In these unprecedented economic times, there is a tendency to view our healthcare specialism within the PR industry as perhaps more resilient than others. And to an extent, it may well be - after all, even in a downturn, we all still need our health.
That does not mean we are immune to the need to constantly review and, if required, reinvent in order to drive ourselves forward. One such avenue that could help us find that all-important point of difference is through systematic, rigorous and strategic campaign planning.
Meticulous strategic thinking wins and retains client business, inspiring creativity as well as laying the foundations for demonstrating value to the client based on the campaign results. It's just a case of finding the right touch points to ignite the proverbial flames.
A step-by-step approach, consensus suggests, is the most effective means of developing a strong strategic process that, from our view, is based on achieving three things - clarifying the brief, understanding the issues and crystallising our thinking to create the most compelling PR strategy.
The first stage is about getting to the heart of what the client wants and why, and, in doing so, translating needs into clear objectives that incorporate the bigger organisational picture and define the role of PR in delivering them.
In a healthcare context, we frequently find the remit of PR is to educate the consumer by building understanding of an issue, or by striving for ‘bigger brand objectives', rather than by delivering and being judged solely on the volume of media coverage generated.
Good planning looks outwards from the client and into the market place. In truth, we know that more often than not we can never fully understand the market, because the information upon which we rely is limited and constantly in flux. But experience suggests brand strengths and weaknesses, the dynamics of the industry and, more than ever, the views of third parties who help to shape prevailing opinions can be valuable assets.
At Pegasus, our ethos is to position rigorous planning and insight at the heart of every one of our campaigns. We do this through our own bespoke planning process, which has brought together the best approaches from other marketing disciplines in a series oprocedures tailored to our clients' needs.
As part of this process, we have developed our own panel of health professionals, journalists and healthcare consumers - who are on hand to advise and serve as a sounding board, enabling us to extract information and test ideas. Within the healthcare arena, we all have many more options when it comes to identifying and connecting with target audiences.
In last year's Healthcare Essay, we wrote about the dawn of ‘Health 2.0'. From a PR practitioner'sperspective, the internet has vastly broadened the planning remit. The 21st century healthcare consumer is more sophisticated than ever, using online sources to self-educate in matters relevant to health.
This age of self-diagnosis has led to a more informed - if sometimes misinformed - market place. But either way, such an information-hungry consumer base provides huge opportunities for extracting information and perhaps even the odd golden nugget of insight.
While a commitment to effective planning requires investment in terms of time, as well as potentially in hard currency, applying the principles to every aspect of your offering has the capacity to transform your campaigns and, in turn, your bottom line.
And in this current climate, that is no bad thing.
Views in brief
Tell us about an unsung hero in healthcare
Specialist cancer nurses. They invest a huge amount emotionally in their jobs, making a massive difference to patients and their families.
What did you learn from the most challenging healthcare comms task in which you have been involved?
Commitment to investing the time and money to get under the skin of your audiences and to fully understand their spheres of influence will reap huge benefits - for you and your clients - in the long run.
Lisa Bradley is managing director of Pegasus PR