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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: DONNA LAVOIE
DOUG: The COVID pandemic has really inspired a tremendous number of new companies in the healthcare space backed by venture capital. What are some of the best ways for them to navigate the communications challenges?
DONNA: Doug, thanks for that. As you probably know, the healthcare space, especially health and science innovation, is exploding. It was exploding before the pandemic, and now with the pandemic, there is more and more acceptance of what these companies are doing. And within that, there is an unprecedented need from the strategic communications standpoint. So, what we’re finding is companies that would normally be leaning into more traditional sources of strategic communications are evolving and expanding their mindset into more digital communications. So, companies before would never necessarily be interested in social and digital, and what those channels would do for them, and now we’re seeing sort of an unprecedented focus in that area as well.
DOUG: Traditionally, healthcare is extremely regulated. And now are there other pitfalls that they also need to avoid, especially if they’re considering going public?
DONNA: So, there’s two kind of regulatory hurdles that these companies have. On one hand, you have the regulatory hurdles of FDA in compliance. So that’s one set of rules that has traditionally kept a lot of these companies on the sidelines. That’s one area. And then on the other area, you have for companies who are evolving into some sort of a M&A transaction through a SPAC, we’ve all seen what’s happening at an unprecedented level around SPACS, or also an IPO, for example, you have that regulatory track as well. So, we’re really straddling to pass from a regulatory standpoint. So, on the side of compliance, from a medical standpoint, what we really need to do is to focus either on unbranded communication, or communication that would be very focused and tied to what’s already public, meaning, you know, if they put out a press release, that becomes sort of a foundational document, if you will, and the social could follow that. If it’s unbranded, then certainly we can get more creative from that perspective. And that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.
DOUG: Have you seen the pace of change really evolve and speed up from here’s an idea to launch to funding to moving on to the next levels as a company depending on the power of their idea? And how do you adjust to that?
DONNA: Well, I think that there was a time, I’ve been in this business quite a long time now, and it was a time when we were sort of trained to think about later stage companies, companies who have already been through the early stages of development as sort of a less risk from, whether that be from an investment standpoint, or from even a services standpoint. But I think that that changed quite a bit because what we’re seeing is an unprecedented number of IPOs. And with that, most of these companies are early stage companies.
DOUG: So, how do you advise companies are beyond the early VC stage, have recently gone public and are looking to continue to grow in this environment?
DONNA: Yeah. So, again, I sort of go back to, we look at two kinds of companies, companies that are launching and then are moving into some sort of a crossover round into IPO and then later stage companies that have been public for a while, who have assets that are coming into pre commercial development, they’re filing new drug applications, and they’ll have products on the market within maybe 12 to 18 months. And in those cases, you’re looking at more market shaping kind of programming, depending on whether they’re in a competitive area or not. But I would say those programs are more robust. And again, it’s competitive intel, it’s market shaping kind of work, data and insights, if you will, and then awareness building.
DOUG: The pace of communications has increased so much because of COVID. Do you think these changes are likely to stay in a post COVID world?
DONNA: Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s a tough question to answer, right? I think that we are all adapting to the new rules of the game, so to speak. I think digital and social is certainly here to stay, that’s for sure. I think in the healthcare sector, in particular in biotech, it’s been one of the last industries to really grab grasp on to this particular part of the communication channels, if you will. We see a lot less in sort of paid social and digital, if you will, but earned is still, you think about media, earned is still always sort of front and center to these companies, and I think remains to be even whether it’s a pandemic, or not being in a pandemic, it really continues to be a very important area for these companies for credibility.
DOUG: Thanks so much for sharing your great insights with our viewers.
DONNA: Thank you Doug.