Overview of PRSA Health Academy 2014

More than 220 health care PR professionals gathered in Washington, D.C. May 7-9th for the 2014 Health Academy meeting. The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health hosted our pre-conference session called “Patient-Centric Communications: How the FDA and Advocacy Groups are Rewriting the Health Care PR Playbook,” which was broken into two parts, the first focusing on “Why Patients Matter Now, More than Ever”, and the second half taking the initiative to describe “Winning Communications Strategies for Patient Partnerships.”

 In the first session, participants had the opportunity to interact with a representative from the FDA as well as the National Health Council. The session was moderated by Michele Oshman, Director of Global Advocacy and Professional Relations of Eli Lilly and Company. The later session was moderated by Tracy Furey, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Novartis Oncology North America. Participants included Mary Dunkle, Vice President of Communications for the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD). Here’s a link to NORD’s latest PSA, to give you an idea of their mission: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK8GA48f3X4&list=UUAVOgkL57qrGeo5qGcf18rA&feature=share&index=2

 There were also interesting case studies of patient partnerships from the field, featuring PR strategies and tactics that could be adapted for future campaigns. This video includes some highlights from our pre-conference session: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKZDrTAaOys&feature=share&list=UURZer0i_eJrLohGuei9B-Bw&index=8

 The following day’s opening keynote “How Washington Really Works” featured Ezra Klein, who is the editor-in-chief of the recently launched Vox.com and provided insight into media relations in the age of digital journalism. The breakout session I was able to attend focused on the American Cancer Society’s celebrating its Centennial. Every healthcare organization has an anniversary; this session offered key insights from a very successful year-long effort by ACS. There’s more detail in this video: http://youtu.be/gvG8Wa3-L9U

Spectrum Science hosted the luncheon plenary which explained how market research informs communications strategy in the health care landscape. Jonathan Wilson, president of Spectrum, moderated a panel of experts, including Fabio Gratton, founder of Truvio, illustrating how research can be leveraged to create a nuanced approach to effective communication campaigns that resonate with niche subgroups of targeted populations.

The afternoon breakout session I attended was “Arrest the Risk: reaching African-Americans about a Deadly Heart Condition.” This innovative campaign by BRG Communications won the Silver Anvil, and used a national media campaign in collaboration with the Heart Rhythm Society and the Association of Black Cardiologists to target minorities at risk. Here’s a link to the PSA:


The later sessions on Thursday, May 8,  included “Blurred Lines: A New Approach to Consumer Engagement” which showed how ARC2 Communications in Los Angeles is partnering its pharmaceutical clients with national media to engage audiences in health education. Another highlight was a session on Brand Journalism, highlighting some of the work at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ4OltpYsXQ&list=UURZer0i_eJrLohGuei9B-Bw&feature=share&index=2

The final day of sessions, Friday May 9 was kicked off by a terrific keynote by David Meerman Scott, who spoke on the increasingly blurred lines between marketing and public relations. Our lunch keynote that day featured Mark Little, founder and CEO of Storyful, which is the Dublin-based news organization behind Facebook Newswire.

Here are highlights from both: http://youtu.be/-ugLrLc30tI

Other highlights of Friday included “Fair or Foul? Working Within the FDA’s Rules for Digital Communications” led by Mark Senak of Fleishman Hillard, from the Eye on FDA Blog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6gZk_uuckg&list=UURZer0i_eJrLohGuei9B-Bw&feature=share&index=1

There were also important sessions for insurors/payors. Aetna and Dodge Communications presented a thoughtful panel titled “Influence the Agenda: Aligning Health Care Trends to Leverage Thought Leadership.” Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Capstrat presented “Using an Integrated PESO Strategy to End the Medical Cost Blame Game” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fa6wPhujAA&list=UURZer0i_eJrLohGuei9B-Bw&feature=share

 Next year, PRSA Health Academy goes to Cleveland May 13-15th: http://youtu.be/lf8KHqSr8aM

 We hope to see you there!