By Pam Norick, Chief of External Relations, International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM)
At IPM, communications strategies are designed with our key stakeholders in mind—the donors who support our work, the governments of countries that host clinical trials, the companies that partner with us, the women who volunteer for studies to test our products, and the communities in which they live. This type of communications is about more than just media coverage; it presents different challenges, and requires different approaches—especially on occasions where media outreach is not appropriate.
Our specific approach was put to use when the results for the Carraguard trial were announced in 2008. Although Carraguard was not an IPM product, the results of the trial had significant implications for the field. It was important for IPM to be supportive of the trial sponsor and respectful of their communications activities, while making sure our key audiences were well informed and engaged.
IPM took steps to engage our key audiences before, during, and after the Carraguard announcement. We held calls with our donor community as soon as the data went public, and we sent e-mail updates to key partners. We also provided our clinical research centers with prepared background materials, such as Q&As and fact sheets, that would allow them to keep governments and IPM study volunteers informed. We started with the data and its implications for our product development, and we developed our messages from the inside out.
Communication with our stakeholders is at the core of IPM’s comprehensive communications strategies. Without the ongoing support of our donors, partners, volunteers, and others, a female-initiated prevention tool would stand little chance of becoming a reality.