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How can we strike the right balance between familiarity and innovation when it comes to data presentation?

Following our webinar in March, Getting MedComms right: navigating the age of the amateur expert, we’re taking the time to respond to questions we were unable to answer during the session and bringing in broader perspectives from across the Langland team. In our MedComms Networking webinar last month (https://lnkd.in/dN5tHkf), Drew Owen, Diane Ross and I reviewed communications throughout the COVID pandemic to discuss what we felt they taught us about good healthcare communications practice

Following our webinar in March, Getting MedComms right: navigating the age of the amateur expert, we’re taking the time to respond to questions we were unable to answer during the session and bringing in broader perspectives from across the Langland team. In our MedComms Networking webinar last month (https://lnkd.in/dN5tHkf), Drew Owen, Diane Ross and I reviewed communications throughout the COVID pandemic to discuss what we felt they taught us about good healthcare communications practice. We had some great questions in the chat box but sadly we didn’t get the time answer them all, so we’re doing it now through a short series of perspectives pieces.

Last time, Drew addressed a question on fear vs encouragement, gaining thoughts from Sian Dodwell, our Chief Strategic Officer. Today, I’m going to tackle a question about creativity in data presentation.

Question: Sometimes clients can be quite set in their ways and know exactly what they want and how they would like their data presented. How can we as MedComms professionals challenge this and persuade them to be happy with presenting the data in a different way?

I decided to get a perspective from one of our creative directors, Vickie McGee, in our CTE team. “The pharmaceutical industry is built on innovation and you only have to look at the last year to know that researchers are some of the most creative people on the planet. So for me, it’s about reminding our clients that such ingenuity should stretch beyond the development of the drugs themselves and into how we communicate about them too. After all, undivided attention is a luxury of the past. That’s why it’s vital to find novel and surprising ways to present data. Approaches with the power to make a lasting impression. To turn heads. But, most importantly, that reveal the human story behind the numbers.”

I think Vickie is right. There is a lot of ‘noise’ in the medical world with so many companies competing for the attention of HCPs, and there is undoubtedly a need to stand out from the crowd. Innovative data visualizations may indeed have the power to change perspectives: perhaps they can bring out the human story or maybe they allow the audience to explore the data themselves in a way that is meaningful to them (what you might call personalized communication). However, I also think we have to be careful. Working alongside some extremely talented creatives, it’s easy to think that beautiful, emotive and/or different ways of presenting data are what we should be aiming for universally … but I don’t think that’s true. Don’t get me wrong, I love clever and different ways of doing things and I believe we should always challenge the status quo, but for me it’s about when and where we do it. A Kaplan‑Meier curve might look a bit boring and difficult for the untrained eye to understand, but to an oncologist it’s a very different story. You only have to think back to the first immunotherapy data in metastatic melanoma or for PARP inhibitors in ovarian cancer to know how compelling such a standard way of presenting data can be – even now, years later, the thought of those curves evokes an emotional response, at least in me.

So, how can we strike the right balance between familiarity and innovation when it comes to data presentation? Of course, it depends on the data themselves and their context but the key, as always, is to have a deep insight into the audience and a clear understanding of the communication objective. That way, we can work with our clients to develop the most appropriate visuals, be they well-produced standard graphs and tables, or new and creative ways to tell their story.

6th May 2021

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