As Snow Companies recently celebrated their 20th anniversary, we interviewed both Brenda Snow, CEO, and Blake Shewey, President, about the evolution of patient engagement over the past two decades, during which SNOW played a pivotal role in helping patients to have a voice in this industry.

Additionally, we cover how much patient engagement has changed in just the past two years alone due to the pandemic. Plus, we look forward to the years ahead and speak about the trends and changes the industry will need to pay the most attention in regards to how they must work and communicate with patients.

Check out the exclusive video interview below, or you can reach out to the company to learn more at info@snow-companies.com.

Transcript:

Andrew Matthius: Welcome to another edition of PM360’s Expert on Call video interview series. I am Andrew Matthius, Senior Editor at PM360 and today I’m joined by Brenda Snow, CEO and Blake Shewey, President of Snow Companies. Snow Companies is our resident patient engagement experts. And recently the company celebrated their 20th anniversary with 20 years of patient stories, Brenda 20 years. Congrats!

Brenda Snow: Thank you very much. Actually, tonight we are having the big celebration live and in person and starting to feel the, effects of corona in the rear view mirror. So we’re really excited to get the team together.

Andrew Matthius: And Blake is also celebrating a recent anniversary. Having reached us about one year since, since becoming president of the company. Blake, what can you share about your year in the role and what you’ve accomplished so far?

Blake Shewey: Well, you know, I, I think it’s probably much less about what I’ve accomplished and much more about what our team has been able to do. Um, clearly there’s been a lot of macro challenges with past year, but we just celebrated our most successful quarter in the history of the company in terms of sales, which is, certainly not the only indicator, but a great indicator of the continued growth and strength. And I think as we move into this year, we are at, we just talked about it earlier, 209 brands that we support with about 90 plus companies. So when you think about coming from 20 years and what this woman and Corbin Wood, and many others were able to build from the ground up it’s pretty astounding and really special to be a part of it. As you, as you move into 2022.

Brenda Snow: We are lucky, we’re lucky that Blake is our President. And I will tell you she’s doing a fantastic job.

Andrew Matthius: And when Brenda, when you first established Snow Companies 20 years ago, it was to help to give patients a voice in this industry, which is something they really didn’t have at the time. So over these past 20 years, how have you seen kind of the role of patient engagement evolve?

Brenda Snow: Yeah, I’ve seen it evolve immensely. And I think what I’ve been most proud of is that we were the first and we really were the change agents. So, you know, not only when I started Snow, but even before that, with my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, pharma and biotech didn’t really do anything to support their patients above and beyond the therapy that they’d brought into market. So it was, you know, talk to the physician, get them to write the prescription, and then hopefully the patient takes it. And as a person living with a chronic illness, you know, I thought, well, my doctor can see me 10 minutes. I need a partner in my therapy choice to provide me a continuity of care across the continuum. So I’ve seen it change. And now all of the clients that we work for, and I would say industry wide, if you are not doing something for the patients that you have a therapy for, if you’re not supporting them in some way, then you can’t say that your corporate values and missions are appropriately aligned. And I’m really glad that Snow helped change that.

Andrew Matthius: I know I said, you know, the past 20 years, but within the past two years alone, a lot’s changed due to the pandemic. So Blake, what have you seen kind of just in these past two years alone, as you’ve had to adjust kind of strategies to better engage with patients during this time?

Blake Shewey: That’s a great question. Excuse me, it’s a great question. You know, as we moved into the pandemic, I would say 85%, 90% of what we were doing was in a live capacity. So, it’s a true testament to the organization and just the ingenuity of so many of the individuals we get to work with that we were able to pivot very quickly to be able to bring many of the programs that we support to the digital space. You know, it’s interesting as we’ve moved through it, and even as you look at telemedicine or many of the other elements that have changed throughout this, actually the ability to be able to connect and really even where we are now in a live setting has almost become more paramount. And so, whereas, I think probably six months into the pandemic, some people thought, oh, this is just completely the new normal we’re, you know, live is completely going away. There’s really no need for people to connect in that capacity. What we’re seeing is a complete resurgence of it on the other side, in that, whether it’s our clients being able to connect directly with, uh, the, the patients and the people who they serve, and then therefore those patients being able to connect with one another. Um, it’s, it’s actually, it’s very heartening, but it’s really fascinating to see that I actually think moving through the past two years has reinforced the importance of that connection and especially what you’re able to do in a live setting. That’s very different than this type of capacity and ultimately what changes behavior, right. Which is often what we’re working with many of our clients on. So I’d say that’s, that’s probably been the most interesting thing of late.

Brenda Snow: Absolutely, and I think we’re excited to be able to get back to it. Like I said, when we started talking, Andrew, we’ve got an internal meeting here, the first live one, a celebration tonight, but also we’ve got clients that are starting to say, let’s get live meetings, live programmings, live engagements back. Of course, in a safe way, being very mindful that we need to be flexible and potentially would have to pivot. But it’s just so important because I think that’s human nature. I think at its crux, one of the reasons Snow has been so successful is that, you know, it’s the humanity aspect of our business model. And as grateful as I am for, you know, the ability to stay viable during a virtual remote world, I just told the team today, we’re all not meant to sit in our pajamas on our sofas for the next, you know, 40 years. It’s not normal. So we need to get back and see people and touch people and talk to people and we’re happy to be heading in that direction.

Blake Shewey: And the only thing I would add to that that’s really interesting is I do think there’s been element of learning how to have a little bit more of a hybrid experience. So you can move back into a setting where you have the opportunity for this, but also the ability to extend beyond that live interaction. So, certainly the last two years for nothing, I think that our programs will look very different going for forward. But it is really fascinating to me to see how much it has kind of reinforced that need for connection and humanity to Brenda’s point.

Andrew Matthius: Hybrid could also be a good way to kind of bridge some like geographical limits that especially patients may face who, you know, don’t get to see each other. Have you seen kind of that as a good way to bring more patients together that maybe live across the country or another parts of the world?

Brenda Snow: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s no doubt that technology is key thing that’s here to stay in one strategy to build those bridges for accessibility, there’s so many pluses to it. So as Blake said, it’s definitely part of the mix as we move forward and, you know, it brought a lot of ingenuity to the agency. I even think with PM360, we won some Innovation Awards and, you know, it really spawned growth in our digital, our digital division has, grown fivefold, our IT technology solutions department has exploded. So all of those things have been in the plus side for business because we’re able to do more. And I think that the team really realized that we have, um, a deep, deep bench of talent that pushed us to do better and to do greater. So, yep. It’s a great point you made.

Andrew Matthius: So kind of speaking of innovation, as we enter 2022 and the years ahead, what kind of changes or innovations or trends do you see in patient engagement kind of evolving as we move forward?

Blake Shewey: You want me to take that one?

Brenda Snow: Sure.

Blake Shewey: Well, I was, I was going to tag onto the last one and also say one of Corbin Woods’ favorite sayings is, “the phone didn’t die when the internet was invented.” And another of our business that I would say we’ve seen some pretty exponential growth in, has been what we do around support services. And as people moved through the pandemic and needed that much more connection or somebody to help guide them in their care, find different ways to be able to connect with the care that they needed we have real people who are part these programs who help to guide and make sure people are getting them to where they need. So it’s funny because I think innovation is a really interesting term within industry because it can sort of park to whatever the latest trend is. But what 20 years to me of this company says, and, you know, at our core, we’re really about being able to find and work with some of the most ordinary slash extraordinary patients in the world to help share their experiences in a way that can transform the lives of others, is that no matter what changes in terms of the technology or whatever, the latest trend, that kind of continuity and need to connect is actually what has remained constant and over time, has in some ways become even more paramount and important in an ever fragmented world. So I think for us, it’s really making sure that we stay very true to who we are to what has, how we’ve built the company, and that as we move forward we work within certainly many kind of evolving arenas, but make sure that we, we are always harking back to that because we work with a lot of other agencies and other companies within the space and it’s amazing how quickly that can get lost when people become really focused on a certain technology or something and forget at the end of the day you’re talking about a person on the other side.

Brenda Snow: Not just Instagram.

Blake Shewey: Right. And we all have our vulnerabilities and our challenges. And ultimately if you’re not able to meet people where they’re at, it’s great metrics, great statistics, but what have you done to really help move the needle and help change behavior and ultimately connect people with the care that they need. Right.

Andrew Matthius: Brenda, do you have anything to kind of add in terms of trends that you are seeing or ways to evolve patient engagement moving forward?

Brenda Snow: Well, like I said, there’s many different aspects of it. So, you know, we have colleagues within the Omnicom Health Group that are making very significant investments and acquiring companies that looking in the policy arenas. So, you know, patients, driving policy, patients informing decisions in the highest levels of government. We see patients being involved, I mean co-creation is a term that we, I think we even coined 17 years ago. So patients in every aspect of co-creation, whether that’s sitting in early stages of clinical development and advising, almost serving like scientific advisories on a scientific advisory board, you see things like that and that’s been around for a long time but that’s sort of resurging. Patients being a, we were just talking about this, a benchmark at kind of all levels of the company. Certainly, like I said, our digital team has exploded. So how can you deliver meaningful, actionable content, not just somebody idly watching? But how can you have the digital space transform and move to a place of action? I think that’s going to continue to be a trend. So those are some of the things we’re focusing on and I can’t give it all away because it’s my secret sauce. Right. So I got enough people that try to copy what I do. So there you go. It’s all you’re getting.

Andrew Matthius: Okay. But as we started, we mentioned how Snow was a pioneer in this space 20 years ago. So moving forward as we look to the future of patient engagement, can you say anything about some of the ways that you expect Snow to remain, you know, still have a unique space or carve out a unique space in patient engagement?

Brenda Snow: Yeah, I think Blake said it great a few minutes ago, we really are grounded in who we are. Our culture is extremely important to us here and our clients are important to us and they know what they’re going to get. They understand the value proposition, they know how they’re going to be treated, they know how we’re going to take care of them. And then most importantly, the patients, you know, the patients come here sometimes to us in the darkest, most vulnerable moments of their life. And I think if we stick to these things and we work hard, we deliver quality work, we do it on time, we have nothing to worry about. It’s just, I’ll be talking to you 20 years from now with even more success. So we’re really primed for continued greatness.

Blake Shewey: We just need to make sure continued great people are joining the company because we are, we are growing pretty quickly. So I would say, you know, for us in the current environment, it’s really important that we continue to bring the right people in because as Brenda said we spend a lot of time and investing in the culture that sits around this place. Because it’s a pretty special place to work and that’s because of all of the individuals who work here. So being able to continue to grow from that perspective will be very important for us. But it’s a special place. I feel very privileged and blessed to just even be a part of the Snow story. And as you think about, as we evolve, it’s interesting as you have influencers or what we call sometimes patient opinion leaders. I think what you’re going to continue to see is we spend a lot of time working with our clients around what are the right ways to engage different communities within the same space of patients, right? Because you have people who digest information in very different ways and have very different platforms. And companies need to be very cognizant around how to engage in the appropriate way. And I think that’s gonna become ever more complex because it can be really easy to forget sometimes that, you know, I’m from a small town and that’s a very, very different experience than maybe somebody who grew up in New York City and had access to a lot of different things. And so you really need to be talking to a diverse group of people and stakeholders and all of that. And so for us, that will be something that we always have, but we will continue to champion with our clients is that you may make sure you have the appropriate people represented so that you can do what you need to support them.

Andrew Matthius: All right. Thanks so much for both of you joining me today. Is there anything you want to wrap up with on final points about patient engagement?

Brenda Snow: Oh, no, it’s always great to see you though. Thanks for asking us to do this. And if people want to get ahold of us, you can go to our website, snow-companies.com, and we’re happy to, to share more and take you through things. So it’s been great chatting with you and congratulations to Blake and to Snow.

Blake Shewey: And congrats on 20 years and to the next 20 years. We’re very excited.

Andrew Matthius: Great. And like Brenda said, you can see them at Snow Companies, snow-companies.com, or you can check out, their column, Authentic Patient Voice in PM360, and we’ll also provide contact information for them below so you can reach out so you can hear what they can do for your company. Thanks again, guys.

Brenda Snow: Thank you. Have a great day. Bye.

 

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