When preparing a new product for market, pharmaceutical companies face challenges not shared by other types of marketers. Drug companies must be sure to educate patients on the medical condition a product has been approved for, any possible side effects and they must not market the product to patients with other (off-label) medical conditions. For many drug companies,  the rollout of a new product includes DTC marketing and promotions to physicians. But these companies also turn to another tool: Public Relations.

A recent study by Best Practices indicates that the most successful companies use PR activities in calculated ways during each step of a product life cycle.  Key PR activities for each phase include:

Pre-Launch – disease state awareness, patient advocacy, lifestyle media coverage

Launch – direct consumers to Web resources/tool, encourage consumers to contact physicians

Growth/Brand Building – sponsored events, blog entries

Maturity – target patient sub-populations, use social networks

In the pre-launch phase, 75% of industry professionals rated press releases as an effective PR tool. During product launch periods, that number jumped to 94%. In addition, 88% of pharma marketers also said that media interviews are effective. Here are the most effective PR tools reported for each stage of a drug’s life cycle:

  • Pre-launch: Press releases 75%
  • Launch: Press releases 94%
  • Growth: Sponsored events/Web sites (tied) 88%
  • Mature: Sponsored events: 63%
  • Decline: Social networking: 38%

Pharma industry marketers agree that reaching consumers through newspapers, radio and TV is still the best way to create awareness and generate a change in behavior and PR tools such as sponsored events may be promoted through these channels. While social networking has made big inroads with respect to marketing in other industries, pharma industry experts don’t rate it as a key tool until a product is in the decline part of its life cycle. Many analysts believe social networking becomes important at this point because drug companies are dealing with limited budgets as a patent expires and social networking is an inexpensive way to stay top of mind with consumers.

[Source: Public Relations Excellence: Using PR to Launch, Grow and Extend Your Brands. Best Practices. 2010. Web. 13 May 2010]