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How PR pros in the health space can help prevent public misinformation

by | Dec 11, 2015 | Health, Public Relations

When it comes to health education, there’s no such thing as too much. This has been made abundantly clear every time we lurch toward another health crisis.

In 2014, widespread panic surrounded the much-publicized Ebola outbreak in West Africa. As researchers scrambled to find solutions, others looked to profit based on misinformation: Several companies were served warning letters by the FDA over advertisements claiming that their products (essential oils, edibles, general homeopathic cure-alls, etc.) could combat or even cure Ebola.

Predatory, often fly-by-night set-ups prosper in times of panic because of the prevalence of misinformation. And to be brutally honest, snake-oil salespeople haven’t changed all that much since the days of the Wild West.

According to a Brown University study, the ever-increasing population of global travellers — along with other factors including rising temperatures — disease outbreaks are occurring more often. And beside the obvious downside, another unfortunate side effect is a public sometimes rife with fear and easy to manipulate.

So while researchers work to find preventatives and cures, it’s often left to marketers and PR professionals to provide the public with accurate information. This makes the job of the PR practitioner — especially in the health and medicine vertical — even more essential.

However, most publicists aren’t medically educated and can sometimes struggle with conveying the proper information.

It’s easy when clients provide sufficient copy to craft a news release. But more often than not, clients provide bullet points and links to various sites for reference. So if the goal is to counter misinformation and provide relevant, and educational material, what then can an agency or firm do to stay current? There iisn’t a plethora of all-in-one resources available. Though sites such as the CDC provide great information, their scope is quite narrow. Seeing this gap in the market, Bulldog Reporter launched Inside Health Media. The health and medicine resource for PR professionals provieds daily briefs to help health-care communicators more effectively disseminate the correct information.

Either way, when representing a client — be it a pharmaceutical company, local health agency, or research firm — PR professionals must shoulder the weighty task of cutting through the smoke of fear-based reporting, and delivering good news when warranted. And as professionals, doing great work for your clients is best accomplished by first working to inform and educate the public.

So, here’s an idea: when you’re sharing news through social media, consider bragging with a hashtag to let others know you care about slowing the spread of misinformation. Because in 2015, let’s finally say #NoSnakeOil.

 

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Ira Lacroix
With a background in marketing, sales, and communication, Ira worked closely with clients and staff as the Manager, Inside Sales and has now transitioned into building Agility’s channel division as the Manager, Strategic Partnerships. As a father of 3, Ira spends what little ‘free time’ he has wrenching in the garage on his latest project, or closed off in the home office writing.

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