Batch Cooking Your Approach to Healthcare Communications

February 5, 2019

Forget sweating onions, in 2019 a good comms strategy is all about sweating your assets.

I don’t want to stretch the analogy past its boiling point, but delivering good communications strategies often feels like you’re standing at the kitchen worktop with a bunch of fantastic, high quality, ingredients and the challenge is to create the dish that will wow your guests and deliver a rousing thumbs-up to the chef.

healthcare comunications

This year, the avenues and channels for good comms toward super-closely identified stakeholder audiences are manifold, particularly in the health discipline that I represent. Beyond the no-brainer must-dos – Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram – lies a hugely varied mix of channels we don’t always think of. Quora is one – over time, despite antipathy from those who see it as “nerd central,” it’s quietly established itself as something of a thought leadership platform where experts across key medical disciplines are sharing genuine, heartfelt answers to common health-related questions. Do go there – you’d be surprised.

What the Quora example shows us is that healthcare comms has evolved beyond the shackles of a conventional group of ingredients – the press release, the backgrounder, the fact sheet – all geared toward a medical media which is so tired of “breakthrough” data it’s crying out for some genuine, controversial opinion from thought leaders in the field. Smart agency practitioners are cottoning on to the fact that however many millions of industry funds have been put behind a clinical study, what health professionals really want to know is what the senior physicians think of it. Is the data credible? Will junior doctors buy in? Are we talking genuine breakthrough study here?

The Michelin 3-star secret sauce for healthcare comms practitioners is to look again at that bunch of ingredients you have before you and work out how they can go multi-channel and really deliver some fresh thinking and behavioural change. In other words, really sweat the assets. Here’s my recipe on how you can get started:

Let the study authors speak:
Let’s wake up to the fact that no-one is that desperate to hear from a commercial study sponsor and find media routes to letting those who developed the study design and eventual manuscript tell us how they did it. Not just a token quote in a press release – host a Twitter chat. Visualise it with a 30-minutes global Skype seminar. We’ve had incredible responses to this fast-fire approach to data download. The commentary captured makes a great podcast, too – in multiple languages and dialects.

Sweat those assets:
Create a (non-promotional) study infographic and visualise the design, the arms, the outcomes across efficacy and safety parameters – then cut it up into social tiles and allow the investigator group to showcase their work in a truly visual, engaging way. Batch cook so you have content to share over time – and make a calendar that communicates primary and secondary outcomes – extending the relevancy and news value.

Celebrate internally:
Always critically overlooked – have your CEO (or equivalent) present the above infographic in a frame to the study author group as recognition of the innovation behind the work – and Workplace/Yammer the heck out of it internally.

Good health comms in 2019 is really going to be about the batch cooking approach – making the items you invest in go further, work harder and (within compliance guidelines in place) be more influential. Let’s get cooking!

Con is a senior healthcare communicator with over 18 years’ agency experience in leading corporate reputation, brand and issues readiness programmes for some of the biggest names in global medicine.

From 2011 to 2014 he led global communication strategy for Bayer and its flagship pharmaceutical Xarelto®from its phase III program to launch in the product’s first four antithrombotic indications, alongside the development of a comprehensive issues readiness protocol for management of potential safety and AE challenges. He also acted as the global-to-local communications link between Bayer’s German HQ and its UK affiliate business.

Across 2015-2016, Con led major workstreams for the EU pharmaceutical trade body EFPIA on outcomes-driven sustainable healthcare and defending the European pharma industry’s position on the price of medicines. Further healthcare comms experience includes worldwide virology communication strategy for AbbVie, global brand planning for Pfizer’s neuropathic pain brand Lyrica®, and extensive work with Shire for several years delivering worldwide data communication, KOL and brand strategy for its orphan and rare disease portfolio. Con has created reputation-boosting programmes for leading academic institutions including Harvard Medical School and the premier Swiss university EPFL, bringing their respective gene therapy, neuroscience and neuroengineering research breakthroughs to a wide global audience of media, investors and commercialisation partners.

He is a 2019 Communiqué Healthcare Awards Judge and a guest lecturer on healthcare communications at Imperial College London.