The ‘Brand New Bag’ of Healthcare Communications

Written by Jacqueline Zonneville, Account Director with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto.

As healthcare communicators, my colleagues and I have our own glossary of terms to understand and reference. Compliance, regulations, code of ethics, and governing bodies (Health Canada, PAAB, ASC) have quickly become part of our regular vocabulary.

And why?!

The world of healthcare communications has always been intricate, requiring a balance between innovative thinking and the Canadian regulatory guidelines. Today, more than ever, organizations struggle with how to uphold this balance. They look to us as consultants to ensure appropriate compliance, and to clarify the distinction between various forms of communications channels (i.e.) advertising, public relations, digital media, etc.

Specific to PR, we work with media as a conduit to disseminate important messages to key audiences through editorial coverage about a disease area, therapeutic advancement and so on, on behalf of clients. Here, the concept of editorial, in other words, earned (not bought), is the key! We constantly strive to push our thinking to the limit to ensure creativity that will peak media interest, while achieving brand-supportive messaging in light of the regulations. With that comes a shift in thinking about the use of brand placement.

Common questions that typically arise include: How is a key message document/Q&A used? When can a news release be issued and to who? What level of information can be included in a news release and the supporting media materials, and do they need to be submitted to the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) for review?

Net/net: as communicators in a highly regulated environment, we need to stay up-to-date and compliant with changing regulations, policies, as well as industry trends to deliver the best value to our clients. Reviewing Health Canada’s guidelines is the best starting point –

As the great James Brown made known, “Come here mama…. and dig this crazy scene. He’s not too fancy, but his line is pretty clean. He ain’t no drag. Papa’s got a brand new bag.”


JZonneville-300dpiJacqueline Zonneville is an Account Director with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto.