Securing More Money, Boosting PR
Among economic objectives laid out by CIRM is keeping its work going after the expiration of its $3 billion of borrowed state funds in 2017. With California facing a $9 billion budget shortfall and the Golden State continuing to struggle financially, CIRM has ruled out going back to voters soon. “No decisions have been made about a bond initiative,” Gibbons said.
That stance differs from discussions over the past two years of a 2014 bond referendum. By holding off on a vote now, though, CIRM is giving itself flexibility to pursue a ballot question a few years from now if the economy improves as expected.
By then CIRM hopes to have won what ICOC chairman Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., has called the “communications war” the agency is fighting with California newspapers and the CIRM-focused blog California Stem Cell Report. Both have criticized the agency over a host of governance and pay issues. This would also fulfill the goal of positioning California as a stem cell research leader.
The draft plan calls for communicating the value of CIRM and regenerative medicine: “CIRM will utilize legislative briefings, media briefings, and public speaking opportunities to inform the broad community.” Addressing ICOC last June, Dr. Thomas shared the likely focus of those PR efforts: “Front and center in any public communications strategy must be the patient advocates and their vast networks.”
It makes sense for the agency to draw attention through something as emotion-tugging as people with disabilities expressing hope and gratitude about cures through stem cell therapies funded by CIRM. But as any successful PR pro will admit, the best public relations effort begins with something outstanding to promote.
In shifting its focus toward more clinical research CIRM has stepped up the pressure to fulfill promises made a decade ago that its research would lead to patients being freed from disease. All the more reason why in reviewing its draft strategic plan CIRM’s governing board will need to balance the interests of the agency and the institutions it serves with California taxpayers eager for a return on their $3 billion investment and especially with patients whose very lives depend on the outcome.