These are heady days for the pharma/biotech industries. Billions of dollars are being invested in research for vaccines and treatments for the current coronavirus pandemic and there is more spending on the way. The resulting scientific and technological insights will have application not only for this current virus but for countless other diseases.
The rush to find efficacious treatments or vaccines, has led to an unprecedented sharing of science and ideas. The world research community can be justly proud of the collaborative way it has responded by making papers and findings available to scientific institutions worldwide. But there is a darker side to the way this intelligence is being made public. As Andre Picard, Health Reporter for the Globe and Mail, put it in an op ed published June 22nd, “The thirst for knowledge has also spurred some dubious practices, including the constant dissemination of new scientific information, by press release….” At its best, it has created false hope and in worst cases it has led to some egregious misrepresentations – most spectacularly those picked up and perpetrated by the American President.
In late May, the New York Times observed, “The desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines has changed how researchers, regulators, drug companies like Moderna, investors and journalists do their jobs.” In the urgent press to get information out, companies cutting corners and risking their reputations on sometimes questionable science. Messaging based on this can imperil valid work, undermine the credibility of the science, falsely inflate stock prices, damage potential partnerships and employee morale. Get it right and there are huge upsides. Get it wrong and it can destroy credibility on a number of fronts.
With messaging emerging at warp speed, old paradigm pharma marketing agencies aren’t going to cut it. Fresh creative thinking is critical to break through clutter and misinformation. At the same time brash trumpeting of news must be tempered by wisdom and experience. Companies need to carve a path that leverages the work they are doing while moderating hyperbole. Communication must be rooted in scientific evidence drawing respect from the scientific community, regulators, the media and the general public, as well as employees. What’s called for is clear-sighted analysis, solid counsel and innovative strategies and tactical programs, that rise to the current challenge without inflating the facts. It is easy to find agencies that compromise to provoke headlines. But the kind of communication called for in times of crisis combines perspective, vision and the wisdom to counsel client’s to be cautious when they are hell bent on becoming first past the post. I like to think that here at Jesson we are that kind of agency.