At Porterhouse Medical Group, we work with clients across the globe to generate powerful, insight-led healthcare communications that address unmet health needs and drive positive change in people’s lives.
We have long prided ourselves on the high standard of our communications and our team of medical and scientific experts who produce compelling content to maximise the impact of our clients’ brands.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge changes to the ways in which we engage with one another in healthcare communications, with much interaction now taking place online. Research also shows that most healthcare professionals (HCPs) now search for information online, rather than waiting for information from their suppliers. .
Face-to-face conferences and educational meetings have been replaced with virtual events and online meetings, while the future promises a hybrid combination of face-to-face and digital activity.
Reaching the target audience
The pandemic has required marketers to be agile and innovative to actively reach their target audiences. This is where an effective digital strategy becomes all important, as there is little point in having compelling and informative content – whether as part of an educational event or on an educational platform/website – if it doesn’t reach the correct audience.
Communications specialists need to know where the target audience go to interact with their industry peers online and how they source their information. Communications specialists should also take advantage of the developments in digital technology, which allow for highly targeted messaging and focused, direct channels of communication, whether sponsored or organic.
Jessica Sale, MBChB, of the Porterhouse Medical Advisory Group (MAG) commented, “I used a lot of apps on the wards as they are easy to access and often easier to navigate. This depends on what information you are looking for as apps aren’t available for everything, but when available, they were something I found I used a lot.”
Content challenges – cutting through the noise
The move towards more digital interaction means that the online environment is busier than ever, and posts are fast moving so can easily be missed. It is therefore imperative that content is eye-catching and well timed to get noticed. Catchy snippets of text, vox pops, animations and engaging visuals are all popular tools to draw attention. Data can also be visualised with infographics, video abstracts and other innovative formats to make it easier to digest.
The information also needs to be easy to find. Using the search terms and keywords that the HCP is likely to use will increase the likelihood of the information being found more quickly and enhance engagement; social listening tools are helpful to identify the search terms that HCPs are using. Additionally, the use of three or four relevant hashtags will make the content easier to find.
Additionally, information needs to be easy to navigate. If posting content on a website, it would be beneficial to have a search function or chat facility to avoid the user having to wade a lot of information or time-consuming lists of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Adding value, not volume
HCPs have always needed meaningful content, for example, new data from trials, new approaches to patient treatment and the latest guidelines. However, increasingly time-poor HCPs are less likely to wade through reams of data and information. Instead, they want bite-sized chunks of concise and up-to-date information that is evidence-based and easy to digest.
Additionally, the move away from face-to-face interactions also means that it is much easier to lose a target audience, as they have not had to commit to travelling or attending a face-to-face meeting to access information. This applies to webinars and virtual events; the high volume of digital content has resulted in virtual fatigue among audiences, and it is far easier for them to disengage and forget to return in a remote environment than a face-to-face one.
Jessica, also added; “Virtual events are easier to attend but agree that networking and learning from peers is valued very highly and will definitely have an impact on attendance. I’ve found that I’ve often seen HCPs joining conferences from work but there are clearly far more distractions and I think people get fatigued a lot faster.”
It is therefore imperative to keep content fresh and engaging using interactive technologies and workshop formats, rather than providing a monologue of information.
We are often asked for last-minute campaigns, which as a result don’t allow sufficient time to build a following to raise awareness of the event or are too close to deadlines. Even if an event is virtual, if HCPs are informed last minute, work demands can make attendance difficult, diminishing the reach and success of the event.
Engagement – measuring return on investment
Whether face-to-face or virtual, it can be difficult to gauge the effectiveness of meetings and events. The advances in digital technology now allow for a far more sophisticated collection of engagement metrics, allowing us to measure what works and what doesn’t. An example is the effective Porterhouse Behaviour Promoter Score (BPS) – an evidence‑based tool designed to measure the impact of educational interventions and/or communication programmes on the behaviour of the target audience.
Going forward – a hybrid blend of the digital and physical
Although lockdown has seen an impressive adoption of digital marketing techniques to reach target audiences, generally humans by nature are social beings. Medical meetings and conferences have always been excellent opportunities to network and exchange information with industry peers, and going forward this is unlikely to change. Whether for business development reasons or for the sharing of information, personal contact is important. So, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic and restrictions continue to ease, there will be great opportunities to maximise the reach and impact of events by blending innovative digital technologies with face-to-face meetings, enabling people to interact, learn and exchange high-quality content in person once again.
To conclude, whatever the environment – virtual, face-to-face or a hybrid blend of the two – high-quality, digestible content will always be key, but the need for this to go hand in hand with an effective digital strategy is equally important.