Showing posts with label healthcare media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label healthcare media. Show all posts

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pharma companies need to open to MEDIA

As pharmacos get globalised and communication gets real-time, there is a need to communicate right information at the earliest and in a manner that would enhance the corporate brand image. But are pharmacos getting more media savvy? Nandini Patwardhan finds out.

Ask any media person about the pharma industry and one can hear monologues on how pharmaceutical companies are not parting with the necessary information. And this is not dependent on the size and type (domestic or MNC, big or small) of the player. Most Indian pharmaceutical companies do not have a well-established department for handling media queries and for them, interaction with the media is largely restricted to publishing annual results, or press releases on M&As, product launches and USFDA approvals. And those, who have well-established departments, are bound by archaic media-interaction policies and time delays.

However as Indian companies are transforming themselves for the global age, they are taking a fresh look at media management to create a sound and formidable corporate image.
"The last few years have seen pharmaceutical players, both Indian and global, to have initiated a process of keeping the channels of communications open with the media and are more open to share information regarding developments and plans," explains Aman Gupta, CEO of the Mumbai-based Imprimis Life PR, a public relations firm having a host of clients in the pharma and healthcare sectors. The same view is corroborated by others from the industry.
"The Indian pharma industry has grown rapidly and is today recognised for its capabilities throughout the world. Considering this fact, most of the pharma companies in India have realised the need to have a dedicated process and policy, relating to media interactions and hence, have constituted exclusive departments that are well equipped to interact with the media," explains Ch. Ram, Head, Corporate Communications and Investor Relations at Orchid Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals.

However, there are still certain rules and regulations that govern media interactions of pharma companies, given the very nature of work carried out. With multiple concern areas, like patents, product recalls, trademark infringements and marketing tie-ups, few pharma companies might be open to media and avoid media at some stage, opines NR Munjal, Managing Director of IndSwift laboratories. Additionally, companies shy away from the media due to the fear of being misquoted.
"At times corporate clients may decide not to go ahead with the query or interview because of certain reasons—fear of the journalist misinterpreting, a weak storyline, too soon to share the information, he may not have the information, company policy, regulations or too tight a deadline," explains Gupta.

Role of mass media
In today's day and age, pharma companies cannot simply ignore the importance of interacting with the mass media. With bad publicity coming their way through examples of Vioxx, recalling of various drugs and counterfeiting, it has become essential for pharma majors to create a robust corporate image. And the mass media can assist them in this direction. "Instead of five-six odd media interactions, during publishing of results, if the pharmacos continually interact with all their stakeholders through mass media, it will go a long way in creating a corporate image," explains a top official from a renowned magazine.
Consistent communication with consumers through mass media will not only increase the recall for the corporate brand, but will also help the company ride over any controversies. Media goes a long way in educating the consumers about a particular company and its performance (financial), its products, management team and so on. This helps in building a transparent and a sound corporate image as well as in creating recall in the minds of consumers. Hence it makes sense for any corporate to have a 2-way communication channel with the media. It will be an added bonus, if they make an effort to ensure that the media fully understands the business and its various therapeutic areas of a pharma company. This will help reduce the problems of misrepresentation of information. Such 2-way communication also helps in building a trustworthy image (in minds of the customers) and safeguards against dissemination of wrong information.

By being media savvy, a company stands only to gain. "For starters, a company can benefit through an enhanced corporate image in the minds of doctors and patients, increased confidence in investors and other agencies dealing with the company, availability and retention of skilled and competent manpower and lastly, increased possibility for international tie-ups like in-licensing or out-licensing and a boost to marketing efforts," says Munjal.

IT vs Pharma
Proprietary knowledge and intellectual property is a common feature of the IT industry too. So what makes the IT industry more media responsive than pharma? Experts from the pharma industry defend themselves by saying that the nature of the pharma industry is different from that of the IT industry. "Most service providers in the IT industry employ large number of people and undertake client-contracted work. Therefore, they tend to be more open and visible in terms of operations," asserts Ram. The pharmaceutical industry, on the other hand, is characterised by R&D and manufacturing, which reflects facets of proprietary knowledge that at times set certain limits, when it comes to sharing information. "Not withstanding this, I believe that the Indian Pharma industry has come a long way in terms of communicating its growth strategies and plans with its stakeholders in a transparent manner," he adds.

It is but obvious that companies, irrespective of the industry they are in, share information to the media within the lines of a policy framework adapted by the company. This protocol is drawn on back of the interests of the concerned company and its stakeholders. "There are numerous IT companies who are media shy. Yes, I agree that there are various rules and regulations binding a pharma industry and most importantly it is a research driven sector. Therefore a pharma company cannot openly talk about its various products and its benefits like an IT or an FMCG major," reveals Gupta.

All for a favourable image

A sound corporate image cannot just be created in isolation. It has to be intrinsic to a company's operations. Pharma companies stand to benefit on many grounds by investing in creating an image for the company as a whole. For starters, its products get instant recognition. It helps in generating recall amongst doctors and patients, as well as the general public. "A strong image also delivers many benefits from attracting and retaining human talent, perception of the company's products and services in the mind of the customer and of course also reflects in the capital markets," explains Ram.

While many opine that ensuring corporate governance is the only way of creating sound corporate image in the minds of the shareholder and the consumer, others feel that organising press conferences for announcing results, new product launches and marketing tie-ups at regular intervals, making all useful information available at the company's website and circulating press releases for all the key developments in the company is yet another way of achieving the objective. Whatever tactics a company adopts need to be based on the information needs of all the stakeholders. "The strategies adopted, vis-à-vis each identified strategic stakeholder group will vary, depending on the intensity of the company's standing with each group. However, the overall strategy will have certain common elements on product profile, performance, competencies and corporate responsibility," clarifies Ram. And this is not all. In addition to understanding, a corporate also needs to anticipate the information needs of the different stakeholder groups and deliver it in real-time. One can also look at many other ways, like facility visits, friendly HR initiatives, environment friendly policies and quality initiatives. It is of utmost importance to understand the needs of the various target groups and structure the strategy accordingly.

"A good corporate image is built brick by brick. They are built by policies that are communicated to and accepted by employees, by the quality of customer service and employee behaviour. Reputations are enhanced by how willing and prepared a company is to communicate honestly, sharing good news and bad. Public relations and communications tools can be used effectively to support messages that enhance an organisation's reputation," elucidates Gupta.

A separate department
Companies today, have established corporate communications department or hire services of reputed public relations (PR) firm to help them interact with the media and maintain their image in the minds of the stakeholder. "The corporate communications department does play an important role in complying with the corporate governance requirements, but it has a much more specific role in the overall brand management of the company. Obviously, good governance leads to a good image," opines Ram. "A Corporate Communications department acts as a link between the company and the outside world which includes the media and its investing community," states Munjal. Thus, this department plays a significant role in bringing to the forth, the true image of the company.

Activities of a PR firm, in the pharma context, are not just restricted to distributing press releases. "An agency's role is about reputation and perception management and brand building. It's about creating and implementing public relations programmes that make a meaningful, positive impact on each client's reputation, brand and bottom line," explains Gupta.

However, today, more often than not, both these outfits are criticised for delaying everything and for being inefficient. "That is a wrong perception. PR is definitely not, nor has it been a roadblock. Every process, which is followed, is governed by various protocols and company policy," emphasises Gupta. Usually, when a query comes in, the agency evaluates the query keeping in mind the code of behaviour and the interests of its client. It is forwarded to the concerned spokesperson or corporate communications head of the company. Then, depending on the time, availability and the deadline specified by the journalist, the dialogue is initiated—be it an interview or answers to a query.

Thus, as pharma companies grow bigger and invest crores in corporate branding, the time has come now, to leverage the power of media towards creating a strong corporate image.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why doctors should opt for vernacular media?

Well, everybody knows that we require treatment from doctors as we grow older. It is also known fact that most old/aged people prefer vernacular media or newspapers, rather than any other media. Even the people late in 40s prefer vernacular media to keep themselves updated happenings. This can also be found from a small survey done at the doctors own clinic, where the doctor’s receptionist can ask the patients about which types of newspapers they read.

Vernacular media/publications are more reader oriented and they have more editorial content than their English counter-part. The vernacular publications provide the readers a taste of their own and culture. They give have special sections for readers on culture and old age medicines/therapies.

The vernacular media has lots of space for health news. As a matter of fact the vernacular media content is more for the reader to use, so they have a dedicated section for health and wellbeing related news.
It is quite easy for doctors to get featured in vernacular media as they have very limited amount of news to feature. They are most happy when any doctor promises them to provide a series of articles. A series of articles in vernacular publication better than on of small quote in mainline English media.
A doctor can easily establish a good rappo with editor or the chief of bureau of the particular vernacular publication. With this the doctors can pitch him to come on the advisory board for health news for the publication; this will help to get featured in the health pages. The publication benefits from having a doctor journalist on board and the doctor benefits news coverage.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Indian Media & How it will evolve in the next 5 years

Indian media history

The history of Indian media dates back to year 1887, when Bal Gangadhar Tilak launched Kesari. But the history dates back to Hickey's Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertiser which was launched in 1780. Through the rulers of Indian Colony had their own news paper and international editions of newspapers available then for their updates. The main job of the media then and now remains the same of informing the consumers about the goings-on in the society.

Mahatma Gandhi had often used media to lobby against imposing of new laws by the British government. Like, way back in 1906 when the British government imposed new poll-tax Zulus in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi often wrote column in ‘Indian Opinion’ to create awareness about the ill-effects of the new tax. Also, when in India he used to send press notes to media providing them with information on the Congress proceedings, freedom struggle, etc.

Shahid Bhagat Singh used media to convey his message during his court trial period. These trials were attended by journalists who conveyed his message across to them, which in turn reached the citizens and freedom fighters of India i.e. the target audiance.

Of late, even novel authors Jeffery Archer have demonstrated the use of media through his novels Cane & Able and Prodigal Daughter. So, media has played a big role during the Indian freedom struggle by conveying message and action plan of the freedom fighters to the common people, while on the other hand the authors have created stories based on the media and its involvement in the story characters.

Present scenario of Indian media

Media has greatly evolved since its nascent stage, since its printing days. Earlier it was only print media, and then came radio channels, with the opening of the television medium, the media sector witnessed the launch of electronic media, further evolution saw the birth of internet. With the launch of each new medium the consumer started receiving news quicker.

Usually, print media takes atleast 24 hours for the news to appear, radio and television procure within 24 hours, while Internet takes probably less than an hour to go online and reach the readers. Through the Indian consumers have seen and experienced different mediums there is yet a lot to come.

At present, in the Indian media scenario there is a battle between the publications and electronic media for exclusive content. This led news channels/publications to define the news they will be covering in terms of general news, financial news, technology news, political news, lifestyle, movies, etc. With the growing number of publications and TV channels the journalists have started sensitizing all the news to gain TRPs. But this trend is slowly growing towards nsumers’ oriented content, because the consumer is the king and viewer ship matters.
This was the same era blogs started gaining some popularity, but still they were in a very nascent stage and consumers were hardly referring to blogs for news, also the print and television media was criticizing the bloggers for their credibility.

But matters changed when the infamous Drudge Report published Monica Lewinsky scandal and opened a can of worms. The Drudge Report changed the media scenario completely, and blogs got credibility in the minds of the readers.

It is interesting to know how the media evolved with the readers/viewers taste patterns. Below are some of the listed exampled of how media has changed according to consumer taste patterns:
  1. Mid-day the tabloid, Mumbai: It covers news relevant to city in which it runs the edition. Most of the news is about some gossip, sensitize situation, celebrity gossips, etc, but there are some exclusives which it covers using visual aids. These videos are uploaded on Mid-Day website for readers who want to understand the story in-dept. So the readers now can SEE & HEAR the news. The readers can also vote on the news content about there review.
  2. Economic Times a financial publication, India: The publication is the no.1 financial news publication in India. The publication also has online presence through the website so, oftenthe print stories appear on the website. The website is updated every hour with the latest developments in the market; this news might not be available in the print edition. Some of the stories get extensive and in-depth analysis on the website as lot of space is available online, and readers often comment on those stories.
  3. Times Ascent a supplement from TOI: This is a bi-weekly supplement from the Times group free with the Times of India edition. The supplement also has a huge presence online with the Times Ascent website. The supplement has restricted space for stories, so the website offers this platform for most stories. The website has dedicated column for HR heads who often write on new trends, CSR initiatives, interview techniques, etc. This website also has internal content tie-up with website for content sharing, which helps the jobseekers with new HR trends information.
  4. Most of the TV channels have an online presence in terms of videos of exclusive stories and transcripts of the same. The electronic media has evolved to such an extent that each show can be seen live on the website. So viewers at any location can watch their favorite shows.
  5. With more consumers interested in blogs, the senior journalists often run official blogs connected to the publication/TV channel websites. The journalists share their views on these blogs, which are related to the economic scenario of the country/city.
  6. ET Now a soon to be launched business news channel: ET Now which will be launched by Times group as an extension to Economic Times newspaper has the teams of ET Now and Economic Times working together along with the website correspondents. With this the sharing of news content across the three media channels will be flexible. Any exclusives will be covered by the electronic media using visual aids, the print media will cover the important aspect of the story and the website will cover full length with in-dept analysis receiving updates every hour. Now to check how the consumers have responded it will be connected to SMSs service. The same news will be Twitted by the consumers and bookmarked on del.ici.ous.
  7. With the media changing according to the consumer taste, the consumer himself becomes a journalist. The Indian media has started to experience it with the launch of CJ (Citizen Journalist) by CNN-IBN and a website dedicated to citizen journalists so anybody can report about any happenings.

Future of Indian media

The Indian media is growing at rapid speed involving different tools available online and mobile to garner readers/consumers attention. But the question remains where it is headed towards? What is the future? How will we experience the news or how to get readers involved in the story?

Some new medium for the media industry which will become a common place for the consumers/readers in the future are as follows:

  1. Podcasts -
  2. Electronic paper -
  3. News on mobile -
  4. Info-entertainment – Information combined with entertainment, so consumers get information through entertainment shows.
  5. Social networking -
  6. Professional bloggers -
  7. Bluetooth 4.0 – For sharing information
  8. Skype -
  9. Mobile 3G enabled

The future of media is highly unpredictable with the number of innovations in the space of communications are increasing. With the rise of alternative communication mediums the news will be more factual and statistics proven for the consumers to understand. In the future the content matter will be less and visuals will be more as consumers will like to grasp and understand the story faster wasting less amount of time. The films will be of shorter length, so we can watch a whole movie in an hour.

The news on the TV Channels will be easily downloadable by sending a message. Recently launched Mobibuzz TV ( provides content for mobile media, they cover the news which is uploaded on their website, by registering on the website the consumer can select the content he/she wants to see. This content is sent to the consumers’ mobile through MMS. With the launch of 3G platform this content can be easily downloaded on a business phone. These platforms offer the consumers to decide what they want to view and when, so the consumer will be king who decides on the news content. The news will be more consumer centric as the story will have followers commenting and interacting with the journalist.

There is a high possibility of 3 –D news which can get viewers involved and let them experience the story.

With the evolution of media, the public relations industry will evolve with more focus on the brand/product/company specific communication, also the industry will have measuring tools for that communication. This evolution will also impact product communication strategy, which will become innovative and involve the consumers into the product.

Here is a case study on the product communication in the future where the character portraying Mihir from ‘Kyuki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ is working in Tata Teleservices Ltd as manager Human Resource dept.

  • The story will revolve around his work-place area promoting the working environment at the company.
  • This helps to promote the new vacancies in the company, when he informs the web development dept.
  • As the work involves interaction with different dept, he will interact with the the sales and marketing dept, so through this the new services and offerings can be promoted.
  • Mhir uses a Tata Nano a common mans car to go for shopping on weekends so promotes the car.
  • Mihir often uses ICICI Bank ATM so the services are highlighted, in turn he starts learning to use the netbanking service, and this informs the viewers how to use netbanking service.

A lot of products can be marketed using this format for the soap-serials, since a lot of different companies will be marketing through this platform, the product placement and communications rates will be inexpensive for the companies. Also with the launch of satellite communications channels like DTH and CAS and the newest form of cable i.e. IPTV brand communication will be a lot easier. The set-top boxes will tap the viewer ship patterns and post that can communicate with the consumers through alternate mediums may be RIFD

However, it will be very difficult to gauge the innovations in media industry. The communication tools available internationally, are now easily available in India. With the rise in demand for the better content the media will provide better and shorter content for consumers. The need for better content will create demand for better PR professionals who will provide all the information required by the journalists. So, it will be important for these professionals to become information centers for the journalists/bloggers. Earlier the corporate communicate dept. was a part in the marketing dept, then with evolution the corporate communication manager started managing the marketing role also. Now the total communication of the company i.e. internal and external is managed by the corporate communication team.
With further evolution, the corporate communications role will also involve the information officers’ role and executive assist to the Managing Director, to advice on the different communication strategies for the company.
Last but not the least: consumer will be the king who will decide what type of new he/she wants and how he/she wants.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Healthcare Media

Healthcare media as they are referred….
Journalists are appointed for specific beat like business, education, crime, political, etc. Each beat specific journo reports stories & news related to that specific beat. They network, specialize and understand the sector. Healthcare media or journo are the ones who report on news related to healthcare, health policies, new technologies in treatment, etc.

With the advent of competition between publications it became obligatory for media houses to assign journalists dedicated to report news on this sector, earlier city beat journalists reported on those news.

Let us now try to understand this beat.
Healthcare journalist usually reports news on Health, Health Policies, New Technology Developments, Doctors in public & private hospitals operating on unique patients, new infections, government vaccination programs, etc. Basically they report on Human interest stories, everything related to humans & health. It is important to note that most of the other reporters also do such type of reporting like the education beat, crime beat, special features, etc. But the difference is they report the same story with different angle.

Here is a case study:
FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India) - Adolescent Empowerment arm is conducting seminars for young girls on how to manage their health during growing years, precautions during periods, diet management, etc. These seminars are conducted in schools only for girls in the age group of 12 to 15 years.
Taking this brief into consideration, the story will be reported by a health beat correspondent, but simultaneously an education beat journalist can also report on this, coz school & education is involved. The same story can also be reported by NGO beat reporter as FOGSI is and NGO body and the seminars are also conducted for government schools. If this seminar is sponsored by some pharmaceutical company then the story will get CSR initiative angle for that pharma company, and a financial journalist can report this corporate story highlighting CSR initiatives. A feature journo can report an informative story of things to take care for teen girls during periods & maintaining diet.

The above case highlights how a story can be reported by different beat journalists. So the bottom line is a correct strategy & pitch to the right journalists. In the business of communication the correct strategy will bore fruits, just media relations cannot help.

So understand the objective of the strategy and pitch to the right journalist accordingly. Also the main aspect is to understand healthcare journalists and how they report, their style of reporting and the placement of the news in media.