How to take the media landscape by storm

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The online pharmacy, Farmasiet, was unknown to most Norwegian media outlets and journalists prior to the Coronavirus outbreak and the countrywide shutdown on March 12th. Just six months laterthe tables have turned and Farmasiet now has a seat at the head of the table.  

Background

The drugstore industry in Norway has for many years been dominated by three main actorsBoots, Vitus and Apotek 1. All of which have mainly focused on physical points of sale. However, with an increasing demand for digitization and availability from the public, a door has been opened for online pharmacies. Farmasiet, formerly known as Komplett Apotek, is one of several newcomers who’ve entered this playing field over the last couple of years. 

From a PR perspective it’s the constellation of the local drugstore industry itself that represents the biggest challenge for Farmasiet. That being, the three veteran corporations that’ve cemented their foothold with the media over several years. As a young company, how do you then become the expert when there already exist several ones in the same area? … and how do you become more accessible, and eventually a preferred source for media outlets and journalists, when they can go to the nearest drugstore and talk to the pharmacist and customers there? 

Unique data and insight, relationship building, constant dialogue with journalists, and daring to communicate when others were silent, became the keys to success. 

Goal

When we started working with Farmasiet on March 12th, the scope of their communication goals was comparable to their market share – modest. We were to quadruple the media coverage compared to 2019, multiply the reach tenfold, and grow the share of voice to 10 percent. Not least, we were also going to position Farmasiet to become a preferred source of information for the media. The overall goal with these targets was to increase knowledge and awareness in the public and reverse a trend that’s existed ever since the first drugstore opened in Norway in 1595 – that is, having to go to a physical pharmacy to pick up your prescriptions.  

Implementation

To achieve these goals, and surpass them, we made a five-step plan:  

1. We examined what opportunities existed in the media landscape to assume an expert role. 

What topics and themes are “owned” by the competitors, and what can Farmasiet claim ownership of? Here we found several hooks and happenings that Farmasiet could utilize to create a name for themselves in the media landscape, and, eventually, become a preferred source of information. 

2. We took advantage of the opportunities and placed Farmasiet as experts wherever we could. 

Through nationwide surveys and real-time data, we were able to use unique insight to position Farmasiet as an expert within various fields of public interestNorwegians attitude towards hand sanitizer, sunscreen habits, and perception of the online pharmacy concept, to name a few. 

Articles based on Farmasiets insights created a rapid increase in their awareness, something the online pharmacy could utilize for the late summer when facemasks were expected to become an extremely hot topic.

3. We were always available. 

When in dialogue with journalists, we offered them the opportunity to interview someone at Farmasiet, either over the phone, via e-mail, or face-to-face. If opportunities arose for the latter, we would always strive to make it happen, even on short notice. 

4. We payed close attention to the competitors. 

We set up a media surveillance to find articles where competing pharmacies and drugstores were mentioned, but not Farmasiet. Whenever we saw an opening, we would make sure to update the journalist/outlet in question, with Farmasiets views on the matter. Even though this didn’t result in new mentioning’s every time, it was clear that we made Farmasiet more noticeable for the journalists, something that came in handy for the next time we would make contact. 

5. We gave the media the latest figures. 

During the pandemic, it’s been essential to be able to turn on a dime and give the media the latest figures. Even though, as we experienced in several cases, that meant to provide updates when no one else in the industry dared to.  

One of several examples of this was during the big facemask “storm” in August. The prices were at an all-time high and the competitors dead silent. We then decided to maintain a tight and transparent dialogue with the media. When the Norwegian Directorate of Health came with a recommendation to wear facemasks on August 14th, we’d already informed all news-editors in the national dailies that Farmasiet would be available for interviews in the aftermath, and that they could share hourly sales numbers, which would give an indication on how the population responded to the recommendation by the government. An offer all national newspapers chose to take advantage of.  

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