificial intelligence, and deep learning, Watenpaugh said.

“John Fanelli and Olimpio DeMarco really set the tone for the rest of the day—it was really good,” commented Greg Burge, a consultant and former San Mateo County alliance executive with a long history at IBM who is the immediate past president of the ASAP Silicon Valley Chapter. NVIDIA developed CUDA—which stands for Compute Unified Device Architecture—as the company’s programming interface and software architecture framework for writing to a GPU. “They described how this software programming model has affected NVIDIA’s approach to its partner ecosystem—anytime you bring in software development, it changes the way you partner,” Burge noted.

“It was really great for the host to kick off the event that way,” agreed Watenpaugh. “What I thought was fascinating is that NVIDIA has a lot of alliances with car companies around self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. Fanelli talked about both Toyota and Honda as partners.”

The highly engaged audience asked good questions, Watenpaugh noted. “One interesting question was around NVIDIA GRID—an ecosystem of five partners built to virtualize 10,000 desktop computers for Honda. ‘How do you manage that kind of constellation alliance?’”

Another participant asked the NVIDIA execs, “’What about the services required for all the complex technologies and complex ecosystem engagements you’re involved in,’” Arnesen recalled. “John Fanelli was very impressive in outlining his products, channels and alliances, but admitted that NVIDIA is just getting going building out services” and services partnerships.

“The last thing that they talked about was speed-of-light culture, or SOL culture,” Arnesen continued. At NVIDIA, “alliances are not centralized—the company has a distributed strategy and model. Olimpio DeMarco has his own alliance people that manage these different types of partners, but Fanelli said, ‘We want to be fast and nimble and agile, so we manage them as we need them for our businesses.’”

Check out the ASAP Blog for our previous articles and forthcoming ASAP Media coverage of the June 7, 2017 ASAP Tech Partner Forum in Santa Clara, Calif., hosted by NVIDIA, at www.strategic-alliances.org

Tags:  alliances  Ann Trampas  ASAP Tech Partner Forum  channels  Cisco  Citrix  Cognizant  CUDA  Erna Arnesen  GE Digital  GPU  Greg Burge  Intel  John Fanelli  Microsoft  NetApp  Norma Watenpaugh  NVIDIA  NVIDIA GRID  Olimpio DeMarco  Oracle  partner ecosystem  partners  SAP  ServiceNow  SOL culture  Splunk  VMWare  Xerox 

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Changing Corporate Culture To Create Social Impact: A Plenary by Céline Schillinger

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 17, 2017

“I want to change the way organizations work. I want to make business more humane and more relevant to what employees, customers, and stakeholders at large want today,” remarked Céline Schillinger, head of innovation and engagement at the  French-based vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur during the first of four ASAP plenary sessions at the 2017 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Profit, Innovation, and Value for the Partnering Enterprise,” at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, San Diego, California.

We can’t stick to 20th century tools and mindset to create value today. They’re not adapted to our complex, globalized and interconnected world. They’re obsolete,” Schillinger emphasized during her talk “Comfort in Discomfort: Leadership and Innovation from an Uncommon Alliance.”

Schillinger has been recognized with prestigious awards many times over for her innovative engagement initiatives in the pharma world, and specifically, for her role in the successful launch of the first vaccine developed to combat dengue fever. The plenary focused on her life as an international business-oriented engagement professional with an expertise in social technologies, marketing, communications, and human relations.  She explained how she developed a social movement to create change in a very conservative and hierarchical company environment.

In short, Schillinger has succeeded to make change as a corporate activist in a top-down, male dominated system. “I’ve started to change this in my own organization with corporate activism. There’s considerable energy when you tap into a broader pool of knowledge, common purpose, social media, and co-creation. I want to expand this work within my organization and beyond,” she continued.

When Sanofi Pasteur was preparing to roll out their groundbreaking dengue fever vaccine, they were confident that a tried-and-true approach to launch the product would succeed and the vaccine would sell itself. After all, dengue fever is a greatly feared, potentially serious disease delivered through the bite of a mosquito. Its potential victims are the 2.5 billion people living in Latin America and Asia as well as the southern part of the United States. Though the disease was virtually nonexistent 50 years ago, it’s now widespread. There’s no prevention and no cure. When outbreaks occur each year, half-a-million people with severe dengue are hospitalized. Some recover, but thousands die.

With a break-through vaccine to combat dengue fever about to be approved and commercially available in several countries, executives at Sanofi strongly resisted Schillinger’s radical outreach approach. Communication campaigns are the usual response for many governments in affected countries. They often try community-based approaches, in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendations. But their success is limited. The question was, how might this be made more effective as well as more efficient?

For Schillinger, the answer was obvious: “Why not use social media?” she asked. Social media could be used to inform people about the new way to fight dengue fever, but equally important, to connect people to a whole network potentially impacted by an outbreak. Through social media, people “connect and exchange with trusted interlocutors who derive their credibility from what they do, not just what they say. This is a transformative shift for communication and activism, and this has huge consequences for healthcare,” she stated.

Social networks are not just an additional tool for pushing information, she argued. Through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as websites and chat rooms, users contribute their own experiences. They check facts and demand feedback. It’s much more than communication, she said. Eventually, she convinced the executives at Sanofi Pasteur, and she was proved right. Her initiative, the Break Dengue Community, garnered over 250,000 Facebook followers in its first year and enlisted over 4,000 volunteers globally to assist in the distribution and administration of vaccines. 

This approach may not be for the faint of heart, but “health organizations and companies have to adapt to this new interaction model,” she concluded.

Schillinger has been recognized as a 40 Women to Watch Honoree (2016) and received the Gold Quill Award (2016), Employee Engagement Award (2016), Most Impactful Emerging Initiative (2015), and Best Use of Social Media for Healthcare (2014) and was honored as the French Businesswoman of the year (2013).  She is also a TEDx speaker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMDKkTuLUHw, blogger, and charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide.  

Tags:  Alliances  Break Dengue  Céline Schillinger  Collaboration  dengue fever  Emerging Initiative  Engagement  Facebook  French Businesswoman  Impactful  Innovation  Partnering  Sanofi Pasteur  Social Impact  Social Media  Twitter 

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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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