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‘Who moved my cheese?’

By Harriet Coady

Harriet Coady

Change can impact people in many ways. Sometimes it might be exciting; in other situations it can just be overwhelming. Biological evolution is what forces species to change and develop favourable features in the long run, whereas social and cultural adaptation are what we need to deal with in our life, during ordinary or extraordinary events.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of this type of change. The need for distance and contact limitations had a huge impact on our society. The shift to digital was accelerated in every sector, and, both globally and locally, businesses and communities struggled to adjust to different ways of staying connected. We had to alter and improve our habits and working methods, which are continuing to be used in the new era of medical communications.

Several authors and philosophers have described metaphors to help us understand how to manage goals and priorities in life, one of whom was the writer Spencer Johnson, in his book Who Moved My Cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. This is a great story about change, where cheese is used as a metaphor for life goals such as happiness, wealth or success, and a maze represents the environment where you spend your time looking for them. The sudden shortage of cheese after its initial rich supply forces the characters to adapt to find another source, showing how change can be daunting at first, but fear can motivate you to be proactive and achieve your successes.

These principles can be applied to the way we had to adapt as an industry to COVID-19. Our ‘cheese’ is to successfully communicate information to audiences, and the ‘maze’ is the medical communications scenario with its media channels.

With the world in lockdown, everything had to suddenly move online, stretching our knowledge of technology and challenging our ability to communicate information the way we used to – our ‘cheese’ had gone.

We had no choice but to explore the ‘maze’. Face-to-face meetings became virtual, bringing dodgy internet connections and the dreaded ‘Sorry, you’re on mute!’

Even the assets we were producing evolved: materials became digital, symposia became virtual and email became one of the most important ways of communicating. We revolutionised our entire approach strategy to achieve our goals – we had got our ‘cheese’.

As we emerge from the pandemic, it is clear that COVID-19 has changed the way we work for good. A hybrid environment exists, shifting the needs and expectations of our target audience, still raising questions about the efficacy of our tools.

With each of these challenges, the ‘cheese’ moves continuously and we need to adapt get it.

Our maze has now brought us new challenges, one being that virtual meetings are here to stay. These are much less personal, and you lose ad hoc conversations. It can also be harder to mix with colleagues and clients, and relationship building is more challenging. On the other hand, virtual meetings are more time-efficient and allow for greater flexibility. Also, they might feel more important and focused on real needs.

These pros and cons highlight how important it is to tailor your approach to the individual situation, raising the question ‘How can I ensure I get the ‘cheese’ every time?’

First, it is important to offer the right channel, tailored to fit the audience and deliver information most effectively. Your client might be a busy healthcare professional who prefers the agility of a virtual meeting over a meeting in person. Or you might be organising an advisory board and you know that an in-person event creates a better, more engaging discussion. Knowing your audience will help you get the ‘cheese’.

Second, creating clear, simple and engaging messaging that audiences can easily access should become a priority. With increased communication online, your audience is constantly bombarded with information, so standing out and grasping their attention is a challenge. Blanket emails with a long, generic message can easily go unseen, and using a tailored email with succinct copy is fundamental to conveying your message in a more effective way.

The way we work has been massively impacted by COVID-19 over the past few years, causing us to adapt to ensure we get the ‘cheese’. This change made us recognise the importance of knowing the audience better, in a way that is even more personal, understanding the most effective ways to support the delivery of information, and prioritising clear, accessible content. By making these steps a fundamental part of how you work, you will be sure to get your ‘cheese’!

Harriet Coady is an Account Director at Purple Agency

Harriet Coady is an Account Director at Purple Agency

2nd August 2022

From: Marketing


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