Before you select a public relations agency to assist you with your healthcare or biotech communications program, make sure you ask these questions (for starters!):

1.    Do the principals and account staff have a working knowledge of medical terminology and “jargon?”  Would terms like late-stage clinical trials, in-vitro fertilization and Kawasaki disease throw them for a loop?

2.    Is the company known for solid media relationships?  Do they know key health and science reporters locally and nationally?

3.    Does the agency read the health care trades – Modern Healthcare, JAMA, Western Journal of Medicine, Hospitals?  Is the agency familiar with the “Inglefinger Rule?”

4.    Does the firm have sensitivity toward the different needs of many specialized services within the health care field, i.e., geriatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, radiology?

5.    Does your agency know which legislators, political action groups, industry trade associations and other related organizations act as watch dogs for the industry?

6.    Does your account team regurgitate your ideas, or do they come up with fresh, creative strategies and tactics?  Do your communications programs win awards?

7.    Will the person who pitched the account actually work on it or will you be assigned inexperienced junior staff. Is there sufficient backup expertise in health care if your account person leaves the agency?

8.    Is your agency aware of “Public Release of Patient Information” guidelines?

9.    Getting ready to announce a major breakthrough?  Does the agency know the restrictions imposed by the FDA and others on announcements of this type?

10.    Have you checked the agency’s references with other clients and especially with the media, an often overlooked source of good information on an agency’s performance?

-Susan, TGPR