Tag Archives: Healthcare communications

Ideas

Creativity, More Important Than Ever by David Hunt

You can have a strong brand & commitment to fulfil it. You can have the necessary culture to respond in a real fashion. You can have a relevant, quality, dynamic content strategy. And most importantly, you can share a genuine ambition with your community. But you can still, and most likely will, fail in social media.

In a world that besieges individuals with content, news & entertainment across all manner of devices & channels, standing-out from the crowd is more important than ever. Pharma has spent so long wrestling with social, that when we finally do arrive, we expect that they will come. The world has not been waiting. The world is oblivious to our fraught self-interrogation. That is not to say, we can’t add significant value to our respective communities, it is just that we need to earn the right to be socially significant. Turning-up, standing on the periphery, is not enough.

In my opinion, you need an idea that grabs attention and acts as a catalyst for your social campaign. It requires insight into the community, imagination to be unique, the potential to be valuable & engaging, but it also requires appreciation of social dynamics. It is not an advert, but it is creative. It is an idea that drives participation & interaction, from incremental approval & shares, to endorsement & actions. It takes great talent, with great ideas to unlock the great social opportunity.

In South America we have seen the Colombian League Against Cancer “Cancer Tweets” campaign demonstrating the creative opportunity social media represents.

Great ideas that leverage the social opportunity are still the exception in healthcare. I’m excited to work with clients and colleagues with the imagination and bravery to seize the initiative and make a difference.

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Content is King, so they say…

Participate in something greater, by David Hunt

“Content is King” is a great expression; catchy, weighty, easy. It’s also misleading, absent of substance, and wrong on many levels. As of January 2014, the Internet has 861,379,0001 websites, or if you prefer Google has indexed 200 Terabytes of data2 which is just 0.004% of the total Internet. Either way, there is no shortage of content. There is however an appetite for relevant, topical, bespoke content delivered as part of an expert brand strategy – the social world requires brain not brawn.

Content is a form of advertisement, albeit positioned as a more sophisticated strategy. The objective remains to elicit an emotion that drives an action. However, despite this universal truth, the world has changed. It is more connected, more social, and ultimately more judgemental. It is no longer enough to tell stories; we need to craft a collaborative narrative. Being instant lacks longevity and durability. Producing content without emotion and relevance dilutes and devalues brands. Today, more than ever, the market requires insight, imagination and innovation. Our Havas colleagues in Australia produced what I consider to be the best social campaign in healthcare: The world’s most powerful arm.

Great agencies are more, not less, critical to the brand building process. So too is a genuine brand. We can no longer manufacture our image, we can no longer limit the format of our customer interactions, we are exposed, open, and unintentionally honest. A strong authentic brand personality is essential. It must represent the values of a business and be aligned to the personality of their customers. Fonts, colours and high-gloss photographs, pale-away versus behaviour and conduct. Social success today relies more than ever on the principles of brand development.

The scale of the Internet is infinite, standing out from the crowd is harder than ever, unless of course you join the crowd. Become more than just an isolated part. Participate in something greater. Unite your community through a shared ambition. Do more. Social success is inextricably linked to the power of the collective to make a difference; it requires more than a content production line.

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  1. http://www.techmadeeasy.co.uk/2014/01/18/many-websites-january-2014/
  2. http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/archive/2014/07/22/do-you-know-how-big-the-internet-really-is-infographic.aspx


Dr Nick Broughton is Medical Director of HAVAS LYNX Medical and has a strong interest in the ethics of business and compliance. Nick tries to explore the good and not so good in an industry he cares about. Below he writes about narrative education.

Narrative education: The power of storytelling, the importance of the individual and the start of a radical shift in pharma, by Dr Nick Broughton.

Telling stories

Telling stories

Boston 2013 and a bunch of agency types collect in a rather cramped and faintly dismal hotel function room for an afternoon of whatever it was the meeting agenda said. Into this arena of postprandial apathy steps Dr Rita Charon foremost exponent of narrative medicine and it appears she has forgotten her slides. Nothing appears on the screen behind her save for an artistic abstract featuring, as I recall, purple lines and black rectangles.

With nothing on the screen to stimulate the senses, a confused audience turns its attention to the quietly spoken senior gentlewoman occupying stage front. The lady is talking, clearly though not loudly, and with little, if anything, that could be described as so vigorous as a gesticulation. All I could think (given the piscatorial attention span of the average agency executive) was that I hoped the gags were good. There were no gags.

Dr Charon told stories. Individual patient stories recounted with depth of feeling and detail no one had witnessed before and, unexpectedly, the audience was rapt. These weren’t case studies as beloved by clinicians (49 year old man with three year history of x, had lab results y so I gave treatment z) or patient pictures (photo of healthy looking smiley person with something chronic and life-shortening) as beloved by the more naïve end of the pharma marketing community. These were stories that put disease, healthcare and treatment in their proper place within the context of individual human lives: narrative medicine.

The point here is that it is impossible to understand the impact of an illness on an individual without understanding the individual’s story. The effect on a person of being diagnosed as HIV positive is quite different depending on their marital status, their age, their culture and, most significantly, a myriad of factors particular to them.  This is the ‘data’ you need in order to act for that individual; this is the patient story. The art of the good doctor is to understand the narrative so as to be able to understand the disease and target therapy appropriately. Good medicine is narrative medicine, but narrative medicine is also, I would propose, good education. Dr Charon in describing the narrative of a patient with a rare disease indelibly imprinted the memory of its signs, symptoms, treatment and outcome in the memories of one hundred people who, up to that time, had lived in happy ignorance of any such disease.

Yes, stories are powerful but it’s really a bit glib to leave it at that. Storytelling, story appreciation and story learning are hard wired into our brains. We humans consume and repeat stories rapaciously all across our lives. From gossip down the pub, to jokes, to news stories we frankly can’t get enough. We absorb stories to the extent that we can completely suspend reality in pursuit of story enjoyment. When you turn on Coronation Street you (probably) know it’s not real, it’s being displayed on a flat screen for one thing, it’s shot in a studio, the actors appear in the papers, but none of this interferes with your appreciation of the story. It gets more bizarre still – theatre goers watching Shrek (the stage version naturally) rapidly forget their own presence when sat in rows in front of the acting ranks to absorb a story about an eight foot ogre. The truth of the story does not impact their appreciation or indeed their memory of it, and that latter fact is the crux of the medical educational opportunity that good storytelling represents.

The obvious opportunity in storytelling is to educate about disease, treatment and outcomes through the prism of individual patient stories as evidenced by Dr Charon. Good case studies told well on the congress stage can get part way there as they recount the triumphs and tragedies of a diagnostic conundrum, but they lack the medically irrelevant human details they need to make them good stories. Good storytelling needs that characterisation to make you care about the outcome and a good plot to surprise and dismay you along the way. Us humans like a structure to our stories, a set-up, a series of crunch points, a climax, a resolution. If you are Quentin Tarantino you might get away with mucking with plot structure but lesser mortals shouldn’t bother.

A good patient narrative, in effect an anecdote, is a Trojan horse for knowledge that our brains are unlikely ever to be suspicious of, but we must avoid confusion with anecdotal evidence. Patient stories should represent tested evidence and medical fact or give pertinent lessons on the unusual and be clearly labelled as such. This missive is not a plea for Daily Mail medicine.

Of course, such thoughts could be seen as a bit drippy in the hard EBM world we live in today; narrative education as I’m describing here is hardly mainstream. What’s wrong with explaining medical matters in blocks of prose with umpteen graphs and a slug of stats? What do you mean you can’t remember it? Thing is though, underneath all the bluster your top KOL/external expert/therapy area expert (the names vary – the gist is the same) is just the same story loving beast as the rest of us even where medicine is concerned. Telling the tale of your new medicine’s development, the characters, the failures, the blinding insights and the dumb mistakes can be an intriguing cocktail if told well. It has the useful spin off that for many a HCP it provides the first realisation that there are one or two steps for pharma before selling a drug.

Training on storytelling recently I got into in-depth discussion of whether storytelling could ever impact on that most sacred of objects, the clinical paper. Do they have to be quite so dull and unmemorable? I know we all (well ‘piscatorians’ at least) read the abstract and only carry on if there is something positive but it still seems like a wasted opportunity.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you wanted to pick up a clinical paper for the pleasure of reading the story within it rather than as a necessary drudge to find the interesting bits? More seriously, when reading clinical papers is such hard work is it any wonder we naturally ignore those that hold only negativity and non-significance. There are patient consequences to positive bias as our friend Dr. Goldacre has recently been explaining, but unlike him I suspect the issue is grounded more in human disinterest in the uninteresting than pharma malevolence.

The structure of a story, its characters and plot is one thing, but above all a story needs a storyteller. Stephen Fry I suspect could read a train timetable and keep us fixated. Harry Potter would have passed unnoticed into oblivion if his many exploits were described in an SOP. Execution is critical and herein pharma has created its own demons by spending too long supporting too many mediocre medical story-tellers to speak on its behalf.

Times are a changing and, I suggest, it’s about time. Pharma is equipping itself and its medical teams for a radical shift that will involve it speaking more for itself about the medicines it develops, the research it does, the lives it improves and (yes) the profits it makes. The shift is barely underway and will be painfully slow, but as we break ground let’s not forget the whole flaming point of what we do when we speak for ourselves – the patient and their story.

Technology is the means to an effect, it is the idea that counts.

Healthcare Digital Communications, by David Hunt

HAVAS LYNX celebrates 28 years of business this month, and a decade in healthcare digital communications – so what’s changed in the last decade?

Closed-loop marketing (CLM) has never been far from the agenda. Promising more efficient use of resource & more rewarding customer interactions. The ambition has barely changed, but unfortunately neither has the reality. There are some notable exceptions & I am very pleased with our work in this area, but it could & should be so much more. And it will be. The release of the iPad acted as a catalyst for an important shift in ownership from IT to Business. As a result, we are now driven by function & value, not constrained by fear & naivety. In 2014 merely embracing new hardware is not enough. In a world whereby the paper sales aid has become unique, and digital tools are omnipresent, points of differentiation must be earnt through innovation and ideas.

HAVAS LYNX Celebrates 28yrs

HAVAS LYNX Celebrates 28yrs

It would be hard to categorise the broader Pharma marketing community as innovators or early adopters. But as Facebook has celebrated its 10th birthday, I think we should recognise the progress made in social media. It has always been a hot topic of debate, but now we are starting to see more frequent, more tangible outputs. In addition there has been a noticeable increase in the social media briefs that we receive. The usual tone of caution has been replaced by one of courage, underpinned by a belief in ethics over our previous fascination with rules.

I believe in Pharma sponsored healthcare professional product websites, but I am definitely in the minority. The last decade had seen limited change, limited innovation and unsurprisingly limited success. However, poor execution & a lack of imagination should not render the tool redundant. If I’m looking for a car, I check the manufacturers website before validating the information in social media, the same is true for hotels, new trainers & my next laptop. I don’t discount the company’s website just because they are marketing to me, in the same way doctors don’t discount reps. It is true, the product website is not a silver bullet, but with renewed passion & a dramatic improvement in user experience, it can play an important role in integrated campaigns.

In 2004 I wasn’t addicted to my mobile. I didn’t use it for news, I didn’t ask it’s opinion on the new local restaurant & I didn’t use it to broadcast my opinions. The biggest change in the last decade is EVERYONES digital behaviour. It is absurd to think that healthcare professionals use digital for finance but not research, that they use digital to follow news but not medicine, that they connect offline but not online. Today, more than ever, we are not limited by our customer, but by our imagination. 

LYNX London; What is the ambition for an agency start-up?

Agency expansion, by David Hunt

Emergence of a great team? High profile account wins? Excellent financial performance? Awards? 18 months in and HAVAS LYNX London have ticked every box.

The team is spread over two locations. I’m sure management consultants would describe it  as on-shoring and outline the benefits in cost efficiencies. Being very smart, they would also talk about even greater savings with alternate locations – quality is not everyone’s priority. Quality is LYNX London’s number one priority. We describe it as an agency, a modern agency, defined by expertise and not geography. Combining the creative & digital pedigree of Manchester, with the strategic and scientific expertise of London. We know the benefit is a best-in-class service.

HAVAS LYNX London

HAVAS LYNX London

The teams don’t share an office, rarely take lunch & have entirely different accents, yet they are tight knit & getting closer, creative & getting bolder, innovative & getting smarter. At the heart of their success are the people. From junior developers in Manchester through to account directors in London, the team is blessed with intelligence and drive.

The team that a client sees is important, but so too are the experts behind the scenes. Last year HAVAS LYNX London collected a number of high profiles accounts, through their exceptional service and high quality product. The team front-of-house and the guys in the kitchen aligned to the needs of the client. And fiercely determined too.

But it would be wrong to say it has all been easy, it has not. They have to make every communication count, but in a world when meetings are often bloated & ineffective perhaps this represents another strength. The creative leads are not just across the office, but equally they have few disruptions and an atypical opportunity to focus. Cultures are more difficult to align, but more rewarding when they do. Maybe it is harder, evidence would suggest it’s certainly worth it.

Since 2009 and a record award haul of 6 wins at the PM Digital Awards, HAVAS LYNX have had unprecedented success at industry events. Before that first glorious night, I remember attending countless events without success. As the saying goes, good things come to those that wait. It is with a slight twinge of jealousy, that LYNX London only had to wait 12 months to win their first significant gong – Digital Campaign at the PM Society Awards. Entirely deserved.

But their greatest achievement? Every member of the team contributing to a culture of success. From the top to the bottom, from the Manchester-based studio to the account team of London, from ping-pong to pitches, they want to win every time (and so far do).

It sounds great, but how do you really know?

Merger; From the Inside, by David Hunt

Part II, Finer Details

You’ve found a partner, someone with shared values and ambitions, but what next? A huge number of deals never materialise, I’d speculate through anxiety, uncertainty, egos and inevitable complications. And that’s appropriate. Global groups want the best, and that can only be achieved with blood, sweat & tears. To be the best, you have to care.

Your agency is comfortable, reassuring, familiar. It’s successful, enjoyable, it is safe. “We can wait another twelve months!”, “We’re doing great on our own!!”, “It’s not the right time!!!” Anxiety and second thoughts are inevitable when  approaching a merger or acquisition. But as previously discussed on this blog, I believe to survive & succeed evolution is essential. We overcame our apprehension through complete internal alignment, one of our greatest strengths, and honest communication with Havas Health, one of theirs.

You fear seismic change when going through a merger. You’ve heard the scare stories, you know the risks. A creative imagination can fuel wild uncertainties. Fear of the unknown can be entirely debilitating. But your a great agency; decorated, profitable & happy. You know your people, you know your business, you know what works. You also also know your weaknesses. By identifying a true partner, their ambition will be improvement where & when it counts, not driving change for changes sake. It’s about evolving together, becoming stronger & better.

You have an ambition, and to realise it you’ve recognised the need for a partner. You respect the need for help. I think it is essential to maintain that respect throughout the process. If you are perfect, do not undertake a merger. If you recognise deficiencies at the outset remember them through the process, I’m sure being humble helps both parties.

I’ve worked for one agency. I intend to work for one network. I love my job & I have no desire to jump ship. As a Senior team I can only assume we are fairly unique in being entirely genuine regarding our long-term commitment. However, it is entirely right & appropriate to construct robust legal agreements, I understand a hand-shake is not enough. To complete a deal requires agreeing the finer details and addressing these complications – I’m sure it was easier having addressed everyone’s anxiety & uncertainty, and with egos left at the door. 

Part I, Initial engagement

Part III, Business as usual

Part IV, A year in & the lessons I learnt

HAVAS LYNX Named Havas Agency of the Year

Network life, by David Hunt

We joined the Havas network on the 31st May 2012. On the 22nd of January 2014 we were named Havas Agency of the year. This accolade is our single greatest award. Representing healthcare in a consumer world, competing with the likes of the brilliant BETC, Cake and One Green Bean, we have proven that pharmaceutical marketing can be just as exciting, just as creative and just as innovative as the B2C world. In fact, we have demonstrated that it can be better.

We joined Havas due to their passion, energy and creativity. They are the group behindEvian’s Roller Babies campaign (77 million views on YouTube) and the Baby & Me campaign (71 million views on YouTube). More recently, the team in Australia launched the Doug Pitt campaign and from Paris BETC launched ‘The Bear’ for Canal+.

Healthcare can often be seen as the ugly duckling of advertisement; stifling creativity in favour of science. I would argue that it simply raises the bar of the creative expertise required to succeed within the sector. I am not diminishing the talent required to make Aldi exciting, but it requires a different expertise, determination and creative confidence to succeed in healthcare communications.

There is a belief in media and communications that global networks buy all of the best talent and break them. There are a number of cases and stories within the industry of once amazing agencies losing their sparkle, independence and passion. This fear was echoed by a number of our clients when we announced our deal with Havas. Had our deal been purely based on financials we would have chosen a different partner. Had we not wanted to evolve the agency, and been happy to rest on our laurels, we would not have found a partner at all. As a senior team, we recognised the need to develop our offering, enhancing our global presence and bolstering our strategic offering, to complement our natural creativity and innovation. This award is a testament to Havas: making us stronger, not weaker; our service more agile, less bloated; our campaigns smarter, less fanciful.

Plane

It would be wrong to say that 2013 was easy. It was not. It was incredibly hard. In the first 6 months we had a number of tough projects, internal challenges and inevitable growing pains. The fact we turned things around and closed 2013 so strongly demonstrates the strength of character that runs from the bottom to the top of our agency, from strategy to delivery, from reception to board. It also fills us all with real confidence for 2014, as we look to build upon robust client partnerships, a responsive structure and exceptional people.

What next? HAVAS LYNX will continue to demonstrate that creativity and innovation in healthcare communications is defined by passion and ideas, not legislation and fear.