By Susan Walkley, Managing Partner, Havas Life Medicom
It’s one year on from the escalation of Covid19 and our first taste of lockdown. For those of us who have spent our careers in the pharmaceutical industry, the prospect of a devastating pandemic on a world-wide scale was a real possibility with some commentators predicting it was long over-due. However, no one – expect perhaps Hollywood storytellers – could foresee the impact of Covid and the way it would transform the fabric of our lives.
And who would have ever predicted that pharma, often afflicted with an underwhelming reputation, could forge an almost hero-like status when the world needed it most. A world where online chatter about the Kardashians has been eclipsed by infection rate data, the R-number and the drug regulatory process.
The tragic loss of life, the massive-scale impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing, and the far-reaching economic consequences has led us all to take stock. Oft quoted and mis quoted, Albert Einstein is purported to have said “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. When we emerge on the other side, our world will no doubt be a very different place – with, let’s hope, a more intelligent appreciation for human life and wellbeing, a change in how we judge and value others, and maybe even renewed efforts to tackle the health of our planet. A world where advocating human purpose is more important than ever before.
In Mackenzi Lee’s best-selling novel, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats & Piracy, she writes, “it is not failure to readjust my sails to fit the waters I find myself in”. To seamlessly adapt, in other words, underpins success. The world has, metaphorically speaking, shifted on its axis, and as we start to regain our footing, it is clear that there are many lessons to learn – not least about the way we do business, work together and connect with each other.
Along with this changed outlook, the paradox remains. Pharma is expected to continue its investment in drug discovery, innovative digital medicine, and personalized solutions, yet also be accountable for sustainable healthcare. The need for agility is centre stage as the industry adopts new ways to connect and compete in our tech-propelled, cost-conscious world.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst to accelerate a digital or omni-channel approach that demands authentic engagement with physicians, payers, patients, and public stakeholders. Intense exposure to health-related information on our air-waves is likely to accelerate the rise of the ‘expert patient’ with more people demanding responsibility for their own health. Equally, we can expect to see more PharmaCo CEOs invited to the speaker circuit to satisfy a widening interest in the industry, and maybe even a softening of media criticism.
In order to stay relevant, the role of Communications must stay one step ahead but never forget the fundamental principles behind our discipline – to inform and connect with purpose.
In his Brief History of Humankind, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari argues that people have long made sense of the world and cooperated with each other through the stories they “invent and tell one another”. It’s a universal truth that people crave storytelling – and the stories of hope and despair that have emerged over the last year are proof of that.
Today we may all ‘info-snack’ to filter out peripheral noise, yet we encode what’s relevant to memory by following what is meaningful and by seeking experiences that provoke our interest. Now more than ever before, effective communication, inhabits a fast-moving, increasingly virtual world where the lines between different channels and geographies are well and truly blurred. To grab attention in this ecosystem, we need to provide rich content that lands engaging experiences connected across a blend of touchpoints.
What does this mean for healthcare agencies likes ours? Havas Life Medicom has always subscribed to the view that creating standout relies on strategically aligning Promotion, Medical Education and PR across the product lifecycle. This gives us the experience, the insights and the scale to move the needle and add the greatest value across global campaigns, as well as on UK-centric projects.
Our connected approach is intrepid in the way it enables smart thinking, agile working and an enterprising mind-set.
More than our ability to rapidly flex to the needs of our client partners, it is our people who set our agency apart. Our 360-view point ensures everything that could challenge or benefit our clients is within our sights and we have a natural instinct for what the future could bring. But HLM excels at effective communications because we draw our talent from a spectrum of different professions. Our teams are led by people with long-standing experience in the communication, creative and pharmaceutical industries and are supported by PRs, journalists, designers, film-makers, digital architects, medics, scientists, and project multi-taskers.
We used to say, before Covid became our new reality, that our unified approach meant being able to provide the whole package under one roof. Now that we are working remotely under hundreds of roofs, we have found new ways to harness ideas and innovation from across our network. It has meant working more closely together than ever before with both colleagues and clients from the United States to Korea, from Australia to Switzerland, Singapore to Brazil – and everywhere in between. And it has led to a more tight-knit and productive way to collaborate.
So a big shout out to the Prime Meridian and the Universal Day, which quite literally places our time-zone in the centre of the world. And a big shout out to Teams and Zoom. Maybe remote-working alongside our children, cats, dogs and goldfish has some merits after all. Just maybe.