Medical Communications (MedComms) agencies have roots in medical education, and typically focus their activities around informing healthcare professionals (HCPs) about the risks and benefits of new therapies or treatments.
They conceptualize, design and produce medical and scientific materials such as slide decks, conference posters, publications and abstracts for a variety of outlets and channels – online and digital, print, events, apps and others. MedComms agencies also provide services across the entire HCP educational spectrum including medical writing, advisory board meeting support, investigator meetings, and internal medical and sales training.
However, when looking for the right MedComms agency for your organization, it’s important to look beyond the laundry-list of items that can be produced or meetings that can be executed.
Robin Kerbel, CEO of Six Degrees Medical (SDM), comments, “Our clients have been increasingly expanding the scope of their relationships with SDM. They understand that working with an agency that is really committed to the partnership and able to provide not only tactical execution, but also strategic direction and insights, will positively impact on the delivery of current and future projects. The drug development process is not a short one. Having an agency by your side for the long haul can definitely make a difference.”
So, what should you consider when searching for the right medical communications partner in pharma? Here are six aspects to look for that will help you get the highest return on the investment and the relationship.
1. A DEPTH & BREADTH OF EXPERIENCE
Working with an experienced MedComms agency will bring a deeper understanding of the pharma industry, stakeholders, communication best practices, and how your audiences behave and respond. The agency’s expertise can also reduce risks allowing for greater ROI and impact.
Also, more experience enables MedComms project teams to understand what you, the client, needs. This helps in effectively conveying your message and determining the right type of program, voice and medium for your product.
2. AN EXPERTISE & PASSION FOR THE SCIENCE
Having superior knowledge of life sciences and medical subjects is an absolute requirement for a MedComms agency. Look for teams that have members with a strong educational background – like MSc and PhD-qualified experts – and also broad professional experience on all sides of the relationship: “client-side”, agency, marketing and CRO. This knowledge and expertise build a strong foundation for the agency to discuss critical medical information with your subject matter experts and also foresee communication needs for HCPs, patients and other stakeholders.
3. A COMPREHENSIVE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESS
Upon initiation of your project, it’s important that your partner gives you an action plan that clearly defines the project management roadmap and doesn’t leave you without answers when it comes to the current state and next steps for your program. “At SDM, we created our own Project Management framework, called OurPM™. OurPM™ ensures coordination between our team, the clients’ and any external partners or contributors on all timelines, deliverables and responsibilities. We also have a rigorous quality control process, which includes medical, regulatory and legal review, with senior team oversight.”, says Kerbel.
4. ADAPTABILITY & AGILITY
The right MedComms agency has to adjust to change quickly and still be efficient enough to not let anything else slip. In your conversations with the potential partner, look for a history of quick and efficient turnarounds when the market was facing substantial challenges, or an example when they were ready-to-go when a new product reached the market or guideline was published. Says Kerbel: “Earlier this year, when the industry was anxious over the cancellation of face-to-face meetings, we already had a plan in place for our clients and the transition roadmap for the following few months. SDM has been offering virtual and online solutions for meetings and events for over 3 years now, so we already knew what needed to be done.”
5. PARTNERSHIP & COLLABORATION
You want to work with a MedComms team that acts as your partner and truly cares about delivering their best work to help you fulfil your business objectives. Kerbel comments, “From project kick-off, to brainstorming, to content development, we employ a framework that allows us to fully adapt to our clients’ needs while delivering measurable results. We are truly invested in our clients’ success, many of whom have been with us since we opened our doors, 15 years ago.”
6. A “BREAKTHROUGH” MINDSET
Favour MedComms agencies that are collaborative, innovative and proactive when it comes to being ahead of the trends and industry guidance.
Agencies that are brave, with diverse experiences and backgrounds, foster better, more forward-thinking teams. If you need help introducing your breakthrough to the world, your agency partner needs to be committed to always push beyond what is currently being done and rethink new ways for creating an impact in medical communications.