Healthcare PR “on life support,” failing to meet journalists’ needs

by | Jun 26, 2017 | Media Relations, Public Relations

New research from digital communications platform ISEBOX reveals a huge gulf between the information provided by drug companies and what journalists actually need to create their content. The survey finds that 85 percent of health journalists view healthcare communications as either “out of shape” or “on life support.”

Half of the surveyed journalists (50 percent) admit they never visit the newsrooms of drug companies, with almost a quarter (22 percent) calling them “unsatisfactory” and two thirds (64 percent) saying there is “room for improvement” when it comes to the information provided—indicating that when it comes to providing relevant content for journalists, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies are off the mark.

In fact, just 15 percent of journalists rated healthcare communications as “healthy and fit” with almost three quarters of those questioned (71 percent) declaring the relationship “out of shape” and 14 percent feeling that it is “on life support.”

Part of the problem is about trust—the survey reveals that only 2 percent of journalists find the information and press releases provided by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies “trustworthy.” While 16 percent say they do not trust the information at all, almost half (48 percent) only somewhat trust it.

However, 36 percent of journalists said that the FDA/EMA restrictions on communicating industry news are in the best interests of the consumer, with almost half (44 percent) saying they are sometimes in their best interests.

Healthcare PR “on life support,” failing to meet journalists’ needs

“This research shows that there is still a long way to go when it comes to breathing new life into healthcare communications,” said health journalist and media communications consultant Jo Willey, director of Jo Willey Media, in a news release. “Regulations are welcome and necessary. However, care must be taken that these regulations—or the fear of breaching them—do not prevent pharmaceutical companies from effectively communicating accurate, creative content.

“Journalists still need newsworthy, simple, clear content relevant to their outlet, whether that is traditional print media, web, radio, TV or social media,” she added. “Over-complication or irrelevant content opens up the possibility of miscommunication, something which could be far more damaging.”

The survey also found that when it comes to the most useful video content, journalists overwhelmingly want independent medical expert testimonial (48 percent) as well as patient testimonials (14 percent) and B-roll (11 percent).

Only 22 percent of those questioned said pharma and healthcare news and launches provide enough relevant visual content.

“Healthcare communications is clearly a balancing act between the governance placed on drug companies and a press eager for transparency and meaningful content,” said Marc de Leuw, chief executive officer of ISEBOX, in the release. “It’s in the interest of both parties to enter a more open dialogue to raise the bar on effective information exchange.”

The survey questioned more than 166 health journalists across the UK and U.S. to assess what information provided by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies is of most value to them and their audiences.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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