Our bottom line of media communications, no matter the technology or medium: The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The biggest change, of course, is that online media is an open and free 2-way conversation with consumers; you cannot fully control it. What remains the same is that your spokespeople and executives can manage the risks and opportunities if they understand and monitor the multimedia landscape, develop relevant key messages and are trained to weave them into honest dialogue and engagement.
Say Web 2.0, and many communicators think only of pro-active social media programs, interactive Web sites and online campaigns. For health care practitioners in particular, these types of outreach raise concerns about regulatory restrictions, especially with prescription pharmaceuticals and regulated devices. So they may be tempted to say, “It’s not for me.”
Yet your message has never been more important than in today’s real-time, all-the-time multimedia world. That applies whether it’s part of a planned campaign or not. Just because you aren’t in front of a TV reporter’s camera or being interviewed by a health care trade or mainstream print reporter, doesn’t mean you aren’t on the record.
So how can restriction-conscious health care communicators fully participate in an online 24/7 world where every cell phone is a camera, every BlackBerry is a potential tweet, every e-mail to a colleague or client can end up in a journalist’s or blogger’s in-box? Remember last fall’s Motrin Twitter flap? Before McNeil Consumer Healthcare knew what hit them, thousands of mothers were tweeting each other and blogging, complaining about a Motrin TV spot they thought belittled moms who “wear” babies in slings. Each corporate response had to be genuine and engaging.
But it also had to have a carefully thought-out message. Any statement anywhere, even in a supposedly private setting, is a potential sound bite or video clip on YouTube or a comment on a blog. That’s what we must discuss as health care communicators.
By Andrew Gilman, president, CommCore Consulting Group, has been a communications strategist and crisis counselor for more than 20 years. Co-author of the best-selling book, “Get To the Point,” Andrew is also a lawyer and award-winning journalist. He frequently is called upon to help senior executives prepare for media interviews, new business presentations, board meetings, testimony before Congressional committees and regulatory agencies, expert witnessing in lawsuits, appearances on TV and radio, road shows, analyst presentations and investor meetings. Andrew also develops and directs the CommCore training and consulting services.
Join Gilman for his breakout session, “The Evolution of Media Skills Training: How Messaging, Preparing Spokespersons and Crisis Response Changes in the 24/7 Web 2.0 World,” at the PRSA Health Academy Conference — Leveraging Social Media in Health Care Public Relations: Innovations Strategies for Enhanced Consumer Engagement, on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, in Washington, D.C.! Also, check out his teleseminar, “Sticky Messaging for the Media: Learn How to Create Memorable Messages,” on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at 3 p.m. EDT!