I’m Kind of Sick of This

A couple of years ago I was on a conference call with one of my agency clients. Also on the call was a biopharma company that had engaged the agency for a bylined article project. I was on the call because I was to write the article on the biopharma company’s behalf. The head of the agency, an old friend of mine, had told me beforehand that the biopharma CEO would be on the call, along with a few of her colleagues, and that the CEO could be somewhat prickly.

My agency client was the host of the call, and when it started he sounded nervous. “We kind of […]

August 10th, 2017|

Oh, the humanity!

Last week an agency client of mine asked me to edit a press release drafted by a specialty pharma company whose product had been favorably reviewed in a prominent journal. Pretty straightforward, I thought, as I made minor tweaks to the headline and first paragraph. But a sentence in the second paragraph made me spit out my mouthful of tea all over my computer screen:

“More than 90% of U.S. commercial lives have access to this product.”

“Commercial lives”? Really? Is that what this company thinks of its potential customers?

Phrases like that underscore a disturbing trend in healthcare communications: the dehumanization of patients. Early in my career I had a […]

August 9th, 2016|

A True Partnership

While there are many clients that merely pay lip service to the idea of working as partners in communications, there are some who truly embody the concept.

I often use this space to voice my frustration with clients, the industry in general, or the world at large. A regular reader of this blog might conclude that I’m a curmudgeon, a label I wouldn’t be able to slough off so easily. Indeed, much of my cantankerousness stems from experiences in which I’ve felt that clients have treated me like a vendor, as opposed to a partner in communications. But I am glad — thrilled! — to report that effective partnerships […]

July 26th, 2016|

One of the Above

As a medical writer, and as a consultant to several healthcare PR agencies and other organizations, I am pleased to see so many pharma and biotech companies investing the time and effort to develop carefully crafted messages for their communications initiatives. Those companies appear to appreciate the importance of clear and coherent messaging as vital to building and sustaining a brand, and of training spokespersons to communicate agreed-upon messages to various audiences.

However, there is one trend in message-crafting that I find rather disturbing: the impulse to cram every conceivable message into every soundbite. It simply cannot be done. And yet, some companies seem determined to try.

Message-cramming is perhaps […]

February 22nd, 2016|

Let’s Be Honest

In the realm of cliché, the concept of “patient-centricity” has become ubiquitous in pharma/biotech circles. Visit any pharma or biotech website, click on the “About Us” or “Company Mission” page, and you’ll find language that attests to the company’s dedication to patients, or to “meeting patient needs,” or to “putting patients first.” In an industry that highly values differentiation, the similarity of every company’s patient-centric language is somewhat surprising. What’s more, the emphasis on patients starts to ring hollow when one considers the actual behavior of many pharma and biotech companies.

The scandal surrounding Martin Shkreli, the embattled head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, prompts my focus on pharma/biotech claims of […]

December 21st, 2015|

Writing Is Not Magic

A number of years ago, when I held a Director-level medical writing position in the Healthcare practice at a major PR firm, I was given the assignment of writing a background document on a certain disease area (I don’t remember which one). I spent an hour or two on research, and then another couple of hours writing a first draft, based on my research. I then showed the draft to Timmy, the young account executive who was supposedly supervising the project. He read a few paragraphs and started shaking his head. “Peter, I was hoping you’d just give us some of your thoughts on this disease area. I […]

July 30th, 2015|
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