Product launch is in many ways the ultimate test for healthcare communicators: Will the product’s potential be understood—and amplified by key stakeholders—so that it reaches patients in need?
Today, the key to that riddle is more subtle than product messaging or strategic use of channels. PR professionals must find a way to leverage previous scientific success into commercial success—trickier than it sounds.
Increasingly, products lauded for clinical innovation are unable to gain a foothold in the market. Why? Health stakeholders draw a distinction between breakthrough science and breakthrough medicine. The driving question for key audiences—even those who are enthusiastic about a product’s potential—is, “how do we know its true value?” In other words, scientific contributions to biology and medicine are tremendously important, but sales won’t follow unless a product’s unique role in patient care is clear and understood.
These three guideposts can help communicators establish the product’s unique value for a successful launch.
1. Patients are a Virtue
Remember: Your product was developed to address an unmet patient need. Though making a splash at launch is tempting, it won’t create lasting value. Successful brands connect authentically with the people they intend to help—patients, families, and physicians—and then position those allies alongside any high-profile efforts. Without the support of the patient community, even the most alluring celebrity advocates can’t generate product use.
Consider, too, how the many players who rallied around the patient-care mission during clinical development can elevate launch: Chief scientists can help to set the tone for the brand; primary investigators can guide discussion; patient groups can express the distinct needs of their community. Each of these voices will help to show how the new product fulfills genuine patient demand.
2. Don’t Blind Them with Science
Reporters may write enthusiastically about clinical advances, but once regulatory approval is achieved, the conversation turns from clinical understanding to population use. PR teams must be well prepared for this shift. Messaging must demonstrate that benefits to patients are not incremental, but rather match the price and the amount of work required to properly utilize the medication. If the product features a new delivery mechanism, the benefit must be clear enough for patients and doctors to be willing to break old habits.
3. Discuss Value—and Access—Proactively
Today’s dynamic means that patients, physicians, policymakers, and payers assess new products through the lens of “value”—and that doesn’t just mean “cost.” Access is key. If patients cannot obtain the product, or physician offices are frustrated by paperwork and prior authorization obstacles to providing the product to patients, uptake will suffer. Marketing and PR professionals often focus on product visibility during launch planning, but positive metrics in news coverage or brand recognition won’t translate to product success unless access to therapy is addressed clearly.
Launching in today’s marketplace is complex, but success is possible with the help of thoughtful, savvy communicators. If the PR team can keep discussion centered on the unmet patient need—not merely product attributes—and demonstrate how and why the brand is central to the conversation among patients, physicians, and payers, then success will follow.