Accounting for Politics in Your Healthcare PR and Marketing Plan

, May 14, 2019

CATEGORIES: Public Relations
TAGS: , , , ,

To be (political) or not to be (political), that is truly the question for companies across all industries currently. But when it comes to healthcare policy, diving into the deep end of political discussion is not a move to take lightly. Healthcare PR and marketing plans need to take politics into account, ensuring that both you and your client are on the same page.

Sixty percent of Americans think corporations should not get involved in political or cultural matters, according to a 2019 report. But two-thirds of Americans also believe that corporations can influence people’s attitudes about cultural or social issues. So how do you know when to encourage your client to jump into the mix?

Have a plan in place

 Communication is always key for a successful relationship with clients, and walking that precarious political line is no different. Discuss with your client early on how they want to approach certain topics making headlines. Not every issue aligns with every healthcare company, so only enter into conversations where your client has something beneficial to add.

For example, your client might work in the healthcare privacy and security space. If there are laws being proposed around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – a major rule involving data privacy – then it could make sense to provide a comment or write an op-ed.

Bold stances, valuable takes, and timely pitches are key for successful rapid response. A set process for political discussions will also help move thoughts from subject matter experts to the PR team in a timely manner so any comments or responses can be pushed out to media quickly and accurately.

Discuss the benefits and drawbacks

 Most U.S. healthcare policy changes are going to be inherently relevant to your clients, regardless of their niche within healthcare. This is why it’s important to have real conversations with your clients, and help them see how national policies might impact them, their customers, and end users.

Relationship building is one key benefit that can come from commenting on healthcare policy news, and offering strong and unique insights to the media can help establish your client as a resource. Not everyone is willing or able to comment on healthcare policy, so having a bold PoV or opinion can open doors for news coverage or thought leadership down the line.

Healthcare vendors might increase their chances for coverage by commenting on a timely political issue. However, there is also a small chance that your client’s words are twisted or misinterpreted. For example, let’s say that a CEO speaks out against recently proposed legislation, saying that it could harm patients. Depending on the soundbite, a headline or tweet could make it seem like the CEO is taking a larger political stance against the current administration.

No one wants negative coverage and it’s understandable that your clients might be nervous about having their words spun. But finding that sweet spot in the middle – the right compromise of being bold without being overly controversial – can be a strong PR move. When offering an opinion, even a soft one, your clients do not have to state their support or disapproval of a policy or candidate. Instead, tying a policy into the industry as a whole and how key players will be impacted can be good.

For example, a statement could be similar to the following: “Conversations around ABC policy are helping bring the larger issue of physician burnout to light. But to really make impactful change, healthcare providers need to achieve X, Y and Z.”

Be clear, concise, precise

 The line for healthcare policies has become increasingly blurred over the past several years, between whether something is a fiscal issue or a social issue. Opinions are hyper-polarized on how to provide affordable healthcare coverage to the largest number of people.

Avoid attacking specific individuals, organizations and policies. Making light of a particular situation will also likely not be received well, but at the same time, overly rigid language can be seen as disingenuous.

When the opportunity arises to comment on an issue, it’s important to help clients clearly state their point and have a purpose. It is perfectly fine if your clients want their thoughts known, but it is not worth weighing in if the stance is going to be muddled and difficult to interpret. Concise and well-thought out statements could go a long way in establishing your clients as true thought leaders.