Who would’ve thought that ‘herd immunity’, ‘mRNA’ and ‘Pfizer’ would become part of our everyday vocabulary? One of the many impacts of the pandemic is how it’s brought life sciences into the spotlight. Investment in the industry is booming – in the UK alone, British life sciences companies were involved with £11 billion of corporate investment – and this trend is only going to continue.
Digital transformation has played a central role in this success. Advanced analytics, machine learning, AI and cloud computing have helped unlock new insights, but this has also added an additional layer of complexity to an already deeply technical industry.
How can communications teams pivot in response? And what lies ahead for the life sciences industry that might shape our approach to communications this year?
We spoke to industry media, scientists, comms professionals and investors and here’s what we found.
The digital transformation of life sciences is increasing the complexity of our storytelling
Life sciences stories often involve more detail than can be easily digested. How do we create the ‘so what’ factor when we’re talking about synthetic control arms or AI-powered diagnostics? With technology coming ever closer to the consumer, having a powerful yet simple core narrative that contextualises the topic will help us increase understanding and acceptance of these new technologies.
As Jacqueline Fok, former Investment Manager for Life Sciences at IP Group, puts it: “… patients really have to understand and trust the product they are using… brands [must be] really clear at communicating their proposition, despite being deeply technical when you peel away the layers.”
Comms professionals need to be able to find the balance between ensuring their messaging is accessible but without oversimplifying. Being able to show rather than tell technical or data-led stories through customers and proof points can demonstrate how in practice these technologies can benefit a wider society while ensuring they remain relevant to their audiences.
Focus on purpose
Such a public focus on the industry brings the question of purpose to the fore. Communications programmes need to focus as much on the ‘why’ you exist as the ‘what’ you do and ‘how’ you do it. Purpose makes a business relevant to the wider world and helps place it in context in a crowded field.
Communications leads need to ensure programmes build trust and inspire their audiences as a core part of solidifying their purpose. In fact, Julian Upton, Editor at Pharma Executive, believes that “being able to tell CSR stories which go beyond technical and product development will be critical as we start to move out of the Covid era, to continue driving a more positive reputation for the industry.”
Staying relevant in the post Covid era
Maintaining the industry’s momentum long term will be the new challenge for life sciences. As Gary Sharman, Senior Scientific Director at Mestrelab, explains: “The speed at which we developed a vaccine has shown just how extraordinary life sciences is today. But there is a concern that people might take this for granted and expect this kind of speed of breakthrough across all areas of science.”
From a comms perspective, addressing the challenges that have become apparent during the pandemic, and presenting solutions to those, will be key. But taking time to reflect on the value of the technologies that have been adopted during the pandemic and demonstrating their impact with real-world examples will be equally important.
Attitudes to risk are shifting
Industries that might have spent many decades on iterative progress now seem more willing to stretch for accelerated change, even if that means taking more risk. Whether that’s embracing a new platform to run digital clinical trials or accepting the use of pre-prints as a mechanism for demonstrating progress. Those engaging with life sciences organisations need to recognise that the sector is on the cusp of an acceleration in digital transformation and shift the way they engage with stakeholders if they want to play a part in this transition.
It’s more important than ever that communications programmes continue to influence every stage of the purchasing funnel – creating strategies, messaging, content, campaigns, marketing collateral and beyond to support customers along their journey. Leveraging expert insights will help elevate thought leadership and engage with senior decision makers, while using the customer voice will be critical in providing third party validation.
These trends demonstrate that life sciences is fast accelerating and while challenging, they provide a fantastic opportunity for companies in this sector. But to maintain momentum and succeed beyond that, it’s vital that brands review their communications strategies to tell better stories for bigger impact.
Read the full report here: Recharging Life Science Tech Communications in the Covid Era
If you would like to get in touch to discuss how we can help support your communications programme this year, please reach out to [email protected]