Yes, it’s PhRMA Intern! Strange visitor from an Ivy League school who came to PhRMA with powers and ability far beyond those of Ken Johnson. PhRMA Intern! Who can change the course of mighty news stories, bend the truth at will, and who disguised as Emily Jameson (no relation to Jenna Jameson), mild-mannered intern for a great pharmaceutical trade association, fights a never ending battle for believability, justice for pharmaceutical companies, and the PhRMA way!

Our story begins in June, when John Mack, fearless muckraker writing in Pharma Marketing Blog, examined the role of public relations (PR) in pharmaceutical marketing (see “Marketing Disguised as PR“). As an example, Mack cited stories in the press about Chantix, Alli, and Viagra.

Mack contacted Emily Jameson — the mild-mannered intern at PhRMA (America’s pharmaceutical trade association) — and told her about these stories.

We open with Emily reading a story about Viagra in her local paper, which happens to be the Washington Post…

Almost immediately, Emily noticed that the story did not comply with FDA regulations. Specifically, the story did not balance risks and benefits and mentioned the use of Viagra (and Cialis and Levitra) for daily treatment for the prevention of erectile dysfuntion in men with cardiac problems, which is not consistent with FDA approved labeling (see “Blockbuster vs. Ballbuster?“).

Thinking that no news article about a drug is written without assistance from PR professionals employed by the pharmaceutical industry, Emily felt that these stories should comply with PhRMA’s Guiding Principles for DTC Advertising, especially Principles #2 and #11.

As always, Emily acted quickly, ducking into PhRMA’s renowned Office of Accountability …

where she changes into PhRMA Intern! by now a familiar sight over the heads of pedestrians outside PhRMA headquarters in Washington, DC. [It should be noted that the Department of Homeland Security honored PhRMA Intern! with a special waiver of the DC “no fly zone” rule.]

A few minutes later, PhRMA Intern! lands at the Chandler Chicco Agency offices in New York City and confronts the Pfizer team there only to be foiled again by a familiar character. Is this PhRMA Intern’s Lex Luther?
Ken Johnson, VP at PhRMA and Emily’s boss, contacts PhRMA Intern! using his 3-way wrist radio…
Frustrated in her attempts to reign in unregulated pharma PR practices, Emily returns to her desk at PhRMA and tries a different tactic…

Take The Pharma PR vs. Advertising Survey!

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-–1831), Prussian general and military strategist, has been purported to have said that war “is merely the continuation of policy by other means.” If you look at marketing drugs as a kind of war, then you might say that public relations (PR) is marketing by other means. That is, by means other than advertising, which most people equate with marketing.

Longtime marketing strategist Al Ries and his daughter/business partner Laura Ries (A&L) espouse this definition of marketing:

Marketing = PR + Advertising (specifically, PR first, advertising second)

“PR first, advertising second. This is the key to success in today’’s marketing arena” is the main takeaway message of the book, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, written by A&L.

A&L compare PR with advertising and make these claims, among others:

  • PR is credible, advertising is not
  • PR builds brands, advertising defends brands (cheerleads)
  • PR is creative, advertising is uncreative

Do you agree with these claims? Does the rule “PR first, advertising second” apply to pharmaceutical marketing? Should the pharmaceutical industry develop PR guidelines to parallel the guidelines it developed for DTC advertising?

Please help PhRMA Intern! by answering these questions–take the Pharma PR vs. Advertising Online Survey now! After completing the survey you will be able to see a summary of results (de-identified, excludes open-ended responses and comments that may identify the respondent). You can also use filters to examine results from different subsets of respondents (e.g., pharma company employees vs. non-pharma people, etc.)

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