Why a successful PR programme is dependent on talking about trends

Lauren By Lauren

I was at The Pistoia Alliance European Conference in London a couple of weeks ago. For anyone in IT who wants to understand the challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces and how technology can help address them it’s a very interesting day – and I’d encourage more IT companies to join the Pistoia Alliance. I also got the opportunity to meet many of the members of The Pistoia Alliance Advisory Board – all of them are key players in the pharmaceutical industry, and many have led major pharmaceutical companies and R&D teams, or played a key part in regulation and governance.

The conference was really useful for me as I heard first-hand what the pharma industry is dealing with, and therefore the issues that The Pistoia Alliance should be talking about in the media. It was also interesting to hear the President talk to the 150+ delegates about why it is important to be noticed and how much the PR programme has increased their visibility. For any organisation – whether tech company or not-for-profit advocacy group – that is ambitious and believes in what it is offering, third party validation is invaluable in giving credibility to the opinions of its leaders.

This is ultimately the reason that PR agencies exist; to get an opinion out there, to amplify the debate from beyond an organisation’s own four walls, to encourage other people to share those views. Tech PR is pretty advanced in this respect whereas many other b2b sectors are just using a PR agency to put out a press release with updates on what they are working on. This is a real shame as PR agencies can contribute so much more. It’s not just about visibility, PR agencies can make a difference to the reputation of a company, and they can ensure the wider world understands what makes the CEO get out of bed in the morning. If you just tell journalists what you are doing rather than why you are doing it, they will either fail to understand the point of what you are doing or worse, suspect some underhand motive.

If you want your audience to understand who you are and what drives you, then you need to go beyond self-promotional press releases or tweets. Here’s a starter for three that’s worked for The Pistoia Alliance:

  1. Provide a unique contribution of facts and figures on a topic or issue that your audience really cares about: This year we looked at Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain in pharma R&D; the stats were picked up by a Forbes.com contributor because they were the only ones of their type.

  2. Join the debate: Don’t treat a press release just as a way of getting out your news, it is an opportunity to start a discussion or give your point of view on a topical issue. For example The Pistoia Alliance post-conference press release always delivers a call to action on a pharma industry issue and as a result is widely picked up by the media

  3. Write an article about why your organisation exists: Not in a promotional way, but what is the problem you have set out to solve and why do you want to solve this problem? This type of story made it into STAT, the pharma ‘arm’ of The Boston Globe

A good PR agency will push you to do the above and will support you in developing those stories by bringing your expertise and knowledge to the fore, and structuring it in an easy to digest way. We are used to working with some very clever people and sometimes our role is to ask ‘so what?’ or simplify it enough so that it is understandable and therefore interesting to all audiences. It’s difficult to conclude x sale came from y conversation, but a shift in perception, winning awards, and being cited as an influencer, are all steps in the right direction. A buyer needs to believe that a company is credible and successful to even engage.