TUESDAY 8 SEP 2020 10:42 AM


Lisa Lishman, commercial director of healthcare communications specialist Page & Page partners, speaks to Communicate magazine about how the right comms campaign can make a difference for a currently struggling healthcare industry and the ways in which one can bring creativity to an industry often regarded as being corporate and less innovative.

How can good communications campaigns help a healthcare sector that has never been more underfunded and stretched?

As healthcare consumers, we are being inundated with company messages churned out in what can appear as a disjointed, scatter-gun approach. This not only dilutes the message they were trying to get across in the first place but isn’t going to stand out or generate the impact that a great campaign achieves.

With the healthcare sector facing challenges such as being underfunded and over stretched, it is essential that a more defined approach is taken at the planning stage of a campaign. For a communication campaign to really help the healthcare sector, identifying and understanding the audience, their unique characteristics, what motivates them, their needs and wants and how they engage with different channels is step one of developing a campaign that truly speaks to who you want it to speak to.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, the healthcare comms industry has undeniably seen an incremental growth. How will this growth and expansion of the sector affect the work companies like Page & Page and Partners do?

The imposed lockdown the Covid-19 pandemic brought on has seen the audience groups of healthcare communication campaigns tune into digital channels for access to information, content and knowledge. With every man and his dog jumping on the omni-channel, multi-channel or digital bandwagon, there is an overwhelming amount of ‘noise’ that the work we do must cut through.

Covid-19 has been a catalyst in changing how people, who may have typically been technophobic, have adopted, or had to adopt digital technology and become more au-fait with living their lives online. We’ve certainly found this to be true through audience insight mining done at the genesis of campaign planning, which informs what channel, or blend of channels will continue to improve the dialogue between patients and healthcare providers.

How important is internal comms in the healthcare sector at the moment, compared to external comms? How can IC be improved in order to provide clear and more precise information?

Personally, I think the two need to be intrinsically linked. Right now, internal communications is more important than ever before. We recently addressed a brief for a large corporation who, at senior management level, knew socio/political pressures caused by Covid meant the huge challenge of medicines not taken as prescribed (about 50% of all medicines) would come under greater scrutiny.

Our client needed everyone from the janitor to the top sales person to be sure they were engaged in making sure more medicine is taken as prescribed. Overnight, due to Covid and the accompanying economic pressures, this had become the defacto agenda everyone in healthcare had to be engaged in. This illustrates why internal communications is now as important as external communications.

What kinds of digital communications are you using to improve patient outcomes?

The key to great digital communications is not the channel, ironically. At the end of the day, any form of digital communications results in pixels and/or soundwaves. The key is the content that is carried on through those pixels and soundwaves. Right now, the rush to communicate remotely has resulted in a varying quality of content – often organisations assume because they’ve gone digital, this alone, means they’re doing the right thing.

The best kind of digital communication does four things:

  • Earns attention - we’re all time poor and bombarded with information
  • Engages benefiting the recipient - we’re all selfish, what’s in it for the recipient?
  • Meets the recipients agenda - timing is everything, what are they trying to achieve?
  • And lastly, resonates with the right purpose and values - you have to believe in the organisation communicating with you. People buy from people like them

For example, we’re engaged with a number of clients to further what is known as the self-care agenda. This is when patients are empowered and trained by their carer, their nurse or consultant to administer their own medicine, nutrition, dressing or therapy.

The healthcare sector, particularly the pharmaceutical one, is often regarded as very corporate and therefore less creative than others. How do you bring imagination, insight and creativity to it through comms campaigns?

Some words are hugely misunderstood – like design and creativity. Ironically, the best design and creativity goes un-noticed.Creativity and design within healthcare is often far superior to the work done in other sectors because health is core to every human beings’ existence. Good design and creative thinking is essential if we are to ensure the best possible quality of life for expanding and ageing human populations. Creative people working in healthcare must have a full grasp of how people think, the intricacies of beliefs and behaviours and know the science that comes with medicines and devices.

Unlike another car advertisement shot with lifestyle models on a sunny beach (is that really creative?), healthcare communication has to respect the healthcare professional, avoid sentimentality and enable patients and clinical professionals alike to get a handle on new innovations.