High science is a foundational element of marketing communications. Science enables us to express brand value and build anticipation in the marketplace. But when that is our singular goal, we lose the ability to make it meaningful to the many decision makers who influence brand success.
Instead, our goal must be to align science to the larger health system by communicating the far-reaching impact of new data and exciting scientific approaches. Interesting science that fails to align the interests of physicians, payers, policymakers and, of course, patients, fails to live beyond a news announcement, or worse, is not understood or adopted. Science opens the door to not only newspapers, but also to patient care.
Consider two current examples of ground-breaking science: Immuno-oncology and PCSK9 inhibitors. Despite high costs and a long investigational road ahead, no one denies that these cancer therapies are gamechangers well worth prescribing. On the other side is a well-studied new class of FDA-approved medications proven to lower bad cholesterol and save lives. Yet the value of these treatments is so misunderstood that years after approval they struggle to gain easy formulary access. Stymied by the process—even after recent outcomes trials—many doctors have thrown up their hands and even patient advocates have mixed responses.
Relevant Science Guides Care
The difference between these advances underscores a core tenet of healthcare communications: The message is not the “niftiness” of the science. The message must be the relevance of the science to all those who use data to guide decisions about care. Payers look to science to determine if benefit priorities should be reorganized; doctors follow new science to guide better patient care and decide if they should advocate for a particular treatment option; policymakers use scientific impact to determine if new costs to the system should raise a red flag; and patients and caregivers devour science in the hopes of sustaining or improving their lives.
Power communicators elevate the brand while, at the same time, translating the science to help align a fragmented healthcare system—an environment where each sector has distinct needs, sometimes at odds. Our approach must be to unify scientific information for audience needs. Communications serves as the navigator, explaining new data so that the system understands the value of a brand and how it can lead to new thinking, behavior, and decisions that improve the human condition through better health.
When we connect the dots successfully, the product innovator is rewarded as patients—the true beneficiaries of science—benefit from lives transformed.