Healthcare Communications Trends from Industry Conference

This week’s blog post is written by Chaloner’s VP, Kassie Wilner. Kassie has been a recruiter with Chaloner for the past 10 years. She has led numerous searches for external and internal communications professionals. Prior to working with us, she was a communications consultant to public agencies in California.


Last week I attended the ExL Pharma Public Relations and Communications Summit, a two day event hosted by Sanofi that brought together more than 150 thought leaders in the healthcare communications field to talk about industry trends and challenges. This week, I’d like to share three of my biggest takeaways from the conference.

Healthcare is moving towards a patient-centric mindset.
One recurring theme of the conference was how patients’ interaction with media is shaping the industry. Because our lives are becoming increasingly more screen-based, communicators are adapting how they reach audiences. Relying on traditional press releases and media hits is not enough; companies need to reach their audiences where they are: on their screens. Patients are researching symptoms, diseases, treatment options, healthcare providers and are connecting with communities on the internet. In fact, 1 in 20 Google searches are health related. Healthcare companies must continue to find innovative ways to create and share content.

Companies have to earn their way into consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets.
Today’s market is more competitive than ever before. To respond to this, companies are creating customized communications teams, including storytellers and brand ambassadors, in order to gain deeper consumer insights and utilize different channels to reach their diverse audiences. Companies must be reliable and add value. How is that demonstrated? Healthcare companies are finding ways to provide both utility and entertainment quickly; with the ultimate goal of making patients’ lives easier.

“Brand everything for zombie-like loyalists.”
One especially entertaining seminar was led by Peter Shankman, who spoke about consumer loyalty. He identified three tenets of company behavior to ensure a “zombie-like loyalty.”

  • Transparency: If you make a mistake, admit it and move on. There is too much competition to sacrifice credibility for the sake of a flawless appearance. Consumers appreciate companies that are honest and open to their consumers about what’s happening. Don’t shy away because your consumer is frustrated; it’s an opportunity to impress and reconnect. Shankman offered, “Your best lover is a former hater.”
  • Relevance: In this world of connected health where the digital and physical worlds are merging, communications teams need to be offering content that is relevant and interesting to consumers. Content needs to be optimized for devices—90% of content is consumed through screens.
  • Brevity: In the 1980s, consumer attention spans lasted three minutes. Think that sounds short? Today’s attention span is 2.7 seconds—the length of time it takes to read a tweet. The audience is a privilege—there’s always something else for your consumer to watch, read, or listen to.

ExL Pharma was a terrific conference with interesting speakers and engaging discussions that have given me a lot to think about as I continue to work with communications and PR professionals in the spheres of healthcare and biotechnology. For more information on the Pharma Public Relations and Communications conference as well as future events, you can visit ExL’s website.