PR’s Top Pros Talk…Tips for 2021 – Michelle Gross
Michelle Gross, President, Spectrum Science
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: MICHELLE GROSS
DOUG: Michelle, thanks so much for spending time with us. And let’s start off with your top recommendation for PR people as we head towards 2021.
MICHELLE: Yeah, I don’t think anyone is going to be sad to see 2020 be gone. We’re all looking forward to ringing in the new year, but we will continue to see so many themes play out that emerged in 2020. We have our new administration coming into office, the rollout of the vaccine is going to impact everyone’s lives. And the renewed focus on diversity is going to continue to play out in 2021. So, there’s three areas that we’ve kind of been advising our clients around in terms of how to engage with reporters moving into the next year. So, in one area where we’re saying, OK, when you can and when appropriate lean into the topics of interest that authentically tie to the news events that are happening in our lives. For some clients, particularly who are health care clients, this really makes a lot of sense. I mean, we work on many clients who are touching the COVID space directly or indirectly. So, really leaning into those topics and tying it to them. Secondly, it’s about targeting stakeholders. So, really thinking about the audience that you’re trying to reach in a very targeted way because the specialty media that addresses those audiences are not necessarily all consumed with all of these big news topics, and they’re looking for content that they know are going to be of interest to their stakeholders. So, making sure to really think about all those different types of publications that that reach your audiences. And then the last thing that we‘ve been doing is really been trying to take more of a focus, looking at our larger ecosystem, where can we find different opportunities to tell a more robust story about our clients using long form content. So, we know that there are people who are looking for things to read that are not related to COVID and their home, you have a captive audience. So, making sure to find all of those specialty, whether it’s a podcast, or some publications have longer form written content, really thinking creatively about how to use those opportunities.
DOUG: You mentioned, obviously, your emphasis on healthcare and the healthcare space. One of the challenges that affects not just health care, but all industries and even running your own agency, is the face–to–face contact. So, important for, say, healthcare sales, getting information to doctors. Now you can’t do that. What are some of the best practices you’re seeing to sort of create that connection virtually in this new environment? And that seems to be something that will stay with us in 2021 for sure.
MICHELLE: This is something that’s really impacting our clients a lot. We’re getting requests for, how do we engage in this virtual world. A lot of our clients typically spend a big part of the year focused on going to medical conferences and there’s a lot of in-person networking that takes place. So, how can we, like, reimagine and rethink how we engage with our audiences virtually during those times that are really important for our clients who are disclosing data during those meetings? The other big challenge that we’ve heard from our clients is that, you know, they’re not able to have as many in-person interactions with sales reps. Some of our clients, the sales reps are not allowed to call their doctors at all or it’s very, very limited. So, we’re looking at innovative and creative ways to replicate that experience and then also to use other forms of promotional communications to support what we’re doing virtually. And then lastly, advisory boards is one activity that is of importance to our clients in the healthcare space. They’re often looking to physicians for their perspective on a lot of landscape, for example. So, those types of meetings usually take place in person. They’re usually like 25 people, 25 healthcare professionals. They’re getting together, they’re talking through the dynamics of a certain marketplace. That doesn’t exist anymore. We are now trying to figure out, OK, how can we get the same outcome, but have that meeting happen virtually on an online platform, maybe in smaller groups? So, those are all the different ways we’re thinking about how we kind of engage in this virtual world.
DOUG: You mentioned virtual events. That’s actually one of the fastest areas of growth in our business, with people wanting to have broadcast quality to their virtual events, whether it’s a small group all together, or a larger group that’s communicating with those who are watching the event, that’s definitely going to be a trend in 2021 towards more of that. I want to get into some of the things that you’re bringing into your own agency management in response to change. One area where you’ve tried to take major steps forward is in the diversity and inclusion aspect. Can you share some best practices with those who are watching and how to improve that?
MICHELLE: Yeah. So, the events of the summer really placed a renewed focus for us on diversity and inclusion. We realized that we can no longer be in neutral, we really have to push things into drive. So, we went and hired some consultants to help us think about what a diversity and inclusion program could look like at Spectrum. We started off by conducting a survey of our staff to see how they feel about D&I in our workplace. So, we started there, and then we put together a council, the Diversity Council at Spectrum, which is made up of a lot of different people within our community who are interested in bringing D&I to the forefront of the company. That council is responsible for putting together a strategic plan for going into 2021. So, we’re looking at what are our goals for the program, how are we defining diversity and inclusion, and then what is the action plan we’re going to put into place that is going to elevate our efforts in this area. So, we’re just getting started, and we’re rolling it out next year, we’re really excited to see the impact that we can make because we know how important it is for business and for our staff.
DOUG: That is so important and being in the healthcare space, what are some of the things your clients need to need to be thinking about and maybe doing differently next year? Obviously, it’s an area that’s of such great importance. I mean, it’s a life and death matter, but COVID, among the things it’s done, has really stressed the importance of health and health stories, and they dominate the news.
MICHELLE: Yeah, I mean, what we have noticed is that given the events of this year, the general public has become much savvier when it comes to science. I was talking to a colleague of mine a couple of days ago, and he was like, “my mom knows everything about mRNA.” And that’s really a new phenomenon for us. So, how do we think about now educating when we’re looking at different disease areas and how we educate the general public about these disease areas? We’re dealing with a much savvier public and that really kind of changes the dynamic. It also changes the way we think about the physicians who are treating those patients and how we are supporting them and having those dialogues, because clearly our patient population are coming to those conversations much more informed.
DOUG: Do you think the general media has sort of picked up on their trend? Because previously general media was into more sort of top line messages as opposed to really getting into the nuance and details. But as the audience gets savvier, are they aware that they’ve got to be dealing in more detail with more information and better information?
MICHELLE: I mean, it was an interesting year with how science was being positioned in the media, just given everything that was going on with how the government was communicating about COVID, and that the role that the CDC was playing. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, all of those different players really kind of created a different environment that almost put science, like not in the forefront for a while. But it was nice to see that, as the year has gone on and the pandemic is just increasing, becoming increasingly worse with a vaccine coming just so close into sight, we’re now seeing that focus shift back into credibility around the science and people feeling that there’s hope out there. I think one area where we’re going to have to really think about is educating around the need for vaccine, and there’s a lot of misperceptions around vaccines and side effects, and how important the role that they can play. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of work that the media are going to need to do next year in terms of getting people to feel comfortable taking the vaccine and understanding why it’s so important.
DOUG: It wouldn’t surprise me if when the vaccine becomes more widely available to see media personalities constantly getting the vaccine on their programs to just demonstrate the effectiveness. Thanks so much for your great insights and advice and congratulations on your continued success.
MICHELLE: Thank you so much. It’s been great talking to you.