PR View by Laura Schoen

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Signs of wrenching change for the industry were unmistakable even before the economic crisis. While the healthcare sector is not destined for an economic rousting as acute as others, pharma will have a somewhat difficult road ahead: Long-term investment in R&D is likely to plummet as venture capital shrinks and stocks depress. Fewer new drugs in the market will have serious implications for innovation and profits. 

The looming challenges for the industry create compelling issues for healthcare communications agencies, but they also offer enormous opportunities. 

PR campaigns will be particularly effective in delivering believable messages on how to grow brands within the context of providing useful information to stakeholders. 

PR activities that look frivolous or excessive, however, will be considered insensitive and lack credibility. Corporate and product communications strategies must: relate to the realities of this new world; help people make more efficient use of healthcare dollars; and be mindful of the need for transparency and compliance.
Diminished funds and coverage challenges will create an expanded need for programs that supplement the gap. It is our role to identify the special needs our clients can help address. Pharma, biotechs and other players cannot solve all the problems, but with our help, their budgets can be spent against tools and education that clearly support their constituencies. 

Laura Schoen is president, global healthcare practice at Weber Shandwick
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