Pharma PR vs Advertising Survey

(Survey started 24 July 2006; ended 20 Novemner 2006. N=39)

The use of public relations (PR) as a marketing tool has been discussed on Pharma Marketing Blog (see, for example, Marketing Disguised as PR, PR Marketing: Mystery Wrapped in a Riddle, and Chantix: PR First, Launch & Ads to Follow) and also in Pharma Marketing News (see PR: Advertising By Other Means.

In their book, The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, longtime marketing strategist Al Ries and his daughter/business partner Laura Ries contend that success in today’s marketing arena depends on putting PR first, advertising second. They compare PR with advertising on a number of different levels and part of this survey asked respondents whether or not they agreed with the Ries’.

Pharmaceutical advertising, as you know, is tightly regulated by the FDA and several industry guidelines apply as well. However, there are no specific guidelines for pharmaceutical public relations activities. This survey also asks respondents their opinions about whether or not such guidelines are necessary or desirable.

Survey Results:
The overall results are summarized in charts below. Access a more detailed and up-to-date online Summary of Responses plus view comments from respondents here.

Respondents were asked to “Indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about public relations and advertising as applied to the pharmaceutical industry ” (Response ranges: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither Agree Nor Disagree, Disagree, Disagree Strongly).

  1. The pharmaceutical industry should develop voluntary guidelines for PR to parallel the guidelines it has developed for DTC advertising
  2. There is a danger that use (or abuse) of PR by pharma in support of its products (as opposed to PR in support of the industry’s image) may come under government or media scrutiny musch as has DTC advertising
  3. PR Is Credible because it relies on stories told by trusted, unbiased third parties like the media, whereas Advertising Lacks Credibility because it’s the self-serving voice of a company anxious to make a sale.
  4. PR is Verbal, whereas Advertising is Visual
  5. PR Builds Brands, whereas Advertising Defends Brands (Cheerleader Role). Only after PR plants the “new idea” in the minds of audience should advertising take over. That is, PR first, advertising second.
  6. PR Reaches Somebody Who Counts, whereas Advertising Reaches Everybody
  7. PR is Inexpensive, whereas Advertising is Expensive
  8. PR is Creative, whereas Advertising is Uncreative; creative means “original.” But advertising should not be original. Its role is to reinforce ideas already planted in the mind with PR techniques

Results are shown below.

PR versus Advertising Chart 1