A Focus on the Role of “Communications” in Medical Communications
An interview with Dave Oury and Carl Roselle
By Michele Lashley
It’s no secret that—at its core—marketing is about building relationships. But what’s often missing in this statement is a reference to authenticity. Marketing is about building authentic connections between you and your audiences. It’s about being real, having a true interest in your clients as fellow human beings, constantly looking for ways to add true value, and—at times—having the willingness to be vulnerable. Ultimately, none of this is difficult to do. But it does require the courage to sometimes do things differently and the confidence to communicate openly.
Healthcare marketers typically interact with multiple audiences simultaneously—audiences that might include HCPs, KOLs, formulary committees, patients, investigators, investors and employees. Getting the messaging right for each of these diverse groups presents a significant challenge. These audiences have different expectations and needs that must be addressed via a variety of messaging points and platforms—all while maintaining the voice and values of the brand.
There are many ways to approach this challenge and successfully meet it. And they differ from company to company, brand to brand, audience to audience. But there are some common elements that can make your messaging much more powerful, effective, and engaging regardless of what that messaging might be, where it might live, or who it’s meant for. It has to do with relationship building. Because, when the relationships you build with audiences are authentic, your messaging is more likely to be heard, trusted, and believed.
Dave Oury, president of medical leverage, a communications company, has created a relationship-building model for his own company that serves as a guide for other agencies and medical organizations.
“When I first started this agency, I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to put our primary emphasis on communications, solutions, and service,” said Oury. And now—two decades later—that emphasis remains the same. “We’re constantly building relationships with new clients and nurturing our relationships with existing clients who have been with us for a long time.”
This outlook is surely a major factor of why Dave’s company’s client life span is more than seven years. So, what does it take to become an organization known for the strength and longevity of its relationships? Oury provided the following guidelines:
Listen More Than You Talk
No matter who’s in the room, there’s no advantage in trying to be seen as the smartest one—particularly if that involves being the one who’s talking the most. There’s often a tendency to feel like we need to “prove” ourselves to others. We want a potential client to understand how fantastic our organization is. We want our existing clients to understand how much value we bring and how we know more than anyone else about any issue. However, the result is that all of this talking causes a lot of misses—miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misperceptions. It also results in missed opportunities.
“By listening more than we talk, we get to hear exactly how our clients explain their challenges,” said Oury. “If we go in and try to tell them what their challenge is right off the bat, there’s a significant chance we’re going to get it wrong. Plus, by hearing how the client views what they want or need to do, it helps us create a more tailored—and more effective—solution for them.”
Of course, talking is important when it’s done to provide value and substance. But it’s important to remember that interactions with your various audiences are conversations—not monologues. Carl Roselle, vice president of strategic growth at medical leverage expands further:
“Even though we’ve been in this industry for many years and feel like we’ve seen almost everything, there’s always something more for us to learn. And actively listening to our clients plays a significant role in helping us do that.”
Treat Others with Respect
It’s easy to be respectful when you’re in agreement with someone or when they’ve done something for you or when you genuinely like them. However, there are times when some or none of these situations apply. So, what happens when a person strongly—even aggressively—disagrees with you? Or when they hold a viewpoint that goes completely against your beliefs and values? Or when they’re simply difficult to get along with? According to Oury, you should still treat them with respect.
“Every client situation is different,” he explains. “Sometimes personalities mesh really well, and sometimes there are challenges. Regardless, our approach is to always be respectful of each person as a fellow human being. What we’ve found is that this not only makes us feel better about ourselves, but it also keeps the work moving along. That’s a win for everyone.”
In addition to situations in which there might be clashes of personalities or ideas, there are also times when you might be interacting with an individual who isn’t quite as high on the client’s org chart as those you’re used to working with. For Oury and his team, this changes nothing about their commitment to being respectful.
“In our interactions with clients, we’re very dependent upon the assistance of administrative professionals,” said Roselle. “They’re the ones who make things happen—from getting us on a client’s calendar to tracking down the status of a project. So, not only do they have our respect—they deserve it.”
“People remember how you treat them,” said Roselle. “The pharmaceutical industry is one that’s relatively small and individuals tend to move around from company to company. So, it doesn’t make sense from a business perspective or from a personal one to treat anyone disrespectfully. When you do, it says much more about you than it does about them.”
Become Invested in Your Audience’s Success
When working with any target audience, seeing success from their perspective and becoming invested in helping them achieve it is essential. “It’s not uncommon for business relationships to be seen as purely transactional,” said Roselle. “However, I believe this is a mistake. While there is certainly a transaction of some type involved, there has to be more to it than that in order for the relationship to grow and endure.”
In the healthcare industry, there’s a focus on the human condition. If you’re sick, what can be done to help you feel better? If you’re healthy, what can you do to stay that way? These are questions all of us want the answers to. So, as a healthcare marketer who believes in the company, the brand, the product, the therapeutic, or the people you’re responsible for promoting—investing in their success is essentially investing in the health of others—and even yourself.
“We’re invested in our clients and the healthcare providers they call upon because we know that the products our clients have developed are very important to the patients they’re intended to help,” said Oury. “The simple fact is that we or someone we love will, at some point, become a patient and possibly have a need for the solutions our clients offer. So, we’re certainly passionate about ensuring that these products and therapies are thriving in the marketplace.”
Be a Problem Solver
Identifying problems is one thing. But the real value comes in being able to offer potential solutions. This is why the most effective healthcare marketers are problem solvers.
“We’re a service provider that seeks to solve communication and education gaps for our clients,” explained Oury. “We constantly monitor our service levels and measure the impact of the solution we execute on their behalf. This diligence allows us to quickly recommend changing what isn’t working or recommend investing more into what is working.”
When you’ve spent the time and effort building a strong relationship with a particular audience, the bolder you can be when it comes to proposing solutions to the challenges they face. In many cases, the “normal” approaches aren’t the most effective. Instead, a solution that requires stepping outside of the lines is what needs to be implemented. When you have the trust of your audience, they’ll be more willing to listen to your advice and follow your guidance.
Building authentic and enduring relationships with your various audiences is something that should be prioritized every day and in every interaction. It’s an investment in your organization’s success and in your own success. When it comes to medical communications, let’s all pay closer attention to “communications” and how we can make them more transparent, more engaging, and more authentic.
If you’d like to explore how to build stronger relationships with your key audiences, contact Carl Roselle at medical leverage. We’d love to help you make those connections.