PR View by Marita Gomez

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I sat in a meeting recently listening to two agencies bicker about which will shrivel up first in the next decade—advertising or PR. A prospective client had approached them with a new product set to launch in eight months, and they were at odds over which should come out first—a full-page spread of an ad campaign, or several meet-and-greet sessions with stakeholders at various chapters across the country?

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this clash of egos. I hear it constantly, and in our industry, ad agencies tend to get the lion’s share of the business. In a historical context, that makes sense. For more than 30 years, product launch budgets were relegated to marketing. Physicians received much of their information from sales reps with rich backgrounds in science or pharmacology. With increased use of the Internet for health research among both consumers and physicians and the industry’s reputation in a slump, positioning brands is not an easy task.

To better serve our clients’ brands, we need to offer integrated services. That means sharing the brand positioning and the message platform so that there’s consistency in message, delivery, and impact. It also means pushing our egos aside and jointly taking credit if a product succeeds or providing a solution if a reputation tanks.

Because few of us are willing to be the first to do this, our associations need to drive this change. PhRMA should focus on educating both camps within member companies. Professional associations must bring members in from both groups and encourage collaboration.

Industry publications have covered integrated communications for several years.Why can’t the rest of us follow?

As for the bickering session, neither won the client business—no surprise.

Marita Gomez heads the healthcare PR practice at Chicago-based Cushman/Amberg Communications

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