I recently returned from Orlando where I attended a large medical meeting. While there, I was distressed to observe legions of healthcare public relations professionals hanging around outside the conference press room.
Whenever a journalist would leave the press room, the PR folks would chase them, press release in hand, pitching them their story. This practice of “tackling” journalists at medical meetings is demeaning to both the PR professional and the journalist. And I also believe that this practice of stalking journalists outside medical meeting press rooms is a clear indication that PR folks are not properly planning their attendance at medical meetings.
Pharma, biotech and medical technology companies spend millions of dollars and countless hours preparing for their attendance at major (and not so major) medical meetings. When these companies retain PR services to help them communicate data being presented at one of these medical meetings, pre-meeting preparation is critical.
When I see young PR folks craning their necks to read journalists’ badges, I don’t blame them as much as their bosses. These junior PR folks have not been trained properly to know that the vast majority of effective PR work around medical meetings is done in advance of the meeting. At JFK we have a process for supporting clients at medical meetings that is deliberate, effective and metrics-driven. And, based on this process, we determine the need for on-site support, or remote coverage.
That’s right. Like journalists, PR folks do not need to attend every medical meeting. If enough pre-work and strategic PR thinking has been applied to a medical meeting, there are situations where a smart, strategic agency/client team may decide that results can be achieved without wasting the clients’ valuable resources in sending a PR representative to the meeting.
At JFK we have supported our clients effectively both on-site and remotely at most medical meetings in most therapeutic categories. We understand, especially in this current economic environment, that our clients’ trust in us to prepare for and deliver results around medical meetings is critical to their bottom line. So when we do attend medical meetings, we schedule coffee or brief meetings with journalists, many of whom we have known for years, to discuss news that may be of interest to them -- we don’t tackle the journalists.