For the 11th year, Real Chemistry brought together leading health care innovators at SXSW to discuss the issues driving us forward. The virtual event was chock-full of robust conversations about important health care topics.
We were proud to present five official sessions, helping people go deep on what’s next in health care and how patient lives have improved as a direct result of breakthrough elements of health technology. We also hosted a two-day virtual Media Lounge that included panels and fireside chats.
Over the next few days, we’ll highlight some of these discussions, with links to where to watch the full sessions on YouTube. We look forward to seeing everyone at SXSW in person next year.
COVID-19 and Vaccine Confidence
The COVID-19 vaccines are our golden ticket back to normal, as Real Chemistry Founder and CEO Jim Weiss wrote earlier this year. Given that news coverage in recent months has been dominated by discussion of the vaccines, it should be no surprise that five of our SXSW panels covered that topic.
Real Chemistry advisor Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm held a wide-ranging conversation about the pandemic, vaccines and lessons to take forward.
Dr. Osterholm, noting other problems the pandemic has exposed or made worse, such as hunger and mental health challenges, said he hoped there would be new investments in public health. “Public health, when it is done well, preventing these kinds of situations, actually has a spillover into so many other parts of our life we don’t think about,” he said.
He noted that the vaccine rollout has had troubles because the federal government did not give states financial resources to distribute the shots. He said it is getting better, but pointed out, “The vaccine isn’t a vaccination until it goes into your arm.”
What a Shot Meant for One Nurse … and for Its Developer
One big star of our SXSW panels was Sandra Lindsay, a registered nurse from Long Island who in December became the first person in the United States to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. On a panel focused on lessons learned, she described what it meant to her: “It represented to me the beginning of the end of a very dark time in our history, that hope is here, preservation of life, abilities for others to get that same feeling.”
Lindsay was on a panel that included Judy Sewards, head of clinical trial experience at Pfizer, a Real Chemistry client, and Dr. Reed Tuckson, co-founder of the Black Coalition Against COVID, another client. Sewards said Pfizer set high standards for the science and safety of its vaccine and learned the value of transparency during the process. The result? “People are much more aware of the scientific process. We as an industry have figured out where we need to meet people, do a better job of educating others about what it takes to develop a medicine or a vaccine,” she said.
Surveys About Vaccine Confidence Show Rising Support
What we know about vaccine confidence is not just guesswork. A wide variety of public opinion surveys have tracked how people feel about the vaccines and how willing they will be to take them once available.
On a panel with leading health researchers, Ipsos’ Chris Jackson and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Liz Hamel pointed out the rise in public confidence in the vaccines in recent months. Jackson said polling shows double-digit increases in confidence across the world.
Of those with a “wait and see” approach, many are not really “hesitant,” but they need more information from trusted sources, Hamel said. “Listen to people’s concerns, take them seriously and empathize with them. They come from not only a place of fear but a place of newness,” she added.
Scott McDonald of the Advertising Research Foundation noted that some of the movement reinforces “what we already understand about how opinions change and how advertising really works.” He pointed out that people get their cues from a “norm” that is now influenced on social media by people they never meet.
While confidence in the vaccines has grown, confidence in governments to deal with the crisis has not. “It has slowly eroded over the past year,” Jackson said.
(For the latest in vaccine confidence news, subscribe to Real Chemistry’s free Vaccine Confidence Weekly newsletter here.)
Messaging About the Vaccines
Messaging about the vaccines and what platforms to use to communicate to those who have questions and concerns was a major focus of most of the Real Chemistry SXSW panels.
“A big breakthrough is telling people it’s okay to have questions,” Dr. Tuckson said. He and Lindsay agreed that trying to understand where people are instead of lecturing them is critical. “We need to listen to people, spend time listening and educating them, dispelling myths. Word of mouth remains very powerful,” she said.
Usually, it takes nine months to create an Ad Council campaign, but the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine education initiative took far less, said Catherine Chao, the Ad Council’s vice president for strategy and evaluation. PSAs were out in two weeks after the Ad Council finalized details with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Ad Council (Real Chemistry is an Ad Council partner) is not just developing heart-tugging commercials, but also community-based activities to “get deep into communities” and help people understand what the vaccines will bring, Chao said.
Effective messages come with an empathetic tone, not focused on playing into fears about what the coronavirus might do to someone who is not vaccinated. “Not to say fear isn’t motivating but when leaning on it too heavily, it is not authentic,” she said.
Asked to create his own 30-second script for a pro-vaccine commercial, Dr. Tuckson said it would say: “Dear American households, would you like to get your life back? Kids go back to school? Have a job? Do you want to have Christmas and Thanksgiving with your family? You can’t do it without getting vaccinated. Let’s get our lives back. Today’s the day.”
Frank Washkuch, executive editor of PRWeek, struck a similar tone. “There are many negative messages, but one that really works is, ‘This is how we get back to normal’,” he said.
The Employer Has a Vaccine Confidence Platform
Employers – who can access a toolkit at adcouncil.org – may not want to give ultimatums about vaccines, said Allison Weissbrot, editor-in-chief of Campaign US at Haymarket Media, but “employers have a huge platform and microphone to get employees vaccinated.” They can use other ways to persuade, including helping make appointments or giving people information about the vaccines, she said.
Jim Weiss said Real Chemistry would approach employee vaccination communication just as he would recommend to clients. “We’ll meet everybody where they are, listen to their concerns and have mutual respect,” he said.
Health Innovation at SXSW and Beyond
Boosting vaccine confidence is a path to help get us out of this pandemic, which has taken a terrible toll on so many. But one silver lining of this past year has been a rapid acceleration of innovation in health care. We will continue to share with you the insights gleaned at SXSW Online 2021 from our industry’s top thought leaders. Thank you for showing up and shaping the future with us.
Earlier this month, MM+M hosted its Racial Equity Summit. Prompted by recent incidents of white privilege and police brutality against BIPOC individuals, the Summit hosted four panel discussions to help answer questions such as “What is the role of business in leading change?” and “How can active listening within organizations turn talk into meaningful action?”
During the panel titled “The Agency Diversity Conundrum,” W2O’s Head of DE&I, Marcia Windross had the opportunity to give her perspective on what actions healthcare marketing firms are taking to achieve genuine diversity across their ranks. During the discussion, she was joined by Tayla Mahmud, Associate Managing Director at Havas Health & You, and Walter T. Geer III, Executive Creative Director of Experience Design at VMLY&R. Following are some key takeaways of the discussion:
U.S. Diversity Numbers Do Not Match Healthcare Industry Diversity Numbers
The discussion kicked off with the panelists giving their perspective on today’s DE&I trends in the healthcare industry. Marcia broke down the percentages of diverse communities in the United States and compared them to the percentages in the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, these numbers do not align. Like most industries, the healthcare sector must continue to ensure that their offices mirror the diversity in society at large. Tayla said she believes it takes a combination of “focus, commitment and follow through” from leadership of healthcare companies to build a diverse and inclusive employee base.
We Need More Than a Seat at the Table
The second part of the panel started a conversation centered around the importance of putting diverse perspectives at the decision-making table and how that simply is no longer enough. Marcia explained that sometimes people of diverse backgrounds are given a seat at the table, but their voices are not heard. She explained that companies should ensure that they are cultivating a safe and open space so diverse communities feel empowered to share their perspectives. Walter brought up the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that went viral in 2017. He said that advertisements like these happen and will continue to happen if employees from diverse backgrounds do not have a seat and a valued voice at the table. He drove home the point that hiring diverse candidates simply is not enough. We must work to ensure that employees from diverse backgrounds feel included and heard within their company.
Equity is the “Secret Sauce”
As diversity roles continue to evolve, the title of Diversity & Inclusion has moved toward Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The addition of the word equity is no mistake. Within DE&I roles, diversity is the process of hiring those from diverse backgrounds (ethnic, racial, religion, gender, etc.), while inclusion means ensuring that those from diverse backgrounds feel included and heard. Equity comes in to create opportunity, fairness and advancement for all groups of people. According to Marcia, equity is the “secret sauce” to building a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable environment. She said we must understand that all employees come from various circumstances and that companies must put in place certain opportunities to catapult each employee to their highest potential.
Overall, the discussion was fantastic and extremely informative! In my new role as Manager, DE&I, I will continue to take the time to listen to DE&I professionals who have paved the way.
A year after the COVID-19 pandemic vaulted digital health into the headlines, we’re asking some big questions. Is there a better warning system for the next pandemic? Can we have consumerization of health care? Will new payment models work? What impact can we make on key issues such as health equity and vaccine confidence?
W2O’s annual Digital Health (this time, virtual) event was the place to go to for answers. As always, it took place alongside the J.P Morgan Health Care Conference and CES and featured some of the leading minds in health care and beyond.
Day One Keynote: Improving the Human Condition Through Data and Technology
The two-day summit began with an engaging discussion between former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann and W2O’s Mike Huckman, Global Practice Leader, Executive Communications. The pair have known each other for many years, dating back to Huckman’s days as a CNBC reporter.
Dr. Desmond-Hellmann, an oncologist and longtime biotech leader, spoke about the need to make sure the tools used to make medicines even more precise are “fit for purpose” in public health. She also discussed the role of digital technology in helping those experiencing “long-haul” symptoms from COVID-19.
Day Two Keynote: Why Do You Even Call It A “System?”
Mastercard Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Raja Rajamannar highlighted the potential for tech-oriented payment companies to disrupt what he called a “mind-befuddling” health care system. He asked, “Why do you even call it a system?”
Rajamannar called for tech-focused disruption in three key areas: billing, paperwork and the catch-all category of waste, fraud and abuse.
What’s next for primary care was the focus of a discussion between Crossover Health Founder and CEO Dr. Scott Shreeve and health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, an advisor to W2O.
Dr. Shreeve, a board-certified emergency medicine physician, said that when the pandemic hit last March, Crossover – whose clients are largely self-insured companies – embraced “pandemic primary care” almost immediately.
The pandemic not only accelerated the development and use of digital health, but also pushed the FDA to be even more flexible in its regulatory approach. That was one of many conclusions in a panel discussion moderated by Udit Nagar, a Vice President at health care investment banking group BTIG, and panelists Brian Harris, Co-founder and CEO of MedRhythms, Eddie Martucci, CEO and Co-founder of Akili, and Michael Evers, CEO of Woebot Health.
Ron Elwell, Co-founder of Swoop and IPM.ai – which were recently acquired by W2O – talked with W2O Chief Marketing Officer Aaron Strout about getting patients with undiagnosed conditions, especially rare diseases, connected more quickly to potential treatment paths. The discussion also focused on ensuring a more representative sample of patients in clinical trials.
Techonomy’s David Kilpatrick led a session about the “return to normalcy” after the pandemic. Kirkpatrick was joined by Denise Heaney, Senior Scientific Affairs Manager, Diagnostics Information Solutions at Roche Diagnostics, and Nick Vitalari, Chief Strategy Officer at Quantum Materials Corp.
Heaney pointed out that the pandemic “has opened up a lot of doors where digital will really be welcomed with open arms, because people have started to adopt, or at least consider, these types of virtual platforms that allow them to do a variety of virtual care.”
Can We Have Amazon-Like Experiences in Health Care?
Health systems are getting pushed into the digital age by changing patient demands that the pandemic accelerated. How those systems handle that was the focus of a discussion between Salesforce Executive Medical Director Dr. Geeta Nayyar, M.D., and HIMSS Senior Vice President of Enterprise Marketing and Communications Terri Sanders.
Investing in the patient-physician/provider relationship may be the best opportunity to satisfy those patient demands and improve patient outcomes, Dr. Nayyar said, and not just for large hospitals. “You have to bring value to that independent practitioner,” she said.
Last year, users of Kinsa’s connected thermometer provided early signs that COVID-19 was spreading. Public health officials were slow to accept the data, Kinsa CEO Inder Singh said in an eye-opening session with Techonomy’s Kilpatrick. “I’m sad it took a pandemic to bring to light how important our work on early warning of outbreaks is,” Sing said.
The need to keep up the push for true diversity in clinical trials was the main subject of a panel moderated by Eric Roberts, Vice President of W2O’s Hū, with Peyton Howell, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer of Parexel, Sonali Duggal, Chief Commercial Officer of par8o, and Jackie Kent, EVP and Head of Product for Medidata.
Duggal sounded a note of optimism: “It’s more than just lip service. It’s actual people, it’s budgets, it’s time, it’s executive attention, and that is something that feels really new, and that it will last and stick beyond COVID.”
Wired magazine Co-founder Jane Metcalfe and ex-CNBC reporter Christina Farr, who moved from journalism to OMERS Ventures last year, had a wide-ranging chat on the event’s final day.
Farr discussed her jump into the VC world from media, saying she wanted to be “more of a source of help behind the scenes,” and Metcalfe talked about how her science-focused NEO.LIFE brings together “a community of people who should all be talking to each other.”
Insights from the Reuters Patient-Centricity Conference
I recently “attended” the virtual Reuters Patient-Centricity conference. It was refreshing to spend three days with like-minded people across the healthcare industry, laser-focused on how we can continue to place patients and their needs at the center of all we do. The conference agenda covered nearly every aspect of the patient journey – from research and development, to designing clinical trials, to the impact of COVID-19, to the most effective ways to reach and engage patient communities.
One of the themes I found particularly energizing was how the industry is using data to better understand the needs and nuances of patient communities, and, in turn, the most impactful ways to engage and service them. At W2O, leveraging data and analytics to help make the world a healthier place is in our DNA. I’m grateful to be able to see first-hand how meaningful data can be, and one of my favorite parts of my job is translating data-derived insights into meaningful marketing communications. One example that comes to mind is a W2O client that was looking to better understand, and thus better target, people with cystic fibrosis in order to drive clinical trial recruitment. Our analytics and data team created SocialGraphics segmentation, which allowed us to look at members of the community as both patients and people. With this approach, W2O could target beyond the cystic fibrosis community’s general interests. Using Facebook’s affinity targeting, we then matched the top interests from our SocialGraphics segments with Facebook targeting inputs and activated separate Facebook and Instagram campaigns targeted to specific interests. The result? SocialGraphics targeting outperformed traditional efforts, and the insights gleaned were pulled through to other activities.
During the conference, Tara Hastings, Senior Associate Director, Research Partnerships & Patient Engagement, at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, shared how the Foundation is using data to better understand and respond to people living with Parkinson’s disease. Tara noted that their innovative online real-world study, Fox insight, has generated some unexpected results. For example, patients cited pain and fatigue as what’s most bothersome about living with Parkinson’s disease, which isn’t necessarily what they expected. Fox insight also uncovered new language patients are using to describe their most bothersome symptoms during “off” periods. This is an important discovery that the Foundation is using to inform future communications.
Tara’s presentation resonated with me because the staff at The Michael J. Fox Foundation spend 100% of their time focused on the Parkinson’s patient, yet there were still new learnings to be gleaned. It reminds me that we can never stop learning and never stop listening. We must continue to engage patient communities at every step along the way and be truly open to what we learn, even if it isn’t what we want to hear. Ultimately, we need to let the experiences and needs of patients guide us because patient-centricity is central to patient communications and ultimately to the best patient care.
In the era of digital media, with more patients receiving medical care from home, the healthcare industry has an opportunity to support and advocate for patients and provide platforms for patient movements. I recently had the opportunity to help plan and attend a virtual session on patient advocacy as part of W2O’s SXSW virtual panels. As an advocate myself in the food allergy community, this gave me the opportunity to reflect on the changing nature of the patient experience.
Moderated by Steve Madden, Editor-in-Chief of MM+M, the session was joined by Jim Weiss, Founder and CEO of W2O, Samina Bari, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Aimmune Therapeutics, and Amar Kendale, Chief Product Officer at Livongo Health.
The speakers covered topics ranging from the patient perspective on value and access in healthcare, to navigating the patient journey, to the importance of patient voices in the medical community. Following are some highlights from the discussion:
“The involvement of patients in the healthcare system is essential.” – Jim Weiss
Healthcare movements are often led by patients bringing important perspectives to the forefront of the medical community. Both industry and patients benefit when we work together. Showing our support for patients means listening and learning, which can happen authentically when we reach out to build relationships with patients who share their journey publicly.
As an advocate myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of outreach from many healthcare companies who truly valued my voice and input, as well as those who were simply hoping I would promote them or their treatment without first establishing a strong foundation of trust and respect. Patient advocates are more savvy than ever and are ready to share and provide their perspectives if asked. This is a necessary step in partnering with patients and ensuring they have a seat at the table.
“We have to listen better, we have to be on the lookout.” – Samina Bari
Motivated patients are often passionate, vocal and organized in getting answers from the medical community and driving change. Many of these larger conversations have been made possible through social media, and we need to listen.
Through social listening, we can see patients connecting with other patients, physicians, politicians and practitioners – these discussions with key stakeholders can be leveraged to make real changes. As organizations, we can learn from these conversations to better understand patient needs and support them by lifting their voices within these online spaces and including them in key conversations where they may not have otherwise had a voice.
“The digitization of clinical trials using more passive data, being more directly connected in a person’s normal workflow as the basis to collect evidence, will then inform R&D and treatment paradigms over time more and more.” – Amar Kendale
At W2O, we’ve always followed the data. As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly more data-centric, we have a responsibility to continue following the data to focus on the needs of patients. Healthcare technology has allowed medical professionals to engage with patients in their everyday lives, through telemedicine, apps and patient portals, which can provide additional comfort for patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future as the healthcare landscape continues to evolve.
During my last 10+ years serving as a parent advocate for my son and being active in patient communities, I’ve experienced firsthand how healthcare companies have made an increasing effort to bring patients into the conversation. This is foundational to how we counsel our client partners on how to work with patient influencers and advocates at W2O. Not only is it essential to understand the patient perspective, it also helps validate and affirm the patient experience. We all deserve to have a voice when it comes to our health, and it is up to healthcare companies to incorporate patient advocacy into the fabric of everything we do.
The phrase “these unprecedented times” has become the 2020 tagline. With everything in our daily lives so uncertain, we’re increasingly looking for meaning. This is especially true when it comes to our media consumption habits. COVID-19 quarantine, remote work, and the additional alone time at home have led us to seek even greater digital connection.
I recently had the opportunity to engage in a virtual webinar on brand growth during times of crisis for the Advertising Research Foundation, an organization for which our own Seth Duncan, Chief Analytics Officer, serves on the board.
I was joined by Emmanuel Probst, author and SVP Brand Health Tracking at Ipsos, who unpacked the many challenges and opportunities brands have during a time of crisis – like the current COVID-19 pandemic. He also discussed how consumers have changed their behavior and are increasingly seeking out meaning through media.
2020 has completely transformed media consumption – we are glued to our phones, constantly seeking information to keep up with the continuously changing world around us. Brands have an opportunity to provide meaning to consumers, but they are also being presented with a challenge in communicating authenticity and purpose in a virtual world.
“What consumers are really looking for, even more so during this unprecedented time, is meaning,” Emmanuel said. “Now is the time to not only talk about your brand purpose, but to demonstrate your brand purpose.”
In other words, 2020 has proved that, if brands talk the talk, they must also walk the walk.
For those brands that take action to be involved in our extremely connected digital world, they must do so in an authentic manner, staying true to their brand and demonstrating their purpose. However, this is easier said than done. One mistake in this digital world can lead to consumers “cancelling” the brand, a challenge brands are facing while they navigate communication during the pandemic. As both practitioners and consumers, we have a responsibility to hold brands accountable and reach consumer culture in this unique virtual moment.
“Social media advertising is going to be very tempting for brands now, even more so than before,” Emmanuel said. “We can drive clicks and we can drive purchase right away.”
A challenge now is combining channels, online and offline, and sequencing them for brand campaigns. While technology has proven to be one of the most effective way for brands to reach consumers, the pandemic will eventually end, and “the world will come back to in-person interactions,” Emmanuel said.
When those in-person interactions resume, what should we take away from this remote experience? Well for one, practitioners and brands need to remember to hone in on social skills and the ability to communicate and interact with consumers in person. Technology is allowing brands to maintain interaction with consumers during this “unprecedented [virtual] time,” but eventually we will move back offline and return to a time where nothing can replicate in-person interaction and the meaning consumers find in that.
As COVID-19 continues to expose inequalities in healthcare, the medical community is looking at all facets of research and clinical trials to address issues of diversity, understanding, and representation. W2O sponsored a panel with MM&M, “From Barriers and Bias to Better: What it Will Take to Create More Diverse and Inclusive Clinical Trials” to tackle these topics, with speakers Megan Claire Chase, Dr. John Stewart, and myself.
This conversation felt particularly timely and poignant, as our nation is in the midst of grappling with systemic racism and how it’s permeated every facet of our society. As many of us unfortunately know, healthcare is not immune to racism and bias.
During our panel, we discussed the “how” behind bridging the representation gap in clinical trials, from this, three key themes emerged:
1. Patients need to be seen, heard, and believed in order to build trust
In order to address issues of representation and inequality in clinical research, patients (particularly underrepresented patients) need to feel seen, heard, believed, and understood. According to Megan Claire, 5 things are needed to start the conversation and ignite action: (1) see us, (2) listen to us, (3) be present, (4) believe us, and (5) include us.
“If we don’t have those steps happening, it’s going to be really difficult to reach the Black community and POC to even consider clinical trials as an option,” Megan Claire said.
2. Doctors and the medical community need to meet patients where they are at
During our discussion, I pointed out, “We need to figure out where the individual patients sits and we need to meet them where they are.”
The medical community needs to have honest and digestible conversations with patients in order to meet them where they are at and build a trusting relationship. By using understandable terminology, taking the time to thoroughly explain conditions and information, and being present in conversations, medical professionals and clinical research teams can meet patients where they are at and build relationships from there.
3. Medical community and clinical research teams must understand the unique healthcare needs of different communities
Not only is it important for clinical research teams to understand the medical needs of a community, but they also must understand how those connect with other community healthcare needs (i.e. the social determinants of health).
“We need to have a clinical research workforce that is diverse [because] the data show that patients trust people who have similar experiences to them,” noted Dr. John Stewart.
Each community and each individual patient is unique, and in order to repair the disparities in clinical trials, the clinical research community must begin with transparent conversations to build trust with patients and meet their diverse needs.
We, as healthcare professionals, have a long way to go to achieve health equity, whether it is equal representation in clinical trials or access to care for all. As a community of dedicated problem-solvers, I challenge us all to leave the world a healthier place than we found it…for all.
Missed the presentation? Register to view the free recording.
As Americans continue to confront the realities of racial injustice during an unprecedented global public health crisis, communicators are being called on to bring relevant information to the public. As part of this action, W2O participated in a panel at PRWeek’s Convene event, discussing lessons for the communications industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the confrontation of racial injustices in the United States, which undoubtedly go hand in hand.
“Successful crisis communications must take on a level of cultural competence unlike ever before,” said Parris Bowe, Managing Director at EGAMI Group.
During our discussion, we considered communications as the new health imperative. From this, three critical themes emerged:
1. Data can be our most powerful tool in our quest for equity
As health inequities across the world continue to be exposed amid the current pandemic, communicators must ask hard questions, challenge the ways we’ve always communicated, and engage with both purpose and empathy. We have never had access to more information, more sophisticated data, and more tools to help us understand where gaps persist and how we can bridge them. Our industry can use these insights – from social analytics to real-world evidence to public health data – as a force for a new level of visibility and change.
2. Collaboration is the new “innovation”
“One of the silver linings of what’s happening right now is that the lines between competitor and partner are being blurred. Individuals and companies are coming together to see how we can get solutions to people faster,” said Amy Atwood, Head of Communications at Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit. During this unprecedented time, collaboration is essential for the common good. As communicators, we must look for ways to partner in both conventional and unconventional ways. When we do this and communicate effectively, real innovation is born, enabling us to be a catalyst for change and drive real impact.
3. Relevance (vs. reputation) powers change
I noted, “Our counsel needs to be as dynamic as the environment we are living in.” In today’s world, relevance – the intersection of what the outside world cares about and what companies want to put out into the world – is the price of entry. Relevance is not easy and doesn’t just happen organically. Being relevant starts inside companies and is reflected in their external communications and partnerships with other businesses, which now more than ever need to mix empathy with real action and accountability that is quantifiable. Organizations must work together to figure out how they can adapt, listen and be actively engaged stakeholders offering novel and measurable solutions.
The public is looking to organizations to show how they are striving to make a difference for those affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice in the United States. Communicators have a role to play, and organizations must step up because communications is a health imperative.
See the full take on the panel discussion here. Registration is free but required with a valid email address.
This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCO launched its first 100% virtual meeting platform. Given that ASCO is the largest annual oncology meeting in the world, the organization decided it was imperative to prioritize the dissemination of critical updates on scientific advances in cancer treatments, allowing its members online access to presentations they would normally travel to Chicago to see.
It was easy to anticipate how oral sessions and poster presentations would take place in a virtual format. However, it was difficult to know what sort of sponsorship platforms or collaborative environments would be made available in lieu of an exhibit hall, where one-on-one engagement has traditionally been a core part of an attendee’s experience.
ASCO ultimately rolled out the parameters for virtual exhibits: a landing page with a list of corporate logos, with each sponsor provided a preformatted page that included space for a hero image, descriptive text, embedded videos and externally driving links.
ASCO’s approach to virtual exhibits gave companies only limited opportunities to build new relationships and networks. This meant companies would have to go well beyond the ASCO tool to create their own immersive online hubs.
Industry was up to the task, experimenting with a number of approaches. The web experiences developed by exhibitors fell into three main categories:
Interactive exhibit booth renderings
Links to existing sites or PDF resources
A few exhibitors, including Eisai Oncology and Pfizer Oncology, combined approaches.
So, what worked and what didn’t? Time (and analytics) will tell what kind of traction these promotional efforts garnered. In the meantime, it’s worth examining how well the exhibitors pivoted from a live experiential UX approach to a web UX approach.
Well-designed congress portals were among the best examples of successful adaptation.
Novartis, BeiGene and Eisai, for example, drove visitors to an online environment that made clear statements about their commitments and key messages, while prioritizing user experience for both desktop and mobile.
As a large percentage of virtual congress material will be accessed by mobile devices, responsiveness, legibility and mobile-user-friendliness are critical for a successful solution.
Several companies, including Advanced Accelerator Applications, opted to create a virtual booth – i.e., a rendering of an exhibit booth, either static or navigable, with hotspots around key content areas.
Most virtual booths had separate promotional and medical experiences, with hotspots driving to either videos, light-box pop-up info, or downloadable PDFs. In a few instances, exhibitors leveraged existing interactive experiences from their booth, such as quizzes.
While virtual booths initially sound like the most logical approach (after all, this is a virtual meeting with virtual exhibits), they pose difficult UX challenges (e.g., load time, message legibility and mobile adaptation).
The third approach taken by exhibitors was to simply use the page provided by ASCO to post links to existing websites and downloadable PDFs.
This more conservative approach is understandable, given that we don’t yet know how effective ASCO’s platform is in driving visitors to company pages. Any user would require a minimum of three clicks to land on an exhibitor-developed online environment – not exactly the best scenario for minimizing bounce rate.
It is likely that virtual congresses are going to be around for a while, if not indefinitely. ASCO was a great opportunity to experiment and better understand what it really means to “go virtual.” Companies that invested resources upfront will likely need to do less scrambling later for the numerous future virtual congresses to come.
One of the main lessons learned from ASCO 2020 is that virtual exhibiting bears little resemblance to traditional physical exhibiting. The rules of engagement are different. What drives someone to enter a booth from the aisle is different than what motivates a user to click through and engage with a website. The core principles of web interaction are simply different than those of physical experiential design.
We expect that, moving forward, congress organizers will apply learnings from these early days to improve the engagement platforms for their exhibitors and sponsors, while exhibitors will be looking to push the envelope on new platforms of virtual engagement that fulfill their needs for customer engagement, awareness and education.
The idea of moving scientific and medical conversation online is not a new concept. Indeed, when the online world began to open to a broader swath of people in the early 1990s, one of the first uses brought people together around various health topics.
But in the new COVID-19 era, consuming scientific and medical data virtually is not a novelty. It’s not even one of many options for accessing information: it’s become the only way. With major medical congresses, such as ASCO 2020, going completely virtual, it’s critical that we re-think not only the end of the process – the presentation or the publication – but indeed the entire span of how we think and talk about research.
It means understanding usability, optimizing for data-sharing, and analyzing each decision and each channel to make sure that the right stakeholders are getting the right information.
Planning for the Future Now
The best way to ensure virtual dissemination of data is to plan from the beginning!
During the publication planning process, we should incorporate virtual distribution into the plan for seminal data releases as they are developed for both congress presentations and more finalized manuscripts.
A successful publication plan will consider secondary congresses with unique, specialized audiences to maximize the reach of the data to all interested clinician types, payers, and patients. Important considerations can include how the timelines for development may be impacted, what additional resources (graphic design, digital expertise, IT) may be needed, and which key stakeholders may need to provide feedback.
Virtual—What Does it Mean?
The concept of virtual can mean a lot of things to a lot of different folks, so it’s critical not to use the word as shorthand or stay at a superficial level. The same goes for “digital.” Some people associate those concepts with social media while others might think of any electronic communication as falling into those buckets.
Virtual data dissemination, done right, is about multiple channels, many with significant overlap. For every effort, we need to specify what those channels might be, including webinars, social media, email, PDFs, websites (eg, company, congress, database), pre-print libraries, for starters. And we need to be specific about how we can use them to highlight the right virtual data, at the right time, to the right audience.
Speaking of the right audience, it is important to think about how doctors, patients, and pharma companies are viewing and consuming virtual data, with the days of only abstracts, congress booths, congress posters/presentations, and manuscripts a bygone era. So, how can we leverage virtual dissemination of data to extend the reach and life of these traditional channels, especially in the new era of virtual congresses?
Our Old Friend, the QR Code! In years past, QR codes in the corner of a poster would take the view to a website or link to the poster PDF. That, in the virtual and digital world, was always redundant and the subject of some mockery. But in the new normal, there is potential here. What if scanning our QR codes linked us out to a mini, poster-specific website that included more interactive content, such as a podcast author narration of the poster, a video abstract, an interactive/animated mechanism of action, a graphical abstract, an infographic, a lay summary, and an expert video commentary? Couple the virtual extenders with responsive web design, and then, the data can be viewed properly on a myriad of different devices!
Sharing is Caring. Another important consideration for virtual data dissemination is how the data will be shared through different channels after its initial release. By its very nature, virtual data are more enduring once shared. Take the graphical abstract mentioned above—we should consider how we optimize it for shareability across multiple platforms (e.g., email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube) wherever we and our audiences my share it.
Analytics to Measure … With extension of data from the traditional formats into the virtual realm, we can embrace the expansion of our metrics to include so much more than a journal impact factor! Moving into the virtual space allows us measure things, such as number of site hits, shares, time spent viewing data, location of viewer, and device type.
… And Analytics to Manage. Of course, having metrics for metrics sake doesn’t really help anyone. Deriving insights from these metrics with appropriate healthcareanalytics is key to understanding how virtual data dissemination can be optimized for the future. For example, where are the data being shared (e.g., platform), how are the data being shared over time (e.g., just around a congress), and what parts of the data are being viewed and for how long (e.g., survival vs safety) can continually inform how to best optimize virtual data dissemination.
So while COVID-19 may be forcing us to adapt, dissemination through virtual channels can help maximize the reach and impact of medical and scientific data.
This year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting was already destined to be different because of COVID-19, but nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis added another dimension to the conversation.
Attendees at the ASCO virtual conference shared thoughts and personal stories about racial injustice. However, discussing cancer on social media at this moment in time was questioned by some.
Conversations during the three-day meeting did indeed include health equity. Other major themes included the intersection between cancer and COVID-19; several promising therapies; and the need to work together to fight cancer – for all people.
Is anyone else having hard time focusing on #ASCO20#cancer meeting, while people of color, communities are in so much pain? Has @ASCO issued statement calling out racism, committing to equity? I may have missed; haven’t tuned in. Waiting… pic.twitter.com/bTWhxLTQfA
Incoming ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, M.D., announced in a May 25 interview that her theme for the year would be “Equity. Every patient. Every day. Everywhere.” She said she chose to highlight the issue “because health care equity is at the forefront of everything we do at ASCO.”
More than 200 ASCO sessions or posters delved into the issues of racial inequity and access to care, according to analytics we gathered from a search on “disparities” and “diversity” in the meeting content. One such session pointed to significant disparities in the treatment of early-stage anal cancer, a highly treatable cancer; a large study showed African Americans did not get treated as soon and had worse overall survival rates than white people. Another session focused on the relative lack of palliative care provided to people of color.
The novel coronavirus pandemic spurred a flurry of new research and discussion. COVID-19 patients with cancer are at an increased risk of dying within a month, according to one study. HCPs were intrigued by the impact of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on mortality among cancer patients with COVID-19. And because chemotherapy within three months prior to a COVID-19 diagnosis is associated with higher mortality among thoracic cancer patients, another study showed, HCPs noted they are going to be careful initiating chemotherapy treatments of COVID-19 in cancer patient during the pandemic.
Lung cancer research sparked the most conversation, driven by several clinical data virtual presentations focused on specific subpopulations, including patients with KRAS and HER2. A late-breaking abstract featuring AstraZeneca’s ADAURA trial evaluating Tagrisso in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) drew attention given the overwhelmingly positive results.
In other cancers, notable research included early data on a number of potentially promising therapies, including:
We were encouraged to see the oncology community come together for the greater good.
The most-shared link on social media throughout the meeting was for Conquer Cancer – the ASCO Foundation, which provides support for cancer care teams and patients during and after the pandemic.
As the conference concluded Sunday amid continued cries for racial justice, the oncology community was left with this challenge: To hold ourselves accountable to advance the ideal of health equality and participate in these vital discussions. We need greater diversity in the ranks of health care providers and researchers – both in oncology and other areas of medicine – and we need to work toward health care access for every American.
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference usually begins – unofficially – with the announcement of a large acquisition, getting people talking about the big deals they expect in the year ahead.
This year was different.
Instead of a mega-buyout, the announcement that started the chatter was an upstart venture-backed company, EQRx. The company – which didn’t even have a presentation slot at the meeting – isn’t aiming to cure cancer or leverage CRISPR. Its business goal is to disrupt the industry by unleashing cheap me-too drugs with the goal of lowering drug prices.
That a pricing-focused start-up dominated the pre-JPM conversation was a tell-tale sign of a big shift in how the industry is looking at pricing and access. Because it wasn’t just EQRx that was talking about the topic. A steadystreamofstories covered industry executives’ thoughts on why the cost of drugs remains high for patients and what can be done about it.
These included various views on prescription drug insurance structures with significant patient cost sharing, who reaps the value of drug rebates negotiated in contracts with middlemen pharmacy benefit managers, and the practice of price mark-ups by hospitals.
Talking about pricing can no longer take a back seat. Every company’s perspective on how to limit the impact of drug pricing on patients and society must be at the heart of the story that company tells investors, healthcare professionals, patients, policymakers, business partners, payers and voters. It is the now most meaningful part of how a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts are seen by the public.
To be sure, no company should make its presentation at J.P. Morgan solely about pricing and value. The industry’s lifeblood remains innovation, and the promise of the next cure is what keeps the biopharma industry moving forward. But companies that cannot or will not speak clearly and proactively about value risk their reputation, and that is a trend that will remain for the foreseeable future.
It is imperative that biopharma companies start taking the following approaches:
First, they must make proactive pricing ideas, solutions or frameworks a component of their company narrative. Rather than pointing to problematic structures elsewhere in the system affecting cost, biopharma must focus the story on what they can control. One size does not fit all, so companies should think about how pricing/value solutions can fit their own specific situation, needs and story. There is reputational high ground open for the taking for those proposing proactive solutions.
Second, both technology and operational innovation are vital in any truly innovative industry. Companies must elevate communications around creative approaches to pricing or contracting to meet the demand of external audiences who are hungry for novel solutions. Innovators innovate, both in the laboratory and in the marketplace. And while many companies are great at talking about scientific breakthroughs, they must not miss the opportunity to apply the same focus to storytelling about their business models and pricing.
In the receptions I attended, the chatter often revolved around how the JPM buzz was muted this year. But to complain about the lack of the big-bang deal was to miss the real buzz: that we’re headed to a new future in the way companies use patient access to frame their mission, gain competitive advantage, and become part of the larger healthcare solution.
Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.
Each January, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference brings bankers and executives to San Francisco to announce innovation, make deals and attend the many events that connect media with healthcare, digital health, biotech, pharma and technology investors.
Over the past six years, W2O has hosted an exclusive luncheon during the J.P. Morgan conference to facilitate game-changing discussions about the digital health space. This year’s event featured an all-star panel of industry leaders, who discussed key trends and important signals about the future of healthcare.
Looking back over the great discussions had and information shared, three trends stood out.
1. Collaboration fuels innovation.
J.P. Morgan has expanded from its roots of a couple hundred analysts and investors in biotech and pharma to more than 15,000 attendees. It now spans start-ups to global titans across the healthcare landscape, enveloping artificial intelligence, gene editing and bioengineering, behavioral health, telemedicine, data analytics and digital health.
With this growth, new and interesting partnerships are emerging as organizations across the ecosystem explore how to speed drug development, reduce costs and deliver a better patient experience and better care.
For Stacy Feld, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation her touchstone comes back to answering the right science and clinical questions that benefit consumers. During a panel focused on investment, she remarked, “The best innovations and the best ideas are just as likely to come from outside as they are from within Johnson & Johnson.”
2. Patient-centricity has new relevance.
Tying into the trend of greater collaboration, we also heard more from audiences on how they are putting patients’ needs first.
At the W2O Digital Health Luncheon, Harlan Levine, M.D., president, strategy and business ventures at City of Hope, remarked, “To get great treatment for cancer today, you really do need to treat the person as the consumer for personalized medicine.” His organization’s strategy is to employ a consumer-focused, digital approach to oncology to create a personal blueprint for every cancer.
On the payer side, organizations are focused on giving patients more choice, making accessing care easier. As Bryce Williams, vice president, lifestyle medicine at Blue Shield of California, noted, “If you really believe in empowering members, you give them more choice.”
3. Data privacy and protection concerns are still unanswered.
We know patient data drives innovation. But, despite efforts to connect, analyze and activate this data, serious concerns remain about how data is being protected, how it’s being used and who has access. With more traditional technology companies making serious inroads into health, a lack of transparency has created deep skepticism around data use without strong privacy and consumer protections.
Many consumers may not be aware that their data may be already being used. As to who is responsible, Mona Siddiqui, the chief data officer, Office of the Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Health and Human Services, commented, “Consumer education is important, but the onus is also on organizations to make sure they’re as transparent as possible around the use of our data.”
As we face the year ahead, these issues will continue to be challenges as we work to better serve the disparate needs of patients and stakeholders. As we come together to make care more affordable and accessible to more people, it is exciting to see the new partnerships, policies and solutions develop to take healthcare – in all its forms – to the next level.
Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.
W2O recently hosted our second annual, Marketing Science Summit. The purpose of this event is fairly straightforward: to create a space for pioneers in the market research, social analytics and digital marketing fields to share the latest trends in marketing science, with a focus on the healthcare and tech industries.
From leveraging to data to the evolution of AI, there were plenty of key learnings from this year’s summit. I summed up the five that stood out to me below.
1. In healthcare, we’re dealing with data that isn’t really clean, nor does it connect easily.
Liz DeMatteis, Chief Marketing Officer, Aetion made a great point about this notion. She highlighted that the quest should not be perfect data, but rather the perfect understanding of the imperfections of the data. Imperfect data can still be used to fuel effective decision making
2. There have been significant advancements in Artificial Intelligence over the past decade.
From robotics to voice recognition, AI has continued to rapidly develop according to Tom Mitchell, E. Fredkin University Professor of Machine Learning and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. What we always wonder about is whether or not those advancements will slow? The reality is that the advancements in machine learning and AI are only going to accelerate the continued innovation in these areas.
3. Digital data can be used effectively to understand physician behaviors.
We can all agree that digital and social information serves as a really effective data source. However, in order to truly understand physician behavior, we need to triangulate multiple data sources. Audun Utengen, Chief Executive Officer of Symplur noted, it’s important that we don’t overly rely on a single source of data when we’re making decisions.
4. Usage and data collection is still in its infancy.
We still have varying stages of maturity with data, the data doesn’t always connect very easily. Additionally, we consistently are getting more and more data, there are new decisions that can be made with the data, there is new legislation and other key factors. Once we solve one potential issue another pops up, so it’s important we work together to solve these challenges.
We at W2O talk a lot about following the data to get to the point. While we advocate and practice for data driven creativity, one point that’s worth accentuating is that data is a guide, it isn’t a vice. Thank you Ellen Gerstein, Director of Digital Content, Pfizer and Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management of Otsuka, for highlighting that point.
That’s a wrap for the 2019 Marketing Science Summit! Thank you to our speakers and attendees for making this event a success, we look forward to seeing you next year.
If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.
For those that haven’t heard about HLTH, a 6,000 person conference that promises to “Create Health’s Future,” it feels a little like if SXSW, ASCO and HIMSS decided to have a baby. The innovative event does a good job of mixing large, well-established companies like Optum, Aetna, CVS Health, Amazon, Walmart, Pfizer, Lyft and many more with hundreds of players from the digital health/startup ecosystem. HLTH also features numerous media outlets, government officials, academics and even celebrity billionaires like Mark Cuban.
What’s important about this two year old event founded by CEO and Chairman, Jonathan Weiner (he also founded well known global events, Money20/20 and Shoptalk) is that it combines companies that are well established players in health with those who are laying the foundation for a new future. For at least now, the event boasts a thousand CEOs (many are from the startup world), which obviously helps bringing a number of important players in the healthcare space to the event.
While I didn’t get to attend all the sessions, I was able to get enough of a taste of the content to see some key trends emerge.
1. Data is more critical to healthcare now than ever.
This may sound like the biggest “no duh” ever but what I found exciting is that a lot of the right people are starting to pay close attention to it. This includes the FDA, large pharma companies like Pfizer, Google (shocker), 23andMe, Walmart and numerous payer/providers.
Clearly the head of Google Health, David Feinberg, struck a chord with his quote about putting a search bar on top of electronic health records (my tweet capturing his sentiment garnered 17 retweets and 60 likes as of this writing). One of the bigger surprises to me was Principal Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, Amy Abernethy, announcing that the FDA would soon be ingesting data via an API versus PDF forms during a fireside chat with healthcare reporter, Chrissy Farr of CNBC. This is a far cry better than faxes that were once the medium of choice but hard to believe that the government is just getting to this point now in 2019.
Head of Google Health, David Feinberg, says, “Imagine a search bar on top of your EHR and it has the same power of search that Google does.” Now that would be powerful! #hlth2019
2. Healthcare outsiders have an opportunity to fix healthcare.
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks (NBA) and celebrity judge on the television show, Shark Tank, has put together a plan on how to fix healthcare. During a highly entertaining, expletive-filled conversation with former head of Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA under Obama, Andy Slavitt, Cuban exclaimed, “Right now, healthcare is so politically charged that people aren’t trying to solve problems. They’re not even trying to identify problems. They’re trying to sell what’s most politically expedient for them.” I suggest reading FierceHealthcare’s full writeup of the session here. What struck me most about this conversation is that when people like Cuban, Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg/Priscilla Chan take on a cause, things get done. I don’t know as though Cuban will solve our healthcare issues anytime soon but he’s not afraid to look at bold approaches.
3. Voice technology is going to big in health.
During one of the sessions featuring Rasu Shrestha, Chief Strategy Officer of Atrium Health, Missy Krasner, Strategic Head of Partnerships, Alexa Health & Wellness at Amazon, and Jennifer Schneider, President of Livongo, spoke about how healthcare companies are starting to create HIPAA compliant “Skills” which are like apps for Amazon’s voice controlled device, Alexa. Even though this technology is still in its infancy stage, allowing older patients to re-order prescriptions, call a Lyft/Uber to take them to an appointment, remind them to take their pills/test blood sugar levels, eat healthier, etc. will be a game changer over time. The healthcare companies that figure out how to meaningfully play in this space will be winners in the long run.
4. There are A LOT of digital health startups.
Walking through the expo floor, there were literally hundreds of companies there looking to make an impression. They ran the full gamut of wellness, AI, virtual reality, data, chatbots, etc. Sadly, many will not survive to see HLTH 2020 but this is a hot space so if you are an entrepreneur, this is a great time to focus on health.
Bringing this point home, 23andMe CEO, Anne Wojcicki, astutely noted during her featured session that “scale is critical” when it comes to the digital health space. She noted that over the last 11 years, 23andMe had amassed over 10 million customers with over 80% opting into their research panel.
5. Retailers want to bring health closer to the patient.
Head of health and wellness transformation at Walmart, Marcus Osborne, did a virtual walk through of one of their new clinics in Georgia showing all of the services customers could access. Given that Walmart is putting many of their clinics in Superstores which stay open 24/7, access to affordable healthcare is about to get a lot closer and easier. Other companies like CVS Health, Walgreens and even BestBuy are taking similar approaches to offering healthcare in store or in the latter case, creating a “Geek Squad” like offering where they could deliver services right to a patient’s doorstep.
There are at least a dozen other key themes I’ve missed in this recap but these were some of the most critical observations from the conference. To see more of the action, check out the HLTH2019 hashtag (I am proud to admit that I made it into the top 75 Twitter contributors at the event according to Symplur).
If you work in healthcare, my advice is to plan to attend HTLH 2020. It’s a great event and is only going to get better.
Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.
If you were to ask a marketer or a communicator today to define their role you might likely hear one or all of the following responses:
My job is to protect the reputation of the company.
The primary function of marketing and communications is to build the brand
It is very important that we focus marketing and communications on generating sales
It’s all digital. So, we must conflate several roles when it comes to translating data into insight to better connect with customers
Obviously, there are several variations within each of those statements, but if we were to simplify it even further the traditional role of marketing and communications is to protect the reputation of the company, build the brand and grow the business. This has been the case for decades, even as the number of channels they use in order to do those three things has proliferated at an incredible rate of speed.
But that was yesterday. In 2019, the world is officially digital. Customers and employees direct the relationship. As such, reputation, while important, is no longer the measure of organizational sustainability.
One of the reasons is that channels have grown exponentially. It is not hyperbole to say that digital media (in all formats) has fundamentally changed how we reach our customers. Not only that, it has fundamentally disrupted business model after business model. In the last 15 years, 52% of companies listed on the S&P 500 have disappeared. It is predicted that, by 2027, 75% of those companies currently listed will also disappear. One would imagine the companies that have disappeared had marketers and communicators focusing on protecting reputation, building the business and the brand, right?
So, if that’s the case, why are they no longer in business?
It’s our perspective that in a social/digital world companies that are not connecting or engaging with customers, consumers, employees meaning they lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. As digital consumers, which is almost all of us these days, we know we are constantly bombarded with content from all sorts of companies. Keeping track of it all is next to impossible, unless what those companies are delivering to you is relevant to your interests. The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear.
As part of this year’s Chicago Ideas Week, we wanted to further explore this concept with two companies, Horizon Therapeutics and Walgreens, that excelled in driving relevancy with its key stakeholders. Representing these two companies were Kelly Rothschild Jansen, Director of Corporate Communications & Content Strategy for Horizon, and Suzanne Barston, Director of Digital Communications and Corporate Storytelling for Walgreens. During the session, both shared their perspectives on how each of their organizations is driving relevancy and gave tangible tips for other companies who may be just starting their relevance journey.
While it’s always difficult to distill a 60-minute presentation down to a few takeaways, there were three key themes from Suzanne and Kelly that bubbled to the surface:
Suzanne’s Key Takeaways:
In order to be relevant to key stakeholders, organizations need to let of the things that could go wrong. If you are waiting for the perfect moment, you are likely missing an opportunity to test and learn what your stakeholders find relevant.
Driving relevancy is about understanding the data, specifically understanding what your organization is putting out into the market versus what your stakeholders want to hear.
For companies that are looking to be more relevant, it’s about identifying the intersection between reputation and relevance.
Kelly’s Key Takeaways:
When we think about driving corporate relevancy, the critical things that matter are authenticity, connection and storytelling.
Organizations need to be thinking about relevance as a journey. Things like creative, bold and compelling storytelling take time to develop.
If there were one key to driving to driving relevance it would be telling stories.
Walgreens and Horizon are two organizations that really understand what it takes to be relevant. If your organization is just starting its relevance journey, you would be well-served to connect with Kelly and Suzanne to get their tips!
As the ‘first W2O employee on the ground’ in our Zurich office, it is my pleasure to bring you up to speed with recent developments here.
The workplace opened this year, so it was important that we made our mark on the city.
To this end, in September 2019, we held our inaugural W2O EMEA Marketing Science Summit, which successfully brought together 40 of the brightest minds across science, marketing, and communications to discuss using data to market products and ideas.
My Journey to Zurich
But first, let me tell you about the route that brought me back to my country of origin. I was born in Geneva and educated in different European countries. An internship with the World Health Organization (WHO) nurtured my interest in healthcare. I started at W2O in New York then did a short-term rotation in London. Both were stepping stones to my return to Switzerland and specifically the amazing city of fondue and Toblerone – ZURICH!
With Switzerland as the global hub for many international pharma/biotech companies, it was important to establish a base close to our clients. The recruitment of Fenna Gloggner, a Senior Group Director in the Insights and Analytics practice, whose experience lies in Swiss pharma, will strengthen W2O’s links.
My Chat with Fenna Gloggner
What is your background?
Fenna: My academic background is in politics and economics, but my career has taken me firmly into the pharmaceutical world. I moved from my native Germany to the UK to attend university and became a trainee market researcher at GfK Health in London. After a few years learning the ropes, I made another move across the continent to Switzerland into a client-side role at Novartis in Basel.
At Novartis, I worked in various roles in global commercial insights, including primary market research, business analytics, forecasting, and competitive intelligence. A lot of my work was in cardiology and cardiovascular health, and I am still fascinated by the miracle that is the human heart.
After 10 great years at Novartis, I felt like a change of pace, so I moved to one of my former partner agencies, HRW, into a business development role. HRW is a pharmaceutical market research agency with some very innovative solutions in qualitative research and behavioural science, so the move also gave me an opportunity to refresh my primary market research skills. I also developed a passion for behavioural science and how it can enhance product or communication strategies.
It was about a year ago that I first heard about W2O when I got chatting to Laura Mucha (W2O Managing Director Analytics) after a conference. We stayed in touch, and with every conversation there seemed to be more points of connection, so I am excited to be joining the company now.
What are you hoping to bring to W2O and in particular the Swiss office?
Fenna: I’ve been very impressed by what I learned about W2O’s digital analytics offering – a lot of things that I wish I had had access to when I was working industry-side! I think there will be a real opportunity to complement this with my experience in primary insights. My work in the past has always been at a global level, so hopefully that will be a good fit, especially for the EMEA team.
Another thing I will be able to bring to W2O is my industry experience. In addition to working client-side for the majority of my career, I recently completed an MBA in Pharma Business Administration. Studying part-time alongside a full-time agency job was an intense but very rewarding experience. I learned a lot and was able to connect a lot of dots – the programme covered everything from strategic management, finance, and pharma law to development, marketing and markets access and pharmacovigilance. A lot of things that were always a bit vague to me in terms of how the various pharma functions connect – especially outside of the commercial setting – are a lot clearer to me now. I look forward to sharing what I know and learned with anyone who doesn’t yet feel fully up to speed with what is going on inside pharma.
Finally, it will be great to have a real presence on the ground for our Swiss clients: With the office in Zurich and me working from Basel for part of the week, we will be able to have a lot of meetings face to face instead of remotely, which obviously helps with building strong relationships. For most of the local Basel clients, I can be at their offices in under 30 minutes – something that they (and I) have certainly made use of in the past…
Nina: What is your connection to Switzerland?
Fenna: A very personal one: My husband and children are Swiss, and I am a proud naturalised Swiss citizen. I have a large and wonderful Swiss extended family and we like to spend time out in nature: hiking in summer; skiing in winter. Switzerland is a beautiful country and offers a great quality of life – I still feel privileged to be able live here and hope many of our colleagues will come to Zurich to work with us and experience Switzerland for themselves.
We’re looking forward to developing our Swiss office and continuing to host the annual summit in Switzerland.
This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best and brightest minds instructing them. One of bright those minds includes Hemant Shah, Director, School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In his interview below, he discusses the importance of bringing industry, agencies, and academia together, and outlines how journalism has evolved over the past 30 years.
You’ve served as the director of the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison for five years. Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment?
Hemant: I emphasize that Journalism and Mass Communication is liberal arts degree, so that while we provide solid training in communication fundamentals we insist that students also develop their skills in critical thinking, careful data analysis, and innovative problem solving all with attention to ethical communication practice.
According to your bio, you joined the school’s faculty back in 1990. What changes in journalism have you seen over the last 30 years?
Hemant: Journalism today is a multi-platform, multi-media, around-the-clock enterprise these days, whether you are a print, television or strictly online venue. Not all news outlets have adapted to the new fast-paced journalism world with its changed economic model emphasizing clicks and online ads. But at its core, journalism at its best still is about reporting facts, holding the powerful accountable and revealing the truth.
Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.
Hemant: Students get a glimpse at the “real world” of agency work in the health comm arena. Faculty who are doing cutting edge health communication work will see potential for application of their work. You will get to meet our incredible students.
This week we’re kicking off W2O Days at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (#UW2O)! Modeled after the success of our Syracuse University Social Commerce Days, this inaugural two-day event is focused on educating students about healthcare marketing and communications by connecting them with industry leaders and having some the best minds teach them . One of those minds includes Debra Pierce, Faculty Associate, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the Q&A below, she discusses her method for teaching journalism and mass communications, shares the one skill students need to have, and shares why she’s excited for #UW2O. Check out her interview.
You’ve been an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (aka the J-School) for quite some time. Tell us about your approach to teaching journalism and mass communication in today’s environment.
Debra: I take a professional, hands on approach in the classroom. Students are put into agency teams, where they work together to solve real life business challenges from real clients. My hands on approach includes studying recent industry case examples and the latest trends in communications. I think this professional approach has paid off for our students upon graduation; employers tell us that our students are ready to hit the ground running and make real contributions to their businesses, right out of the gates.
As someone who has worked in agencies and in-house you’ve been on the front lines of many changes in the industry. What do you think is the biggest change that you’re trying to share with your students?
Debra: AI has already had such a large impact on the communications industry, and it is going to continue to evolve. We study and discuss how AI has helped communications so far, and how we can positively augment it going forward.
What do you think is the most important skill students need coming out of school today?
Debra: I think employers are seeking candidates who can multi-task across a wide variety of forms of communication. Multi-tasking requires being able to work on multiple projects at once and learning how to prioritize – and how to manage upwards regarding time constraints, if needed. As to the forms of communication, being able to effectively tell a story that provides a humanizing touch is important – and students need to so that across a wide variety of media – social, web, video, long form, etc.
Talk about the importance of joint programs that bring industry, and agencies like ours, and academia together.
Debra: It’s a win-win-win, really. Our students benefit because they can learn from the best in the industry, while W20 can get exposed to the next generation of communicators from a globally recognized program like ours. Our faculty are some of the top health communication researchers in the field, as well; they get the opportunity to showcase their research, and understand how their research can best be applied to the industry.
What are you looking forward to most about this week?
Debra: I can’t wait to see the excitement percolate throughout the department – it’s going to be contagious! We have several events set up where the W20 team and our students will be getting together – interviews, presentations, and networking, for example. Our students are thrilled to learn from some of the best in the industry!
Ready or not, here it comes. The transformative potential of data and marketing science has reached the healthcare industry and – according to what we learnt at our EMEA Marketing Science Summit in Zurich last Wednesday – we’d better shape up.
“Digital integration is the number one priority in healthcare,” came the resounding pronouncement from our keynote speaker, Dr Jamil El-Imad, Chief Scientist at NeuroPro.ch. It’s a sentiment that we certainly believe in.
So, in that light, what can take away from our 2019 Summit? Here are five key learnings.
Connecting the Data Dots
Yes, data sources in the healthcare industry are siloed even within organizations, but that shouldn’t limit what you can achieve. Take these two innovative examples discussed at the event:
The trailblazing Swiss Brain Data Bank (SBDB) is accelerating scientific progress by enabling researchers to collaborate across digital databanks to improve diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders.
VirtaMed is transforming medical education with ‘flight simulators’ for surgeons. These simulators allow surgeons to train in a controlled, virtual environment and receive data-evidenced performance feedback.
Measure Selectively and Manage Expectations
With so much data, it’s tempting to ‘measure everything’. But this can be hugely counterproductive: it’s best to focus on actions and outcomes. Take these learnings from sport, for instance. Mo Wootten, a Sport Intelligence Analyst at UK Sports, discussed what they found from collecting sleep data. Not only was it not always useful to athletes, who already know if they don’t sleep as well before a major competition, but for some people it can be detrimental and a source of anxiety.
Jörg Corsten, Digital Medical Engagement Principal at Roche, warned against exaggerated expectations of AI and machine learning, reminding us that “we don’t have a general AI –nowhere we can just put in all the data and out comes the right answer.” Put another way, AI today resembles Siri – good at solving task-based problems – rather than HAL, the sentient AI from 2001: Space Odyssey.
Acknowledge Your Bias
Our experiences and beliefs create unconscious biases, which, in turn, shape the way we see the world. We need to remain alert to potential bias in our datasets: metrics, tools and algorithms are created by people, so are vulnerable to the same foibles and biases that affect us.
Mo Wootten shared an example from the US criminal justice system, which integrates data models to predict the likelihood of re-offending. Tellingly, the algorithms used were shown to be racially biased.
The (big) data we have access to today can help us mitigate both problems: by triangulating from different data sources and perspectives – and consciously acknowledging our own cognitive biases – we can arrive at powerful insights.
Blend Data and Storytelling – but Keep it Simple
Data-driven storytelling has the power to cut through information overload. Underpinning our stories with the right data creates relevance, but it is no easy feat. As Sam Knowles, Founder and Managing Director of Insight Agents, put it: “meaningfully bringing together the fire-and-ice worlds of storytelling, data and science is an art form.”
During the summit, Knowles shared his rules for compelling, data-driven storytelling as outlined in his book Narrative by Numbers. He highlighted that it is the combination of narrative skill and intelligent interrogation of data sources that creates real impact and, ultimately, influence.
So how do we do this? By keeping our story simple, being selective with our data and tapping into emotion.
Get Ready for What’s Next
Digital data is increasingly fundamental to healthcare decision-making. In medical training, for instance, some European countries already embed digital performance data generated by virtual practical tests into certification and continuous education.
But not everyone is ready to embrace our data-rich environment. For some, the integration of real-world data helps to optimise healthcare (e.g. in disease registries) but others perceive it as challenging ‘clean’ (and controllable) clinical trial data.
Data privacy is not going to go away. Leaders in our field will be those who see the upside, rather than the challenge. There is an opportunity cost of doing nothing and falling behind.
Thinking this way, we may then find there are digital solutions already doing things that seem at first impossible, like reading facial expressions without compromising anonymity and data protection. This kind of solution already exists: it is used by the SBDB to conform with data privacy legislation while enabling ground-breaking, collaborative research at scale.
The 2019 Zurich Summit illustrated that it will take creativity and courage to make the most of our data-rich environment. It is when human brains and digital data connect to tell meaningful stories that strategy-changing insights can be unlocked. As one speaker noted, “data is a servant to decision-making, it should never be the master”.