Vera González
Senior VicePresident of Health and Nutrition
View from the Top

Effective Strategies for Customer Engagement

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 15:12

Q: What is the focus of FleishmanHillard’s local healthcare practice?

A: We have focused strongly on working with the media to create more awareness about existing diseases, and we are proud to say that many Mexicans are more conscious about present diseases because of projects we have worked on. One of the best ways to tackle illness is to create a good level of awareness, which allows people to take proper action in time. Information surrounding health concerns and how to address them is by far the best way to help prevent life-threatening medical issues. Our customers within the local healthcare industry can be divided into two main groups. We represent both large global pharmaceutical companies, and are also increasingly working with local entities. Our core aim is to create solid strategic grounds in communications across this complex sector with the ultimate goal of benefitting Mexican society, helping to ensure that major medical advances can be accessed on a wide basis.

Q: With many restrictions on pharmaceutical advertising how can companies in the industry target their clients?

A: Companies must always comply with local regulations. Communications to patients should be built around raising awareness about disease and the avoidance of self-prescription of drugs. People must be educated about the onset of particular illnesses but only a qualified doctor should advise how an illness should be treated. Major pharmaceuticals should communicate more under a leadership basis, focusing less on merely selling drugs and more on the added value to improve patient’s quality of life. The key is to know how to communicate effectively.

Q: How challenging is it to convince pharmaceutical companies to engage with the public in targeted communication campaigns?

A: Our main challenge now is to convince our clients to promote integrated communications. As a market, Mexico has proven quite resistant to social media programs for example. Of course major pharmaceutical companies have to comply with very strict internal regulations when it comes to advertising and this is one factor. Also, to date, many major companies in the sector see PR as a commodity, and dedicate very small proportions of their budget to this area. A lot of our work involves helping our clients improve the way in which they reach and are perceived by their audiences. Companies can be resistant to change, preferring to stick to proven techniques, however, our communication strategies have been shown to be supportive to our clients in order to help them keep reaching their objectives and growth targets.

Q: You also work with food and nutrition companies – what is you role in this arena and how high is awareness among the consumer market regarding such issues today?

A: We work with large food companies that have a focus on nutrition issues such as La Costeña and recently with Kellogg’s, two of the most iconic food companies in Mexico. We collaborate with their marketing departments regarding their corporate positioning but also help with the launch of new brands and products. Consumers definitely want to be more aware about the products they are buying and eating, however they still lack guidance on how to eat well. The challenge for the industry is to get involved and create communication mechanisms to generate more educated consumers, and it is in these precise regard where we can help our clients.

Q: Should public awareness be led by the private companies or by the public sector?

A: Traditionally, food companies tended to maintain a low profile on this subject. In general, companies waited until the government had enacted laws to raise the cost of products that had high fat and sugar content. Such policies are not often very effective as people are not discouraged from buying products simply due to higher costs. The real problem consists in educating the population about the impact certain products can have on their life. There is no bad food or good food, but there are good habits and bad habits. So, once again, the only way these companies can improve their reputation is by getting involved in generating more informed consumers to better select their food. Simply elevating taxes on a product fixes nothing. Nutrition is all about balance. Drinking a soda on occasion is not necessarily bad, but drinking two liters of a day can be. If people like soda, they will pay the price.