Crisis Communications: Case Study 2
A major pharmaceutical company was about to release a much-heralded new cholesterol drug. The drug performed so well in clinical trials the FDA fast-tracked the medication to expedite its availability to the public. Shortly before the FDA vote to approve the drug a public interest group launched a major media campaign claiming the drug is dangerous. The Medical Director of the group was widely quoted in major newspapers and on all of the nightly network newscasts. In addition, several physicians within the FDA joined the chorus supporting the public interest group’s contentions.
The pharmaceutical company called upon us to deal with what they considered “sensational and slanted” television news reports.
Our team was led by a former CBS News and “60 Minutes” Producer who used contacts, connections, and credibility built over a twenty- year broadcast journalism career to reach out to the network reporters and producers. We quickly learned that most of the media covering the story meant well, but did not understand the complexities and nuances of the issues involved. Worse, many reporters and producers mistrusted the pharmaceutical company and were using the public service organization as their primary source for all of their reporting on the story. We educated them on the facts and pointed out that the group was making false claims that were contradicted by the science. We also pointed out that the FDA physicians who spoke out against the drug had no credibility to do so, since they were not directly involved in assessing the drug’s clinical trials and voluminous research.
Within 48 hours of accepting the assignment we were able to significantly alter the tone of television news coverage regarding the new drug. The controversy quickly subsided. The FDA approved the medication.