In a time of transformation for medical communications, this brings great opportunity for pharma and agencies alike.

To lead transformation, pharma and agencies need to be built for transformation.

Learn how medical communications is transforming and how HCG is setting up its clients and itself to be drivers of this transformation.

Note: MM+M uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting this content.

Larry I’ll give you a cue here. Mmm agency 100 Studio sessions Healthcare consultancy Group. Okay, we’re rolling.

Hello, my name is Larry dobrow. I’m the Editor in Chief of mmm and I am ready for you to plug into this episode of the agency 100 Studio sessions a new podcast series, which gives members of the mmm agency 100 and opportunity to Riff on what sets them apart.

Today, I’m very fortunate to be joined by two of our good friends from Healthcare consultancy groups CEO, Matt, Doria, and the chief engagement officer Greg Ember.

Matt and Greg thanks so much for joining me. Great to be with you Larry. Yeah, thanks for having us. Absolutely and I think we’re gonna be talking a little bit about transformation and you have the two of us Matt and I spoke for our agency 100 profile which will be live and in the world by the time everybody hears this but that was one of the big topics of our conversation and specifically how Healthcare consultancy Group is one of the companies that focuses on it in a way that I think is a little bit different a little bit smarter than a lot of what we see from the rest of the industry. So why don’t we start there medical Communications right now? It’s transforming in a big way. Tell us how what are some of the big picture changes that the two of you are seeing but I think first of all, you know, just to focus in maybe a little bit of it as to why it’s transforming. I think this is a really exciting time to be working in medical Communications, you know, there’s such a tremendous pace of scientific innovation. That is yeah connecting us with therapeutic interventions that are benefiting patience. We’ve got real world evidence that that’s giving us insights into

Patient care and value optimizations. That’s that’s making the practice of medicine stronger. We’re reaching different audiences through you know, highly evolved channels Health Equity is coming into focus and and we’ve got AI transformation that is accelerating the way that we can develop content and deploy it so it’s just it’s a really exciting time to be working in medical Communications. I think about you know my career path and when I first started in medcoms the task in front of us was a lot easier the data sets were we’re more discreet we take that data. It would be defined into a specific set of deliverables and we Cascade it through this very traditional thought leadership pyramid where we co-create with some of the top thought leaders and you Cascade that information Community practitioners and the world’s changed. First of all, the science is so complex and there’s so much information and the audience is that we’re communicating to you just have different expectations, you know, all of that.

Information has been democratized and the expectation just with respect to the speed that that information needs to be communicated and absorbed doesn’t work through that thought leadership pyramid of Osmosis anymore. So it’s really a necessitated that we transform the way that we plan our Communications. It’s transformed the type of content that we build and it’s certainly transformed the mechanisms through which we’re delivering that to our Target audiences.

Great, they agree with everything. Matt said in terms of you know, setting the stage and and why and and the responsibility that we have to keep up with all that. I think that

It’s not just that it’s transforming. I think though there’s another Dynamic to it. It’s the speed at which it’s transforming the rate. I mean not to date myself. But like I remember when I was a kid and I had a record player, you know, there’s a Fisher Price record player or something and you can take it and you could increase the speed so everybody sounded like the Chipmunks. Well, I mean that’s sort of how I feel about transformation. Now, you know, it’s it’s the rate of transformation the expectation for transformation in order to keep up with all the Dynamics that Matt talked about which is incredible. It means you can’t just transform and say we’ve transformed it means you keep going and you keep going and it has to be embedded in your culture and how you think and what you do

And I think for me the element that has also really transformed talking about all the traditional channels and the traditional cascading of information.

physician engagement wasn’t its own discipline in medcoms the way it is now now we have to spend so much time thinking about not just

shaping the story and telling the story but we have to think about how and where we’re engaging Beyond those traditional at a symposia, you know through a publication and all of that. There’s it’s a much more Dynamic situation and engagement is as key a part of it as The Story You’re engaging them on and the data, so I think it’s it’s all happening very fast.

So maybe we make sense for us to kind of unpack that concept of how we plan what we build and how we deploy it because I think that’s really key to your your question around transformation. So the way that we used to plan we’d have life cycles to our tactical planning process where we would strategize and originate ideas develop those deploy them into market and measure and that would you know that take place over the period of six months to a year now because of the rate of change that that Greg I think just you know, so eloquently explained you don’t have time for that. The market will have moved on the data sets will have evolved to rapidly so it requires much more of an agile planning process that is listening and informed by where the market is what communication it needs exist with our Target audiences. So that that we’re planning to meet our our stakeholders where they are against the advancements of medical Innovation that we’re trying to bring forward all of that.

Necessitates that we develop content and build content which is the second part of that that’s much more individualized to you know to meet those those stakeholders where they are so that to Greg’s earlier point that doesn’t look like long exhaustive slide kits that I think are frequently associated with with medical Communications, you know, those content assets look very different now and I think with one of the principal reasons that they you know that they also look different is that they’re deployed through an increasingly digital set of channels that that are compatible with PowerPoint. So, you know, we need to build content that is social we need to build content that is is interactive and you know consistent with the learning preferences of the audience, you know audience members that we’re communicating to and present day so it’s not meeting space. It’s not slide-spaced. It’s much more much more Atomic and modular and interactive then it’s ever been before and those those deployment mechanisms have to feed back in to you know to that planning process so they each need to have measures.

Of success measures of absorption and informing us as to to how that content is resonating how it’s being applied such that we can continue to evolve the educational planning process on the basis of where our Target audiences are moving. So yeah, you need to think about your content almost in two constructs. It needs to achieve an objective. It’s deployment needs to inform the future of what you need to communicate and what you need to put out to to Physicians to further Advance the standard of care to that end the company. What are you doing to embrace this to change the way you work to make sure you meet the moment and all these changing needs. I’m sure we both have a lot to say on this. I do think that that you sort of got a rebuild and and rethink for transformation and old model and old team that you might use to staff any given piece of business looks very different right now. Right? I think that you have to have the the experts on on physician.

Behavior you have to have those digital strategies. You have to have the social media experts you have to have all of those people ready as subject matter experts to be part of those teams as needed to make sure that this is a living breathing.

Plan, so I think the team that you’d see in front of all of our clients looks very different than it used to we have the medical folks. We have the Strategic folks. But we also have the digital folks in the creative folks all sitting at the table that’s simply isn’t the way it was before but also I think and I know you know, we’ll probably evolve this into talking about Innovation specifically, but it’s it’s building it into the culture and I think that transformation and Innovation, it involves a different culture than a sort of a static business and then was required for medcoms, you know, 10 15 years ago. And so if you’re gonna keep up you really have to bring the right disciplines in and you also have the right way of thinking and testing and room to to fail if you need to fail and and to learn and so I think that that’s all very different than we used to and so, you know, they’re mechanisms mechanisms. We’ve put in place for all of those things. I think one of them is is bringing together what we call our engagement group so bringing those expertise on the digital and creative side, which which span

You know 15 20 different sets of expertise and functions in order to effectively create these stories engage Physicians bringing that to the center of our group and really building that out so that we have a hundred and fifty people that are really focused in that area and can be deployed where they need to be deployed to bring that expertise.

So that we can reach those positions wherever however and whenever we need to that’s appropriate and and you really can’t do that unless you you build up all of those disciplines and you put them together in a way that you can point them where you need them when you need them. And so I think that’s a big piece of it. Yeah, I think the second piece that that I I really focus on is that cultural element that the Greg talked about and and you know, we’ve really tried to instill a culture of continuous Improvement and and learning across our organization. So we have people that we refer to in our organization as catalysts that their entire role is to look outside of healthcare to identify, you know, interesting ideas and communication platforms that we can bring in internalize figure out how to integrate into our work streams. Yeah, the compliance mechanisms that exist around Healthcare and then socialize those across the entirety of our group so that innov

Mission isn’t happening in a team Silo. It’s something that we’re making very social and the expectation is that there is a level of amplification that is achieved by sharing and building on one another’s ideas. And so that’s something that we’re really invested in and it’s something that you you have to encourage by, you know, sending people to conferences like South by Southwest and areas that are far afield you need to host sessions that are encouraging your team to imagine and to dream and to really transform what we do you can’t jump immediately to the all right. Well, how can we make that billable or how can we deliver that to a client tomorrow? Sometimes these ideas take a while to fully cultivate and fully marinate? And the other thing is that a lot of those ideas fail. And so yeah, I I almost parallel it to what you have in farm and the drug development process where things are gonna go through a funnel and you’re gonna start with yeah a huge set of ideas that in you know that first phase of

Development that is going to go through a funnel and you’re gonna go from a hundred ideas down to three. And so first of all that level of failure is something that you have to accept and instill in teams that that they can’t be afraid of the important thing for us to apply is a learning as we move through move through that so that we can get better and again continuously reinforce that idea of improvement that cultural component is is one that’s that’s really really key. I like that comparison with the developmental process. I think there are a lot of commonalities there and also because there’s also the element of innovation, you know, the fact that you want to make sure you’re doing things in a way that is that’s different. There are a lot of companies that just say, all right, we’ve got four seminars, you know show up at one of them and I don’t know how you learn that way. Yeah, if you think about it if farm and biotech companies were afraid to take any risk, we would never have any medical Innovation. So, you know, we need to apply kind of almost that same mindset to thinking about Innovation and being really invested in it and, you know, not afraid to fail but you know committed to learn to that.

Point, you know Innovation, you know, a lot of the times you hear it in, you know, when you’re talking with people in the business. They’re just kind of throwing it out there as a buzzword. How do you make sure that the Innovation that HCG does is more than that? I’m a transcends that kind of like well, this is a word everyone else is using we’re gonna use it too. So a couple years ago, we took the leader of the biggest agency in our group. Her name’s Delphine DuBois, and she was quite an Innovative thinker. I mean, we elevated her to a position of Chief Innovation officer for the entirety of our group and so Delphine originated and runs that that network of catalysts that I mentioned previously that that extends across our organization. So the simple answer to your question is that we’ve invested in it. Yeah. It’s it’s not something that we hope will happen. It’s something that we we took a very Senior High Impact individual from our organization and promoted her into a role where you know, she has a mandate to drive that and to encourage that

So much of the culture of innovation and the infrastructure for Innovation that we’ve described are things that delphine’s originated and really creates a ton of impact for our organization. So being invested in it and taking a bold step of taking somebody that was running a very successful Agency for us to creating an impact on a group level in that in that role is was probably that most courageous decision. I think that we’ve made around the Innovation process in general and I think her background of running an agency puts that really in touch with the needs that exist for for our clients and Physicians out there. I mean, she’s somebody who’s been on the front line. So it’s not Innovation for innovation’s sake it’s Innovation pointed where we need to be and and I think there’s also accountability for that Innovation. And you know, I think that across all levels of our leadership and throughout our group everybody has accountability for that Innovation, and I think that that accountability is really important but there’s also the celebration of it and Matt Matt talked about the sharing of it because

You can’t innovate In Pockets, right? Every client has to benefit from these Innovations and from these expertise. We’ve got to be able to put that forward where it’s needed when it’s needed.

So a part of that we also do is the celebration of innovation. So we do what we call Our Best of the Best or Bob awards every year and really, you know, a little competitions a nice thing but this gives it everybody an opportunity to put their cases forward where they’ve really innovated where they push boundaries and what they’ve done and what the outcomes are and really kind of share and celebrate that together and and you’d be surprised how that a motivates people but seeds thinking across the group. So I think you do those things you invest in it and then you you share and you celebrate and you hold people accountable for it and and before you know, it it’s just woven into the fabric of who you are. But if you don’t do those things you’re just talking about it. Do you know what I mean? And so I think that it’s really not until you get to that point where just becomes part of your DNA and in all of those ways that it really is happening on and ongoing basis.

Right when we talk about Innovation and medical marketing Pharma marketing nowadays. One of the things that always comes up is the omnichannel mix tell me a little bit about that. Certainly Omni channel is a huge part of what everybody’s doing and doesn’t matter what therapeutic category. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing Diagnostics devices anything else. How do you think it fits within the broader scope of today’s medical Communications?

I think that if you first take a look at just simply look at the the requests that come in the rfps and the things that we’re talking about. They’re probably isn’t one of them that doesn’t have an omni Channel component or at least mention that word in there a few times. Everybody does have a little bit of a different perception of what it is how far along it is and how they’re gonna how they’re how they’re planning to utilize it within a work stream. And so I think what’s what’s really important is for Omni channel for

Us to be leaders in the space for us to learn from outside of medcoms. It’s a great part about being part of Omnicom. You know, when you talk about Precision marketing and you talk about the sort of the birth of omni Channel and these these what we’re pulling in from consumer packaged goods and other spaces in terms of learning.

you know, it’s great to be part of a group where we can pull that in learn from that it’s also

Great to be part of a group where you have experts you can apply towards it and an incredible amount of data that you can apply towards it. So I think you can’t have Omni Channel and even think about Omni Channel and personalization because that’s really what we’re talking about without having vast sources of data to understand your audience to understand where they are in the adoption curve to understand what their preferences are where they want to learn and what formats and the things matter alluded to earlier. So I think that it’s really really important for us if we’re going to be leaders to make sure that we’re pulling all of that in and and so really everything we do regardless of of what the ask is starts with pulling in that data understanding the need understanding the audience Etc. And then it’s really understanding the client specific needs requests environment. All of these things. I think some clients are coming to us and saying we need a nominee Channel partner. Can you help us execute this?

You can leverage your systems your environment and all of that and then we’re powered to do that. Right? We have platforms and tools that we can launch to help execute this within our environment and Link back to the client’s environment as appropriate. But we also have to have the expertise to navigate within the client’s technology environment to help them execute their and help move them along that curve within their technology environment. And so those are two very different looking approaches to take and so we have to partner with our clients to really understand that and to set expectations and kpis for what it’s going to be and and those look different on the commercial side than they do on the med Affair side. And so I think when you talk about Omni Channel, you know on the commercial side, it’s a little more comfortable because it’s a little closer to home and when you talk about it on the meta Fair side, you really have to talk about

Omnichannel to support education and how you measure that and what you’re trying to accomplish and so those are key things and then the last part of it is we’re not in the days where you just put content out there and you get anecdotal feedback. We really have to look at the metrics and the analytics for everything that we’re doing and Matt alluded to this earlier. I mean we make decisions about the next content based on the metrics and what we’re seeing around the content that we’ve already pushed out there, right? It’s all way more informed than it used to be. So we have to make sure our clients are prepared for that and our clients are thinking that way these are all things that are sort of key tenants of activating Omni channel in our space. I think if people have a sense that it’s flipping a switch, you know, that that is not the way it is. It’s a journey together and and really I think we’ve seen our most successful Partnerships in this space where we’re really aligning on expectations and aligning on a roadmap to get there and working towards it together. Yeah. I think the

Thing that I’d really, you know want to build on from from Greg’s response. There is is in the content itself and how you define medical Communications and you know, there’s an evolution here. But if you know, this is reaching audience members who are still defining medical Communications, as you know ad boards symposia, and you know speaker slide decks and then you attach to that question. How do you make that Omni Channel? My simple answer is that you can’t that’s Antiquated medcom’s material. There’s no way of kind of extending that you know, you know those existing content assets and making them on any channel you need to think about medical Communications content. I’m in a different way. So it’s moving beyond some of the things that are so ingrained and have been ingrained and how people think about medical Communications for you know, for decades now that I think is part of the very rapid transformation that’s that’s occurring around us and moving from those long form slide decks into content. That’s that’s much more modular.

I developed something for a symposium. But yeah, there’s an opportunity in developing that content in a way that you know can be modularized and pushed out in an omnichannel fashion through a number of different channels. So you can’t just think about omnichannel as you know technology platforms and data lakes and metrics you have to you really have to rethink what the core content elements are that you’re gonna plug in against that I tell you kill the slide decks. I don’t care if there’s a constitutional amendment but this has to happen right you just came up with the name of the name of the podcast. You should just be killed. You know, we’re talking about Omni Channel, but I think um when about transformation right now, that’s one huge component of it, but the other one is AI and certainly we’re hearing an awful lot about it and everybody is actually doing it. It’s not something that’s kind of a promise which is the way it was a couple years ago. Tell me about hcgs take on that. How are you embracing it? What are you doing to make sure that it’s not just one of those. Hey we can do this if you want to that’s something it’s very integrated into

Everything you do and the way you think yeah, so and you know just just as we did with Innovation and and with Delphine Dubois who I mentioned earlier, we made an appointment last year of young William Van Dorn as our chief transformation officer specifically focused around the the opportunity set that exists with AI and so I’m extremely proud of the things that we’re doing already the way that you know, we can point our AI platforms to rapidly pull together a systematic review of all of the evidence that that exists in the space around us. Yeah has accelerated the speed and Pace at which you know, our Medical Teams can work and then we’ve all so developed a proprietary system that helps us to keep see materials before they are going into regulatory review. And so it adds 15 minutes to our workflow to run a deliverable through our AI platform before it goes into a review process, but our metrics are showing that

It’s it’s saving an entire review cycle with a client. So something that would have taken three rounds of review now takes two because we’ve identified something through our AI platform that is generating a tremendous efficiency for us. So yeah again against the you know, that that pace of innovation and transformation that we talked about earlier and if you can you can deploy AI in such a way that it’s speeding up the synthesis of the content on the front end and it’s cutting off at least a week. Yeah 10 days of time on the back end of that process through a final round of review that doesn’t exist anymore to me. Those are it’s beginning to show that the logger term promise around Ai and that’s that’s really just the start the team that JW is is engaged with and leads and we’re invested heavily with other omni-com agencies around us, you know, most notably the Delphi Group and and Entre Health to build and establish a corpus that has deep learning capabilities that eventually we think is going

To be of tremendous assistance to a lot of different points along our workflow so that it can really be an assistant that is helping our medical and account and digital teams to plan and implement the different initiatives that we deliver. I think that the you know AI is coming along the exactly the right time for all the reasons that that we talked about it at the beginning, you know data is coming at us quicker than ever. They’re just more to communicate more to digest all of that. So really when you start to think about the pain points that that creates and then you start applying AI against those things and where it will really allow us to be more effective and more efficient and all of that and you work through it that way versus thinking of it as a buzzword or or something sexy that you want to apply in one way you really think about it practically and start to pull it through and you start to see the benefit what I would also say is it’s really about partnership with the clients too clients are looking to implement this they’re looking to understand how they can do it. And so to

Really collaborate on some of this stuff and find the right situation where you’re going to Pilot it together under that sort of umbrella of innovation and push things forward. That’s how you really take it from the lab out into the real world. So to speak and so those Partnerships where you’re doing it together or where you’re seeing the rubber meet the road and you’re seeing it really make the difference and then you can start to apply it more broadly. So I think it’s it’s not just the what it’s the it’s the how you go through that adoption of it. That’s really important as well. All right to that end one last question for you both and I’d love to get both of your takes on it the advice that you give I’m nobody’s asking anyone to give away a secret sauce. But um if there’s somebody who’s a little bit less far along the transformation Journey that HCG is what would you tell them? What are some of the things they need to know? What are some of the things they need to avoid? There’s a couple things I mean just because I am who I am I’d say remember to bring digital and creative people to the table early because I think that thinking having them at the table early that that really changes the

Direction and trajectory of what you’re doing to make sure it’s really going to meet today’s needs. So that’s one that’s very near and dear. But I think the other thing I would tell you since we’re talking about transformation and Innovation and Ai and omnichannel is don’t try and accomplish those things because of the buzzwords or because of the buzz think about what you’re trying to accomplish and what the hurdle is and then focus on how any of those things will apply there. And and if you do that, I think what you end up with is not tactics for tactics sake but really things that help us do our job in a better way than we could before and help us meet the needs of the evolving audience and and lastly it’s just, you know, we’re more physician-centric than we’ve ever been. We have more information about them in real time. Don’t sit in your office or at your desk thinking about just what you need to do. Think about what they need you to do. It’s really their

Needs that are important the other elements that I again simplifies. It’s the control really learning of it and yeah it transformation, you know requires a culture that is and you’re going to be accepting of risk that’s going to socialize learnings gets people excited about doing things differently and I think a lot of a lot of people yeah approach transformation through a lens of fear that they’re afraid of being disrupted or they’re afraid of, you know, falling behind. Yeah in the marketplace and I think you need to kind of abandon that mindset and go at one that’s a lot more opportunistic and we just try to be excited about the future. You know, you look at you look at things like AI that we’ve been talking about we’re looking at all of those things as opportunities and whenever we’ve made in advance forward, there’s always a connection back to you know, our employee experience our employees love it, you know, the things that we’re disrupting with with AI for example are the parts of our medical writers jobs or account teams jobs or digital. It’s the part of

Absolutely don’t like so they get to focus more on the things that they love to do. It’s a huge part of of getting people excited about the future and excited about transformation. The more engaged your employees are as a part of that and the more that the culture that surrounds that is something that has a good strong vibe to it and feels fun to people. I think the faster you can get you get more people invested in it that way and it just creates a critical mass that really propels your entire organization forward. So that’s the culture is really really key. I mean listening to the two of you talk about this. I mean you guys have fun, right this is this is fun stuff to do. Yeah. I think you have to have fun with this. I think it’s such an exciting time. It’s such an exciting, you know part of the world to be in and medical communication. So yeah, I love what I do and I hope that’s that. I hope that’s that’s kind of jumping through the audience today.

All right, one bonus question for you both because this is the M&M Studio sessions. What is the last song that

you both listened to?

I need to go back into into my my Spotify list. It’s funny. A lot of people just like wait a second. Should I give an honest answer or should I give one? That’s gonna make me sound pretty cool.

It was Jim. It was Jimmy Buffett. That’s not gonna make me sound cool. But that’s an honest


I think when I was really random, hold on I say I’m gonna pull this back up so that I’m not giving you a false answer here.

I was called Over and Over by Hot Chip which is a little alright little little oriented. So yeah, I needed some positive energy this morning. So that was hot. I love the contrast between both. Your choice is very cool. Jimmy Buffett and and Tech. I love it. Matt Greg. This was an absolute Delight many. Thanks for joining us here today. All right. Thanks Larry. Thanks Larry. And for the M&M Studio sessions, this is Larry Joe Brown many. Thanks for listening and

be well.