As was the case for nearly every organization in and around healthcare, COVID-19 prompted a number of transformations at Sound Healthcare Communications. The most significant of them on the work/client front was a realization that the company needed to up its omnichannel game.
“When COVID hit, customer engagement completely changed and we realized we needed to bolster our offering,” recalls managing partner, client services Ryan Perkins. “We were a classic healthcare professional and patient promotion agency, heavy on personal selling tools and congresses. What we needed to do was move to a mix of omnichannel tactics.”
Leading that effort has been SVP, director of omnichannel strategy Michael Pruskowski, who joined Sound at the beginning of 2021. “Now that M.P. has joined us, we have gotten just as good as omnichannel as we are at strategy and creative,” Perkins brags. Overall, Sound saw head count nudge upward, from 68 at the end of 2020 to 72 a year later.
In addition to the omnichannel push, Sound spent 2021 doing what it does best: working with small and midsize companies, especially ones in the rare disease space.
“Our sweet spot is those companies that are looking for big-agency thinking and benefit from our ability to service mid-cap companies more effectively,” Perkins says.
Among the accounts added in 2021 were brands from Sobi (including RA drug Kineret), AbbVie (constipation drug Linzess), Corium (ADHD drug Azstarys and Alzheimer’s patch Adlarity) and Pfizer (vaginal cream Premarin and synthetic growth somatrogon).
Sound reports that 70% of 2021 growth came from existing clients, most of it for AOR work. The agency leapt from 12 AOR engagements at the end of 2020 to 21 at the end of 2021. Revenue jumped 10%, from $12.4 million in 2020 to $13.7 million in 2021.
To accommodate the agency’s evolving mix, recent hires have cut across disciplines. But when asked about the so-called Great Resignation, Perkins says he views it as par for the course in healthcare marketing.
“For more than 20 years in the industry, it has been a consistent issue,” he explains. “I want to tell every kid in college to go into pharmaceutical advertising, because they will have a job for life.”
Sound is relying on its people to serve as the company’s best advocates; Perkins estimates that 90% of recent hires have come via referrals. Like many others, the agency has also embraced the freedom offered by remote work to expand its pool of potential recruits. The agency has moved to a fully remote working environment that, Perkins says, allows Sound “to look beyond one hour from Bridgewater, New Jersey.”
The company maintains a brick-and-mortar office that employees can use one or two or five days a week, or not at all. Perkins reports that most employees have chosen to remain fully remote.
“We finally cracked the code on a work/life balance that everyone in every industry has been trying to figure out,” he adds. “The fact that we are now afforded the luxury of working from home has made for a better culture and happier employees.”
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Work from outside pharma you admire…
The Coinbase Super Bowl ad was very smart for so many reasons. It broke through the clutter and it really prompted customers to take action, plus people are still talking about it. — Perkins