Medical communications can be a particularly layered affair. Agencies will be more than familiar with the ‘boxing’ of their offering; it sometimes feels like there are more genres in MedComs than in the music industry and many clients, or at least the procurement departments, seem to like to silo. Are you a PR agency? Well then, what are you doing suggesting direct-to-customer communications; isn’t PR just about the media? A medical education company? Well then you can’t do marketing. And how is a MedEd company supposed to deliver a top-class social media campaign?
One of the main reasons I moved out of the research scientist game was that I don’t believe that specialism is the only, or even the best, way forward. And yet here I am again, in a related field, fighting the same battle.
Where is this siloing behaviour coming from? Well many Pharma companies necessarily have different functions and, unfortunately, they aren’t always set up to facilitate or encourage collaboration between the functions. My colleague Manu Field and I have certainly seen over the time we’ve worked together several ways in which the Communications department can support others, but as he’ll tell you, sometimes it needs hard work to achieve even that.
In addition, there is almost a hierarchy of scientific rigour, just as I used to see in medical research, with different functions each battling with a perception that theirs isn’t ‘high science’ enough – it’s easy for everyone to be measured by the ‘gold standard’ of clinical trials, but without the detailed discovery work and the thorough pharmaco-kinetics and -dynamics work (just as rigourous but with fewer n numbers!), those trials wouldn’t happen. And of course, as a good friend of mine often reminds me, marketing is classed as an Art – yet we see marketeers striving to evaluate their work in ever more scientific ways. Does that belittle the evidence gathered by market research? Does the fact that health economics often relies on models make it less important? It really shouldn’t.
Which is why at WCG London we are forging a way through, with what Nigel Breakwell has termed a ‘translational science’ approach to communications. As a fully integrated company, with a strong base of healthcare clients, we strive to keep scientific rigour at the heart of everything we do, but we’re absolutely not going to dress up one type of science as another; we aim to find a way to translate one function in a way that can bring value to another and to the whole. We believe that if we can support our clients to take a clear cross-functional approach at every stage of the product lifecycle, we’ll have delivered insightful counsel and maximised the investment made by each function. In an era of increasing economic pressures balanced by empowered patient action, supporting access, making the most of budgets and truly delivering education and action in an inclusive and interactive way has to be the Holy Grail.
I’m aware that I risk sounding like a kooky holistic evangelist – I’ve always been obsessed with joining the dots; my mum tells me that as a small child, my pram could not be parked by anything long, otherwise she’d turn around and I would have tied it all together – so in my next post, I’d like to give you a solid example, using our approach to medical education.