Why R&D Should Be Your Company’s Flagship Brand

Creating and maintaining a strong and trusted reputation is a holy grail that biopharma marketers often strive for with varying results.

One approach is proven to catapult a company into a different stratosphere of positive connection with stakeholders and keep it there: Place and maintain the spotlight on your science, not just the end products. Bring to life the twists and turns of drug discovery and development. Grow the presence of your “rock star” scientists. In short, invest in R&D comms as you would your flagship brand.

It was only a few years ago that some companies put their R&D front and center. Reputations soared. Polls showed an improvement of 50%.1 People seemed to finally understand what the biopharma industry has been trying to explain for years: its science, innovation, and contributions to human health. The halo also extended internally. Science’s Top Employers Survey found when companies focused on communicating about their R&D, they fostered their employees’ enthusiasm for, and pride in, the work of R&D teams.2

Evidence for why companies should go deep on R&D communications is abundant. Here are some considerations for how:

1. Create a dedicated R&D comms team with a dedicated budget. Resist the urge to tag R&D comms onto existing efforts for investigational or launched brands. Even access to a brand’s promotional dollars will not outweigh the diluted focus.

2. Identify objectives and audiences. Do you want to “own” a particular R&D approach? Drive a distinctive, bold, and respected reputation for unique expertise? Recruit and retain science talent? Attract science partnerships and collaborations? Build pride internally? Drive visits to science on your website and social platforms? With the right approach, you can achieve multiple objectives.

3. Develop messaging, the right mix of activities and platforms. How is your company leading new approaches for discovery and using new technologies? Consider a focus on how you are addressing R&D issues such as realizing precision medicine across therapeutic categories and improving diversity and representation in clinical trials. Reach beyond awareness. Build in action. Communicate with the rigor you’d use to educate about a new drug’s mechanism of action.

4. See your scientists as “celebrity spokespersons” and build their profiles accordingly. Identify those at all levels—not just leadership—in your R&D organization who bring energy to explaining your approach, inspire curiosity, and instill confidence. Develop creative and effective platforms that feature and amplify their voices, personalities, and interests beyond their jobs, and engage them in activities they’ll enjoy and consider a valuable use of time.

5. Agree what success looks like. Establish KPIs. Assess and adjust accordingly.

A strong, visible reputation for science and innovation is critical for biopharma. Dedicated R&D communications connects stakeholders to your scientists, process, and pipeline; creates a halo that spills over to brands and HR; and links your company to a higher purpose. This is what builds and sustains confidence, trust, and earns positive perceptions. And isn’t that the holy grail?

References:

1. https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2022/04/26/covid19-vaccines-image-reputation-pharmaceutical.

2. https://www.science.org/content/article/2021-s-top-employers-engage-nurture-and-harness-power-scientists.

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