Last week we received our copy of Newsweek, and a pair of slightly widened eyes stared back at us, “The Queen of Rage.” There it was – a cover story that the Michele Bachmann camp may not have expected.
This got us thinking about lessons that could be drawn from this regarding media opportunities, cover stories and the ability to control a message.
Newsweek is undeniably a respected top-tier publication, so a cover story opportunity would appear to be an easy decision for anyone. However it is important to always analyze the benefits and risks of an opportunity before accepting.
At the end of the day, a journalist or editor has the right to publish a story as they see fit. When accepting media opportunities, there is always a risk that the story published may be unflattering to the people involved. At Russo Partners, we strive to minimize the risk to the client through background research on the publication and journalist, keeping the client’s best interest as the top priority.
Although there is always an uncontrolled element when working with a publication, conducting background research prior to accepting an opportunity is crucial to our work and for our clients. What is the tone of the overall publication? What recent articles have been written by the journalist? What is the topic and angle for the article, and where will it appear eventually? These are all questions that need to be answered to our satisfaction before we will recommend that a client proceeds with a media opportunity.
So even if the opportunity is with a top-tier publication, even if the article will appear on the front cover, we recommend proceeding with caution, because, as strange as it sounds, sometimes the cover isn’t where you want to be.
Two weeks ago, a Russo Partners client of multiple years, Amira Pharmaceuticals, made headlines as its fibrotic program were at the center of the latest acquisition in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMS) ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.
The San Diego-based small molecule company was acquired for $325 million upfront, and up to an additional $150 million in milestones. The lead asset in the acquisition was its Phase 1 program that targets the lysophosphatidic acid 1 (LPA1) receptor for potential treatment of fibrotic diseases, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and systemic sclerosis.
When Russo Partners began working with the company, we were charged with finding a way to tell the company’s story that led with the then preclinical LPA1 program. Many were surprised when the company would have little interest in discussing its lead clinical programs, including one partnered with GlaxoSmithKline, in larger disease areas. We aimed to tell the story of the early-but-promising program in an area of significant unmet need through top industry publications to demonstrate its strength and potential value.
Through a highly targeted media outreach approach, we raised awareness and interest in Amira’s early stage programs throughout the investment and partnering communities, ultimately helping the company catch the eye of pharmaceutical giant BMS. In a statement at the time of the acquisition, Elliott Sigal, executive vice president, chief scientific officer and president, Research and Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb, said that BMS “has identified fibrotic diseases as an area of high unmet medical need” and that the acquisition was part of “a highly targeted set of transactions designed to enrich our innovative pipeline with potential medicines to help patients in need.”
Amira’s program targeting autotaxin, a molecular target for the treatment of neuropathic pain and cancer metastases, was also included in the acquisition.
Well done, Amira Pharmaceuticals; we salute your efforts, and we are happy to have been involved in the journey.