by Weber Shandwick
 

Remember as a child, you were taken to the doctors to finally kick the chest infection that had been keeping the house awake for nights on end? The doctor would write an unreadable script, which the pharmacist would always decipher and fill. And somehow, at the end of the course of medication, you were no longer coughing and finally, your house could sleep again.

While it seemed as though only a few people had a hand in making you feel better, in actual fact, hundreds had worked hard to launch this product in Australia, and in some cases, help it to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

A product-centric PBS announcement is the culmination of decades of research and development.

It is the Holy Grail of drug development, not just for the people who have dedicated their careers to medical advancement, but to those whose lives will change with access to reimbursed medication.

Once upon a time, it was easier for the media to cover product-centric PBS releases with more health journalists on the ground, and less competition from the industry.

However, when 50 medicines are listed on the PBS and the top 15 major breakthroughs are vying for attention (as was the case late last year), achieving a PBS blockbuster story may feel just as hard as developing a blockbuster drug.

In the medical trade media space, we are now seeing the common response to press releases as “thanks for your enquiry, please see our advertising rate card attached.”

More and more, PBS editorial is competing with advertising in trade publications. In fact, it’s not uncommon for major medical publications to be saturated with advertising, often with the product you are pitching editorial about.

Does this mean the lines between PBS PR and advertising are becoming blurred? Maybe. But what it does mean is that our industry is evolving, and we need to listen carefully to the feedback health journalists are providing.

If we treat product-centric PBS announcements as the core element of a story, then we can’t blame journalists for sending advertising rate cards or knocking back the opportunity to simply ‘tell people about a new drug.’

We can no longer lead with a PBS listing and expect editorial coverage. We need to find avenues that allow more substance to be incorporated in the story, such as a unique patient experience, the scientific development behind a new type of therapy, or the strange plant from which the active ingredient is derived.

Developing engaging content that goes beyond a PBS announcement not only adds weight to your media package, but also acts as a pitch tool to get your story over the line.

A unique digital platform for patients or expert written content from healthcare professionals can complement your PBS announcement and even maintain interest from stakeholders beyond launch.

PBS PR is not glorified advertising, but the spaces are definitely converging. Journalists write stories not advertising copy, so remember to give them what they want – engaging content to make a broader, richer story of which the PBS news is a part, not the whole.

Kate Fouracre is a Senior Account Supervisor in our Healthcare practice. kfouracre@webershandwick.com    

Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker

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