How Medical Products Companies Should Handle Media When in a Legal Dispute

Patent challenges. Counterfeiting lawsuits. Product liability. There's no dearth of litigation in the health product space but there are ways you can successfully communicate with the media if your client, a medical products company, is embroiled in a legal dispute.

Following are six best practices:

1.    Authenticate: Separate assumptions and feelings from fact. Differentiate what you think from what you know, not what you think you know. Without disavowing accusations, establish the clinical question.
2.    Align: Adopt a “one company, one voice” policy. PR must have media ready company executives to look to address the informational needs of the internal community along with external audiences. It’s important to provide sales, marketing, legal and R&D personnel with a short list of simple, truthful things they can say to neighbors, industry colleagues and others in informal venues.
3.    Accuracy: Offer facts and examples that tell the real story. Always get the facts right, and then move fast to disseminate them. If something is local in nature, keep it that way. Just because it’s your universe, don’t feel a need to make it everyone’s.
4.    Ally: Mobilize third parties who share and amplify core messaging. Cultivate and leverage third-party support, finding external spokespeople who can speak about the issue from their own perspective. In a lawsuit, the company will then have non-corporate spokespeople.
5.    Assess: Monitor the media landscape. Remember: Wires kick off a discussion, print validates and expands the debate and broadcast follows. During a complex trial, make certain that reporters covering it understand the case in simple terms that they can share with readers. Blogs impact the “trust” environment, so don’t ignore them.
6.    Achieve: Endeavor to resolve the dispute, using the corporate credo as a guide. Stakeholders, not only shareholders, must be able to trust your actions.

The above tips were written by Gil Bashe, who heads the health practice at Makovsky + Company. A larger version of this article is featured in PR News' 2008 Crisis Management Guidebook. To order a copy, visit