I recently watched a popular TV science program which talked about how five times the Earth has experienced periods when a huge number of extinctions occur. Some scientists argue that we are in such a moment right now. But on each occasion new life has emerged and flourished.
In the world of pharmaceutical communications we see the same. Long gone are the days of bringing doctors on expensive trips to glamorous locations. The idea of ghost writing scientific papers for authors is unacceptable today. I say good riddance to these types of behaviors. The role of the sales rep model has changed and will continue to.
So what will be the next great extinction event in pharmaceutical communications? Will face-to-face medical meetings be replaced by virtual meetings? The technology has been available for a while, but there are still many face-to-face meetings. Will new social media networks replace those we are familiar with now? The demise of the newspaper has been predicted a number of times – first when radio was introduced, then when TV emerged and again lately. But recent political events in the US have seen greater interest in media and newspapers.
The reality is that some things will remain consistent while new approaches will emerge. People will always have a desire to learn, to find out information and to distill it. At the same time there is a fundamental desire to communicate. And for those who are seeking to bring about change, there is a need to educate. Virtual meetings provide new opportunities but the personal connection that comes from meeting somebody face-to-face cannot be fully replicated.
The task for agencies is keeping abreast of these shifts and embracing new trends as they emerge, but also providing clients with the right blend of traditional and novel approaches. It’s about embracing new concepts, while maintaining elements of the tried and trusted.
Strategies need to reflect the different ways in which people want to learn or receive information. Frequently the right approach will involve integrating a number of different approaches to education and communications. Above all, consistency of message is critical.
The pharmaceutical sector has undergone huge change and greater regulation, but is far stronger for it. Standards are higher, communications transparent and, as a result, information coming from pharmaceutical companies is now more credible. There are still reputational issues, but the evolution of pharmaceutical marketing and health education in recent years will only have made the industry stronger at a time when it is only likely to come under more scrutiny.
Written by Ralph Sutton, International Managing Partner
AXON, sister company of NATIONAL Public Relations