The Death of the Press Release?

veer imageDid all PR professionals feel a slight shudder of fear upon hearing that Ashley Brown, digital communications and social media lead for The Coca-Cola Company, has vowed to “kill the press release”? I did, but only for a moment. After all, Mr. Brown’s proclamation came during a presentation called “Brand journalism at Coca-Cola: Content, data, and cutting through noise,” where he was outlining the company’s content marketing strategy. Content marketing is the most exciting, and some would say revolutionary, marketing innovation in recent years. It puts the consumer, rather than the brand, at the centre of communications. Instead of pushing out brand messages, content marketers are creating videos, infographics and other pieces of engaging, sharable content that respond to consumer desires and needs, thus creating brand awareness and loyalty.

But why should this mean the death of the press release? In healthcare communications, press releases are a fundamental tool for communicating complex data about diseases and new treatments. Without press releases, reporters working on daily or hourly deadlines would find it nearly impossible to sift through and decipher the news from every clinical trial published in a peer-reviewed journal. A well-crafted press release can help a journalist understand how a p value translates into clinical value for a patient.

Instead of being replaced by content, should press releases be considered a medium for delivering content? Multimedia press releases containing video clips, visuals, infographics and animations are replacing the standard written-word-only release. In addition, with the proliferation of online medical news websites and portals, press releases are increasingly being published in full rather than being used as background information for a news item.

PR professionals can embrace this and ensure that press releases are optimised for search, by judicious use of keywords in headlines and the first paragraph. We can optimise for sharing by crafting “tweet ready” headlines. We can consider the press release a starting point for telling a rich and rounded story that is expressed through a variety of content.

Content marketing is a brave new world for pharma marketers and healthcare communications, and I look forward to taking clients on this journey. However we cannot leave the press release behind.  Long live the press release!

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High Hopes for Better Banners

Banners have appeared in the same size and location on websites for many years. Over time, people have become trained to subconsciously block them out. This is known as banner blindness or burnout.

Earlier this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) rolled out new ad units aimed at revitalizing the digital marketplace. In February, they debuted their Rising Star display ad units: new sizes rich with interactivity. Agency creative directors, media executives, publishers and ad operations specialists were polled and sifted through many ad variations to select six top ad units. Categories evaluated included user experience, branding, functionality, integration and adoption. The hopes are that the new Billboard, Filmstrip and Sidekick will soon become as familiar as the Skyscraper and Leaderboard.

The Rising Star ads imbed a wide variety of interactive features within the banners. This will greatly benefit campaigns with the sole objective of awareness, which tends to be harder to evaluate. The Rising Stars will yield interaction metrics, measuring engagement for the person who never clicks on the ad. The new ad units have a proven significant lift in brand perception and recall compared to standard display. Users are 2.5 times more likely to interact with a Rising Star ad, interact with it two times faster, and spend twice as much time interacting with it than with standard display ( Check out this video to see them in action: .

However, the acceptance of the ad units has been slow in the consumer world, which means even slower in the healthcare space. Comscore noted that top 25 properties like Yahoo, CBS and Glam Media all support the Rising Stars, but they were unsure whether sites like Amazon, Turner Digital, Vevo and Gannett would support the units.

When we learned of the Rising Stars, Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media began proactively reaching out to our vendors, asking them to consider accepting the new ad sizes, knowing we could be waiting a long time for them to adopt them on their own. We polled 12 major digital healthcare publishers and were pleased to learn the majority are willing to accept the ad units. We urged them to consider the ad units, promising digital healthcare fame for the first to market.

We understand that other challenges with the ad uptake will be execution and technology. The ads will take a long time to build, require large resources, and be complex. The initiative will require on-boarding creative agencies with material specs and resources for consideration. We will need the support of our clients to fund the ad development, as it will take more time. While a bigger investment, the ads could provide a solution for brands with messaging limitations due to black box and other safety warnings. The banners also provide another opportunity to syndicate brand assets, patient education, videos, slide decks, etc. This captures an engaged audience without relying on heavy site traffic, knowing that a large percentage of HCPs will not visit the “” site.

While publishers are willing to take a leap forward, it will be interesting to see if physicians are ready for the new ads. Some vendors still prohibit Rich Media to protect their audience from distracting and disruptive ads interfering with their online experience. We will recommend agencies use an editing eye during ad development, carefully utilizing the features without taking advantage of them.

The same initiative is ongoing for mobile. Digital marketers have not yet scratched the surface with smartphone and tablet advertising. OCHMM is noting which vendors will accept these new Mobile Rising Stars and collecting specs and examples for creative agencies. Some new mobile ad units include the Mobile Filmstrip, Pull, and Full Page. More information on the Mobile Rising Stars can be found here: Watch them in action:

Our goal is to supply agencies, vendors, and clients with information early on to aid and support the development of Rising Star ads. Once executed, we believe the metrics will speak for themselves. If you have any questions or would like to know how this can work for your brands, please contact Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media.

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