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April 03, 2012

PRSA and WOMMA Partner to Provide Social Media Advisement to FDA

Leading Public Relations and Word-of-Mouth Marketing Associations Provide Guidance on Ethical Digital Communications in the Health Care Industry
NEW YORK and CHICAGO (April 3, 2012) — The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the world’s largest organization of public relations professionals, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the leading trade association focusing on word-of-mouth marketing and advertising, today filed joint comments with the United States Food and Drug Administration concerning its proposed social media guidelines.
PRSA and WOMMA’s joint formal comments are available for download.
In their comments, PRSA and WOMMA ask the FDA to provide more robust guidance concerning how businesses in the health care and pharmaceutical industries can appropriately communicate with, and market to, consumers in online and social media forums. The allied associations also affirm the ethical standards that underpin the public relations and word-of-mouth marketing professions.
“We appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback to the FDA to ensure the continued strength of open and honest communications that help foster informed decision-making in America,” said Gerard F. Corbett, PRSA chair and CEO. “It is imperative that the FDA presents viable guidance for how companies can utilize social media to accommodate consumers’ fact-finding needs concerning health care and wellness issues. While a start, the proposed Guidelines lack specificity and relevance that communicators and marketers require to successfully perform their jobs within FDA guidelines.”
“Consumers and health care professionals want and need clarification of what is and isn’t acceptable in this arena,” said David Witt, chairman of WOMMA. “We welcome the opportunity to provide our recommendations to the FDA. As a leading trade association, WOMMA continues to engage our membership and reinforce the evolution of ethical and responsible word of mouth practices in health care, and we look forward to continuing the discussion.”
Overview of PRSA and WOMMA’s joint comments and recommendations to the FDA:
  • PRSA and WOMMA members need the FDA’s guidance on how they can properly and appropriately communicate with, and market to, consumers in online and social-media forums.
  • The proposed Guidelines ignore the public’s desire to access information concerning health care and health issues in an expedient and efficient manner online and via social media.
  • The delay in providing proper guidance has led to a gap in open and transparent communication and has been detrimental to the online patient communities who rely on these communications for information and support.
  • By providing communicators and marketers in the health care and pharmaceutical industries with proper social-media guidance, the FDA will help enhance the quality of information available to consumers, while ensuring businesses can continue to innovate, both in their online marketing communications strategies and product development.
  • The realities of the digital age and how consumers go online to find health-care and health-issues information must be met by a robust set of Guidelines from the FDA. That guidance might cover: platform-specific issues; digital disclosure by companies in online platforms and across social media; conflicts-of-interest; and direct versus indirect communications.
In addition to their recommendations, PRSA and WOMMA further suggest that the FDA provide for some form of responsible, self-regulated infrastructure in which companies can proactively and reactively communicate with consumers online, via social media and other digital forums. This would provide a means for health care and pharmaceutical companies to answer consumers’ questions and aid in society’s informed decision making.
After nearly five years of research and planning, the FDA released a set of proposed guidelines Dec. 30, 2011, concerning how businesses can respond to unsolicited online requests for off-label information about prescription drugs and medical devices.
WOMMA is the leading trade association in the marketing and advertising industries that focuses on word of mouth, consumer-generated and social media platforms — or marketing techniques that include buzz, viral, community, and influencer marketing, as well as brand blogging. The organization is committed to developing and maintaining appropriate ethical standards for marketers and advertisers engaging in such marketing practices, identifying meaningful measurement standards for such marketing practices, and defining “best practices” for the industry.
Founded in 2004, WOMMA members include marketers and brands that use word of mouth marketing to reinforce their core customers and to reach out to new consumers, agencies that deliver word of mouth services and technologies, researchers that track the word of mouth experience and offline and online practitioners.
PRSA is the largest professional organization serving the U.S. public relations community. With a mission to “advance the profession and the professional,” PRSA provides news and information, thought leadership, continuing education and networking opportunities; sets standards of professional excellence and ethical conduct; and advocates for the business value of public relations andgreater diversity among public relations professionals. Based in New York, PRSA comprises 112 local Chapters; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on specific industries and practice areas; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is active at more than 320 colleges and universities.
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