Healthcare comms is evolving, fast.
New technologies call for new experts to join pharmaceutical companies and communication agencies, traditional roles need a facelift, and new job titles arise like there’s no tomorrow.
At Scientific Group, we recently identified the need for two completely new roles. The first: Director of Emerging Technologies (say hi to our very own Simon Newman!). The second … required a bit more thought.
We needed someone to be an ambassador for the Group, understanding our what and why, keeping up with industry trends, building relationships with experts in the industry, and showing them where we can add value. This person needed a thorough understanding of our day-to-day work, the capacity to keep up with the industry’s fast-moving trends, and be able to attend conferences and build relationships with potential partners. What would you call such a role?
We chose to flip the problem on its head: explore what our clients need and how the new role could add value to them.
The evolving needs of pharmaceutical communications
Both new and old themes came to light as we had conversations with pharma leaders about their evolving challenges and needs:
- AI: Some companies are all about AI, prioritizing an AI-first approach across all departments, while others aren’t quite AI-ready yet.
- Omnichannel: For some, it is a must. But you’d be surprised how many (very successful) pharma executives have banned the word from their departments!
- Customer engagement: This even made it into the title of the most recent Reuters event in London, but not everyone agrees that it should be the key focus – is engagement enough?
- Customer value: By replacing ‘centricity’ with ‘value’, companies demonstrate their commitment to having an honest two-way dialogue with their target audience, with the aim of building a mutually beneficial, professional relationship.
- Co-creation: Preferred by patients over ‘patient centricity’, patients want a seat at the table and to be treated like equal stakeholders.
- Medical Affairs evolution: Is the organization fully leveraging the value of Medical Affairs, and are medical colleagues, in turn, ready and skilled enough for their emerging leadership function?
- Medical–Commercial collaboration: Yes, but watch out for the risks! And who’s going to fully break the silos first and provide proof of concept that their set-up is compliant?
- Head office–field teams collaboration: Can any organization claim to have true two-way communication with their field teams? Around 77% of content produced for field teams is rarely or never used (April 2023 Veeva Pulse Data) – perhaps there is still some work to do!
- Global–Local collaboration: How often are global plans and content put on a shelf and local versions created from scratch? While a certain amount of local adaptation is to be expected, are we taking any steps towards co-creation with regions and countries to maximize return on investment (ROI) on global budgets?
- Compliance as an enabling function: How many Medical and Commercial teams are introducing compliance reviews early and frequently enough to allow them to become an enabling function? Are compliance departments appropriately staffed to allow more than just the churning out of Veeva reviews day in, day out?
- Procurement roadblocks: Are annual budget cycles and procurement processes aiding or hindering customer value, innovation, and content diversification?
- Change management: Do the right people have the right skills to lead the organization’s much-needed change management journeys across functions and seniority levels? Is everyone working towards a common goal?
That’s a lot.
And that’s not all!
Many of us were shocked to hear at the recent Reuters Pharma Customer Engagement event that only 2% of HCPs’ time is spent engaging with pharma content (that is all time, not just time spent within working hours).
Now, that’s a wake-up call.
As a trusted partner to a variety of pharmaceutical companies, we see that this intricate web of moving parts trickles through to every aspect of daily work.
Innovation certainly cuts across all of these themes, but it comes with its own set of risks: to be side-tracked by the shiny, new thing … only to find that getting the basics right would have brought much more ROI.
What we believe the industry needs most is…
To us, ‘strategic innovation’ means sustainable, incremental progress towards meaningful goals. It means that we take a client brief and challenge it to help our client ‘peel the onion’ (one of my favorite expressions!) on their audience needs, and shape campaigns that truly change behaviors to deliver improved patient care. It means that we think of customer value first, before communication strategy and channel selection. It means that we involve all stakeholders early and frequently to work as a team. It means that we inspire cross-functional collaboration and support our clients on the transformational journey they are ready to start. Plus, it means that we have fun working together.
And there it was – the new job title!
Director of Strategic Innovation. That’s me!
A 21st-century litmus test
Surprised not to have thought about it before, I thought I’d ask ChatGPT for a definition of ‘strategic innovation’. It says:
Strategic innovation refers to the process of developing and implementing new ideas, approaches, or methods that create a competitive advantage for an organization. It involves identifying opportunities, analyzing market trends, and aligning resources to drive growth and success.
There. I can get behind that.