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The key to delivering communications excellence

Helen HeyFor many years, I have been privileged to work in both the pharmaceutical industry and for specialist healthcare communications agencies. Why privileged? Well, one of the many wonderful aspects of our sector is the need to evolve, to constantly change, to ensure we strive to improve and do better - what might have worked yesterday may not work as well tomorrow.

At Ashfield Healthcare Communications, as a leading global agency, we are always looking at the best ways to achieve results for our clients by delivering effective communications to their key audiences.

Through the decades, excellence in communications has taken many different guises - from focusing primarily on publishing data and developing medical education plans in the 80s and 90s, to the more recent and exciting insight-led multi-audience, multichannel healthcare communications.

Key to ensuring delivery excellence are talented multi-skilled teams of experienced pharmaceutical communications experts, scientific and medical experts, innovative marketers and behavioural change specialists. This plethora of talent allows us to develop and improve our communications offerings.

Excellence in communications is now more than ever dependent on having a firm basis for the communications strategy and the ability to truly understand key audiences, their situations, motivations and behaviours at the point they connect with the science.

Today, we talk to our clients about humanising healthcare communications. This strategic approach goes beyond segmenting the audience to define relevant tactics. It’s underpinned by behavioural change methodology (such as COM-B) and works across both medical affairs programmes and commercial campaigns. Of course, it should be adapted and delivered in the most appropriate way, but that’s no problem; we have been delivering compliant, scientifically robust communications for decades.

The beauty of our approach is its simplicity.

Firstly, we gain an understanding of the current beliefs, mindsets and behaviours of the target audiences. So what? Doesn’t everyone do that?

More importantly, it’s what we do next that makes the difference - mapping this understanding against what we need each of these audiences to understand, in order to drive positive behaviour change and provide optimum patient care. As part of this process we identify what the barriers are to achieving this desired behaviour and what drivers will motivate the change.

Identifying this desired shift in behaviour, mindset and understanding allows us to create contextualised communications, messaging and themes that will drive change, to ultimately benefit patients.

Once the communication and messaging has been established we can then look at the appropriate channels and tactics. Each tactic and deliverable will have a series of KPIs linked to the impact of the educational programme or commercial campaign.

And so, the output is a communication plan for our clients that is contextualised to each segment of the audience and defines a real-world, measurable justification for each and every piece of tactical collateral that is recommended and produced.

I think the reason this approach is resonating with our clients is that it meets their demands for adding more insight, more knowledge and more understanding into their programmes and campaigns, and more measurable communications. For too long our sector has followed the strategy of ‘if we did it last year we should do it again this year’.

We have come a long way from merely presenting the science and I firmly believe the best is yet to come. It’s an exciting time to be delivering more impactful communications, programmes and campaigns to HCPs, patients, and all of the stakeholders that our clients engage with.

And at the heart of our approach? Patients. Because when we do the job well for our healthcare clients we all improve patients’ lives… which is why we are all in this business in the first place.

Helen Hey is executive director of global business development at Ashfield Healthcare Communications, part of UDG Healthcare plc (

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24th September 2017

From: Marketing



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Oxford PharmaGenesis is an independently owned HealthScience communications consultancy, providing services to the healthcare industry, professional societies and patient groups....

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