Risk v. Benefits in Pharma Communications: Finding the Right Balance

Multimedia content is essential in pharmaceutical communications, but PR pros still need to properly balance risks and benefits in promotions.

As a pharmaceutical communications exec, you’re no doubt aware that you need to present certain information with any content you publish: Compliance with FDA regulations requires you to avoid any promotional material that is false or misleading…and your content might be misleading if it fails to disclose the risks of using a drug while promoting benefits. So, finding the right balance between the two is critical. It’s easy – just count the number of words in your content and make sure they’re equally distributed with risks and benefits, right? 

Wrong. Since today’s best practices for pharmaceutical PR necessitates using multimedia content in communications, we’re obviously not talking about just text. Success with healthcare PR means incorporating attention-grabbing fonts, rich images, engaging video and story-telling infographics. Counting words won’t cut it here. But all is not lost – just follow a couple of simple rules.


You’ve got to consider the content itself…


Here, the text is the focus. You want to avoid language that might confuse your audience, like saying “risk of syncope” v. “risk of fainting.” Signal text, like headers and subheaders, should also be evenly balanced between risks and benefits. And hierarchy is important. You can count on a call from legal – or worse, a warning letter from the FDA – if you list risk of drowsiness first and risk of coma last. There are other considerations of content in FDA Guidance documents, but you get the gist.


…And you’ve got to incorporate proper format.
According to the FDA, “format” includes the shape, size and general layout. So, consider content location, color contrast, white space, etc. – and don’t forget to apply these rules to superimposed text (SUPERs). And audio/visual elements describing risk v. benefit should be equal in terms of quality of speech, volume, background music, film quality, devotion of time, etc. And pacing is critical: You can’t rush through risks, while dwelling on the amazing benefits.


Keep these factors in mind as you’re creating awesome multimedia content, and your PR materials should pass FDA muster. But, of course, you’ll always want to run your campaigns through your legal department first. Still, when you find the right balance between risks and benefits in your content the first time around, you’re less likely to get finger-wagging from legal – making your life a little easier.


We’ll continue our Regulatory Series for pharmaceutical communications and PR professionals with:


The FDA Keeps Up with the Kardashians AND

If speed matters, why is pharma so slow?


Stay tuned…


eBook: The 7 Pillars of Pharmaceutical Communications Wisdom

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