Senior hires brought on board to support growing client needs and continued growth
New York, NY – November 17, 2016 – GCI Health, a leading healthcare-focused global public relations agency, continued its record growth in 2016, adding 25 new hires across the agency’s offices to accommodate growth on a broad range of accounts spanning the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical technology, patient advocacy and healthcare IT sectors. This significant growth fueled expanded service offerings in corporate communications, digital and social media, content creation and creative design, as well as continued investment in its ‘best in the business’ media offering.
GCI Health Expands Corporate Offering with Key Senior Hire
Increasingly, GCI Health is brought in to redefine and shape the reputation and value of healthcare companies and clients, and to position their leadership in an evolving and progressively complex healthcare landscape. This portfolio of work also includes corporate media outreach, executive visibility, corporate social responsibility, access communications and employee engagement.
To support this growing need and build the agency’s corporate health communications offering, GCI Health has added Alexandra (Alex) Peterson as Senior Vice President. Alex will be responsible for overseeing the agency’s current work which is growing into larger corporate assignments, as well as managing the unprecedented opportunities the agency is experiencing in this arena from pharmaceutical, biotech, medical technology and health IT companies. As part of this, Alex will also focus on shaping the education and discussion around the introduction of biosimilars (biologic drugs that are highly similar to biopharmaceutical products) as the market forms in the U.S. and expands globally. Alex joins GCI Health from Makovsky, where she managed the healthcare practice.
“Over the last few years, we have dedicated ourselves to expanding our collective skillset to anticipate and meet our clients’ changing communications needs,” said Wendy Lund, CEO, GCI Health. “The addition of Alex further strengthens our corporate health offering and puts us in an excellent position to ensure that GCI Health continues to delight our clients and help them stand out in this very crowded – and likely to become more complex – healthcare space.”
GCI Health Expands Digital Team with an Expanded Focus on Content Creation
The healthcare industry is increasingly focused on content creation and marketing. GCI Health has helped its clients not only to keep pace, but to truly innovate in the digital healthcare space and “revolutionize realistically,” whether collaborating with clients to use augmented reality to show their commitment to corporate responsibility, helping to execute a major social promotional push to refresh a 10-year campaign or launch a suite of social channels featuring a branded Facebook community with open commenting (a rarity in the healthcare space).
To accelerate the agency’s efforts in the digital space, GCI Health has added Sarah Campbell as a Vice President. Sarah brings a wealth of digital/social expertise to the GCI Health team with an emphasis on content strategy and development. For more than 15 years Sarah has focused on delivering patient-centric, digital solutions for high-profile healthcare brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Genentech and Novartis. Prior to joining GCI Health, Sarah was Director of Digital Strategy at Rockfish, a WPP agency, leading digital innovation projects for Janssen and IBM Watson Health.
“Our mission is to find the best and brightest talent in healthcare communications around the world, particularly in areas that play up our inherent strengths, whether it’s new product and service offerings or new therapeutic categories,” said Ms. Lund. “Our focus on the quality of our staff helps us to strive to consistently deliver exceptional results for our clients, as demonstrated by the stability of our agency, seasoned hands-on senior talent and a commitment to a stellar culture.”
Senior Media Team Member Promoted
Media continues to be an outstanding competency for GCI Health. Maura Siefring has been promoted to Senior Vice President of the agency’s media department, bringing more than 14 years of journalism and healthcare media relations experience with expertise in developing strategies for products throughout the various stages of lifecycle.
About GCI Health
GCI Health is an award-winning healthcare public relations agency powered by best-in-the-business professionals across the U.S., Canada and Europe. The agency’s client roster spans broadly across all sectors in healthcare, including pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, consumer health, provider groups (hospitals and managed care), health IT, beauty and aesthetics and non-profit. GCI Health offers clients an accessible senior level leadership team, A-to-Z healthcare experience, a commitment to beating client expectations, and an obsession with anticipating the challenges of an increasingly complex and transforming healthcare communications environment. With insider’s knowledge of health media, high science, digital health strategy, consumer activation, crisis management, reputation building, patient advocacy and health education, GCI Health’s focus on delivering results is unrelenting.
A crucial part of creating and executing an effective oncology communications program requires focusing on science and innovation. Jill Dosik, President, Global Scientific
Communications and Message Impact, GCI Health, recently presented at EXL Pharma with the CEO of CancerCare, Patricia Goldsmith, on ways to better understand and provide value to cancer patients. To add to the expanding content on this, Jill was featured in an article in the October Healthcare issue of O’Dwyer’s “Better Understanding Cancer Patients’ Needs.” In this piece, Jill provides in-depth thought-leadership on various findings about the experiences of people living with cancer as revealed in the 2016 Patient Access and Engagement Report, a landmark study conducted by CancerCare.
Common wisdom has always held that public relations is a female-friendly and female dominated field. Those outside the industry have always assumed that PR is a particularly women-heavy arena, and after many years in the business, I can happily and undoubtedly say they’re right!
In my personal experience, women have always accounted for the majority of the workforce at PR agencies. However, what’s concerning to me is that despite our numbers, women often continue to be under-represented in top positions within the industry despite their talent, drive and dedication.
As the mother of a daughter currently entering her second year of college — who happens to be gutsy, clever and unwilling to let anyone stand in the way of her goals — I’m compelled to make equality in the workplace a priority not only for her and the next generation of women leaders, but for women currently forging paths in PR.
According to a recent “Women in the Workplace” report from McKinsey & Company, the path to leadership is disproportionately stressful for women. Fears of balancing family and work, worries about their competence in leadership positions and concerns over lack of internal — i.e., company — support are among the reasons offered by women regarding why they think they can’t get to the top.
Closing the leadership gap
There are steps we can take within the industry to help alleviate these fears and help women to succeed and grow their careers. We can:
Demonstrate to female employees that our agency is behind them in every step of their careers. Women tend to anticipate and ruminate more than men, and we need to spend time supporting and empowering our women employees to make decisions and help them believe in themselves, their ideas, decisions and know-how to build their confidence.
Build training programs that matter and are personal and targeted to her needs. Invite guest speakers for interactive lunch-and-learn sessions (topics can be on anything from skills development, such as public speaking to inspirational stories of women who are at the top of their fields to topics that are fun, to talk about like the Lean In Movement or even shows like Odd Mom Out). Reinforce your company’s education benefits and encourage employees to take advantage: an employee who decides to go back to school and picks up a new skill is always an asset to your agency and your clients. Finally, an awards program — like recognition at a monthly staff meeting — can go a long way in underscoring the company’s commitment to individuals who are delivering their best, and truly boosts morale.
Encourage employees to take advantage of vacation, summer flex time — assuming your company allows it — and telecommuting benefits, making it clear that no employee will be penalized for taking the time they need and earned to handle personal matters and spend time with their families. If women — and men — realize that company leaders not only support, but respect their personal lives, they’ll be that much more engaged on work matters and less likely to be struggling to balance the two.
Pump up existing or create new mentorship programs, pairing senior employees with junior staffers. Incentivize mentors and mentees to have regular meetings — perhaps offering gift cards for coffee dates — to discuss their perceptions of each other’s roles and responsibilities, including perceived challenges. Offer the mentee the opportunity to shadow the mentor for a “day-in-the-life” experience so the junior employee understands and incorporates the leadership skills their ‘shadow’ brings to the table. The gist is that women need to feel confident in their abilities and feel empowered to express their concerns as well as their goals.
Most importantly, it’s critical that we create paths to help women advance in the industry regardless of her family situation and ensure qualified women have an equal chance at leadership opportunities.
Regardless of the tactics you use to support your female employees, every step we take in that direction reinforces the strength of our workforce and ensures agencies’ success. By championing all employees, we are ultimately championing the success of our clients, and we can all agree that’s something worth striving for.
With a steep learning curve, authorities focus Zika comms on pregnant women
Public health officials are learning more about Zika every day and working feverishly to develop a vaccine. In the meantime, they’re targeting preventative communications at pregnant women.
The focus of the CDC’s Zika communications is women
The mosquito-transmitted Zika virus has made headlines for months as it has spread across Central and South America. With its expected movement into the U.S. this summer, government agencies are working to learn more about the virus and keep the public informed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel warning for many countries where Zika is widespread, ramped up research on Zika and a potential vaccine, and women who are or plan to become pregnant and their partners about the virus. Many states are also implementing their own education programs about Zika, which has been linked to poor birth conditions.
“They’re dealing with a unique situation that’s the perfect storm for communications people,” says Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health. “A brand new virus coming on the scene, dealing with a population of people who are uber-focused on their health, and the negative aura coming off Ebola.”
Zika’s emergence conjures up a natural comparison to Ebola, the last major health scare in the U.S., which killed thousands in West Africa in 2014. Even government funding for Zika is partially coming from leftover Ebola money.
“With Ebola and many health crises, communications was not there at the beginning,” says David Kyne, CEO of the eponymous healthcare-focused firm. “Communications is a bit of an afterthought tacked on at the end.”
However, one major difference with Ebola is that authorities have time to prepare. For instance, Texas, a state that dealt with a sudden Ebola case in 2014, has had time to get ready for Zika. Carrie Williams, director of media relations at the Texas Department of State Health Services, says officials are lucky to have the time to plan ahead.
“The key difference is that Ebola had an incredibly short runway for us,” she says. “With Zika, we have the benefit of a longer runway, to get organized and learn more about it.”
The uncertainty of Zika
Much is still being learned about Zika, which makes it more difficult for experts to talk about it. The virus has been around for decades, but only recently has spread beyond its narrow range along the equator. The virus’ connection to birth defects is a new discovery, and it has made governments and health officials pay attention.
“It’s like fixing the plane while you’re flying it,” Lund notes. “This isn’t just a communications issue; it’s a medical issue that we need to get to the bottom of.”
Research on Zika is being conducted, like the study confirming the connection to birth defects and the work on a vaccine. Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC principal deputy director, raised eyebrows earlier this month when she said, “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a little scarier than we initially thought.”
Yet government agencies are pressing forward with the information they have. The Texas Department for State Health Services, for one, is spreading prevention information.
“We’re tackling Zika before it’s really here,” explains Williams.
The state’s strategy has included spreading awareness about the threat to pregnant women and disclosing general precautionary measures, like eliminating mosquito-breeding sites, wearing mosquito repellent, and distributing information about travel advisories.
“[Government agencies] will need to ensure all messages are prepared well in advance of any local outbreak and are updated in real-time based on the latest science and recommendations,” says Rose Anna Kaczmarcik, team lead at Allidura Consumer.
Williams said Texas is also planning more public awareness campaigns and preparing for a crisis if the virus hits the state hard this summer.
“We need to be looking ahead at what that triggers may be. For us, it’ll be local transmission or having the first Zika microcephaly case,” Williams explains. “We want to be ready for the triggers that may be unfolding.”
Getting the right information to the right people
Pregnant women are the key audience for communications about Zika. In the general population, its symptoms are a mild, week-long fever. However, in expecting women, it has been linked to brain abnormalities in the fetus such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
“Mothers and mothers-to-be are great at finding info and absorbing and sharing it,” Lund says. “They need to be sure that info is fed the right way to them.”
Kyne notes the key is finding the right sources to spread the message.
“If you’re a woman in Brazil, who are the sources you trust for information?” Kyne adds. “Is it local community officials, a nurse, a website? The key is getting to those credible sources and working with them on messaging.”
Earlier this year, New York enlisted the help of mom bloggers to spread the word about Zika. And both federal and state governments are providing information to doctors who work with pregnant women.
“We’re tapping into the WIC [Women, Infants, and Children] program and looking at other ways to reach that audience, often through their healthcare provider,” Williams says.
She details Texas’ other Zika preparations, which includes nearly everything from distributing door hangers and flyers to Twitter chats and planning for the possibility of local transmission. On the department’s dedicated Zika website, there is information about the number of cases in the state, precautions for pregnant women and travelers, and information for healthcare providers.
“The key is communicating in a very modern, up-to-the-minute, open, transparent, and clear way,” Lund says. “Putting the information at their feet rather than making people search for it.”
Texas is taking transparency and openness with Zika information seriously. The number of cases on the website is updated daily by 11 a.m., and the Department of State Health Services is working closely with health associations, doctors, local governments, public officials, and the media to make sure everyone has the same information.
The state also is putting out all materials in English and Spanish and working with prominent Spanish-speaking spokespeople for that target audience. Northern Mexico has already seen local transmission of Zika, which increases the possibility of local transmission on Texas’ border.
“We understand that communication is a major part of protecting people, and that rings true for Zika,” Williams says. “The right message can save a life.”
Read more at http://www.prweek.com/article/1392417/steep-learning-curve-authorities-focus-zika-comms-pregnant-women#tdXpWPD54fl4yvU5.99
For the 6th year in a row, GCI Health has been named a finalist for Healthcare Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report (with wins in 2011 and 2015 for North America and 2015 for Global).This is an extremely huge honor to continue to be recognized each year in this category for so many years running! The selection is comprised of a research process involving more than 150 submissions and 50 face-to-face meetings with the best PR firms across the US and Canada resulting in 69 finalists across 14 categories. We were selected as a finalist among four other companies in the healthcare category.
GCI Health (WPP/Cohn & Wolfe Group)
One of the tangible consequences of GCI’s decision to put the “patient at the center” of everything it does is an inexorable expansion of its work into venues where consumers are actually looking for healthcare information, which means greater use of digital and social channels, using paid, owned and shared alongside more traditional earned media. Working to raise awareness of Tecfidera (from Biogen) as a treatment option for relapsing multiple sclerosis, GCI Health partnered with Self magazine, style expert and talk show host Jeannie Mal, and select bloggers to drive engagement and web traffic. Using targeted media outreach, grassroots efforts, culturally-relevant spokespeople and patient resources, meanwhile, the firm helped Merck reach black and Hispanic communities at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and raise awareness of America’s Diabetes Challenge.
While many client assignments remain confidential, GCI now works for eight of the nation’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies, while also broadening its client base to include biotech, medical devices, payer/provider, association and health technology clients, growing by an impressive 23 percent.
The leadership team—CEO Wendy Lund, North American president Kristin Cahill, president of scientific communication Jill Dosik—has been together for six years now and is building a culture that challenges employees to think differently about healthcare communications while providing a nurturing, collegial environment. — PH