Synapse’s overarching objective as an agency has remained steadfast since its inception. “Our sole purpose is to change physician behavior,” managing director Matthew Murphy says flatly. “But how that’s done has evolved tremendously, not just in light of COVID but also the way physicians are consuming information.”

In recent years, Synapse has found that some physicians prefer to learn via short video modules, podcasts or interactive infographics, while others want longer, more traditional didactic presentations. “We make sure that any content framework we develop can be adapted for all the different forms,” Murphy says. 

It’s an approach rooted in the use of analytics to identify the most influential thought leaders in a given therapeutic space. “We find both academic experts and clinical influencers who are on the ground seeing a high volume of patients, then we work with them to co-create robust content. It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all model,” Murphy adds.

By way of example, he points to a project the agency recently tackled for Novartis: the PEAK (Personalized Education and Knowledge) platform, an unbranded digital ecosystem designed to provide HCPs with customized education to improve patient care in rheumatology. It was designed and vetted by experts to cover a variety of topics in formats that suit different needs.

Murphy also touts Synapse’s support for Biohaven’s Nurtec migraine drug. “We expanded peer-to-peer initiatives into the digital world, including congress experiences that can be conducted in a virtual setting,” he explains.

Revenue rose from $45.5 million in 2020 to $51 million in 2021, a 12% bump, while staff size increased from 178 to 195. But even as Synapse maintains offices on the 84th floor of One World Trade Center, employees living outside the tri-state area have always worked remotely. The number of people availing themselves of hybrid work arrangement increased during the pandemic, unsurprisingly, and Murphy sees working outside the office as “a cultural shift for the better. We engage in person when it’s appropriate, such as for ideation workshops and client interactions.”

But in Murphy’s mind, working remotely deprives junior staff of watercooler talk with senior managers. To forge stronger bonds, Synapse launched Leadership and Beyond (LAB), a mentorship program.

“It’s a mix of live and Zoom, with monthly meetings to share perspectives and experiences. It’s also about connecting and creating camaraderie,” Murphy says.

LAB meetings always have a social element. “On the first call we asked everyone to identify their baseball walk-up song, the tune that would get them ready when they stepped up to the plate,” says Murphy. The songs were later compiled into playlists for each group. His pump-up song? The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”

As for the future, Murphy is pumped up about the firm’s expanding digital and analytic capabilities. “We have a variety of predictive models based in AI and we’re looking to add to that suite of services,” he notes.

He’s also excited about the company’s current direction. “Of course, it’s a challenge to keep up with our growth. But that’s a welcome challenge to have.” 

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Work from outside pharma you admire…

Data Lens, the interactive exhibit created by Bluecadet for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, is a brilliant combination of data- and user-controlled output. Utilizing the millions of data points that NASA collects daily, the user can explore the planet’s air, water and life systems and create combo visualizations on a massive touch wall, revealing complex interactions. Users can work alone or interact with others to build a more robust narrative. — Murphy