PR View by Tom Jones

Nearly five years after the human genome was decoded, the age of genetics is finally upon us; “personalized medicine” has arrived. But this burgeoning field brings with it great uncertainties. Increasingly, drug and biotech companies develop targeted drugs that are effective for narrow populations, forcing an alternative to the traditional blockbuster, one-size-fits-all model.

This is not a challenge for drugmakers alone; those in public relations are also tasked with communicating to smaller, well-informed groups of patients. We live in an environment where it is easy for small groups of patients to find groups with similar interests online. As communicators, we must acknowledge this and push ourselves and clients to engage in these conversations.

Awareness: There are excellent tools to track patient conversations on blogs and elsewhere, and understanding who is having those discussions is the first step in personalized communication.

Appreciation: Online communities offer honesty and openness that outstrips the average focus group.

Engagement: Open and transparent participation in online conversations is the realization of this push toward personalized communications, building credibility with those groups.

This is not an approach that is without risks; biopharma faces unique requirements. But just as medicine is entering a new era, so must communications.

Tom Jones is managing director of Invigorate Communications
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