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Lessons from a squirrel

Curiosity drives us, tenacity allows us to rise and creativity enables us to shine

HCA Miranda DiniI'm in a losing battle with a squirrel. A rodent with a walnut-sized brain is outsmarting me.

Bird feeders that previously used to, well, feed birds, have become an all-you-can-eat buffet for said squirrel, who recently decamped to my garden. When food wasn't dropping down the feeder fast enough for him, he would hang upside down and start shaking it vigorously. We tried spicing the bird food (apparently birds can't taste it, but squirrels are normally deterred), but our squirrel has some Mexican blood - he likes his seeds spicy. Investing in a few 'squirrel-proof' bird feeders with an extra outer cage that only birds could reach through was a complete waste of money.

While the little fellow couldn't get past the outer cage, what he could manage to do was pry open the 'secure lid' with his mini-opposable thumbs and demolish the entire contents over the span of one day. At every turn, he anticipates my next move and adapts his response. I've actually grown to admire his curiosity, tenacity, and creativity in the face of constant new challenges and I'm inexplicably keen to see what his next move will be. And I think we can all take a few lessons from my squirrelly nemesis.

Curiosity is what drove most of us into this industry, as healthcare communications provides constant opportunities to question and learn at every turn. Whether it's finding an accurate and understandable way to describe the mechanism of action of an investigational compound or working through a competitor's data to carve out an 'ownable' story for your drug, there are constant opportunities to feed that curiosity through the challenges we face with the brands we work on. Or, for example, as the role of the pharmacist continues to evolve and move further into the front lines, how do we effectively engage with, and reflect the needs of, this key, but less traditional, audience? And as rising stars in our industry take on new roles, how do we leverage their curiosity in taking on new projects by giving them the skills and confidence to ask thoughtful questions?

Tenacity is what we all need to summon from within ourselves and our teams when we've been knocked back by a phase III compound failing and not living up to the hope of making a difference to patients and the healthcare providers who care for them. And it is important to be tenacious and show courage and conviction in standing by a statement or a piece of data we believe will help tell a story effectively, even when others prefer to err on the side of conservatism or even silence. Most importantly, we must be tenacious in remembering that everything we do in the healthcare communications industry is for patients and their loved ones, and their stories and their needs must always come to the forefront of what we do and why we do it.

As individuals who have made our careers in healthcare comms, we can decide how we address the challenges we face

Creativity is subjective. But there are ways we can - and need to be - more creative in coming up with solutions every day. As costs are tightly managed and concerns about transfers of value reporting may result in fewer HCPs travelling to events, how can we be more creative in developing valuable distance-learning experiences, whether it's harnessing digital solutions or holding meetings virtually? How can we challenge ourselves to be more creative in the ways we share data, by using storytelling and developing narratives more effectively, as communicators in other industries do, and using multichannel approaches to communicate these stories? When a payer does not see the value of a new drug or device, how can we be creative in working together across stakeholder groups and using the data or other comparators we have to shape an effective market access value story? And how can we be more creative in using real-world data to supplement communications that would otherwise be told through trial data?

As individuals who have chosen to make our careers in healthcare communications, we can decide how we address the challenges we face. Curiosity is what drove us into this field, tenacity is what allows us the opportunity to rise within it, and creativity enables us to create award-winning solutions that are recognised at industry events like the Communiqué awards.

At the Healthcare Communications Association (HCA), we offer training and events that cover these types of scenarios and enable individuals from in-house and agency to identify new ways to adapt to our changing environment and drive our industry forward. I, however, am still searching for my squirrelly solution. It's a hard nut to crack (apologies reader. I couldn't stop myself).

The forum for agencies, in-house teams and independent consultants, the HCA promotes the highest standards in healthcare communications by providing business intelligence, best practice guidance, collective learning, structured training and networking opportunities. Find out more here:

Miranda Dini, AXON managing partner and executive committee member, Healthcare Communications Association

In association with HCA

16th June 2016

From: Marketing



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