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March 27, 2020

Health & Science Communications in an Extraordinary Time

Medical congresses are a spectacle to behold. If you’ve ever been to one (ASCO, AAN, AHA or ADA, to name a few), you know the awesome scale of it all: interactive booths with VR exhibits, days of learning about the latest trials, studies and musings from the most brilliant minds in medicine, networking and so much more. But, at their core, medical congresses are essential conduits of scientific exchange. Bells and whistles aside, they enable researchers across academia and industry to communicate clinically validated data that directly influence patient care.

So what happens when these critical venues for sharing, advancing and amplifying innovation are forced into new, “socially distanced” formats – or cancelled altogether? 

While these times are unprecedented, the urgency of unmet patient needs – and the desire to make a difference – do not and cannot disappear in the midst of a pandemic. COVID-19 does not erase other health concerns, nor will it stop human innovation. Science must continue to be communicated – and, as FINN colleague Christian Olsen observed in a recent blog post, today’s quarantines may very well create long-lasting effects on large gatherings tomorrow.

With that in mind, it’s crucial for savvy communicators to look beyond the “temporary inconvenience” of restricted physical gatherings and get smart with creative planning – devising new approaches that ensure data are shared, and that the continuity of scientific exchange is preserved. Here are four FINN principles that can help:

  1. Make it easy – and content-rich. A “content capsule” is an easy-to-access, easy-to-digest, and, importantly, easy-to-update content hub that lives on a company’s website. Create and share this centralized resource that includes all the educational content you’d typically showcase at a medical meeting: downloadable scientific presentation and/or poster; animated disease state and product MOA videos; KOL video interviews; press release; abstracts; CEO letter; and data compendia.
  1. Connect creatively. In this time of intense isolation, people are longing for ways to connect and interact. Develop and deploy a “virtual medical affairs booth” that features a panel of company medical experts and/or KOL(s) to answer questions about the data – or assemble a virtual advisory board to discuss key issues and Q&A. Open the live-stream invitation to professionals, patient advocates and industry partners; invite questions live (and/or in advance); field a survey in real time via social media; and follow up with participants to build relationships and community.
  1. Own (and amplify) your narrative. Create “controlled content” for your owned channels, as well as for use/sharing via external channels: develop a series of high-science articles for publication in prominent professional media and business outlets; submit brief commentary to peer-review journals; share your perspectives via blog posts and amplify reach via social media. Whatever medium you use to convey your data, give it proper legs with social media and other content.
  1. Channel surf. From digital to television to radio, make use of the channels available to share out your message. Don’t dismiss the power of old school radio audio news releases (ANRs), but think critically about how to use forums like that and some of our newer friends (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to reach key audiences exactly where they spend their virtual time. (We can help with that!)

Bottom line: In these extraordinary times, it is critical to think creatively to ensure the scientific information is still being communicated. Companies and their agencies typically plan for months on end ahead of these meetings, and now is the time for contingency planning.

When this is all said and done, science will still be here, and patients will still be in need. We must focus on the end goal: getting these data out to the physicians and patients who need it most.

 

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