New NACDS vice president to shine a media spotlight on pharmacy issues – News – Brief Article

Barbara White-Sax

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — If Crystal Wright has anything to say about it, Americans soon will have a greater appreciation for the role their pharmacists play m the overall health care system. As the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ recently appointed vice president of media relations, Wright said she believes that pharmacy issues don’t get enough media attention today because the public is unaware of all that a pharmacist’s job entails.

“We really need to position the pharmacist in the eyes of the consumer as a caring health care provider who is accessible to them,” said Wright. Studies may show that consumers trust their pharmacists, but all too often people don’t really understand what it is that their pharmacist actually does for them, she added.

In her new capacity at NACDS, Wright intends to push for increased coverage of pharmacy issues in the consumer media. “We want to be proactive in getting the message out,” she said. “Media is a powerful vehicle for getting that message across.”

She added, Studies show that the media are using more and more stories about health care since Sept. 11. Consumers really want health information and we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to communicating health care issues.” Wright, along with the NACDS communication team, plans to work on mining previously untapped opportunities. “NACDS works on a number of consumer focused programs, such as Partner to Care, a diabetes pro gram run in conjunction with the FDA. Retailers get involved in local screenings as well as passing out educational material. We want to focus on telling the consumer media about these programs to a greater extent,” she said.

If attention on pharmacist issues raises the profile of NACDS as well, that’s all part of the plan. “Craig Fuller has done an outstanding job of stepping up to the p late in getting our industry’s message out to the press. We are fortunate that his previous experience before NACDS gives him an understanding of the connection between policy formation and the media,” said Todd Andrews, director of corporate communications at CVS. “With Crystal’s press background, they make a good team for effectively expressing our industry’s point of view,” he said. “This is especially critical at a time when press interest in pharmacy-related issues continues to increase. For example, we saw a 20 percent increase from the previous year in the number of press inquiries we received in 2001.”

Wright is proud of the response NACDS has received from its proactive push so far. “We’ve begun to do new things, such as hold press briefings in pharmacies. Our efforts to raise awareness of reduced reimbursement levels by pitching stories to local news reporters resulted in a huge national story that was picked up by a national wire service,” she said. “When we announced the PharmacyCareOneCard, the response was so great that the volume of calls actually crashed our phone systems.

“Craig gives us a creative environment. We’ve been so successful because there’s nothing we won’t try.”

The ambitions of the recently formed department don’t stop there. “I’d like to see NACDS become the AARP of the industry,” said Wright, referring to the group previously know as the American Association of Retired Persons. “The organization should be the first one to come to mind when you talk about pharmacy or prescription drugs.”

With many compelling issues facing pharmacy, Wright feels the time is right to raise consumer awareness on issues such as declining reimbursement rates and the pharmacist shortage. The secret to getting media coverage, she says, is boiling complex issues down to a message that consumers can easily understand. “Too many times we are floating around industry terms and it’s too confusing, not only for consumers but for legislators on the hill,” she said. “If you can’t tell your story in 15 words or less, you have to rethink the message. How can we expect policy makers to understand the issues if we have difficulty communicating them?”

Wright honed her media wrangling skills at the Washington office of the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, where she worked on accounts such as AARP and the White House Office of Drug Control’s Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Before joining Fleishman, Wright worked as a field reporter for ABC News and Fox News. Joining her on staff as NACDS media coordinator is Anne Banner, who also came from Fleishman-Hillard.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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