Are you thinking – Aussie flying doctors using the radio alphabet as they connect to base? Orders shouted by staff in busy ERs? Panicked calls to emergency medical services?
Actually, it involves a creative mixture of marketing and strategic communication programmes to convey an engaging message that supports pharmaceutical companies and their product throughout its brand lifecycle.
What does a med comms agency do?
An agency provides specialist marketing and communications support to companies in the pharmaceutical industry and to other healthcare-related companies.
In particular they advise pharmaceutical companies on how best to educate a particular target audience on the benefits and risks of a new therapy and provide strategic consultancy to brand teams on how to build receptive and well-informed markets throughout a product’s brand lifecycle.
In a nut shell medical communication agencies help pharmaceutical companies to convey clinical evidence, to the right audience, in the right format, at the right time while ensuring that such messaging is backed by key opinion leaders.
“It is the agency’s role to ensure that a new therapy remains on the radar of potential prescribers, regulators, payers or patients throughout its product lifecycle.”
Agencies provide multiple communication services to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. The services they provide broadly fall under two categories – promotional and scientific. These include:
As well as the pharmaceutical industry, many other organisations employ med comms agencies, for example:
contract research organisation
health insurance companies
medical and pharmaceutical societies
Professional and specialist medical organisations
government agencies and regulatory bodies
Why is it so important to get right?
“Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house” (Henri Poincare)
A good strategic communication plan will effectively and efficiently create a house from the stones…or more specifically - a compelling scientific story from the facts.
Pharmaceutical companies can’t afford to ignore it. It’s vital that they get it right because it’s tougher than ever to bring a product to market. The challenges are:
- medicine regulations becoming increasingly stricter
- market conditions becoming tougher
- healthcare costs rising globallyThere is also the added issue of the rising costs of developing new medicines, with figures ranging from $ 75 million to $ 4 billion per molecule (From vision to decision Pharma 2020).
The research and development process takes time - on average it takes up to 13 years from laboratory to market
only one or two substances out of ten thousand developed in the laboratory will successfully become a marketable product.
While services are employed during the research and development (pre-clinical and clinical) stages, there is an important and clear role for strategic medical communications during and after the drug approval stage.
Phases of the research and development process
The best medical communication plan ensures the appropriate information reaches the relevant audiences, provides the best opportunity to acquire a large share of the relevant market, and provides the opportunity for recouping research and development costs. This ultimately ensures the process of new drug development can continue, ensures new drugs become available to improve the health and wellbeing of patients, and reduces the financial burden on healthcare systems all over the world.
What does a successful agency look like?
The best agencies offer expertise in:
They combine these in strategic and innovative ways to meet their clients’ needs for clear and compelling communication.
They are experts at using complex scientific concepts and data to create accessible material. They tailor this to its audience, and design the material to achieve results.
Think of them as translators and interpreters, who…
- convert medical research → therapeutic practice
- build industry, market and product knowledge → clear and compelling arguments, showing the product’s cost effectiveness and therapeutic value
… with the right knowledge…
- educate and inform customers about the benefits and risks of new therapies, using clinical and economic data expertly and persuasively
- can add value across all stages of the therapeutic agent life cycle, from preclinical versions to mature products
… using the right words…
- create a powerful scientific and economic narrative to increase anticipation around their client’s product and differentiate it from competitors’ offerings
- support brand teams to maximise how they communicate information to relevant target audiences
… and the most suitable digital tools…
- use state-of-the-art digital technology to maximise interest and engagement in their audience/target markets
… adding colour to what they communicate…
- draw on their multimedia design expertise
- combine best practice in learning design with informed insights into learner motivations, so that they create an engaging, immersive learning experience
- prioritise user experience by keeping a sharp focus on their target audience/market
… working small or big – zooming in or panning out…
- managing both attention to detail and large amounts of information
- providing bespoke individual products and services, as well as broader consultancy services
... all in a sleek fashion...
- develop and deliver their communications plans strategically, using streamlined, dynamic, agile processes that foreground the client’s needs and preferences
- maintain a consistently high-quality execution
- operate within agreed time frames and budgets
… and all the while keeping an eye on the bigger picture…
- demonstrate commitment to ethical practice
- work with scientific and professional integrity
- are dedicated to transforming medical knowledge and practice to – help patients and healthcare professionals to make informed health-related decisions and
- support enhanced patient outcomes
How do you create a successful partnership?
Now you know what the best agencies look like. So, how do you find one and build a relationship that works really well for both of you?
Think about the things you’d prioritise in your search for a lab partner.
Think knowledge and skills
Ask yourself: do they have all the experience and know-how that your project requires? Can they meet your work needs, help you to fulfil your project brief? Will they integrate with your operations seamlessly?
Think straight talking
Go for a medical communications agency that’s not afraid to speak with you clearly, often and honestly. You want ways forward, not waffle.
Speaking of ways forward – do they share your goals for this project, and your values more generally? Do they support your corporate objectives? Are they committed to partner with you in delivering scientific excellence that makes a difference?
Think outside interests
A good lab partner offers more than just what this current project needs. They have rounded interests that they can draw on to help you with future work. Remember that you might need more products and services in the future. Could the agency you’re considering meet these future needs?
Think help, not hindrance
A good lab partner helps you to keep the project on track by doing their fair share of the labour. But they’re more than just an extra pair of hands – they bring added intelligence and creativity that lift your work to new heights. They increase your knowledge of, and passion for, your field. The real expert professionals improve your overall strategy and achieve tangible results. They leave you boosted, not beaten, by the work you undertake together. Choose an agency that makes your life easier, so you’ll be freed up to focus on other corporate priorities.
Think someone different
Just as you’d want your lab partner to be refreshingly different to others you’ve worked with before, you want an agency that offers something unique. That could be an unrivalled team of medical research and editorial specialists. Maybe you’d prefer an agency that specialises in the latest digital learning resources? Or will it be the one that offers truly innovative, creative thinking? Ideally, the medical communications agency you choose should offer you all of these.
Who we are and how we can help you
If what we’ve just described reads like your dream spec, then InkLab is the partner for you!
You can see from our photos that we can’t offer crazy, mad-scientist hair, but we are friendly, vibrant and passionate about our work. Look a little deeper, and you’ll see that we offer:
- proven medical research expertise
- extensive experience of providing bespoke, synergistic medical communications solutions
- the unique added extra of the design and development know-how and creative energy of our in-house digital and instructional design team