Creativity vs. Compliance: 5 tips for managing healthcare PR

PRCA Health’s event on ‘Creativity vs. Compliance: Striking the balance on social media in healthcare’ earlier this week provided a glimpse into how The King’s Fund and Hill+Knowlton Strategies manage integrated healthcare programmes.

As with managing strategic consultancy programmes in financial services, healthcare is another highly regulated industry that requires prior knowledge before suggesting creative campaigns to support a business purpose. Sadly such programmes can feel like ‘creativity vs. compliance’, but in reality it’s about building a relationship with regulatory teams and that’s done by being clear about what communications programmes are set out to achieve.

With most healthcare programmes the purpose is usually educating people about a particular condition or product, or creating empathy. Social media plays an immediately obvious role in this as we share health updates with friends, family or colleagues, seek advice online, and offers companies data to initiate highly targeted campaigns.

Despite the compliance aspects, it’s health campaigns that tend to be the most memorable for their creative flair. Such as Give Blood’s 2015 Missing type campaign, British Heart Foundation’s #RestartAHeart campaign, or Abbott’s #FreetoDream campaign. Proving compliance doesn’t need to be considered the enemy of creativity, but just an unavoidable condition of working with healthcare companies.

No matter what your compliance stage is as a health company, there are a few aspects to consider as you embrace digital.

#1 Work with compliance teams

Grumble behind closed doors about how limiting compliance teams can be, but it’s the role of PR practitioners to provide solutions. This is usually about building a relationship with compliance teams and often this starts with understanding each other’s goals and guidelines. Particularly when it comes to digital as it can’t be approached as an academic piece of text and has to consider compliance frameworks that allow for conversations.

#2 Experiment in the beginning

Every journey requires a first step, integrating digital activities into healthcare activities is the same. Rather than develop an all-encompassing digital strategy, focus on a small piece of activity with estimated deliverables. Use this project to gradually innovate healthcare programmes and as a proof point for senior decision makers.

#3 It’s 2017, the word ‘digital’ can be unhelpful

The King’s Fund don’t have a digital strategy, instead they focus on content and ensure all relevant teams are involved at the start of the content creation process. This is so social media doesn’t remain an afterthought. Whilst every journey requires a first step, it is 2017 and newspapers alone are just not going to be enough.

#4 Jargon is your enemy

Do you harness forward thinking strategies? Leverage best of breed practices? Look to achieve sustainable clarity of message for strategic communication plans without getting too granular? Please STOP! Health is full of enough jargon without introducing management speak, especially if you want compliance teams to understand PR plans. Oh, and follow @managerspeak for some more jargon wankry.

#5 Use people and online communities

The ones who know best about their health condition or your product are customers/patients. Give people a reason to engage with your campaign, sometimes this is simply about putting people in contact with each other such as Colontown, ‘an online community of more than 40 “secret” groups on Facebook for colorectal patients, survivors, and caregivers’.

 

Leading on Lansons’ digital activities means being experts in compliance based industries, health is by far the most challenging and potentially innovative industry when it comes to creative campaigns.

2017: The year of opportunity

Virtual reality on a bike

The PRCA’s ‘2017: the year of…’ event provided a moment to reflect on the current and upcoming opportunities and challenges facing the PR industry. If we want to become better communicators then it’s critical to understand virtual reality, automation, social media advertising, the skills gaps facing our industry – read the PRCA’s blog post for the full list.

Without a doubt, the theme of this year is uncertainty as the term ‘post-truth era’ is used to describe when politicians lead with dodgy statistics to fuel an emotional message or the reputational trouble fake news poses online.

As the panel on post-truth communications concluded at the PRCA event, half of the problem with post-truth is PR, often full of jargon and devoid of reality. Another observation is that this isn’t about truth at all, but instead the public questioning traditional sources of authority. As we know from the latest Edelman Trust Barometer,

“The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media — has declined broadly, a phenomenon not reported since Edelman began tracking trust among this segment in 2012.”

Part of the PR industry’s general uncertainty could very well be born from our recent reliance on managing data. Listening to conversations on social media, running polls, and quizzing workgroups, has made us assume we know the answers.

Although we hadn’t considered that humans are inherently irrational beings – we don’t always tell the truth, social media bubbles can warp popular opinion, and emotional response may win over logic. If we painted the recent referendum with a broad brush, then both deal with emotional claims on ‘truths’, potentially a polite term for lies.

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Where there is uncertainty, opportunity prospers for those who see it. The PR industry isn’t short of developments, especially afforded by technologies such as virtual reality. For instance, Jeremy Bailenson, Associate Professor of Communication at Stanford University, is leading research looking at how people’s virtual experience is affecting their real-world ones. If someone cuts down a tree in a virtual forest, will the emotional response trigger a change in recycling behaviours?

In my view 2017 is the year of opportunity. Whilst fake news and conversations about #AlternativeFacts rage on Twitter, there is no denying the digital opportunities are plentiful this year. It’s almost like we’re back in 2006 again.

How to write a social media compliance procedure

Looming buildings

Whilst the best known digital campaigns tend to be consumer focused, regulated industries are the heartbeat behind the UK economy. The services sector in the UK accounts for 80% of GDP and financial services are an important part of this.

Digital innovation for highly regulated companies isn’t just about virtual reality, chat bots, and embracing the world of open APIs – sometimes it is posting a tweet or sharing a picture on Facebook. It is the challenge of meeting the real-time demands of social media, balancing creativity with wordy disclaimers. This often results in communications teams choosing to stay clear of online channels to not get on the wrong side of compliance teams or infighting.

As a solution, social media can be conquered with an operating procedure. A framework that links into existing regulations and guidance (such as the FCA social media guidelines), providing a set of procedures to follow. Such a procedure can be agreed between multiple teams internally, referred to as an active document, and provide step-by-step instructions for issues/crisis escalation.

If you’re looking to write a procedure for social media compliance, then here are some sections to start you off:

Overview of the team

It sounds straightforward, but list who the members of the team are. List out all relevant titles and contact details. You may be surprised how quickly members of a team change over time and keeping an up-to-date list helps when seeking sign-off or if something on social media needs escalating.

Managing content and approvals

Social media is instantaneous, 24/7, and it never sleeps. Regulated companies on the other hand can be slow to move and occasionally even be their own worst enemies when it comes to social media communications. I’ve worked with regulated companies who put all of their trust in their PR agency to post content, equally I’ve managed social media programmes with a month sign-off process. Regardless, you need an approvals process for content and a regimented way of working that still allows for creativity.

Cyber security

The resurgence of fake news making headlines is raising questions of what to trust online. Fake news isn’t just an issue for journalism and social media, it’s about ensuring the websites you’re visiting are safe. Fake information has always been around, as exampled in my blog post from 2015, “In the USA, Dow Jones plunged 140 points after a rumour spread on Twitter from Associated Press’ Twitter account. The estimated temporary loss of market cap in the S&P 500 totalled $136.5 billion.”

If you’re a regulated company then have a process to ensure best practice in cyber security. An easy way to start his looking at the format of your passwords and making frequent refreshes. Eventually consider expanding this policy across to your IT team educating people about the sites they are visiting to prevent security breaches.

Social media monitoring

If you are a regulated company then you may have specific social media monitoring requirements to follow. For instance, the FCA require companies to keep a complete record of their communications on social media for auditing purposes. However, social media monitoring is also about understanding the online community you wish to engage with and spot opportunities to take advantage of; whether commenting on a relevant story or assisting a customer in difficulty.

Escalation

By the very nature of social media, sometimes people won’t agree with you or unfortunate instances can occur. Sometimes an employee may get caught doing something they shouldn’t, confidential documents may appear online, and the governance of a company can fall under question. Ensure you have a solid escalation procedure for these situations, supported by a modern social media monitoring solution, and a talented team that knows when (or not) to engage.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

One of the biggest bugbears of highly regulated industries are the timescales involved. Make sure your social media compliance procedure includes agreed SLAs, not just for the sign-off of online content, but for compliance feedback and the timeframes of monitoring. For instance, if social media requires continuous active monitoring, then you may need to outsource teams across different time zones.

 

At Lansons we work with regulated companies on a daily basis, often introducing social media compliance processes. The above list is just a starter of some things to consider. If you have any questions or bits to add, comment below or get in touch.

Only 36% of PR practitioners admit digital efforts are “very effective”

Woman using laptop

New research shows that the Public Relations (PR) industry still seems to be struggling to remain relevant in an online world. One of the headline stats reveals that only 36% of PR practitioners admit that their digital campaign efforts are effective, with 24% claiming little to no effectiveness at all.

When surveyed about the greatest challenges expected in their industry over the next 12 months, prepare for difficult reading as a lack of investment, time, and training appear top of the list:

  • 61.9% say they expect a lack of resources or funds
  • 57.7% find it challenging to find the right measures/metrics to evaluate work results
  • 58.8% expect a lack of time to try new strategies/technologies
  • 51% say there is a challenge when it comes to internal skills and competencies

This is unchanged from 2015 as PR practitioners are forced to deal with growing workloads and expectations to produce creative campaigns without always the budget to support.

Appropriate measurement for PR programmes is an important area for me as it helps demonstrate the value of investment into digital activities. Whilst 61% of respondents say that return on investment is an important measure, 84% use follower increases as the most frequent measurement. Whilst nothing wrong with this, it does suggest that the PR industry is generally finding it difficult to deliver business results. Of course, this could also be a general symptom of social media and its challenge to be an acquisition channel without paid-for support.

The research that surveyed 2,500 PR practitioners across nine different countries was conducted by Mynewsdesk and Berghs School of Communication. Respondents work across local, regional and global PR firms across 17 different industries including media and entertainment, business services, software and internet, government, and non-profits. The results of the survey are being compiled into a three-part eBook series that is being published between December 2016 and March 2017.

Digital PR study

The first eBook boldly begins by explaining PR has an opportunity to implement digital tactics, potentially replacing traditional advertising that “… is often viewed by consumers as an imposition and an unwelcome intruder…”. A deep marketing transformation partly driven by consumer trends of streaming or recording television, paying for music services, and using AdBlocking software, provides the PR industry an opportunity to have a “revolution”.

The revolution of PR is a passionate ideal I once held when studying PR at University and practicing in entry-level roles, but today I’ve changed my mind. Looking back at my work throughout 2016 I would say only 50% of what I do could be considered traditional PR in the sense of issues management or media relations. The other half consists of digital marketing, working alongside public affairs, contributing to change and employee engagement programmes… PR cannot be an umbrella term, it’s too misinterpreted by its media relations undertones and it’s not practical for PR industry bodies to represent the entire marketing mix and management consultancy space.

Draw your own conclusions from the new research. Sign-up for the PR Revolution e-book series to discover more of the challenges, opportunities, and solutions the communications industry is facing.

 

2016: The year social media hit maturity

iPhone 3G Launch 2007

What better way to close off the year than with another Lansons newsletter? Predictions are for weather presenters, so I’ve instead written about a topic that has been weighing on my mind – the year social media hit maturity. This article first appeared in the Lansons newsletter.

Mainstream social media sites have reached maturity, they have come of age; either hitting the precipice of user registrations or continuing to climb further into the millions. They should definitely not be considered ‘new channels’ anymore as more than seven in ten internet users have a social media profile. They are even commissioning journalists and companies to create stories, and public relations teams must be more experimental with sharing stories to be heard among the online noise.

This means there is a pressure for us to create immersive content, such as using 360 video or broadcasting live. It’s no longer about creating a community around stories/campaigns/products, but being noticed by a mature social media audience who expect you to speak their language.

If 2007 was the year of technological innovation when Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter began to really gain registrations, and the Amazon Kindle was launched – among many others; then 2017 will see the continuing maturity of the same social sites and a growing field of experimental marketing led by products such as augmented reality headset Microsoft HoloLens.

Aside from the maturity of social media, internet usage as a whole has matured with people consistently spending the same amount of time online, and accessing familiar apps and websites. Ofcom’s “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes” report reveals that almost nine in ten UK adults use the internet, on any device, in any location and are spending an average of 21.6 hours online each week, which is unchanged since 2014.

Maturity has also spurred some big business deals and content developments. To name a few:

  • Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion in an all-cash transaction, a move that is likely to see better LinkedIn integrations across Microsoft products.
  • Live video is now the hot content marketing opportunity. More Facebook Pages are live streaming, 529,000 in total in June 2016, now expected to be nearer a million. 10 million people are using Periscope, with over 200 broadcasts to date.
  • It’s been the year of messaging apps. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat have all seen huge user growth, giving public relations practitioners the challenge of knowing the conversations that are taking place in private and often encrypted parts of the internet.

Never has the internet, social media, and any other online touchpoint been so crucial for all industries across the UK. Especially highly regulated industries such as financial services and health, many of whom have developed social media compliance procedures to meet the expectations of their stakeholders – whether business-to-business or direct to consumer.

In 2016 we’ve seen social media come of age, witnessed continued growth of digital services, and many companies have become comfortable producing immersive video content. 2017 will be about building on these developments to reach their audiences in more creative ways

Facebook’s stand against ad blocking

hands-woman-laptop-notebook

Facebook really doesn’t want you to block ads. Who can blame them? Generally social media sites are struggling to monetise the huge amounts of web traffic visiting; if a significant proportion of people blocked advertising this could eventually make social media businesses unsustainable. Given the risk ad blocking poses to the advertising industry, Facebook had to make a stand.

We’re all waiting for Twitter to be taken over, Yahoo (despite promising) has ruined Tumblr, and everyone is still scratching their heads about Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion as their valuation doesn’t match reality.

Despite the popularity of social media and increased internet usage, finding a successful online business model seems near impossible. The rumours say that The Guardian is losing £1 million a week and only has 7 years of life left at this rate, City AM is trying another daring business model (best of luck to them), and Buzzfeed is proving profitable but needs to navigate the fact 70% of their readers digest content from third-party sites, such as social networks.

A broad view of online profitability tells us that quickly adapting to market needs and positioning your business as a facilitator tends to reap dividends. We can see how Uber achieved this by making the private taxi business more convenient by mobile app bookings and coordinating via GPS. The music industry was slow to respond; illegally sharing files through LimeWire was once the mainstream method of gaining access to digital music online. Eventually legal methods of buying music online became available, such as the launch of the iTunes store in 2003.

In my opinion, the most successful industry that has constantly adapted to the changing media landscape is gaming. The UK is currently Europe’s second largest video game market after Germany, and estimated the 6th largest globally; worth nearly £4.2bn in consumer spend in 2015. It is the only industry that has quickly adapted to different form factors such as desktop PCs, tablets, smartphones, smart watches, and smart TVs. Games consoles have become home entertainment systems, and game copyright settings have successfully locked most people into purchasing a copy each time.

So, why am I taking you on this journey of online monetisation?

Going back to the start of this post, Facebook’s stand against ad blocking; they believe online advertisements can truly be useful. Those advertisements can alert you to when a favourite band is playing nearby or to a product/service you may genuinely find useful.

What they don’t say is that the ads you don’t deem useful are still using up your mobile contract’s data allowance. Or the disruption ads have made to Facebook’s newsfeed meaning content from your friends has been given a lesser priority compared to that ad looking for sperm donors or telling you to lose weight.

Facebook have weighed in on the online advertising debate to protect their $1 billion per quarter in advertising revenue. The question is how are we going to respond as social media users? Are we willing to have companies target us with their advertising, generalising aspects of our lives and trying to find improvements?

Facebook wants you to keep your ad blocker switched off and convince you to tell the network what sort of advertisements you would prefer to see. A nice idea, but why do I want to spend my time giving Facebook a detailed picture of my life just so they can push more advertising to me?

The debate I’ve touched upon here will continue to rage, especially as the number of bot traffic online continues to rise, questioning if ad interactions are made by humans at all. Just as the PR industry has faced its struggles and criticisms over the last decade due to digital developments, the advertising industry will now need to tackle some of its upcoming challenges.

Anyway… some thoughts from me as this blog has been neglected for the past month!

How can companies manage their reputations online? [EVENT]

Social media email banner

How can regulated companies use social media for business results?

How can you convince C-Suite that managing and measuring reputation should be a priority?

How can data be used to better manage online reputation?

Please join us for an afternoon debate at Lansons about reputation management as an independent event for Social Media Week London, on Thursday 15 September, from 3.30pm to 5.00pm.

Our expert panel will be discussing how companies can manage their reputations in the digital age. Our influential panel has been specifically selected to represent a range of opinions, based on knowledge and practical experience.

The debate will feature an extensive Q&A section, with opportunities to quiz the panel and provide comment.

To register for a place at this event, please email[email protected] with your full details. Please note that we will confirm your place via email. We’re an independent Social Media Week London event, so you’ll need to book a place in advance and won’t be able to gain entry using your official SMW pass.

Speaking on the panel will be:

Francesco D’Orazio, Co-Founder and Vice President of Product and Research at Pulsar

Francesco is Vice President of Product at social analytics firm Pulsar, Chief Innovation Officer at innovation consultancy FACE and Co-Founder at the Visual Social Media Lab. He designs systems and research frameworks that help analyse social data and extract insights from social data using computational social science and data visualisation. He is a regular speaker at research, innovation and technology conferences such as Big Data Week, Social Media Week, Social Data Week, Strata, WARC, MRS, Esomar, Virtual Worlds Forum, World Business Forum. 

Magnus Boyd, Partner at Schillings

Magnus protects individual and corporate reputations by helping clients to manage unwanted media attention. He is frequently called upon before stories are published or broadcast to prevent inaccuracy and stop businesses and prominent individuals from being defamed or private information being published. Magnus also advises on information security and manages the risk to reputation that arises in the event of data loss. He is ranked as a leader in his field in Chambers & Partners and the Spear’s 500 Index. 

Ed Coke, Director of Consulting Services at Reputation Institute

Ed leads the advisory team at Reputation Institute, a research-based consultancy that measures the reputations of the largest and most visible companies around the world. He provides senior communications and marketing executives at global companies the single-best way to measure, communicate and manage reputation performance. With this insight, companies can protect their reputations, analyse risks and drive competitive advantage.

Rebecca Mayo, Joint Managing Director at Lansons

Over the last decade Rebecca has been responsible for many sector-leading and award-winning campaigns, including: the launch of Metro Bank, Britain’s first new high street bank in over 100 years; the five year market-leading thought leadership programme for life and pensions giant Scottish Widows;  the re-positioning and re-launching of Asda Money; the launch and decade long consumer champion programme for MoneySuperMarket; the integrated PR and PA campaign for the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion; and the decade long corporate and retail programme for Invesco Perpetual, including the recent departure of its star fund manager Neil Woodford. Rebecca has significant experience managing corporate issues ranging from FSA fines, non-compliant marketing communications, mis-selling, mergers and acquisitions, exiting markets, complex pricing strategies, and difficult underwriting decisions.

The importance of digital content for asset managers

Lansons asset management

Whilst many asset managers in the US have invested in digital and social media, in the UK it feels like we’re still catching up; representing an era before the internet really became useful. So yesterday morning Lansons hosted an event alongside Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group to discuss websites and digital content for asset managers.

In a packed room hosted at Lansons HQ four panellists (I was one of them), along with input from the audience, navigated the digital world to reach useful advice and understanding around compliance challenges.

I joined the panel alongside…

Rosalia Engchuan, Analyst at My Private Banking Research

Rosalia has a research focus on the mobile and web presences of wealth and fund managers as well as on the impact of disruptive technologies on the wealth management sector. She specializes in online communication technologies and mobile channel strategies. She previously worked as a CSR Analyst in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and as digital media consultant.

Cordelia Hughes, Director of Sales for the Donnelley Financial Language Solutions group

Cordelia has worked with asset management clients for over a decade. Donnelley Financial is a global communications provider. The Language Solutions Group specialises multilingual content for financial institutions, with a particular focus on asset managers.

Craig Rogers, Partner in technology and outsourcing at Eversheds LLP

Craig has a focus on the financial services sector and regulatory compliance. He advises on a wide range of matters including the roll-out of strategic technology platforms, complex outsourcing arrangements, application and website development and cloud services.  His clients include retail and investment banks, asset managers, general and specialist insurers and pension funds.

It really was a superb discussion that had no sign of dying even after an hour into proceedings. Afterwards we all headed downstairs to record our views on a podcast. Do have a listen – hopefully more of these events to come!