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Creating effective campaigns

Planning for the widest and deepest communications impact

Effective campaignsMedical education within the pharmaceutical industry often remains the least clearly defined and understood of the components that make up a complete product communication mix. A well-planned and well-implemented medical education campaign gives, arguably, the widest and deepest communication impact.

Medical education can include a diverse and seemingly endless list of inter-linked activities, involving disease awareness campaigns, meetings and event management, publication planning, advocacy development, professional and social media, patient group liaison and patient materials and so on. Perhaps these wide-reaching activities and influence also explain why medical education is often so poorly understood.

Advertising and promotion of a pharmaceutical product is not permitted prior to marketing authorisation, making a unified medical education and public relations programme the only available communication channel. However, medical education programmes are often only initiated just before final phase III clinical trial data is available and in doing so, valuable disease awareness and education time during the pre-launch phase is lost.

An effective educational and awareness campaign before launch is critical to a successful launch. The right time for a pharmaceutical company to bring a medical education agency on-board varies and depends on the individual product, market issues and critical success factors. However, in most cases an agency should be in place just before phase II clinical trial data is available.

This builds real trust between the agency and client team, forged by working together and delivering successful projects over a period of time. The formation of one unified team, working hard to achieve a common goal, is probably the most important factor for a successful campaign and launch. As in life, trust takes time to build, so the earlier the right medical education team is on board the better.

One of the advantages of initiating a medical education programme at phase II is that key scientific messages – based on the clinical trial data in the public domain and presented at scientific congresses – are generated early on in the product life cycle and can be used consistently across all activities.

Additionally, disease awareness information and therapeutic area unmet needs can be raised and communicated at an earlier stage. The scope of the medical education activities required will vary depending on the individual needs of the product and the campaign. Indeed a common mistake is to use a scatter gun approach in the hope that some activities will hit their target.

Campaign activities
Medical education activities should be part of a well thought-through and structured communication plan. In this way, solid foundations are established on which a successful pre-launch campaign is built. The benefits to the brand are then sustained long after a successful launch. In short, all activities must answer a clear need 'what do we want to achieve' and meet clear objectives and goals 'where do we want to get to' within set timeframes.

A good list of activities, although by no means extensive, would include: development of disease area messages to raise awareness of unmet needs; identification and involvement of thought leaders to help identify unmet needs and help provide validated solutions; data dissemination; educational meetings – international/national symposia and local roundtables and liaison with patient groups. Communicating these activities to healthcare professionals and consumer media as appropriate, the overall level of discussion and knowledge is raised to the benefit of all stakeholders.

In conclusion, using as an example one of the first launch campaigns that I worked on as a then new account director, my client said: "You only get one chance to launch a drug, your team and my team need to work as one with a clear picture of what success looks like. We have to get it right." With a medical education plan that is clear, well defined and started early in a drug's life cycle, you can get it right.

Paul Hughes

Euro RSCGThe Author
Paul Hughes
is senior account director of medical communications at
Euro RSCG Life UK 

Email him at:


31st May 2011


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