Viewing posts tagged as "healthcare"

Compliance, AEs and PAAB, oh my!

Written by Allison Goodman, Account Coordinator with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto.

A friend and I recently attended a panel discussion and, while mingling with one of the panellists who previously worked in the healthcare industry, we discussed how rarely social media is used by pharma. My friend, who works in mobile advertising, immediately asked if it was just a question of who would do it first/best. The gentleman with whom we were speaking and my response came almost in unison: “It’s more so who’s going to do it first and not get in trouble.”

In today’s world, the integration of social media into a communications plan is almost essential. The pharmaceutical industry; however, is still trying to test the waters before fully taking the plunge. Why?

Well, firstly, there’s the need to be compliant with Health Canada’s regulations. As you may or may not know, the healthcare industry is extremely regulated. It goes something like this:

“A social media platform that encourages disease awareness? Sure, why not?!… Just make sure no one ever, ever makes a comment linking to a treatment or brand.” But how can this be done?

There’s the option on Facebook that allows sponsors to review comments before they’re posted, but doesn’t that bring the whole two-way, transparent conversation concept into question? What’s a disease awareness campaign to do?

In addition to regulation, there’s the issue of adverse event/AE (aka undesired side effect) reporting.  What if a patient broadcasts having a reaction to a treatment? AEs are incredibly serious and should not be addressed the way one might address bad customer service or annoying cell phone contracts. Patients who experience AEs should speak to someone immediately, but in a society where problems are solved with “to the Twitter handle, we go!” how can we ensure patients are connecting with the company in question or a healthcare professional?

And then there was PAAB, the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board whose mission is to “provide a preclearance review that fosters trustworthy healthcare communications within a regulatory framework for the benefit of all stakeholders.” PAAB is committed to ensuring all advertising and communications are equal, accurate, evidence-based and balanced. Its scope includes promotional product communication for prescription, non-prescription, biological and natural health products to professionals in all media…but what about social media? Does everything posted on a social media platform need to be pre-approved? User-generated content (UGC) can be found on the sponsor’s site, but the presence of this content on a sponsored property can go from compliant to non-compliant by the comments that have been made. For example, if users begin a conversation about a product, it becomes promotional and those discussions could be subject to the regulatory requirements of drug advertising. Thus to PAAB it goes.

Does this all sound like more trouble than it’s worth?

There will always be yea-sayers and nay-sayers, so before hopping into the social media world as a pharmaceutical company, it’s important to take the time to really ask questions and think it through.


–       Do you have the in-house capabilities to manage a social media community?

–       Does your company have a social media engagement protocol in place? If not, are you willing to invest in one?

–       Why do you want to join the social world? Who are you trying to reach? What message are you hoping to convey?

And if these questions get to be too much, never fear! Healthcare PR pros are here and want to work through these questions with you. We’re equipped and ready to get creative and social inside the regulation box!


agoodAllison Goodman is an Account Coordinator with energi PR’s Healthcare Practice in Toronto

“One small”, important step for me, one giant step for PR

I recently learned that I was selected for induction into the 2013 Canadian Healthcare Hall of Fame (CHMHF). The ceremony will take place at a luncheon on April 10th as part of the 11th annual National Pharmaceutical Congress organized by The Chronicle Companies, publishers of The Chronicle of Healthcare Marketing, and more. The Congress is attended by pharmaceutical marketers and is a thought-provoking event for Canadian industry leaders to present and share new ideas and innovations.

There is not much more a PR professional can ask for than recognition in a room of potential clients. After a considerably long, exciting, challenging and colourful career with its fair share of 15 minutes of fame one becomes an expert at managing expectations, yet I was tremendously humbled by this honour which teeters outside the public relations world. I look forward to seeing my name and mug shot among the presidents of pharma companies including the big multinationals (some clients included!); distinguished physicians who have championed marketing and communications; the heads of the industry`s regulatory groups and last year’s inductee young Aaron Maresky and his mother Mandy who created Aaron`s Apple, an inspiring fundraising initiative. Fewer than 100 inductees are currently in the CHMHF so it stands to reason that I was quite chuffed to be included in this year`s group of inductees.

But it has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that “it’s not all about me,” and in fact it isn’t. Along with being recognized by the CHMHF I learned that I will be the first public relations professional
to be so honoured.

I’ve made it a point of stressing not only the value of public relations in pharmaceutical and health-related marketing, but also how it differs from advertising and other marketing disciplines. Historically, advertising occupied a lonely, but happy, place in pharma marketing with other marketing disciplines trying to garner a piece of the pie. But as healthcare PR specialists demonstrated the power of earned media (ask yourself how Viagra was launched) as well as the role of PR in reputation management, corporate social responsibility, disease promotion, patient education and advocacy,  not to mention the introduction of new medications and innovative therapies, the value of this discipline has become increasingly recognized.

All in all, April 10th will be a great day for me, but it will also afford me a pulpit from which to thank the selection committee of the CHMHF for embracing PR in healthcare marketing. I am certain that my colleagues in PR who share my passion for healthcare, will consider nominating other worthy recipients in the years to come.


Carol Levine (@Carol_levine) is co-founder and Managing founder of energi PR, digital, communications, an award-winning independently owned Canadian PR consultancy established in 1990 with offices in Toronto and Montreal. energi PR is the Canadian affiliate of the Public Relations Global Network, providing expertise in consumer and healthcare public relations to national and multinational brands. Carol is the immediate past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations firms and is a 2013 Inductee in the Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame as well as a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society.