Tell us about your experience working in the healthcare sector?
When I first started working in communications, I had no intention of working in healthcare. As a junior account executive my first client was a hot sauce brand, and at the time I thought I would gladly spend the rest of my career debating the relative merits of a habanero or a jalapeno. But in the wise words of Ronan Keating, life is a rollercoaster – six months later I’d been pulled over to healthcare to support on a new campaign for Sudocrem.
I never looked back. Healthcare may be one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world, whether you’re working with prescription pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter consumer brands, but that challenge is exactly what makes it one of the most creative fields for marketing and PR.
Since that first campaign for Sudocrem – which went on to snatch Gold at the OTC Marketing Awards – I’ve gone on to work for consumer health brands across infant health, maternity, gastroenterology, dietetics and nutrition, and immunology (off the top of my head).
One particular highlight of my career to date was working on the licence switch of Viagra Connect last year (from prescription-only to being available over the pharmacy counter). It was, and remains to be at the time of writing, the most high-profile pharmaceutical licence switch to date – but we can expect to see more prescription-only pharmaceuticals, including Cialis and Levitra, following in its footsteps.
What are the most common hurdles brands, products and businesses face in the health industry?
Working with healthcare’s strict and detailed regulatory codes can look (and sometimes feel) confining compared to consumer brands. But the reality is that health and wellbeing are among the most emotive subjects in the world, so clever research and a little creativity can go a long way to move hearts and minds.
Healthcare brands are rarely ever designing communication campaigns with just consumers in mind, either. More often they’re talking to healthcare professionals, charities and special interest groups, and sometimes commissioners or national decision makers as well as patients and their loved ones.
Unsurprisingly many healthcare brands and businesses find developing a communications strategy that can speak to all these diverse audiences, across all the diverse channels we have these days, to be incredibly challenging. No more so than when they’re already struggling to translate a complex disease, condition or treatment into a clear story for media.
What do you like most about supporting businesses with their PR requirements?
No two brands or businesses are the same, so a cookie cutter approach is never going to fix everyone’s problems. I love solving puzzles and problems, so working to find the exact balance of activities that will meet a business’ unique requirements is interesting and exciting work for me to be doing.
The health sector is tough is terms of competition, how can PR help a business become a thought leader and improve their brand awareness?
If you want to be a thought-leader, you can’t always play it safe. After all, if you’re saying the same thing as all your competitors, then you may as well be saying nothing at all. But you don’t need to take huge risks to stand out – considered messaging, an understanding of your audience and careful risk mitigation can give your brand the chance to shine without any of the downsides.
What sets the consumer PR services at PHA apart from other agencies?
Our team combines people from diverse PR, comms and marketing backgrounds with those who have worked for many years as a journalist. This unique blend of skills and perspectives means we’re able to seamlessly blend journalistic values and an ingrained understanding of the news agenda with a strategic approach to communicating brand messages.
It’s what makes us so great at spotting breaking news and turning it to our clients’ advantage, translating breaking news about a Tiger Woods golfing win into a Daily Telegraph feature about orthopaedic surgery, extensively featuring a client.