Full Disclosure: My employer provides management consulting advice to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. The opinions and content published within this blog post are mine only.
The Inspiration for this Blog Post. The Wall Street Journal published this April 8th article: Resistance to FDA on Avastin Limits. The article describes Terry Kalley's integrated public relations strategy using social media channels and traditional face-to-face meetings with Capitol Hill representatives. Mr. Kalley initiated this public relations campaign with the assistance of AQABA Technologies (a global web strategies firm) because the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) plans to limit the approved uses of the drug, Avastin. His wife, Arlene Kalley, suffers from advanced breast cancer, and Avastin slows its progression.
The Challenge. As cited by the article, the FDA will conduct a hearing on June 28th - June 29th to "focus on competing interpretations of medical data about Avastin's effectiveness in delaying the spread of late-stage breast tumors." The FDA wants the upcoming hearing focused on scientific data. However, Avastin's manufacturer, wants patients to be able to testify.
What's at Stake: Drug Access and Reimbursement. The Wall Street Journal quotes Avastin's cost around $88,000 for a series of injections. The article further states: "The Kalley's say that if the FDA withdraws approval for Avastin as a breast cancer treatment, insurers and Medicare might not cover the costs, even though doctors can still prescribe it for breast cancer."
A Case Study in Integrated Public Relations Strategy
Traditional and Digital Public Relations (PR). Mr. Kalley's and AQABA Web Technologies public relations strategy aligns the support of influential legislators and policy makers and builds public awareness through social media channels. These traditional and digital tactics form an integrated public relations strategy that informs, publicizes, and rallies support from important stakeholders:
- Breast cancer patients
- News media
* Traditional PR. Meet face-to-face with key Michigan legislators and influential Capitol Hill policy makers. In addition, The Wall Street Journal article references that The Kalleys would be meeting with Avastin's company representatives.
* Digital PR. Publicize in the online channels when meetings with Michigan legislators took place and with who (readily observable in the Freedom of Access to Medicines Twitter stream).
* Digital PR. Attract potential supporters to the digital home base or hub - The Freedom of Access to Medicines Home Page.
* Digital PR and Traditional PR. Promote within the online channels (i.e., Twitter, Facebook) positive media coverage (i.e., the recent Wall Street Journal article appeared on the front page of WSJ's print Marketplace Section).
Building Public Awareness Via a Social Media Home Base
The Freedom of Access to Medicines Home Page. Mr. Kalley and AQABA created a foundation web page to increase public awareness and build patient advocacy. The web page acts as the home base for the foundation's public and media awareness activities:
Easily Connecting Through Social Channels. If you scroll further down the home page, you'll find the following social media "buttons" on the bottom right-hand section of the foundation's home page. Easily finding these social media "buttons" is critical so the foundation can quickly connect with supporters and advocates who can further spread its mission through online word-of-mouth.
LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are Social Media Content Distribution Outposts
Four (4) Social Media Outposts. The "home base and outpost model" leads viewers back to The Freedom of Access home page from selected social networks. The four outposts distribute content that:
Describes a physician-patient discussion on drug access and reimbursement
Provides real-time updates of important meetings with key legislators/policy makers
Promotes the mission of the foundation
Thanks supporters sharing testimonials
For more information on using a content outpost approach as part of an overall public relations or social media strategy, here are additional resources:
How Freedom of Access to Medicines Leverages YouTube. By clicking on the home page YouTube button, you are linked to this 7-minute video about a distraught breast-cancer patient on Avastin. These YouTube videos explains the drug access and reimbursement scenarios without a lot of medical or scientific jargon.
How Freedom of Access to Medicines Leverages Twitter. Real-time updates about meetings with key government officials and policymakers are part of the content strategy. Twitter plays a significant role in promoting the foundation's activities with these stakeholders:
How Freedom of Access to Medicines Leverages Facebook. The foundation's Facebook page provides more detailed updates beyond Twitter's 140 character limits. Facebook's status updates provide summaries and links to online articles the foundation wants to share with supporters.
How Freedom of Access to Medicines Leverages LinkedIn. Mr. Kalley leverages the SEO benefits of his LinkedIn Profile because the #1 Google search result for his name is his LinkedIn Profile:
The Freedom of Access to Medicines Blog Launched on May 1st. As of the original publication of this post, the missing piece in the Freedom of Access to Medicines digital public relations portfolio was a blog. However, The Freedom of Access to Medicines Blog launched on May 1st.
Adding a blog provides numerous search engine optimization (SEO) benefits that can increase the foundation web site's:
- Important long-tail search keywords and phrases
- Number of indexed pages in search engines
- Number of inbound links (a key metric in search engine rankings)
Two resources I've studied on the SEO benefits of blogs in building your Google search rankings are:
- Social Media Examiner: The Fastest Way to Increase Your Google Ranking by Jim Lodico
- Debbie Weir eBook: Why Your Blog Is the Hub of Social Media Marketing
Initiative and Creativity in Public Relations. The Freedom of Access Medicines example showcases how an organization can harness The Internet's global scale and reach particularly through social media. Similarly, The Wall Street Journal article references how Avastin's manufacturer employs Weber Shandwick (a large, global public relations firm) to garner public and media support.
One Person's Individual Efforts Augmented by Integrated Social Media Tactics Can Make a Difference. I'm sure other organizations and individuals are taking notice of Mr. Kalley's and AQABA'S combined face-to-face and digital efforts. I plan on following the results all the way to the June 28th - June 29th finish line.