So much of our lives revolves around forming connections with others. The stronger the bonds, the better, more satisfying, the relationships typically are.

We learn how to make connections from the time that we’re born—from the nurturing and loving relationships we share with our close family and friends to the more informal connections we have with acquaintances.

Communication is at the heart of these connections. Without regular, meaningful interaction that provides value to both parties, the relationship will not grow, or worse, becomes stagnant and withers. But, to truly add value to someone else, there’s little room for guesswork. We must understand what they want as well as when and how they want to receive it.

And, the best way to do that is to simply ask them directly.

This week, Makovsky was a co-sponsor of ExL Pharma’s 11th Annual Public Relations and Communications Summit and several leaders from Makovsky’s Health practice attended the sessions. The theme, Time to Hit the Reset Button, focused on trends and challenges in the ways industry currently communicates with audiences—particularly patients. Our own, Lee Davies, Senior Vice President, moderated a panel entitled Best Practices in Healthcare Media Relations: Collaborative working in the Era of the Instantaneous News Cycle.

For two days, corporate communications leaders from many of the top biotech and pharmaceutical companies in the world presented case studies, best practices, and insights related to the future of effective stakeholder engagement. Following are three of the most compelling themes that emphasize the growing need to make true connections:

Peer-to-Peer Patient & Caregiver Groups Increasingly Important: Regulations continue to tighten and limit how effectively companies can partner with physicians and other healthcare professionals to help drive brand messages. While healthcare practitioners are still major influencers, patients are increasingly turning to their peer networks to make educated healthcare decisions. People inherently trust those who share similar experiences. In order to grow their brands and advance patient care, companies must understand how to effectively locate these specialty peer groups, learn about their memberships’ needs, and develop customized messaging that addresses those needs and stimulates organic conversation.

Expand Beyond Transactional Communication: Long gone are the days when companies could distribute their top three messages in a linear, one-way fashion using the same media channels and expect to flourish. Today’s companies operate in a massively fragmented media market. Communications professionals need to move beyond this transactional approach and refocus on interacting with each stakeholder group after message delivery. Two-way interaction will allow companies to better understand stakeholder needs, develop better programming, deliver it using the right channels, build healthier brands, and most importantly, advance patient care

Social & Traditional Media Convergence: There has been a convergence between social and traditional mediums. An increasing number of journalists are turning to social media for a variety of reasons. For instance, award-winning journalist, Katie Couric, for decades a mainstay on broadcast television, is now a Global News Anchor exclusively at Yahoo News. Editors are becoming less concerned with total circulation and are more interested in how much audiences interact with and share the news online. Online journalists have more leeway to express their personal beliefs, which in turn influences how they write and tweet. Communications professionals can build better connections with journalists by understanding their needs, while providing value by sharing their articles via social mediums of choice.
The “one-size-fits-all” approach is no longer a valid communications strategy for companies in the healthcare industry. As corporate communicators, we need to facilitate stronger connections through knowledge, engagement, sharing, and providing mutual value to stakeholders.

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