Can Social Media Help You Meet Your Organization’s Communication Goals?

LaVoieHealthScience joined communications pros from around the world at the IPREX Global Leadership Conference and discussed – in person – how to help our clients with digital content and social media. The top 3 social media outlets are: Linked In, Twitter and Facebook.  If you’re not using them, you may want to reconsider. Here’s how:

Get started.  Start by thinking about your target audience:  What are management’s priorities and who are they trying to reach?  Investors, advocacy organizations, customers, media, potential and existing partners as well as the general public.  Today’s world is built by fostering relationships with these target audiences, and social media can help your organization communicate with these target audiences.  Also, don’t forget to check out what your competitors are doing.

Think about each audience and what they would like to hear from you.  Asking and listening are much more important than talking.  Investors want to hear about how your development projects are coming along, what your plans are to raise more capital and whether you will meet your financial projections.  Advocacy organizations want to hear about what you are doing to support their cause and lend your expertise to further develop visibility in that particular disease area.  Customers want updates and more information about the product or technology they are buying.  Existing partners want to hear about how the product they are involved with is progressing.  Potential partners want to know about complementary expertise in their specific disease areas.  The general public wants to know how your advancements are changing the world in your particular disease area.

How can you achieve your communication goals through social media?  Let’s consider your target audiences and what you can send their way that would address their needs.  Investors might like to hear about a milestone or quarterly financial results. Advocacy organizations might want to hear about the scientific paper you are presenting at an upcoming medical/scientific meeting.  Customers might like to hear about new enhancements to an existing product although you need to keep in mind the FDA Best Practices for Internet and Social Media Promotion.  Check out our FDA Best Practices for Internet and Social Media Promotion, Part 1 and Part 2.  Existing and potential partners might like any updates about the organization and/or its products.  The general public might like to know about any medical and scientific meetings where you are presenting and any advances you are making in a particular disease area.

How can you measure your success?  It is not about quantity.  It is about quality.  Are you addressing your target audiences’ needs?  Use Google Analytics (because it’s free) to figure out whether you reached your social media goals and try to link new trends back to your social media outreach.

Digital is an essential part of everything we do today.  Take advantage of this opportunity by building a relationship with your target audience through social media today!

social media-resized-600

Initial Public Offering: A Fleeting Thought or a Fast-Moving Plan

Last year was a record year for biotech with the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index up 65.61% and the S&P Biotech Index up 48.4%.  Performance in the biotech sector beat out the S&P 500 which was up 29.6% and NASDAQ which was up 38.3%, both of which were at record highs.

This year got off to a hot start, too, with 29 life science companies going public in Q1.

Still, many companies thinking about it remain on the sidelines due to past volatility of the markets, demands of “living in a fish bowl,” and the costs associated with being public.

If you’re thinking about it, here are some things to think about:

ipo infographic

Preparation Phase. Choosing your partners can take a few months. Investment bankers will help determine fair value for your company and its brand, choose the ideal time to go public and conduct due diligence to verify the financial information, your market and technology/product story to determine how it will resonate with investors. Legal counsel leads SEC filings and responses, corporate governance issues and contracts. Corporate and public relations counsel will provide a roadmap for building value for your health science innovations such as how to craft messaging around corporate milestones and dissemination and coverage. This phase is about storytelling and connecting your brand to the right stakeholders that matter to you most.  The right investor audiences are important in this phase but so are the influencers with whom investors rely on for their information such as Key Opinion Leaders in the medical community.

Registration Phase. Considerations in choosing the right exchange for you should include stock liquidity, process and timeline of going public, valuation, regulatory environment and the listing standards and fees.  You will also want to come up with the company story for your roadshow.  You should be prepared to tell a compelling equity story with a clear message about how IPO proceeds will be used to fund growth and how your strong management and advisory teams are positioned to bring success in the future.  Is your message clear, consistent, sustainable and supportable?  Speaking of management, identify your company spokesperson and consider training that individual to improve on their verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

Marketing Phase. Bankers will be training their salesforce to sell your stock and you and your CFO will hit the road.  The roadshow, where the bankers will take your senior management team on a whirlwind tour, will begin, and the bankers will start to build the order book where they will compile a list of interested buyers.   At this point you will also want to get investor relations professional’s input on investor allocations.

Check out our next blog about developing your communications process post-IPO.

That Damn Agency! Achieving ROI

With the IPO boom in biotech and healthcare, more small-cap companies from pre-IPO through commercialization stage are incorporating public relations and/or investor relations into their corporate strategy. But many companies are not 100% happy with their agency relationship; hence: “that damn agency”!

There are a few things to consider when engaging with an investor relations and/or public relations partner, or reevaluating a current relationship, in order to maximize your return on investment. By putting time and thought into the process, you will be more satisfied with the end results.

What do you want to achieve from IR/PR?
Many companies employ an IR/PR agency to check a box without identifying what they want and how to achieve it. It is important that you and your board have a clear understanding of the company’s goals and communicate them to your agency partner. Your agency partner can help create the strategy, define the deliverables and ways in which to use research and analytical tools to measure progress over time.

Does the firm understand your world?
Your firm should spend time in your field, understand and have relationships with media, investors, analysts, advocacy groups, and the key opinion leaders that matter most. Be sure this firm understands your company, its background, the product(s) and their unique selling position, the technology platform and market. This is fundamental to ensuring your IR/PR partner can build an effective communications program for you. Your firm should be digging deep and showing a genuine interest in what you do. After all, you and the firm are investing in the relationship for long-term success.

Know who you will you be working with day-to-day.
Be sure you talk to and meet with the actual team that you will be working with. This will give you a better understanding of the team you are buying. Generally speaking, small firms are staffed with industry experts and have deep experience despite being small. If you want strategy, a small firm may provide you with what you need versus a larger firm may provide more arms and legs.

Make your IR/PR partner part of your company and they will become your advocates. Keep your IR/PR partner in the know and make them part of the team. Make sure you like each other. It’s a long journey and you want to enjoy the ride and get value from the firm you select. The more informed members of the team are, the better they are able to provide creative ideas, strategic counsel and metrics that mean something.

How much is your budget and does it match your goals?
Understand what you are paying for and the billing structure. With industry normal budget allocations for your effort (based on stage of development and expected outcome), you are sure to achieve success. Achieving a major business milestone is sure demonstration of the value. Ask about other case studies of like firms.

Agencies Love Good Clients and Perform Better. Be prepared to invest in the agency relationship and be a good client. Good clients – a client that truly partners with their IR/PR teams – get more from their agencies. Trust the firm has the experience to take you through your upcoming milestones and reach your goals. Make them a true partner and stay engaged in the relationship so you can maximize the relationship to achieve your goals.roi-graphic

Life Science Communications: The Winning Formula for a Killer Corporate Presentation

Killer presentation graphic 2

Presentation slides are a tool to aid management in telling a clear and concise story about the company’s technology, pipeline, products and value proposition to investors and potential partners. Biotech/medtech/healthcare presentations often are too long, too complex, and have too much unnecessary information.

During the summer, the conference schedule lightens making it a great time to retool and revamp your messaging and tighten up that presentation deck for the fall. A message development, positioning, stakeholder prioritization session can go a long way to building a foundation for your corporate presentation and provides a framework for ensuring clear messaging and positioning that sets you apart.

So what is the winning formula for a killer corporate presentation?  Here are a few tips:

  1. Make sure that your presentation tells a story. Start with the company overview that positions the company and its value proposition right away.
  2. Minimize the amount of information on each slide. Limit each slide to five to six bullets with top-line messages only- don’t lose the message by using too much text. The focus should be on what the presenter is saying-not what is on the slide.
  3. Use graphics. Visuals quickly illustrate important points better than text does. This is great news, because companies tend to use a lot of charts and graphs to explain data results!
  4. Every slide should focus on and demonstrate one key message to help frame the investment thesis. This helps move the story along.
  5. Keep the number of slides to no more than 18-22 (this includes opening and closing pages, and the management team slide).
  6. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention to include a Safe-Harbor slide for any corporate presentation. Be sure to make a brief safe-harbor statement verbally. Avoid minimizing the “obligatory” safe harbor. That defeats the purpose! (Imagine what the FDA would think if you said “and here is the obligatory black box warning on our drug.”)

Developing a corporate presentation deck that clearly articulates the company story and makes a compelling value proposition involves a significant commitment of time. The results are well worth the effort when you see the company story resonate with your audience.

However, don’t forget to spend time message training your key spokespersons. Your slides are only a guide to telling your story. It’s important that the person delivering the story is enthusiastic, credible and delivers the story in a way that investors believe is achievable. Be realistic about how long things take and set expectations appropriately. It’s about building trust and transparency, and relationships are the key to successful value creation.

LaVoieHealthScience Issues Important Blog about Press Releases

Blog Touches on Important Dos: like Subheads

And Don’ts: Like Too Many Subheads

BOSTON– August 1, 2014 -LaVoieHealthScience (LHS), a strategic communications agency that often develops and distributes press releases for its clients and sometimes itself, today released a blog opining on its processes and recommendations for press releases.

“I’ve been after Dave to write this blog for a long time,” commented LaVoieHealthScience boss Donna L. LaVoie. “However, he will not let me comment or state that I am very pleased our organization has issued this blog which we hope our clients will find very insightful and most useful…….”

As a newspaper reporter for a number of years before turning to the dark side (or seeing the light, depending on who’s asking) I used to dismiss press releases. I hated canned quotes. I was skeptical of companies’ self-proclaimed dedications to something or other. Press releases said someone commented or stated, when it should have said, “said.” Of course, I was getting them via fax, which I hated, too.

I certainly did not appreciate all the work that goes into developing certain press releases. I do now, but many of my reporter’s biases remain.

Typically, the press release follows our branded message development process the LHS team undertakes for a new client. In some cases, we write the first, second and third drafts, collect input from any number of players and then finalize and issue over the wire. Other times, clients write them; we provide our feedback, and then it’s issued.

We make sure the press release is effective and generates exposure for whatever news we’re announcing. Of course, some news announcements, like phase 2 or 3 study data, are more complex than others, such as a new C-suite appointment or conference appearance. But press releases should have news. By definition, that’s new information. Otherwise, maybe a press is not the medium for whatever we’re trying to say.

This brings us to a few LHS dos and don’ts. First, the dos:

Do:

1. Include the news in the headline. This is the first part everyone sees, and by that I mean everyone. It must be accurate, reflective of the content and grab the reader’s attention;

2. Include a subhead if there are additional important pieces of information, but do not cram in all the new information in subheads;

3. Answer one important question: Why should the reader care? Think benefit, not feature.

4. Make the quotes compelling; be sure they add something and are reflective of the person quoted: Chief medical officers should tie the news to patients; Chief science officers should discuss data and mechanism of action; CEOs should add perspective and tell the readers why they should care;

5. Optimize for search engine pickup with links and relevant search terms;

6. Include digital assets when possible, such as a product photo, logo, or, if you can, a short video. Multi-media releases often gain 5 to 10 times the exposure of traditional releases; and

7. Include contact information.

Don’t:

1. Overhype your news with all sorts of overly descriptive, unnecessary superlatives;

2. Get repetitive or repeat key facts over and over or get repetitive;

3. Personalize your pronouns outside quotes. Think it, not we and not they;

4. Use industry jargon and clichés;

5. USE ALL CAPS…. Anywhere, except the DATELINE; and

6. Forget to proof and spellcheck.

With or without an agency partner, press releases are a lot of work. There’s effort and angst with developing a strong headline and lede and a good CEO quote that adds to the story. Double and triple checking facts and figures is a must. At LHS, we employ our press release protocol for each release, and these protocols are specific to each client. It doesn’t take away the angst and effort, but rather makes sure there’s a check mark for each piece along the way. Check it out.

 

All Media Relations Is Local

“All Politics is Local” is the name of the autobiography of Tip O’Neill, the Cambridge city councilor and superintendent of sewers who went on to serve 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, including a decade as Speaker of the House. O’Neill lived by those words, a phrase he used regularly after losing his very first political campaign.

It’s been used in countless contexts since, and it always sticks in my head when it comes to media relations for two reasons. First, with online news outlets, Google news alerts, Feedly and any number of web-based readers, everything becomes local when it hits your iPhone. BioWorld sometimes has more Kendall Square datelines than the Cambridge Chronicle & Tab.

Second, and more importantly, local media have a vested interest in covering local companies for a number of reasons, geography first and foremost.  The interest on the part of business writers at local papers and local television and radio news producers goes beyond phase 2 data and the cost savings to the health care world. They follow commercial real estate, jobs and chambers of commerce.  The same can be said of the hundreds of editorial staff at The Business Journals in about 50 cities. They come with daily email blasts, too.

A strong relationship with these reporters is important to establish early on. Working with local reporters early and often surely will pay dividends down the road. Could be through a crisis or a puff piece. They pay attention, and by “they,” I mean everyone who works at these papers.

Funny story. A high-ranking C-suite member of a biotech company that was in play submitted a change of address to the circulation department. He had several months left on his subscription to the weekly print edition, and rather than have it delivered to his office, he wanted it delivered to his home. The circulation tipped off the biotech beat reporter, and the biotech beat reporter wanted to know when the company was closing its offices and moving to France, Ireland, New Jersey or wherever the new owner was taking all the jobs.

I am biased. I worked for several years in local media as staff writer at The Enterprise of Brockton, Mass., a daily newspaper with a circulation about 50,000. Keep your eyes on the ‘Prise. I was there when the website got launched, but not when Tip O’Neill was in office. I digress.

Local media pay attention. In some cases, local media outlets may not have a reporter who is well versed in biotech and spec pharma jargon, and they’ll need a little hand holding when we explain an adeno-associated virus or messenger RNA technology.

But, ultimately, it’s time well spent in developing the relationship with the writer, building the foundation of your corporate story-telling efforts and reaching multiple stakeholders with your message. After all, depending where they are, all patients are local.

San Francisco-Bound: IR Planning for the 1Q 2015

Various Healthcare Conferences Provide Access to Industry Partners and Investors

As we work through the fourth quarter, are you thinking about the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco?  This annual event is one of the largest and most important events for those of us in the health and life science industries.  In 2015 the event will be held on January 12 – 16.  When I say the event, I am not just referring to JP Morgan but also the other conferences that run simultaneously with JP Morgan—Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum.

While the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is a bank-sponsored event and is by invitation only, Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum provide opportunities for networking and business development as well as provide investor access.  Biotech Showcase is an investor and partnering conference that runs January 12 – 14 at the Parc 55 Wyndham and provides both public and private biotech and life science companies the opportunity to connect with investors and industry executives. OneMedForum is similar in that it attracts both public and private companies, but this conference targets emerging growth companies and is also held on January 12 – 14 at a new, larger venue, the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

SF

Hopefully you’ve booked your hotel and/or meeting room.  With thousands of professionals attending each year, hotels and meeting rooms get booked very early.  Some companies even book their reservations following the conclusion of the upcoming conference for the following year.  Biotech Showcase offers its conference attendees discounted room rates at the Parc 55 Wyndham by using their online reservation system or calling 800-697-3013. Since many attendees book meeting after meeting all day long, there is something to be said for staying in the same location as the conference.  If the hotels where the conference you attend has no rooms available or doesn’t meet your needs, consider locating rooms close to the venue as running back and forth through San Francisco, known as the second hilliest city in the world, doesn’t bode well for your feet by the end of the day.

Your next consideration should be which conference you will attend or perhaps you are considering attending all of the conferences.  If you are planning to choose between Biotech Showcase and OneMedForum, look at who is attending each conference and who has attended in the past.  Which conference focuses more on your target audience?  Not sure of your target investor audience?  Look at your competitors and who follows them.

Will you host a company presentation or attend to set up one-on-one meetings or do both?  Biotech Showcase offers participants their PartneringOne system while OneMedForum offers participants their OneMedPlaceConnect system.  Both of these online meeting systems make it easy to target attendees you are interested in meeting with, sends them invitations, assigns meeting places and even keeps your schedule helping you keep track of any last minute changes.  They save you the time and effort of booking and paying for a meeting room, which are in high demand and very expensive in San Francisco during JP Morgan but may be worth the expense if you want to establish a higher profile and brand presence with your target audiences.  Assessing your priorities for the upcoming year should help you decide whether a corporate presentation or partnering meetings or both are right for you. Think about your goals—are you trying to raise money, increase awareness about your company and/or its product(s), establish partnerships to market your product ex-US or gain expertise in a certain treatment area?

Planning a company presentation is a great way to increase visibility among investors where they can sit through a brief introduction and decide whether they want more information about your company and its products.  What does your company presentation look like?  Why is your story relevant now?  You should be able to say what you need to say in 10 – 18 slides.  Take a fresh look at the story line, messaging and visual content; make some changes.  What are the key touch points for your products whether on the market or in development?  Are you addressing those points in your slide presentation?  Check out or blog on “The Winning Formula for a Killer Corporate Presentation.”

Looking at all of the work that needs to happen to make these conferences worthwhile may seem overwhelming, but attending JP Morgan is your best opportunity to reach investors and industry executives.  Keep in mind that participation at JP Morgan can potentially set your tone and have a big impact on 2015.  Consider working with a strategic communication partner with a clear understanding of the ropes and audiences present.  It may be worth making sure you obtain a clear return on investment.

Now that you are thinking about 2015, take a look at other financial conferences taking place this year and next:

Health Science Communications: Regardless of Company Size, Crisis Prevention is Key

Seven Time-Tested Rules for Crisis Communications

 

Regardless of the number of employees, the annual revenues, or the geographic reach of your company, being ill-prepared for a crisis situation can leave a lasting mark on your business. Start-ups, growth and multi-national companies alike all need to take into consideration scenario/outcome planning. Crisis situations can come in a variety of forms – unexpected results of a clinical trial, revenue shortfalls, abrupt or unexplained management changes or shifts in the clinical or regulatory environments. Companies need to have a crisis communications plan in place and be able to put it into action.

A crisis plan isn’t a “get out of jail free” card. Companies that find themselves in a crisis situation should prepare to face reprimands, public cynicism, management changes and a decline in market share amongst other things. However, wise planning and preparedness can help soften the blow and can even hold the potential to turn a public image disaster into a triumph.

As for the perfect crisis communications program, no such platform exists. No single communicator, PR agency or law firm possesses the ideal, one-size-fits-all crisis plan. Crisis communications programs are dependent on numerous factors. Solid crisis communications takes time, a devil’s advocate mentality and the resources necessary for success.

There are, however, some time-tested rules every crisis communications plan should include:

  1. Have a Message: Prepare a crisp, tight message that reflects your company’s mission, vision and values. Have documented reviews of your message and train spokespersons.
  2. Have a Plan: Get all relevant partners on board with the message – include legal and regulatory counsel, medical affairs and other internal stakeholders.
  3. Practice: Practice makes perfect. Credible message delivery of the facts can go a long way.
  4. Be Present & Consider All Stakeholders: Your spokesperson needs to be available to all constituents. Ensure your spokespersons are properly trained to speak to various customer groups, investors and to media. When possible, it should be your CEO. Utilize the “message triangle” approach in the development of top messages.
  5. Be Credible: Be humble, empathetic, and forthright with all affected parties, including the FDA. Similar to the media, the FDA should be treated as an ally, not an enemy. Most importantly display sincerity, honesty and credibility.
  6. Communicate: Use media engagements, press releases, crisis phone lines and pre-designed crisis websites and social media channels to repeatedly address the facts, the response, any and all corrective measures, and to communicate any follow-up actions related to the crisis. Following the voluntary recall of its anemia drug, Omontys,Affymax CEO John Orwin used a conference call to emphasize the company’s key message; “Patient safety is our #1 priority.” Welcome customer feedback and marshal employees to be ambassadors of good will. Your company doesn’t have a Twitter account? It should. The rising popularity of social media has made it a popular outlet for consumers and the general public to connect and communicate with companies, and the user base for these social media channels continues to grow. Therefore social media can be used to rapidly communicate the facts to a large, fresh audience in the midst of a crisis situation.
  7. Take responsibility: It sounds (and is) elementary but honesty IS the best policy. If your company is at fault accept immediate responsibility. This is not always easy but ensures your first step toward recovery is in the right direction.

success failure

So Many Business Cards, So Little Time!

Reaching Out to New Contacts Following the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and Others

Congratulations! JP Morgan has come to an end and we now have the time to reflect on a successful week. Between attending meetings, running up and down the hills of San Francisco and networking over cocktails, we hope you had a productive week.

Now that you are settled back in the office, it is time to reach deep into your pockets and the bottoms of your bags to gather all of the business cards acquired over the past week. Whether you have ten cards or one hundred, each contact has the ability to create new opportunities for you in the New Year. By the off chance, you may have been given a Branded-Brolly Branded Umbrellas by a business instead of a business card, as there comes a time when everyone needs an umbrella. This product is just as effective as a business card as you will have the brand name and logo printed on the umbrella so it’s just a matter of conducting a Google search. This can also help you to build important contacts for the future.

Below are a few quick steps to ensure a productive outreach with those new contacts:

  • Enter contact information in your company’s database, ensuring that they receive all recent company news and updates;
  • Add notes describing when/where you met, what was discussed, and any other related information;
  • Conduct follow-up: send a brief email; and
  • Connect on LinkedIn with relevant parties

You could also choose to add their details to your client information systems to integrate it into your already existing database of contacts if that is easier. If so, then make sure to enable your pipedrive google contacts sync option to keep all that information up to date.

At LaVoieHealthScience, we take pride in providing our clients with access to the right mix of investors, analysts, bankers and media. When it comes to conference planning and meeting coordination, we have the relationships that matter, saving you time and allowing you to prioritize your schedule.

Best of luck in this new year of opportunities!

Analyst Day Research

Research Demonstrates Analyst Day Events Are Not Usually Stock Price Drivers, But Are Vital to Building Your Life Science Communication and Investor Relations Programs

Conference Table

LaVoieHealthScience conducted research with a handful of leading life science companies that hold Analyst Days every year to year and a half. Here is what we learned:

  1. Location. While Boston has become a more popular location for analyst and one-on-one meetings, New York City is still the most popular location unless there is a compelling reason to meet somewhere else. Companies we talked with tried out Boston and found that the webcast attendance increased while the on-site attendance declined.
  2. Duration. Four hour meeting times were desirable, with a split between a morning breakfast meeting and an afternoon lunch meeting.
  3. Spokespeople. Besides the CEO and CFO, most companies typically bring in a CMO, COO or business unit head. However, it depends on the theme and venue. Many companies talked about using a Key Opinion Leader to provide investors with another viewpoint to round out the company spokespeople.
  4. Frequency. Many companies opt to conduct Analyst Days every 12-18 months, but companies with an active milestone calendar chose to hold meetings more frequently.
  5. Market Reaction. Unless there is a major news event or guidance change, all companies did not experience a major change in stock price post analyst day although some did note an increase in stock price leading up to the meeting.
  6. Materials. Bring product marketing materials, thumb drives with slides and select publications as well as any other background information that may make your story more interesting.
  7. What Not to Cover. Information on early-stage assets is not usually of particular interest to analysts.
  8. Other. Provide substantial time for Q&A and informal socializing with management. One can never underestimate the power of relationship building with these stakeholders.
  9. Post Event Feedback. Consider reaching out to obtain formal feedback as a benchmark to ensure that you met analyst expectations during the event.  This information is also valuable in planning future events.