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Don’t just hope: COPE

Tips to improve reach, engagement and ROI

With healthcare professionals seeking more diverse and convenient options for accessing high-quality medical education and information, brand and scientific communicators in Pharma need to adapt accordingly.

Healthcare Professionals today

With people’s working lifespan getting longer, the expanding internationalism of healthcare, and the accelerating pace of social change, healthcare professionals (HCPs) have never presented a more diverse audience than they do today. These doctors, nurses and other practitioners may work in the same healthcare systems, sharing the same clinics, and caring for the same patients, but their values, needs and expectations can differ greatly.

Add to this the exponential growth in the number and types of digital devices and the sheer number of platforms and channels that HCPs have at their fingertips, the modern communications landscape begins to look incredibly complex.

Increasingly HCPs are also demanding more relevant, personalised content, tailored to their needs. They want content that is trustworthy, relevant, digestible, up-to-date and accessible whenever and wherever is convenient (just as they expect in their lives as consumers). Frequently they may also want to share that content with others, or at least have scope to discuss it online with their colleagues and peers.

What does this mean for Pharma?

How to COPE in today’s world

With the increase in HCP’s expectations, blasting out static content (the so-called ‘spray and pray’ approach) is no longer effective. As a result, successful communicators within Pharma are increasingly turning to an approach known as COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere).

Though not new, the pressure from the aforementioned challenges are driving renewed interest in COPE in order to accommodate increasing demands, and ensure marketeers can deliver the right content, in the right place, in the right format, and at the right time to maximise return on often-limited investment.

COPEing with a sundry of screens

In the years since the launch of the first smartphone, the volume and variety of connected devices used by HCPs has expanded significantly. This is where COPE really comes into its own.

By adapting content for each of the major device classes (desktop, tablet and mobile), communicators have greater control of what’s displayed, and how – ensuring that content remains accessible, usable, and consistent, no matter how users encounter it.

This is particularly successful when implemented as part of a responsive or adaptive platform, where the content, and even the entire layout of a site can change depending on how it’s viewed, by whom, and from where, and which can take audience preferences into account for a smooth final experience.

COPEing with a plethora of user-preferences 

It’s not just screen sizes and functionality that differ across devices. HCP requirements and goals can also change. This can significantly affect the way they interact with materials – for example, smartphone users accessing medical education content may be more likely to be on their way to or from the clinic, with an unpredictable window of time for completion, while tablet users viewing the same material may be at home, potentially with a TV or family members competing for their attention. Depending on the context, some users may view complementary content across multiple devices simultaneously, or the same content across multiple devices at different times.

Using COPE, content can be adapted for different needs and contexts, to give users the right content in the right format. For example, while a full journal article can be read easily on a laptop, smartphone users might prefer a short video or infographic option, with the ability to receive the publication by email. Strategic creation of derivative materials can also amplify a message across multiple platforms, maximising consistency and minimising additional cost.

Derivative materials

A key pillar of COPE is maximising the use of all elements across materials to cost-effectively amplify messages and maintain consistency. Examples might include:

  • Adapting the audio from a talking head video into   podcast content
  • Translating a symposium debate into a thought   leadership piece for publication
  • Converting elements from an animation into infographics   for distribution on social media

COPEing with an abundance of audiences 

What about communicating with a range of completely different audiences, something international Pharma organisations do almost continuously? Here too, COPE provides significant value. By providing teams with content that can be adapted to suit the needs of their particular audience or regional market, or across multiple products within a franchise, timescales can be slashed and costs minimised without compromising on quality or brand identity. By making all content available to staff via a central repository, with guidance on adaptation and translation, it’s far easier to ensure that messaging remains clear and consistent, across the world.

COPEing with less duplication

It almost goes without saying, but a key principle of COPE is creating once, not twice! Ensuring good communication between teams, indexing key content, and maintaining clear filing structures will help deter against unintentional duplication of content development. It will also ensure that consistency of messaging is clearly understood, especially across larger organisations, and allow good ideas to be shared across the whole organisation.

COPEing with consistent messaging

While good content design will account for the limitations of specific channels, it’s important to remember that no content is truly omni-channel. All channels have restrictions, so there will always be barriers to adapting content for new channels and audiences – for example, it’s almost impossible to imagine converting a podcast into an infographic without developing new content! But while content and media might change, messaging should always remain consistent. Developing a message map as a starting point can help ensure that the language, themes and structure of messaging remain harmonious across all content. This message map can also serve as a content handbook; a guide from which to develop future materials – be it centrally or in regional markets.

COPEing with regulatory reluctance

The complex regulatory framework pharma operates in is one of the biggest barriers to the speed and agility of healthcare communications projects. Ensuring that regulatory teams know which types of materials content may be transformed into, that new content is approved with an understanding of future re use, and that any review of repurposed content is undertaken with a clear understanding that the messaging is already ‘out there’ will make the whole process smoother. To this end, individuals involved in regulatory and medical approval should be embedded in projects and provided with a clear understanding of all outputs from the outset, so they have a chance to highlight problems and collaborate on finding solutions in advance.

Bedrock for success 

Although the foundation for COPE sounds pretty straightforward, successful implementation doesn’t lie in simply adapting every material into every format imaginable. It’s vital that users are targeted with the right information, in the right format for their needs, and comprehensive audience understanding is the critical first step in this process. A user-centric approach will identify and accommodate subtle differences in behaviour and preferences between audience subsets and across contexts. To ensure that it’s truly evidence-led, it should be validated with real HCPs (as far as is feasible), metrics for success developed prior to launch and the approach refined according to these metrics, as the programme continues.

Think you can COPE? 

Top tips to help you COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere)

  • Understand your audiences, and their preferences and needs
  • Be really clear about your key messages and their value to the audience; what will really resonate?
  • Design your content formats to meet audience behaviour preferences
  • Be channel-specific. For example, understand the nuances between social media platforms and adapt your approach accordingly
  • Provide a personalised user experience where possible
  • Keep a single handbook or guide: e.g. a central content repository from which regional teams can tailor local content
  • Align all content creation teams and involve regulatory teams to drive efficiencies
  • Use appropriate technology to optimise the user experience
  • Measure, test and learn

With ever-increasing pressure on pharma marketing teams to do more with their budget, it’s worth exploring almost any opportunity to increase the value of content. Whether embarking on a full-scale COPE strategy or adopting individual elements of the model, it’s vital to ensure that solid foundations are in place – based on user insight and understanding, appropriate technology, and clear processes.

David Youds is Founder and CEO at Bedrock Group, an independent provider of medical communication solutions and healthcare experience research.

Working with forward-thinking clients, Bedrock provides clear audience understanding enabling the imagination, creation and expert delivery of focused, relevant programmes that ultimately improve healthcare provision.

Contact David Youds at Bedrock to find out more or email

13th March 2020



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Bedrock Healthcare Communications

01252 240200

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Ancells Road
GU51 2UN

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