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The ICR Westwicke Blog is designed to deliver information and insights into the ever-changing world of healthcare communications.

The Value of Choosing the Right Healthcare Communications Partner

Posted on April 26th, 2023. Posted by

Woman doctor shaking hand with businessman in office

In a search for a healthcare communications partner, one public relations agency’s proposal begins to look just like another’s. Smiling headshots, decades of experience, strong communications skills, great media relations programs, all promising great results for a low fee. With so many similarities, how are you supposed to know which one is the best fit for your company?

As you sort through PR proposals, look for individual differences as they will be the best indicator of which agency is the best fit for your company. Look for an agency that will foster partnership, trust, rapport, and anticipate your company’s needs. A great healthcare communications partner encompasses these traits by having deep healthcare industry knowledge, understanding, the right media contacts, as well as courage of conviction.

Here is what that means:

1. Industry Knowledge: When you’re researching healthcare PR agencies, focus on those who genuinely know the healthcare industry and your sector, specifically. Teams may look slightly different in terms of experience. Decide what fits best with your company. You might see:
1) PR teams with decades of experience who know the ins and outs of your industry and have the tools necessary to help you achieve your goals.
2) Diverse teams with not only PR experts but ones with former journalists, scientists, policy experts, marketers, and people who can provide insights through a 360-degree view. One of the many values of a diverse team is their ability to approach any situation from all vantage points, not only from a scientific, journalistic, or medical advocacy point of view, but the all-important regulatory expertise that will ensure the positioning of your product or your company does not stray from regulatory guidelines.

2. Understanding: Beyond healthcare industry knowledge, make sure PR teams understand your company, sector within healthcare, and your specific needs. This is not an area where “One size fits all.”  As a medical device company, you want to know that your communications partner understands the many pain points of  this sector of the business.  Conversely, a gene therapy company wants to ensure their healthcare communications partner is well versed in their space.  While analysts may specialize in just one healthcare sector, the media today bounces around from one sector to the next and may not be as up to speed so it is critical that your Healthcare PR representative knows your business, your science, your market and can articulate them in a digestible manner to all interested stakeholders.

Think about what you want in an agency so you can make sure you get the most out of the relationship. Do you want a strategic partner, or the boots on the ground to get the work done? A great PR team is both – they get it, they listen, and they know how to add value to your business. They know how to tell an authentic story and build awareness because they’re true partners and are playing the long-game with you.

3. The Right Contacts: Rattling off names of New York Times or Wall Street Journal reporters may appear impressive, but usually doesn’t get the job done.  Instead, you want your agency to not only know a variety of reporters across the healthcare continuum — business, financial, general health, industry trade — but you want them to draw you a roadmap of how they will get you in front of these reporters and how they will build your reputation.  Sometimes it’s the trade reporter who gives you the break you need and deserve to get to the next level with media, investors and other stakeholders.

4. Courage of Conviction: You don’t always get what you want but focus on what you need. When you interview potential partners, look for a team who hears what you’re saying and has the courage to let you know what needs to be focused on. Rather than listening and recalling it back for comprehension, a great PR team is able to decipher and read in between the lines to anticipate a proactive plan of attack. One way to vet this might be to ask the agency how they might approach the story if you wanted investors to learn about you — or if you wanted physicians or patients to hear about you.  Not only should they be confident in their expertise to provide their immediate thoughts, but in the future, they should offer tough counsel during challenging moments with the company’s best interest in mind.

Finding a healthcare communications partner that is the right fit can be overwhelming. As a start-up, you are trying to break through and want a communications partner that can guide you in establishing footprint.  As you grow, become more mature and perhaps entertain the idea of going public, you need an agency that has done it hundreds of times before and can accompany and counsel you every step of the way.  But does that mean having to change agencies? The answer is no, as long as you find a healthcare communications partner that isn’t afraid to take the small company early on and nurture its growth until it grows up.

ICR Westwicke has helped hundreds of healthcare companies by finding every opportunity to add value. Our diverse team ranges from former journalists to scientists, with everything in between. Get in touch to learn more.

Terry Clevenger

Terri Clevenger is a Partner on Westwicke’s public relations team. She has extensive experience in corporate communications, product marketing, and advocacy relations. She has a BA in biology/human development and sociology from Colby College.  

View full bio   |   Other posts by Terri Clevenger

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