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The Book of Boredom

Integrated communications might sound boring but it's a cause well worth believing in

greyhealth group Claire GillisWhisper it quietly, but pharma's evangelical focus on 'patient-centricity' might just be a red herring. We know that involving patients in decisions about their care is critically important. We know that patient insight is key to driving behavioural change. And we know that patients' voices are getting louder as digital media transforms communication. But we also know that, with every drug company in the world claiming to be patient-centric, there's a danger that the phrase becomes marketing wallpaper that no-one really notices. Arguably it's already a term that no-one truly understands.

Certainly there's a debate to be had around the definition of patient-centricity. The rationale for the term is driven by the evolution towards personalised care. In the US, a degree of personalisation is possible because industry can market directly to patients. In Europe, however, most patient communications are targeted at the population-level, rather than the individual. Regulations force us to engage via the proxy of patient groups, or to tailor generic messages that talk broadly to the majority. It's a crude instrument. In this context, can we be truly patient-centric?

Know your audience
But maybe we're using the wrong words. Perhaps this is less about being patient-centric and more about being customer-centric - recognising that the patient is just one piece in a broader jigsaw. In Europe, there's understandable resistance to the concept of patients as customers. As patients we're forced to go through other decision-makers to access healthcare products or services - and that access can still be denied. It's therefore hard to see patients as customers in the truest sense of the word. However, if industry is to develop effective health interventions, we need to start thinking of patients as customers alongside all our other stakeholders. And - crucially - make sure that communications to all those groups align with a common endpoint: patient outcomes.

The trick is not to complicate the approach with abstract slogans such as patient-centricity, but to go back to basics and establish customer needs. It's all about identifying unmet need and demonstrating brand value. This requires a clear, consistent story - told in the right way, to the right customer groups. The answers - and the key to your value proposition - are all in your data.

The message to the payer must align with the message to the patient group

The term 'value proposition' is commonly associated with market access - but its application is much broader. The most effective value stories extend across all disciplines, with the brand, scientific and value backbones all aligning around the needs of the patient. In simple terms, the message to the payer must align with the message to the patient group that, in turn, must be in sync with the message to the physician.

Unfortunately, companies often focus on groups in isolation. They develop sets of messages for payers, sets for HCPs and consumer campaigns for patients - and then loop them all together. This makes for disjointed campaigns that are far too brand-focused. What's required is an integrated, cross-functional approach that engages all disciplines from the outset: from pre-launch through to generic strategy. It's about establishing - early - the story you want to convey, and then working with your data to help you tell that story to individual customer groups. Critically, when developing the storyboard, it's about focusing on the book not the individual chapters. Historically, pharma has often approached it the other way around.

Book of boredom
Integrated communication is not a revolutionary concept. In a diverse, multi-stakeholder environment, it's the only way to develop joined-up stories that all your audiences understand. It's why at ghg - an integrated part of WPP's Health and Wellness division - our advertising, medical education and value strategies are joined together, seamlessly enmeshed in the glue of customer data.

Communication can make a huge contribution to society's biggest health challenges. It can improve patient understanding, support disease management and drive medicines adherence. The best communication can change behaviours.

So our evangelical belief is that 'Communication is the Cure'. But for it to succeed, industry must adopt an integrated approach that unites customers and communications around a common cause: the patient.

Sound boring? Welcome to The Book of Boredom. If you focus on the book and not the chapters, your audiences will give you rave reviews.

Claire Gillis is executive managing director of greyhealth group

In association with greyhealth group

4th November 2016

From: Marketing



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