TechMunch: Taking the temperature of Health Tech PR

When I started in tech PR seven years ago it was still regarded as a niche industry. My peers all ended up in consumer, fashion, sports or entertainment. Yet today, it seems every company wants to be considered a technology company – from accommodation providers (AirBnB) to transport companies (Uber) to food takeaway services (Deliveroo).

For some products and industries, the link to tech can seem a little tenuous (connected hairdryers?) but there is one industry where the alignment to technology makes complete sense, and that is healthcare.

Healthcare has always been driven by technology, from thermometers to pacemakers to x-rays and incubators. Developments in science and technology over the centuries have continuously helped to progress our health and wellbeing.

Today, health care innovation is developing at lightning speed thanks to new tech-driven tools such as empirical screening technology and advanced analytics/ recombinant DNA technology. These advances are hastening drug discoveries, providing virtual patient care and helping to eradicate some of the world’s most life threatening diseases.

From a communications standpoint, the rapid pace of these innovations makes telling these stories a new challenge for the healthcare industry. Often, PR gets involved way too late in the commercialisation process.  But as products get more bespoke and targeted, often treating to cure, PR should be involved earlier – to make complex value cases.

Traditional pharma PRs are used to playing the long-game when it comes to the journey of drug approval and commercialisation. The process can take months if not years. On the flip side, tech PRs are used to the short-game – getting the news out as fast as we can before someone else beats us to it.

Recognising these new and sometimes competing imperatives, FleishmanHIllard Fishburn has created a cross-practice team of healthcare and tech communicators who are working together with health tech companies to draw upon the experiences of both.

We understand that the way people communicate and get information has changed. There is a misguided perception of the PR industry that all we do is media relations. But a truly effective communications campaign today should include an integrated program that delivers real organisational results.

PR experts should be able to consult, provide solutions to business problems, set the message and narrative, come up with creative campaigns and programmes and then get them out across any and all platforms that are right for the company – one of which might well be the media – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Taking from the best of traditional pharma comms and tech comms, health tech companies can tell stories about innovation in an impactful way that spurs the market to action without jeopardising the integrity of the product.

If you’re looking for the best way to tell your health tech story, here are our three top recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Tell a human story

The most important thing for health tech companies to consider when telling your story is how your health tech product and/or service benefits real people. For PRs this presents a fantastic opportunity – boiling down complexity and technical lingo into one to two sentences that convey the end benefit to human beings. This certainly isn’t a new approach, but sometimes PRs and our clients can get blinded by the deep tech developments and forget the human story.

So rather than recounting the mountain of personal data a wearable device can track, talk about how it can detect health problems early on or how it can expand human potential. If possible, talk about a specific way it improved someone’s life. These are the stories that expand peoples’ minds and inspire them to act.

  • Make it topical and find the unique angle

To achieve maximum impact, make your story topical and relevant. Look at what else is happening in the news. Health tech stories in the UK for example work incredibly well when communicated in tandem with government health initiatives or trending news stories about the NHS – particularly if the product or service is designed to save our national institution time or money. There’s rarely ever a story that’s not been told before but you can find variations of a theme to make sure you’re pulling out the most interesting facts and takeaways.

  • Find the best platform for your story

The final tip to keep in mind is to make sure you’re telling your story on the right platforms. With your audiences consuming information across so many spaces it’s important you find out where they are.  This includes scientific brands and tech platforms. Many tech companies are entering the health sector for the first time and need support to make the complex value and reimbursement messages critical to this industry.

Integrated communication campaigns can certainly include media but can also include hosting exciting roundtable events alongside peers within your space; crafting engaging infographics that work for bite size content; recording a podcast to share with your customers and repurposing blogs and bylines for LinkedIn Pulse blogs. PR today means reaching beyond traditional media to tell stories to people who have the ability to influence and guide the future.

Health tech is probably one of the most critical industries in our world today – it has the potential to improve the lives of millions across the globe. It’s our job as comms professionals to make sure that these stories are communicated effectively and responsibly to help spread the word and ensure these amazing developments can continue.

Charlotte Nicholds, Technology