Do healthcare comms professionals understand strategy?

If the past few months have proved anything it is that the needs and motivations of patient populations are evolving at a rate of knots.

There is big difference between strategy and insight, writes Mita Dhullipala
There is big difference between strategy and insight, writes Mita Dhullipala

Whether it’s communications around staying safe in the midst of a pandemic, awareness campaigns around the uptake of vaccines or even policy pieces decrying insufficient access to innovative medicines – the paradigm has changed and practitioners must now re-evaluate.

Strategy and insight

At the heart of it, strategy is about understanding the needs, motivations, perceptions and beliefs of a population to decipher what makes them tick – this is usually known as insight.

The use of the insight to deliver an ‘intervention’ that triggers a behaviour change – now that is strategy.

Strategy in 2021 is not easy – the past few years have been an emotional marathon, the zeitgeist is gloomy at best and there are many voices alongside many agendas that are often in conflict with each other. However, that is exactly why understanding and applying strategy to our work has never been more important.

Though many healthcare comms professionals would argue that all the work they do is centred around strategy, is this really the case?

Much too often, and particularly in the policy arena, we forget to truly examine and pin down the insights, and therefore strategy, that should underpin our work. We need to be asking ourselves more often what are we working towards, what behaviour change is required to achieve it and what will really incite someone to make that change?

How do we understand how to make someone change their behaviour? The answer, quite simply, is data.

All kinds of data that can be obtained in all kinds of ways – from qualitative to quantitative to an informal conversation with an interested member of the general public.

As healthcare shifts its focus to population health, the use of data at scale and the rollout of technological innovation, we will have a veritable feast of data at our disposal.

Healthcare communications consultants (and consultancies) will need to start looking to the future, towards the inevitable, and become adept at translating data into both insights and then broader strategies.

While the strategic holy trinity of audience, brand and culture is still largely viewed as somewhat fluffy or even ‘advertising jargon’, it is likely to be the ‘secret sauce’ of the successful healthcare campaigns of the future.

As we continue to find our feet in an increasingly complex healthcare landscape, it will become increasingly important for strategy to remain foundational to our work in order to achieve cut-through and make an impact on our key audiences.

Mita Dhullipala is an account director in the Engine MHP healthcare team

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