Recently, several colleagues and I had a chance to network, share best practices and brainstorm solutions to industry challenges with more than 50 of our agency peers, pharma clients and top-tier media at the 13th exl Public Relations and Communications Summit. The energy was high and the crowd was never at a loss for words or ideas, with discussion centering on the following themes.

Analytics: Use It or Lose It

From condition education to the value and pricing debate, Analytics helps guide content and channel strategy, customize messages for optimal audience impact and measure ROI – a challenge PR and Comms professionals frequently face compared to other Marketing disciplines. If you are not employing Analytics, you will fall behind the competitive curve.

Deep and Meaningful Engagement: Yes, We Can…

Digital and social communications play an increasingly important role in the overall patient experience, including reaching, influencing and supporting people with divergent needs. The review process may be daunting as pharma continues to become more comfortable with digital and social engagement. But, it is possible to establish branded and unbranded Facebook pages, coordinate Facebook Live events and push the envelope further. Vet concepts in advance, share real-world case studies and trouble-shoot potential issues with Legal, Regulatory and Corporate teams to help minimize potential roadblocks.

Content: Still King if It’s Relevant and Authentic

With the multitude of current and emerging social and digital communications channels, we can expand content reach and impact by repackaging or tailoring it to address the needs of multiple audiences. As an industry, we strive to be authentic and build engaging voices. It can be challenging in our highly-regulated industry, but we can be successful by listening carefully to what is important to our stakeholders, incorporating feedback, flexing based on broader industry trends and being relevant and real as we engage with various audiences.

Value: Like Beauty, It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Many speakers addressed the value and pricing debate head on. They urged communicators to take a more proactive approach to shape and share the story.

Celgene CEO Mark J. Alles, for example, implored attendees to focus on patient outcomes and clearly convey the life and death difference that pharma innovations make as critical to the industry’s value proposition. Value and price, two separate concepts, do not resonate with detractors, but you can’t argue a patient outcome.

Among other points, Acorda Therapeutics’ CEO Ron Cohen, M.D., noted that the money needed to innovate in healthcare is an investment in the future. Eventually pharma innovations, which may appear costly initially, go generic, broadening their reach, which can improve patient outcomes and decrease cost of care over time. The focus must be on the patient and patient outcomes, as well as healthcare’s impact more broadly.

What’s Next?

As communicators, we are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in helping inform and guide people as they seek health solutions and in demonstrating the value that our industry brings to patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

Analytics can help us understand the landscape more clearly and how to be relevant to our audiences. Insights garnered from Analytics, research and our relevant experience combined allow us to create content and communities that educate and meaningfully engage diverse audiences about important health issues.