Evolution of the PR Landscape: A Journalist’s Perspective

There’s been lots of talk lately about the changing PR landscape. Evolutions in digital technology, data and analytics, the growing importance of social channels and a media industry that’s been turned upside down, are all factors that have caused disruption in health and science communications. At LavoieHealthScience, we think it’s important to also maintain a focus on fundamentals. In fact, we believe more than ever in the importance of developing strong relationships with relevant journalists and fully committing ourselves to understanding their work and their business.

On April 25th, our founder and CEO, Donna LaVoie, moderated a lively panel discussion at MassBio entitled “How to Engage Busy Biotech Reporters” where a packed house of communicators heard from some of the most important journalists covering the life sciences scene today. Panelists included Gideon Gil, Managing Editor, STAT, Lisa Henderson, Group Editorial Director, Applied Clinical Trials and Pharmaceutical Executive, Lisa LaMotta, Senior Editor, BioPharma Dive, Angus Macaulay, Chief Revenue Officer, STAT, and Max Stendahl, Biotech Reporter, Boston Business Journal.

With their help, we got the inside scoop on how to build meaningful relationships that benefit both our clients and these important publications. Here’s what we learned:

A Day in the Life of a Journalist

It’s no secret that journalists are very busy. As such, PR professionals need to develop a keen understanding of their targets’ day-to-day schedules and take a mindful approach to outreach. This will allow you to capitalize on opportunities to reach a given reporter, pitch an idea and help establish a long-term working relationship that is beneficial and productive for both sides.

For Lisa LaMotta of BioPharma Dive, “crunch time” is between 8:00 AM and noon every day, as the team works to finalize their daily newsletter. In the afternoon, they typically work on longer-range stories, and may have opportunities to discuss ideas and consider pitches from communications pros.

Max Stendahl of the Boston Business Journal has a more unpredictable schedule given that the BBJ publishes daily on-line newsletters at 7:00 AM and 3:00 PM and their print issue goes out every Friday. Wednesday afternoon is deadline for the print issue, so this is not a good time to try engaging in a conversation or sending over a pitch. Sometimes, timing is everything.

Personal Relationships are the Key

Developing a personal rapport with editors and reporters is key to success, and every panelist commented on the importance of building relationships based on mutual trust and respect. In a world where journalists are inundated with emails and phone calls, all agreed that they are much more likely to open or answer a pitch if they recognize the name on their phone or screen. Lisa LaMotta from BioPharma Dive explained that she has come to depend on a growing network of trusted sources that she can consistently rely on. Max Stendahl at the BBJ also appreciates getting to know his PR counterparts at a personal level. “Never underestimate the importance of getting coffee with someone,” he said. Lisa Henderson (UBM) reiterated the importance of personal relationships, stating, “Face to face contact is important. Networking is important. Relationships matter.”

Angus Macauley (STAT, Boston Globe) concluded by reminding the audience that all media outlets put on events and networking opportunities where you can meet with reporters. He encouraged everyone to take advantage of this as it’s a “golden opportunity to build relationships and differentiate yourself from the sea of anonymous PR people out there.”

Media Research & The Art of Pitching

No matter how strong your relationship, your story idea needs to be on point. Communications pros must be up-to-date on the latest trends, issues and storylines that matter to each media outlet they are targeting. The question then should be, “How can I insert my client into the conversation?” Lisa LaMotta at BioPharma Dive also stressed the importance of having a strong subject line in your email and encouraged the audience to make their pitch titles “snappy.” As an example, she referred to a recent pitch she received entitled, “Cambridge Analytica’s Effect on Boston Biotech Marketing.” It was catchy, relevant and left her curious.

Gideon Gil, Managing Editor at STAT also stressed that “strong, unique ideas are as good as gold to reporters and editors,” as are fascinating personalities to profile. “Bring interesting people to us as we want to hear from experts who are doing innovative work in the field,” he said. Max Stendahl added that the Boston Business Journal doesn’t necessarily cater to a scientific audience, so he likes to hear from C-level executives who can give him a very high-level explanation in simple, relatable terms. (Think describing a biotech innovation to your uncle at the Thanksgiving dinner table).

Most importantly, all panelists underscored the importance of demonstrating a true understanding of their publications and the types of stories they cover. This will give you credibility over the long-term and can only be done through reading and researching.

It’s Not Just Earned Media

In addition to earned media, the panel also shifted discussion toward paid opportunities which, in many cases, have become more readily available as major publications focus more and more on their digital platforms. A few of our panelists encouraged the audience to explore these options, citing their distinct benefits.

Angus Macauley, at STAT, discussed how paid opportunities enable you to tightly control messaging and distribution. He also mentioned that they have a strong network of freelancers who can produce strong, on-message copy – or repurpose existing content for you so that it fits their publication from a user experience standpoint.

Lisa Henderson mentioned that Pharmaceutical Executive is branching out to a broader biotech audience, and offers Webinars, whitepapers, eBooks and other paid opportunities. She often consults on these projects, helping clients from a strategic messaging standpoint.

The team at LavoieHealthScience would like to thank our panelists and everyone who came out to participate in the discussion. We hope it was an informative experience and we look forward to hosting similar events in the future. For any immediate inquiries, please contact Doug Russell, SVP and General Manager at LaVoieHealthScience at drussell@lavoiehealthscience.com.

Donna LaVoie, President and CEO of LaVoieHealthScience, Announced as Spokeies Award Winner in two Categories

The SPOKEies® are the first awards program to honor the best in-house spokespeople representing brands, non-profits and corporations. The mission behind the SPOKEies® is to acknowledge and reward leaders who communicate honestly and effectively on behalf of their organizations. The winners were judged based on their ability to achieve organizational goals, creativity, trust and authenticity as a spokesperson.

The winners share their advice with the communications community on May 3, 2018 on a live multi-channel video stream called “Spokesperson Secrets to Build Your Brand.” A full list of honorees can be found on this Awards Page which also includes quotes and tips from the winners.

Donna has been recognized as the winner of the “Corporate Emerging Growth/Startups” and “C-Suite Leader Corporate” categories.

Listen Up! Using Radio as Part of a Communications Strategy

Often overlooked, radio is a great channel to get a message out. With the ability to reach audiences both locally and nationally, radio can be an effective way to narrate news or share a success. Radio allows for the broad reach of television, as well as the selectivity and targeting that comes with a multitude of stations. Best of all, radio can accommodate earned and sponsored content.

Radio is best used as an earned media channel with news that is hyper local. For example, when LEO Pharmaceuticals established their LEO Science & Tech Hub in Cambridge, MA office, we secured a radio interview on WBZ Radio, a news and talk radio station covering the Greater Boston area. The radio interview, which leveraged a press release announcement, in turn garnered additional coverage. This is a great example of informing the local community, including a wide range of members of the life science ecosystem, of something happening in their backyard.

Radio can also be used as a paid media channel with broader news such as scientific success and/or clinical trial recruitment. For the former, an example could be a minute-long radio spot where the narrator provides an overview of the disease, followed by the CEO with a brief overview of their scientific success, and concluding with a reference to the company’s website. For clinical trial recruitment, a one-minute spot is created as well. The recruitment trial spot starts with a narrator going over the disease, the doctor conducting the study is introduced, the doctor gives a broad overview of the study, and it concludes with how to find more information on the study. With sponsored radio content, there is an opportunity to target by geography and/or demographics.

Although not the first thing you turn to when thinking about communication channels, radio is a spot-on way of getting your company’s news to a broad audience.

Want to hear more? We would be happy to discuss how LHS can help you find new and creative ways to reach your audiences.

LaVoieHealthScience Presents How to Engage Busy Biotech Reporters

This not-to-be-missed Q&A panel, moderated by Donna LaVoie, Founder and CEO of LaVoieHealthScience, will feature top reporters and editors discussing paid, earned and online coverage of today’s health and science scene, including:

  • Gideon Gil, Managing Editor, STAT
  • Lisa Henderson, Group Editorial Director, Applied Clinical Trials and Pharmaceutical Executive
  • Lisa LaMotta, Senior Editor, BioPharma Dive
  • Angus Macaulay, Chief Revenue Officer, STAT
  • Max Stendahl, Biotech Reporter, Boston Business Journal

What You’ll Hear:

  • What top reporters are covering
  • The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of pitches they receive every day
  • Anatomy of a winning pitch
  • How to establish a relationship based on mutual value
  • Creative ways to engage beyond traditional coverage
  • Pros & cons of paid versus earned, shared media

Travel Coordinates:

  • Parking garage located at 800 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
  • T Stop: Kendall Square, Red Line is approximately 2 blocks away


The Collaboration Room at MassBio, 300 Technology Square, 8th Floor, Cambridge, MA 02139


Friday, April 27, 2018. | 9:00 – 10:30 AM


There is limited space, RSVP HERE today!

Top Ten Tips to Optimize #JPM18

Top Ten Tips to Optimize #JPM18

Check out the tips below and for even more information, check out Big3Bio’s Guide to JPM Week.

1)   The time is now.  It’s not too early to start outreach to those with whom you want to meet, and it’s never too late to stop. While some will fill their calendars early, others know to leave some slots for late-breaking requests (see tip 10)

2)    Extend your Reach.  Target 20% new names.  Not sure how you’ll find them?  Use the resources of a third party, be it a high-tech platform or a high-touch agency.

3)    Refresh your pitch. Some things never change, but others should. Make sure your message and positioning clearly articulate your current vision and opportunity. Need help? Refer to LHS Immersion™.

4)    Divide and conquer.  Don’t do every meeting with every co-worker. Branch off to different meetings and events to ensure full value for your time in San Francisco.

5)      Disconnect and conquer.   Try turning off your phone.  Really.  This will force you to focus on the people in front of you.

6)    Know Your Audience.   It’s tempting to tell your audience everything you possibly can about your product, platform or service. Don’t.  Fifteen slides are plenty.  Check out The LHS Fifteen-Slide Presentation™ for insight.

7)    Don’t go too green.  It’s easy to forego hard copy collateral however a hand-out can support the real-time conversation, while ensuring an imprint beyond the meeting itself.  Paper or pixels?  Both please.

8)    Consider an Infographic. Pictures are really worth 1,000 words, so there is no need to overwhelm your counterparty with text. Use infographics to depict your companies story in a creative and informative manner.

9)    Have (most of) a plan. Things get changed and rescheduled quickly in San Francisco; leave some holes in your calendar for impromptu meetings and on-the-spot networking. You may miss an at-hand opportunity if your scheduled is overbooked.

10)   Follow up.  Schedule time after you’re back in the office to follow up with the contacts you made in San Francisco.  Nothing is easier than getting jammed back into your day-to-day work; ensure you’ve penciled in time to debrief.

First-time attendee or long-time alum, at LaVoieHealthScience we help our clients optimize business opportunities.  Click, call or email to learn more.   crusso@lavoiehealthscience.com


Multi-Party Communications

Multi-Party Communications: Four Keys for Success

As life science companies continue the trend toward partnerships, communications challenges can multiply.  Partnerships help companies to enter new markets, continue niche research and introduce innovations sooner. But even though they are joining forces, each company will have a unique, and sometimes competing, set of communications and business goals.

While it’s easy to default to the needs of the larger company, strategic communications entails finding ways to balance the needs of all parties.  A solid communications strategy conveys a clear and consistent message to stakeholders of all companies in the partnership, and also paves the way for patients, advocacy groups, media and investors to learn more.

The following are four key issues to consider for multi-party communications:

  • Audience Identification: Ensure that both companies clearly establish the key stakeholders for their news, as well as the appropriate digital, print and broadcast media.
  • Consistent Messaging: While the key messages should be tailored to each company’s audience, the underlying theme must be determined up-front and in conjunction with both parties, to ensure there are no surprises in how each are represented to various stakeholder audiences.
  • Internal Communications: Coordinating among internal parties is key.  The science, strategy and financials must be in internal alignment.  Therefore the process for developing expectations and timelines goes a long way toward ensuring a smooth liftoff.
  • External/Social Media Communications: Develop specialized pitches whenever possible. While based on similar underlying message, the outreach should be tailorable to the varying kinds of media outlets each company seeks to attract.  Identify and train key spokespeople in advance so they are at-the-ready for media outreach.  Consider videos and/or podcasts that may be uploaded to social media, and monitor discussion across both companies’ social channels.

The idea of coordinating communications between partners can be daunting.  But with the right preparation and forethought, it can be an exciting time for a strategic communications program to cultivate trust with each company, and deliver results that meet the needs of all parties.

An in-depth version of this article was featured in O’Dwyer’s October 2017 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.

ABCs of 13F Filings

Adding, Balancing and Comparing Insights

As we near 45 days post quarter-end, it’s time to prepare for 13F filings, the stock ownership reports filed by institutional investors. While it is easy enough to access 13F data, the challenge is how to add value by combining market intelligence, company insight and competitor understanding into your 13F analyses. Here are our ABCs for adding, balancing and comparing 13F insights.

Add insight gleaned from market intelligence activities

One of the keys to adding value with market intelligence is to ensure you’ve been capturing investor interactions throughout the quarter.  These notes, ideally one or two sentences about the investor and three to five bullets on topics that were covered, can then be tied to changes in ownership. Perhaps someone with whom you met in January is now initiating a position in the September 13F filing period. Or a position is being trimmed and from the investor database you see the portfolio manager has moved to another firm.  Tying on-the-ground insights with on-line data provides important nuances that add value to the company’s future investor relations activities.

Balance news events

The reasons underlying every investment vary – with decisions driven by a blend of quantitative financial performance and investment thesis, and qualitative announcements and news.  Make sure you pull all the releases from the past quarter and conduct a thorough, unbiased assessment on the impact of these announcements on the investment community.  Understand investors’ perception on the company’s recent news and you’ll have a better idea about what’s happening behind the numbers.

Compare competitive position changes

There are hidden gems in every corner of the 13 filings.  This includes buying and selling of your peer companies’ stock.  Perhaps a shareholder has trimmed a position in your company, and has also trimmed positions in your peers.  Or conversely, has a shareholder trimmed a position in your company but doubled down on a peer?  This type of comparative analysis allows for a 360° view of stock ownership and can be used to target the next generation of shareholder as new investors of competitor companies can be added to your target outreach list.

In sum, by adding insights, balancing news events and comparing peer’s positions, 13F data can move beyond a simple ownership review with added value for ongoing IR activities.

Coordinating Messages When Companies Join Forces

Click the image to read more.

By Donna LaVoie

Life science companies, including big and small pharma, biotech and health technology, continue the trend toward partnerships to research, develop and/or commercialize their innovations, allowing companies to enter new markets, continue niche disease research and development and introduce innovations sooner. Adding to the mix are accelerators and venture firms launching new companies into the health science and technology ecosystem.

Even though they are joining forces, and likely have the same end-goal, each of these companies will have a unique, and sometimes competing, set of communications and business goals. They also may have different priorities on stakeholder mix. While it’s easy to default to the needs of the larger company, strategic communications entails finding ways to balance the needs of all parties in the transaction.

Read more at O’Dwyer’s.

Nothing Succeeds Like… Moderation?

Five Fundamentals on Moderating a Panel

Speaking gigs are a true sign of success. You have been recognized as a key opinion leader in your field and you have been asked to share your knowledge and insight. But what about moderating a panel? This too is an acknowledgement of industry leadership. As such, it is a role for which you should be well prepared to ensure the audience benefits from the combined expertise and experience of the moderator and the panelists. Here are 5 fundamentals for moderating excellence.

Know your panelists: Know your panelists individually and as a group. Don’t just scan through their LinkedIn page – understand what their company does, what their job entails and past experience in the field. Conduct an introductory call with the panelists to pressure test topics and ensure there is a good mix of opinions and insights.

Don’t ask the same question of each panelist: The audience does not want to sit through panelists regurgitating information about the same question. Use your research to help generate questions for specific panelists. Some panelists will have drug development expertise and others will have insights into commercialization. Some will be in markets or indications that overlap, and others will not. Target these overlaps and differences to optimize the questions you ask.

Be an active listener: Take notes. Revisit the most important topics that created great conversation and debate. As a moderator, you can bring another perspective by using a third-party reference. For example, “That’s an interesting point Speaker B just made. However, there’s another school of thought that was covered recently in the media. Speaker A, can you comment?” Of course, as an active listener you can also reinforce a point. “That’s an interesting point Speaker B just made and one that was covered recently in the media. Speaker A, can you comment?” Active listening allows you to engage the audience by challenging some points of view and reinforcing others.

Be a mindful timekeeper: Timekeeping is an important task for the moderator. It is your role to lead an engaging conversation within a pre-specified amount of time. Make sure to save some time at the end for audience questions, but not so much that the onus is on them to keep the session going. And don’t hold the audience hostage beyond the allotted time. Your role is to alert the panelists and the audience as the clock winds down. Be prepared to say, “We have time for one more question.”

Have a closing statement: Having alerted the room that the session is coming to an end, make sure you’ve saved a few minutes for closing remarks. Use the notes that you have taken throughout to leave the audience with 3 – 5 takeaways from the panel discussion. A strong close will ensure the audience leaves with an appreciation for the knowledge and expertise not only of the panelists, but also the moderator.

LaVoieHealthScience Clients Recognized by Xconomy

 LaVoieHealthScience Clients Recognized by Xconomy

LEO Science & Tech Hub and Xontogeny Selected as Award Finalists

LaVoieHealthScience, an integrated investor and public relations agency focused on advancing health and science innovations, today announced that two clients, LEO Science & Tech Hub and Xontogeny are finalists for the 2017 Xconomy awards!  The Xconomy awards honor the top people, companies and organizations that make the Boston life sciences community one of the most vibrant innovation centers in the world during Biotech Week Boston.

Chris Garabedian, CEO of Xontogeny is a finalist in the Contrarian category and LEO Science & Tech Hub in the Newcomer category.

The Xconomy Awards are part of the Biotech Week in Boston and will be presented at the awards gala on September 26th.

About LaVoieHealthScience

LaVoieHealthScience partners with leading life science brands to build value for their companies, attract capital and reach key stakeholders through integrated communications and marketing. The firm provides strategic communications, investor relations and public relations to build recognition and increase sales and value for health science innovations. The agency has received 28 awards over the past seven years in recognition of the work it has done for its health and science industry-leading clients. In addition to clients listed above, LaVoieHealthScience represents leaders such as Cydan Development, Imara, NewLink Genetics, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Newron Pharmaceuticals, Origenis, and other emerging health and science companies.