LONDON--A number of firms have presented their ideas on PR innovation to GlaxoSmithKline’s global comms team, as part of a process to potentially broaden the pharma giant’s global agency roster.

As many as 15 firms visited GSK’s UK offices recently for its ‘agency innovation day’, to showcase how “they are shaping and changing the healthcare communications space”, according to a copy of the invitation letter seen by the Holmes Report.

The exercise is currently limited to GSK’s multi-million dollar product communications segment, which oversees public relations for its numerous brands and drugs worldwide.

Head of product communications Gwenan White told the Holmes Report that the process would “by no means create a standalone agency roster”, but “potentially opens up some new opportunities for agencies.”

“What we will aim to do is put together a report that we will share across the comms function internally and, based on that, procurement will reference [the report] when new business is put out to pitch,” said White.

“It could broaden our existing roster,” she added. “Especially where we have seen some specific thinking or innovation where we think there is a potential match to some business opportunity.”

The presentations themselves allowed agencies a broad level of freedom to demonstrate their perspective on how communications is developing in the healthcare sector.

“Unless you are working with a huge number of agencies, you don’t necessarily get a huge amount of insight into what’s going on outside the walls of GSK,” explained White. “We thought it would be a good idea to meet with a handful of agencies to provoke our thinking and actively engage in external opinion.”

White declined to reveal the identities of the firms involved in the exercise, but noted that the list was drawn up with input from GSK’s procurement team. “Some [firms] are already on the agency roster or work on other parts of the business,” she said. “Some of the agencies were completely unknown to us.”

She also declined to reveal which firms currently sit on GSK’s product comms roster. The Holmes Report understands that the lineup has included Ogilvy Healthworld, Chandler Chicco, Huntsworth Health, Weber Shandwick, Red Door and Virgo.

It is further understood that the firms taking part in the exercise included several roster shops, along with other agencies that possess strong healthcare capabilities.

"Clearly we are looking to work with really robust agencies who have a proven success record within GSK, whilst also giving us the opportunity to explore some new agencies,” said White.

The invitation letter points out that while the process is “not a pitch”, it does provide an “opportunity for GSK to become better acquainted with the thinking and capabilities on offer within your agency and an opportunity for you to be considered for our preferred agency roster.”