Dr. Ken Rabin and Andrzej Kropiwnicki of Alfa Communications, GLOBALHealthPR’s partner in Poland, will be featured in an upcoming issue of Public Relations Review, the oldest academic journal dedicated solely to public relations. Their precise analysis of two key health PR cases in Poland emphasizes the need for professionals to avoid pitfalls of the unprepared. A lot has changed since 2009 when the most recent edition of the Global Public Relations Handbookwas published.
Is the handbook alone enough for global health communications professionals who do business in foreign markets? The authors answer this question and more.
Crisis management through a deeper understanding of the Polish market
In their article, Rabin and Kropiwnicki describe the importance of effective PR management in Poland amid unclear regulation and sensationalist press coverage. These two threats faced the Polish subsidiary of a prominent global device manufacturer in 2007. As untrue reports of a potentially harmful batch of the company’s product swept the country, the manufacturer acted quickly, voluntarily recalling product while establishing a media command center to develop management messages both to media and government ministry officials. Following thorough evaluations from both EU and Polish officials, the product in question was determined to be safe.
In light of the crisis, the Polish Health Ministry issued new regulations governing the product in question. Despite unfavorable initial press, the company benefitted as the new regulations forced cheaper competitors off the market, actually resulting in increased revenues for the company. “Prompt action brought prompt resolution,” the authors conclude, noting that without a keen understanding of the nuances of Polish media and concerns of the Polish public, harm to the company’s reputation could have ensued.
Grassroots advocacy for healthcare innovation
Until recently, much of the advocacy activity in Poland originated from one of two sources: workers’ unions and the Church. Following doctors’ union strikes and negative press leaks thanks to government officials unfriendly to the pharmaceutical industry, experts gathered to advocate for improved health technology and access to medicines. Polish doctors, health professors, pharmacoeconomists and patient groups united to form the Polish High Level Working Group for Innovation in Healthcare.
“The group’s main objective was to advocate innovation in healthcare by showing where clear gaps exist between Poland and its neighbors, and (more importantly) suggesting areas where, rather than simply asking for increased funding, current health funding could be shifted to achieve better health outcomes,” Rabin and Kropiwnicki write.
Within a year of the group’s formation, two studies had successfully increased public awareness on the importance of access to innovation in healthcare. However, a challenge arose in 2011, when the working group’s main outside donor withdrew its support in favor of shifting funds to other countries. The group overcame this shortcoming by finding additional funding and in-kind donations to keep its efforts going. It also formed a non-profit advocacy association (NGO) to fully dedicate itself to access to modern medicines and technology. According to the authors, this is especially crucial given Poland’s aging population.
They conclude, “As PR practitioners in Poland, we believe this last development is particularly important. It shows that the transition towards meaningful “home-grown” activism is taking root here, and that is good news for advocates of two-way dialogue as a central feature of our discipline.”