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Communication shouldn’t be a case of forcing a square peg into a round hole

Communicating effectively: still a work in progress
As the Evidence & Information Manager at Hayward, I’m a great believer that communication should be informative and framed within a pragmatic approach that elicits change rather than merely adding to the information mountain.


Gary Paterson PhD; gary.paterson@hayward.co.uk

Considering written language has been around for over 5,000 years and oral-only communication in existence prior to that for untold millennia, one might have assumed we’ve had sufficient practice at being able to communicate effectively. If only that were the case! Even in the UK, where English is by far the majority language, its use is often morphed into undecipherable jargon as far as the public at large are concerned once we start talking about health; from pharma speak to scientific and medical third-person loftiness, and boy do we love using abbreviations. Then start thinking about those with more rudimentary English-language skills.  

The pharmaceutical communication chain will often stretch from global head office and include; the local country affiliate, regulatory/healthcare decision makers, prescribers and finally patients. A former American President, Theodore Roosevelt, once said ‘people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care’. This could apply equally to everyone involved in the communication chain. Communication should satisfy the self-interest in each link of the chain; hence, shouldn’t strategy actually start with patients’ needs and then work backwards? This would allow the mapping of obstacles at each stage and in doing so, give us the ability to create solutions during the planning phase of a communication strategy as opposed to dealing with issues as they arise. In reality, labyrinthine internal communication can exist within pharma and other health-related sectors, including the NHS, which pharma must effectively navigate to make any kind of impact. Communication can at times seem adversarial, adopting the tones of trading in espionage, drip feeding minimal amounts of information on a perceived need-to-know basis. Having a ‘poker face’ in front of competitors is fine as long as you avoid creating a ‘frowning face’ in those you are trying to impress. The old adage ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’ doesn’t hold true in our industry as the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ are equally important. Furthermore, is sufficient focus aimed at determining if the recipient at each point in the chain actually receives and understands the message?
 

To read my full article, please click on the link on the right to download a PDF.

If any of these thoughts have struck a chord, why not join the debate and share some of your own communication issues in the comments below. If you’d like to discuss anything in more detail I’d be delighted to hear from you.

2nd May 2018

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