Communicating complex science into a cohesive narrative that people can understand is always a challenge. However, for pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other life science companies, translating what their products or services do into something that potential customers, investors, and the general public find valuable in is an absolute necessity with high stakes.
Failing to do so can ultimately lead to dismal sales, layoffs, and even worse, bad press. For Nicole Goelz, Account Supervisor of the Public Relations team at CG Life, ensuring that a company’s message is distilled into a compelling story that reaches its target audience is her job and one that requires a delicate balancing act between what clients want and what makes a narrative.
“It’s one thing for clients to want to be in the news and it’s another to have something that is actually newsworthy,” smiled Nicole. “If a client comes to us and says ‘we want to be newsworthy,’ I typically end up saying, ‘Well, what you got?’ From there, we work together to figure out what’s interesting to share and how we are going to do it.”
In the almost ten years Nicole has spent in PR, she’s developed a discerning eye for when companies need PR and what makes a company’s story newsworthy. In our latest Life Lesson, she shares some of her own life lessons from the world of PR.
Uncovering the Story
Many companies may have lofty aspirations as to how they want their company to look on the news and in the public eye. Nicole’s goal is to pull them out of the clouds and back down to Earth.
“Finding the happy middle-ground between what the CEO wants to communicate and what is interesting and newsworthy to reporters is most of my job,” said Nicole. “Typically, companies need our help when they have a major milestone that they want people to know about. While we often share their enthusiasm for these milestones, we do spend a lot of time discerning and developing what is the real story that will resonate with their audience.”
Clients also may seek out PR help when they have anything from a big announcement or product launch to wanting to see their company’s story out there. “They want help controlling their message and their perspective around that news,” Nicole explained, “a lot of times it may not directly relate to a product or project, it may be about wanting to share a perspective: where the company is going and how they are getting there, or what they are doing differently and why that matters”
Nicole’s real passion is in gathering all of the pieces and polishing them into a good story. “What can be really fun for us is when clients have all the things that make a compelling narrative: a product or service that changes the way things are done or makes huge strides in the industry coupled with a dynamic spokesperson and a customer or key opinion leader who can share their experiences, validating what the company is doing,” said Nicole.
Not Everything is Newsworthy
These days, it seems like everything makes the news. But as Nicole pointed out, not everything needs to. “We try to come to a decision on what a client’s goals are and how to accomplish them,” said Nicole. We talk through what news channels will be best and the reason for putting that news out. At the end of the day, not everything will rise to level of needing to be pushed to the media.”
One important thing that Nicole tells clients to remember is that journalists are people, too, with very busy lives, shrinking staffs, and a business that is increasingly driven by clicks. So, there is a lot that they may not want or be able to report on. “For a journalist to drop everything and write about you, it needs to be something that is going to impact the industry in a major way, change the status quo, be the ‘first,'” reiterated Nicole. “Most aren’t going to care that your company is moving offices, launched a new website, or anything administrative.”
What Stories Make Waves?
So, how do you know if your company’s news is newsworthy and if you need PR? “You’re ready for PR when you have successes and perspectives that you want amplified,” Nicole argued. “If you are on the path to success but don’t yet have supportive points to demonstrate that trajectory, maybe PR is not the right strategy.”
That isn’t to say that Nicole can’t help. “We advocate for and can support developing a guiding narrative at early stages to sow the seeds for when your story is ready for prime time,” said Nicole.
Being the first to do anything in the life science space can be newsworthy in and of itself. “If you’re the first, the only, it can be a key differentiator that sets you apart from everyone else,” remarked Nicole. For most clients, it’s not as simple as just putting the message out there that they are the first and/or only company to do something, Nicole said. “Companies need to say how they are making a change, describe the impact it will have, and back it up with proof of those claims. If they can do that well, that creates a really strong storyline.”
Moving Beyond the Press Release
In today’s digital age, when a press release is issued, companies don’t necessarily need to wait for traditional media to pick up their story. There are many digital channels that can be used to reach a larger audience. “Use all of your communications channels,” Nicole advised. “At the very least, having a press release, pitching media, and posting to social media, should be part of amplifying your milestones.”
The ability to self-publish content on a company website is nothing new and Nicole advocates the creation of white papers, blog posts, and other additional content to get company news out and reinforce key messages. “Companies can even plan events, press conferences, or networking events to announce their news,” continued Nicole. “These efforts are good opportunities for companies to connect with key stakeholders and get people excited.”
Is Media Training Really Important?
“In short,” Nicole proclaimed, “everybody needs media training.” She has done a lot of media training and has helped ensure that a company’s message is delivered over and over, in consistent ways, to reporters.
These days, most companies have a media representative, but if there is some particularly sensitive news out there, Nicole recommends prepared everyone to respond. “In these situations, companies should prepare their entire communications team and executives to make sure everyone is involved in the messaging process and knows how to respond to the press around specific topics,” said Nicole.
Benchmarks of Success
Nicole and the PR team at CG Life use a lot of metrics to measure a company’s success. “One interesting metric we use is called ‘share of voice,’” said Nicole. “If you know who your competitors are, you can look at the percentage of your media coverage vs. your competitors’. Over time, you can see how this changes and look for shifts as a direct result of PR activities.” There are other qualitative and quantitative metrics beyond the number of news articles that can be used for measuring the success of a media campaign, such as message saturation or how much social media conversation a news article generates.
Measuring impact is a critical final step in the PR process, but getting the results your company is looking for, relies on the initial shaping of your story into something newsworthy. Nicole and the CG Life PR team have years of experience mining for companies’ stories and honing them for maximum impact. “Once we get the story to the point when it is fully developed and the timing is right,” Nicole added, “that’s when we can move media mountains.”
To contact Nicole or anyone else on the CG Life PR team, send us a message here.