Interview: Kenneth Meyer of Edelman

Friday was a little hectic—I was entrenched in preparing for our annual meeting for work, my daughter was home with pink eye (feeling fine but contagious, so I had to work at home), lawn mowers outside of my home office window, a barking dog . . . and, my second interview in my series of interviews for my New Media Studies independent study. And it was a good one—and a welcomed distraction from a hectic day where things weren’t going according to plan.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kenneth Meyer, Vice President of Healthcare Media at Edelman in New York. Ken has worked in media relations for more than a decade and has experience in pharma, device, tech and biotech. He’s been through the ups and he’s been through the downs. And his perspective was fascinating.

Much of our conversation centered on the role of new media in storytelling. After all, when it comes down to it, PR really is about storytelling. So, what does healthcare PR look like, and how is new media part of the landscape?

Here are my main takeaways from my chat with Ken.

There’s always a story to tell in healthcare. There are so many perspectives in healthcare and ways to tell the story. From therapeutic innovations, to patient stories, to the business of healthcare, the richness of stories cannot be understated.

Healthcare is not boring. This has been a major draw for me personally to work in healthcare. And, so far both of my interviews for this study have somehow come around to this point. The field is evolving—policy, research, and curing diseases just to name a few areas, and healthcare and medicine touches every person’s life in some way. From a career perspective, it’s exciting to hear this sentiment repeated time and time again.

The consumer’s role in healthcare is evolving and healthcare communications has had to evolve, too. Perhaps one of the more interesting shifts in healthcare communications is the need to communicate directly with consumers, and the expectation that consumers will get the information, be able to understand and employ it, represents a significant challenge and a bit of a change from communicating through clinicians in order to reach patients.

Knowing your audience is key. Ken and I discussed the role of different platforms and new media tools, and Ken really emphasized the idea that knowing your audience dictates everything from channel, to length of content, to type of content. Knowing who your audience is, where they like to get their information, and how they get that information can really drive your communications strategy.

With new media’s continued infiltration, incoming and listening become even more important. When you think of traditional PR and communications, much of the work consists of one-way communication. New media, and social media in particular, has really changed this. Public relations teams are now putting their ears to the ground to understand what is happening in the world. And this listening informs and justifies decision making on many levels.

We had a really great conversation and many of his points reminded me how much crossover exists in PR, marketing, communications, new media, social media and advertising. Specialization is absolutely needed, but having a solid foundation and an ability to have working knowledge of these other areas is vital.

A huge thanks to Ken for his time and expertise. Stay tuned for my next interview with Justin DeJong, Vice President, Internal and External Communications at the American Medical Association.

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