Creating a great press release to suit an ever-changing biopharma industry
by Brigitte Scott PhD, SciencePOD content creator
Challenges faced by biopharma
Biopharma faces many challenges in terms of public perception and engagement, with an eroded public trust in the credibility and motives of the industry resulting from issues such as drug price increases, cost of advanced new treatments, supply chain controversies, patent litigation and an opioid addiction epidemic [1,2].
Importance of a great press release in biopharma
Press releases (PRs) are issued routinely by biopharma to maintain media visibility and disseminate health information to the general public. There is no standard, one-size-fits-all PR approach in biopharma because of the numerous communication channels, self-informed patients, and the ever-changing landscape of the industry. Biopharma is shifting from a mass-market to a target-market approach .
Historical marketing schemes to create demand by stimulating medical prescriptions are no longer successful. Strategies that motivate patients and healthcare professionals to become better informed and act on their knowledge require a refocus of marketing messages to prioritize patient satisfaction, services, and added value.
A great PR is a powerful tool in the biopharma armamentarium. Focussed communications highlighting cutting-edge research innovations and achievements, perhaps using a whole-patient rather than a product/treatment approach, are key to maximize the chances of PR approval, publication, and distribution, and may help rebuild trust with, as well as inform, the lay media and general public.
Tips to create a great biopharma press release
Create a catchy, descriptive PR headline to engage the reader.
Define the style
Use a promotional style similar to the biopharma company style. Aim for business-like, lively, informative and succinct. Refer to the company website and previous company PRs for style and tone. Include the company logo and a relevant image. Issue the PR in a timely manner following data release to ensure it is current and relevant.
Engage the target audience
Write in a style relevant to the target audience. This cannot be stressed enough. Consider whether the language should be accessible to patients and other lay audiences or a more advanced style for experts.
Introduce the topic
Provide background to the biopharma company and the topic to be addressed. Refer to company documentation on the topic. Conduct interviews with key company personnel, e.g. marketing, clinical, regulatory or project managers or CEO, and utilise quotes from these experts to support the data and any claims in the PR.
Key questions to answer
Identify the concept/innovation/technology/method/product/ service/drug/study/indication/issue/data to be addressed and consider why the target audience should care about the topic.
Specific questions to address may include:
- How does the technology/method/product/drug work?
- How does it differ from existing examples: is there demonstrated equivalence or superiority to current solutions/standard-of-care?
- What is the clinical experience with the technology/method/product/drug?
- Who are the main competitors in the field?
- How does the latest topic news fit in with the competitors?
- How does the latest topic news benefit the patient/general public?
- What is predicted to happen next in this area?
- What is the company product pipeline like?
Seek medical expertise
Interview a key opinion leader, medical expert or physician for a quote with which to endorse the PR content. Alternatively, develop and embed a quote in the PR and then seek approval from a relevant expert.
Where appropriate, obtain a quote from a patient or other end-user (physician, nurse, etc) to add credibility.
PRs are not considered a precise medical reference and care should be taken with reporting and interpretation to prevent misleading media coverage .
Tips to ensure quality are:
- Include complete data and all relevant product/study information.
- Quantify study results in clinically meaningful ways; identify and discuss important limitations to data/studies.
- Define generalisability of results across different populations/settings.
- Support clinical/technical observations with peer-reviewed references.
- Reference the source of the original data to confirm PR content.
- Define where data are preliminary (i.e. without peer review), such as data presented at scientific meetings, and discuss limitations and the potential impact on the validity of results.
- Critically review the PR to contextualise content and quality control check to validate medical and grammatical accuracy and completeness.
Other information to include
Company name, address, and website address
Company contact name, address, email address, telephone number
PR release date
 Chris Lo. The People vs Big Pharma: tackling the industry’s trust issue. Pharmaceutical Technology. 20 August 2018.
 Beth Snyder Bulik. Trust pharma? Not so much, an annual survey shows, with biggest loss ever. Fierce Pharma. 13 June 2018.
 PWC Global. Pharma 2020: Marketing the future – which path will you take?
 Bindee Kuriya, Elana C. Schneid, Chaim M. Quality of Pharmaceutical Industry Press Releases Based on Original Research Bell PLoS One. 2008; 3(7): e2828.