In today’s world of ubiquitous, instantaneous, and interconnected information, integrated communication should be a key strategic priority for all companies. However, it is even more important in the healthcare space, especially for early stage, pre-revenue life sciences companies, where the investor story is indistinguishable from the product or technology story.
Many companies struggle to unify their message and deliver a cohesive story to the marketplace. As a consequence, the many other voices in the arena — competitors, analysts, key opinion leaders, regulators, investors, advocacy groups, the media, and others — shape the perception of your company for you.
To ensure a cohesive story that breaks through the clutter, it’s critical that your company “control the narrative.” A large part of that depends on ensuring your internal teams are fully integrated and coordinated. When investor relations and public relations teams work in silos — as they often do — they present your company’s narrative from different perspectives, ultimately confusing the public, diluting your story, and opening the door for others to define your business on their terms.
Controlling your company’s narrative starts with developing a single, unified story and adopting internal processes that ensure both your investor relations and public relations teams are consistently communicating that story.
Here are a few steps to consider:
Speak a Common Language
Often, investor relations and public relations professionals function in silos, without a full understanding of or appreciation for the role of their counterparts. PR pros often lack financial acumen or capital markets experience, while IROs may assume PR is only relevant to the marketing department. In healthcare, it is crucial that the IR team understands and appreciates the science and technology behind the product as well as the regulatory pathways.
But the real world does not see the individual functions of investor relations and public relations; it sees information, commentary, and perspective — regardless of the source. It is critical for each discipline to gain an understanding of the other, where and how they most frequently intersect, what each audience is looking for, and what influences their perceptions most. This will create a common language that allows each to understand communications from the other.
Develop a Unified Plan Between Investor Relations and Public Relations
Every successful program starts with an integrated planning process. IR and PR teams should first develop a shared understanding of the overall goals, objectives and strategies of the plan. From there, each team can develop plans to achieve their respective objectives while properly laddering up to the overall goals of the company. While IR teams will concentrate on reaching potential investors and analysts, the PR team will prioritize outreach to healthcare providers, patients, advocacy groups, KOLS, and others, as appropriate for each business.
IR and PR teams should also coordinate calendars to take into consideration major events like earnings, annual meeting, major healthcare conferences, non-deal roadshows, and regulatory milestones. Then, allow time for regular update meetings and real-time information sharing, so the teams can stay aligned as the plan evolves.
Integrate Messaging and Positioning
Corporate positioning and messaging cannot be developed in silos. There is one company and one over-arching story. While messages need to be tailored to different audiences, they must all stem from the same core, and that must be jointly defined and developed with input from both the investor relations and public relations teams.
Whether your company is developing initial positioning work, conducting an annual refresh, or creating messaging for an important announcement, the IR and PR teams need to collaborate and integrate to develop the final product. While the interests of one team may weigh more heavily in certain situations, having the fingerprints of all is critical.
Ensure Coordinated Execution, Monitoring and Oversight
The fun really starts once you begin to implement; when communications planning meets the real-life execution of your communications plans. How is the media covering earnings? Did they misinterpret the company’s results? What is being said on Twitter about the recent FDA announcement? What does it mean when a sell-side analyst report references negative social media posts about side effects of your drug? CNBC called and wants interview the CEO about insurance reimbursement issues — should we do the interview?
None of these questions can be answered by one discipline alone. IR, PR, social media teams, and others need to provide their views. Your plan should anticipate the ripple effect of communications, and your teams should monitor closely to understand what is happening in the echo chamber. That way, you can best position each discipline to take actions to maintain control over the narrative.
To tell a cohesive company story, your investor relations and public relations teams can’t work in silos. They must collaborate to understand the bigger picture and present a coordinated message to the world. Only then can your company truly control the narrative.
If your healthcare company needs help developing an integrated communications strategy, reach out.