What’s on Your [social media] Bucket List?

We hear it all the time – my company wants to start a social media program, but we’re concerned we won’t have the content to maintain the program. To address this concern, LaVoieHealthScience recommends a two-tiered structure. First, develop three categories to “bucket” content, and use this framework to develop evergreen posts. Second, be prepared to initiate news or insert your company into ongoing conversations as topics arise. With this structure in place, not only will you have an ongoing program of social media news, but also you will establish your company voice.

Establish Themes, Develop Baseline Content
For example, your categories could be “Disease Awareness and Developments,” “Therapeutic Approach” and “Industry News.” With these themes as a guide, write five evergreen posts per week for starters, one per weekday. Evergreen content can be posted at any time. For example, a “Disease Awareness and Developments” post may cover estimates of those affected, or advocacy group news. The “Therapeutic Approach” post could include advances in immuno-oncology, small molecules, implantable devices or whatever your company’s focus area. An “Industry News” post can showcase what is happening in the life science industry – ideas include an exciting speaker, book or conference.

There are different tools you can utilize to schedule posts and track industry leaders and news. One commonly used dashboard allows for the pre-scheduling of posts, including customization of the time and social media channel[s].

Initiate News; Insert your Company into Conversations
With a baseline of evergreen content developed, you’re free to spend some time on real-time company news and engage with other thought leaders. Not sure where to start? Of course, press releases will be pulled through your social channels. Whether the news is regulatory, clinical, corporate or commercial, company news is a must for social distribution. Beyond press releases, however, companies also have less obvious news. Sometimes it is a corporate event or support for a local non-profit or advocacy group.

Social platforms also offer an opportunity to insert your point of view into ongoing conversations. Part of establishing a social platform is determining who to follow. With other thoughts leaders in view, you can comment, repost and/or like others’ conversations. You can also start a conversation with a White Paper or other “point of view” collateral.

Social platforms are built to foster conversation so on top of sharing your news you should be interacting with other people/companies in that industry. Commenting, liking and reposting shows you are actively engaged with industry events, while ensuring regular, relevant content.

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.

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.

Taming the Trolls: Tips for Social Media Engagement

Social media can be a useful tool for a health and science company – everything from raising the company profile and connecting with advocacy groups, to offering another channel for disseminating news and updates. However, social media can also be a forum for naysayers to spread rumors, speculation and inaccurate interpretations.

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With LaVoieHealthScience’s expertise in the management of life science IR, PR and social platforms, here are four tactics to tame the social trolls.

1) Be Disciplined. The first rule is do not engage. A disparaging comment may be difficult to ignore, especially if assumptions are incorrect or quoted data is inaccurate. However, getting into a social media debate is unnecessary, unprofessional and rarely works out for the company in question. Take the high road. You may address the issue, but not the person.

2) Kill Them with Science. There is no such thing as perfect data. This, of course leaves room for speculation. In these situations, simply reiterate the facts and science that got you where you are in the first place. Is your data positive? Did the FDA review your trial design? Is there precedence for your endpoints? Were the side-effects tolerable? Another way to deflate speculation is to acknowledge any inconclusive outcomes, followed by the facts and data that lead to the path forward.

3) A Little Help from your Influencers. If an item has a substantial impact on share price, you might want to call in the big guns, the covering analysts or the key opinion leaders. Chances are they have already read the piece and have been receiving investor inquiries. A rebuttal from analysts and key opinion leaders will reach your institutional shareholders and can go a long way in refuting the inaccurate interpretation.

4) Be Consistent. Having an active social platform can convey the perception of “business as usual.” Don’t let negative messaging derail the flow of news, advocacy and education. Reiterate facts, science, indication and support.

We would be more than happy to discuss your company’s needs for health and science strategic communications.

How to Channel Video Success

LaVoieHealthScience: How to Channel Video Success

Lights, camera, video! More and more life science companies are offering videos because video allows viewers to literally see what your company is all about. Strategic communications for health and life science innovators means having a message that is both differentiated and approachable. This is true across collateral – website copy, press releases, Fact Sheets, etc.; and also across media – written, spoken and visual. As such, a video allows for easy access and engrossing delivery.

Creating a biotech public relations video may seem daunting, but with a few basics in hand you’re well on your way.

1. Lighting Matters, But Background Matters More

Lighting is important, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Beginner videographers need to pay more attention to the background. Is there a messy desk in the frame? What about that window in the background? Video favors a spare setting, and windows often cause people and objects to reflect off the glass, making for an awkward video.

2. Smartphones are Fine for Starters

Something as simple as a smartphone will work for a classic home-video look. If you want to upgrade your audience’s viewing experience, you’ll need to upgrade to a real video camera. Of course, the person behind the camera should have steady hands, or plan to use a tripod.

3. The Buzz You Don’t Want

When reviewing your video, you may notice a light buzzing noise in the background, also called white noise. Whether it’s wind blowing into the microphone or too much background noise, bad audio can ruin a good video. If your camera has a headphone jack, plug in and do some sound checks. Make sure you can clearly hear what you want your audience to hear, and film in a quiet space to ease the intensity of white noise.

4. Keep it Short

People want to watch videos, but they have short attention spans. Your video must start strong to keep your audience from skipping to the next item on their ‘to do’ list.

5. Edit to Your Audience

If you’re shooting a one-take video, be prepared to shoot more than one time until you get it right. If you’re not shooting in one take, allow sufficient time for editing. Think carefully about the audience – who are you trying to attract, what is message you want them to remember? Rarely will someone watch a 5-minute plus video all the way through if they don’t know what it’s about. Keep it short precise to the message you’re trying to get across.

6. Upload and distribute through social networks

Once you’re satisfied with your piece, export the video and upload it onto YouTube. You can’t expect the world to fall in love with your video if you just let it sit there; so, tweet out the link to all your Twitter followers, post the video on your Facebook page, and email it out to anyone who you know would be interested (no spamming!).

Videos are a guarantee that through social media distribution, people beyond your current base will hear about your business and actually see what your company is all about. Plus, your audience will appreciate you switching things up (and, hopefully, entertaining them!). Once you understand a few basics, you can produce a great-looking video on your own.

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.

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.

August is…. READER’S CHOICE

Catch up on some of your favorite LaVoieHealthScience blogs! They include, Infographics: No Longer If, But HowHow and When to Build a Board and Paper or Pixels? We’ll Take Both.

Infographics: No Longer If, But How

Infographics are no longer “if we have the time and budget,” but “how do we make ours inform and engage.” Engagement is increased markedly if a picture is included.  We took a deeper dive on why, which and how to use infographics.

How and When to Build a Board: A Primer for Emerging Companies

How many people, when to recruit and what kind of strategy to build a board for an emerging health science company?  We surveyed a few trusted board members  for advice on when to build a board, how to select board members and what size board to consider.

Paper or Pixels? We’ll Take Both

It’s one thing to be environmentally conscious, but another to give a presentation without any hard copy collateral. Read our thoughts on using a single-page fact sheet or copy of the slides to support the real-time presentation.

We hope you find these informational and fun to read! Visit our blog page here for other strategic communications insights.