One of my favorite quotes by PR thought leader Pat Jackson is so simple: Study Poverty. No organization that helps people wants to come off looking liked they have endless resources or funding. Keep it simple and in proportion, and people will listen. Have too much, and many will say: Hey they have this under control, they don’t need my help.
So, my marketing radar was set off when RALI New Hampshire overwhelmed me. I saw articles, massive social media ads, and full-page ads in several newspapers. So, I bit, and went to the website.
Simple and well designed, it listed this as the mission: The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) of New Hampshire supports programs that prevent the misuse of prescription medicines so that more lives can be saved from the opioid crisis. We do this by bringing together community leaders and elected officials who are committed to finding effective solutions and sharing ideas that will make a difference across our state.
Laudable. So, I next went to the contact. There is an email, nothing else. No staff, board, addresses or names, just an email. The site features a collection of treatment non-profit logos and prominent images of the governor – but just who is WE?
So, I went looking. And, thanks to good reporting by NHPR I found this: “PhRMA is committing $1 million to efforts in New Hampshire in 2018, which will include grants to local recovery and health organizations. Several opioid manufacturers in PhRMA are currently involved in lawsuits with New Hampshire cities.
Priscilla VanderVeer, the deputy vice president for public affairs at PhRMA, said that it wanted to focus on New Hampshire because it was the “epicenter of the epidemic,” and that PhRMA was inspired by local groups’ efforts to combat it.”
But then I had to ask? How much of that budget is going into ad buys, web design, and massive print ads? Or is this window dressing to create an impression but not an impact? I am a member of the PRSA, and one of the things I re-sect about the code of ethics is the need to be clear on whom you are representing and who funds you. PhRMA has its logo mixed in with others on the site, but nowhere does the website clearly explain they are the key funder.
I hate to be skeptical, but for me this is the reputation of the profession I practice. The opioid crisis is real, and has taken too many lives, and ruined countless more. According to Health Day News “Aggressive direct marketing to doctors by pharmaceutical companies is tied to spurring the ongoing epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States, a new study claims.
A county-by-county analysis showed that opioid use increased in places where drug makers focused their marketing efforts, explained lead researcher Dr. Scott Hadland. He's a pediatrician and addiction researcher at Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction.That data showed that pharma companies spent $39.7 million marketing opioid medications to 67,507 doctors across 2,208 counties in the United States between August 2013 and December 2015. There were 434,754 payments in all, running the gamut from picking up a meal tab to thousands of dollars in consulting fees.”
So, I have to ask the question one last time. Does this ad blitz and generous rounds of grants include outreach to physicians and training on prescription best practices? Look, investing in public awareness is a good thing. But, this effort seems to have a lot of sizzle, and is lite on the steak. I would respect it more if the campaign was clear on who was paying, and why. And, I would like to see greater accounting, research, clarity of mission, evidence, and how and why the crisis came to be?