Technique 5 minutes, 24 second read Rebecca Mulgrave, Head of PR, Branch Road
Back in May, we worked with digital health solutions provider S3 Connected Health to release news of the rollout of its new clinical support tool, ACORRD; developed with leading respiratory clinicians in Ireland to aid hospitals in triaging, monitoring, and treating covid-19 patients.
For firms with similar stories to communicate, here are the 10 core considerations that drove our comms approach – and the key learnings for marketers managing covid-19 comms:
Ensure the efficacy of your news
Research and validation are the fundamental first step to ensuring a solid base for any communications approach; in times of crisis, where news directly relates to the issues at hand, this is even more important.
By interrogating the announcement, thoroughly fact-checking, and establishing the purpose of your marketing from the start, you cover all the questions your audience may ask further down the line.
For S3 Connected Health, ensuring the efficacy of ACORRD was the top priority for everyone involved – confirming the tool was successfully deployed in hospitals and making a positive difference before any comms launched.
Identify the human angle
When you boil any comms announcement down you should always arrive at one fundamental question: why will your audiences care?
Considering how the current crisis is impacting your audiences’ daily lives, attitudes, and the way they’ll want (or need) to engage with you is an important exercise in identifying the human angle of your announcement.
In our example, we had two very different audiences to reach: clinicians and the general public. Our priority was identifying the angle that resonated with both groups on a human level and uncovering the heart of the news: a tool with the potential to change the way healthcare systems were tackling the pandemic, giving clinicians (and, more importantly, patients) a fighting chance.
Work with impartial experts to tell the story
Sometimes enlisting the help of third-party experts is the best way to communicate with your audience – especially during a crisis like covid-19. They not only add credibility to your cause, but bring a level of expertise that you may not find internally.
For ACORRD it was the senior clinicians, project leads, and health service representatives that did most of the talking for us; the ones on the frontline, with first-hand experience using the technology to manage patient care. They were the voices our audiences wanted to hear.
Stakeholders must have their say
In critical situations, there are often many stakeholders to consider. All need to be engaged and on the same page from the start, not least to ensure efficient approval of any comms.
If those same stakeholders are spokespeople for the announcement they need to be briefed ahead of time, clear on the core messaging you’re trying to get across, and to understand the desired outcome of your approach.
Working with S3 Connected Health, we had internal and external stakeholders to involve, some of whom were senior clinicians using ACORRD on the frontline. Allowing all the time and opportunity to input led to a well-rounded and informed announcement at launch.
Avoid sensationalist headlines
Exaggerated, attention-seeking headlines are the easiest way to appear as if you’re ‘ambulance chasing’. It’s the one thing you want to avoid at all costs, especially during times like these.
Sensationalist headlines not only twist the truth but can appear as ‘click-bait’ and undermine the legitimacy and importance of your comms in the first few words. You want to stay authentic, genuine, and truthful.
A few hard-hitting facts summarised in the opening lines of your content (as we crafted here for ACORRD) will get to your core message rapidly and engage audiences without making over-inflated claims.
Involve legal along the way
Bringing legal teams into the fold right from the start is always incredibly important – but especially so in the heavily regulated medical and pharmaceutical industries.
With S3 Connected Health, we were dealing with a CE marked, class I medical device which had gone from concept, through regulatory officials, to deployment in a record 10 days. Language and messaging had to be precise as the ramifications of inaccurate or misrepresented information at this point were far greater than issuing a correction.
Timing is everything
Choosing the right moment to make your announcement is paramount. Crisis news cycles are extremely fast-paced, with things changing day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
Keeping tuned in to developments ensures the story or message you communicate is relevant and sensitive to the current situation – just be ready to make changes (or pause things) at the last minute.
Keep your eye on external factors
There are many things outside of your control in a crisis. Making sure you have your eye on as many of them as possible will help you to adapt your strategy accordingly.
In May, our approach considered everything from the struggles of media houses (working under the strain of depleted teams) to an increased reliance on email (with reporters – and our own teams – working from home, away from desk phones).
A wide-scale media ‘sell-in’ wasn’t feasible, so a series of hyper-targeted pre-pitches drove our results instead.
Think about your integrated comms strategy
We all know that a comms announcement is far more than a single press release or media moment. Successful strategies engage audiences across multiple channels, and continue the conversation beyond a single launch date.
Developing supporting and supplementary content that evolves the story, dives into detail, offers different audiences more relevant perspectives, and supports a much broader marketing strategy (where relevant) is a great way to ensure maximum impact from your story and support wide-reaching organisational objectives.
Consider how you’ll measure impact
As with any integrated marketing effort, success should be measured against pre-set criteria and KPIs. For a typical media announcement, you may be looking at coverage hits, article views, key message pull-through, spokesperson share of voice, brand recognition or resulting website traffic.
For S3 Connected Health, the key measure of impact was simply greater awareness of ACORRD among clinicians; knowing the technology had the potential to help clinicians save lives, and ensuring hospitals knew this (and how to deploy it) too, was the biggest signifier of success.
Whatever your metrics, make sure you report honestly so the benchmark for your next announcement is clear.
Following the advice laid out in these 10 tips will ensure that any piece you produce is considered, balanced, well-targeted, and free from controversy. It may be a complex comms landscape at the moment, but your audiences do want to hear from you, so make sure you don’t fall into the trap of doing nothing and allowing your competitors to steal share of voice and dominate the conversation.