Kristin Cahill, Incoming CEO (Jan.2021), GCI Health, shares best practices for pharma and healthcare organizations to effectively communicate with their stakeholders. She emphasizes the importance of individuality when navigating messaging between different stakeholders in different regions of the world.
Kristin also provides insights on onboarding new clients in the remote environment and tips for communicators for 2021.
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: KRISTIN CAHILL
DOUG: Christine, congratulations on being named CEO of GCI Health at the start of 2021, and it’s clearly an interesting time when the pharmaceutical industry is so in focus with COVID raging.
KRISTIN: Thank you and thank you for having me here. Yeah, it’s been an incredible year for the industry. If you think about, we entered 2020 with the Gallup poll saying that the pharmaceutical industry was ranked the lowest among 25 industries in terms of reputation. And then fast forward several months and you see Harris coming out with data showing that 40% of consumers are viewing the industry more favorably since the pandemic began. So, it creates an incredible opportunity for our clients and our colleagues to show up differently, to introduce people to industry in different ways, and to capitalize on the fact that people are looking through the healthcare industry for science and solutions.
DOUG: So, this is an opportunity. How should the industry go about communicating with all eyes on them?
KRISTIN: I think there’s a couple of key best practices that we’ve seen and we’ve heard from companies that are in the thick of this right now. The first is to make sure that you are celebrating and showcasing the science. We’ve seen Pfizer be really successful with this, with their Science Will Win campaign. But making a direct correlation between your reputation and your science is going to be important, showcasing the scientists that are at the heart of your business and making sure that you’re putting scientific solutions front and center.
DOUG: I was going to say that piece about authenticity matches what we’ve heard from TV producers in our surveys that between 86-87% of them are open to actually interviewing spokespeople from a brand. They want to hear what’s really going on. I think that ties in well with what you’re talking about.
KRISTIN: Yeah, and that actually ties to another best practice we’ve seen, which is thinking differently about the type of people you put forward within your organization. There’s an incredible opportunity for healthcare companies to put their employees front and center to mobilize their employees in a different way, and not just their leadership. Think about putting forward everyday researchers and people who are in the thick of it, working every day, thinking about how you put forward your employees on social media and make them the face of the company. So, there are some interesting opportunities to put different types of ambassadors and champions for work for companies in today’s world.
DOUG: And winning trust is so important when there seems to be such a competition of what truth is that’s really affecting all kinds of industries, whether it’s in the political realm or even not. So, what is the role of the communicator within the pharma industry, and how do you go about sort of clarifying, I think you’ve hinted at it with the emphasis on science, but what are some things, maybe even tactics and approaches you can take?
KRISTIN: Yeah, it’s an interesting time to be a communicator in in any industry, really, but in particular in the healthcare space, because there is a need to show up really authentically. And it can be difficult sometimes for us to do that with all of our regulations and our rules that we have. But one of the bright spots I think, of this year has been that there’s been a real conversation started around health equity, around racial injustice due to do to COVID and due to other factors, and that’s created an opportunity, I think, for people to again, show up differently. But it’s hard. It’s complicated for those people on the front lines of social channels, or front lines of media interviews. So, practically best practices are to really listen, finding ways to listen to stakeholders, to bring diverse perspectives into the organization, to make sure that they have a seat at the table and are really informing your communications is something we’ve heard loud and clear from the different stakeholders that we’ve spoken to.
DOUG: I was going to I was going to just say before you jump to the next one. Different stakeholders have different expectations, and sometimes expectations can be in conflict from different stakeholders. How do you navigate that process? And then we look forward to hearing your other best practice. Sorry for interrupting.
KRISTIN: Yeah, no, I think the conflict is where the magic happens in certain instances. We shouldn’t shy away from differences of opinion or conflicting perspectives. That’s where you get the rich perspective, the different communities, different stakeholders. Because one thing we’ve learned about this pandemic and just about how people experience healthcare in general is there is no one size fits all experience. There’s no one way experiencing it. So, it’s important that we’re looking at people as individuals and not make uniform decisions or basing it off of the opinion of a few, but really taking into account the full gamut of perspectives that are out there.
DOUG: Because we’re following an unprecedented year of 2020, in 2021 is there anything in the GCI sort of secret sauce that you’re looking to do, or that might be different and different recommendations and approaches moving forward?
KRISTIN: I mean our big thing at GCI Health is we put people at the center. Our whole mantra’s about being inspired by people, and our whole approach to storytelling and framework is about looking at individuals as people first versus as health stakeholders first. So, whether that’s recognizing that a patient doesn’t want to be defined by their disease, or understanding that a healthcare provider is a human being who is not only a prescriber, but is also somebody who’s dealing with their own challenges, their own desire for work life balance, or even looking at a healthcare reporter as someone who at the end of the day is trying to build their own personal brand. It’s really looking at these stakeholders as people and talking to them as people and as well-rounded humans, I think really that’s our approach, and setting our clients up to resonate in this transformed environment that you’re talking about.
DOUG: Yeah, and I’m sure that would have an effect on how you go about at GCI Health onboarding new clients with everything remote. It’s not the same. Let’s get together and do a deep dive. What are some of the ways best practices for onboarding new accounts in this new and maybe here to stay kind of work environment?
KRISTIN: Well, it is so important to build that sense of partnership and chemistry early on. We really look at ourselves as an extension of our clients’ teams. And so, when you don’t have that opportunity to be in person, you have to get creative. And so simple things that we’ve done is to make sure that we’re taking the time to not only learn the business, but to get to know our clients’ people. We’ve done virtual happy hours with them, we try to build in a little bit more time to do different icebreakers and things that will help us to get to know them better, trying to stay off email as much as possible and pick up the phone and call someone and talk it through is always a really helpful way to continue to foster that relationship, and making sure that we’re being sensitive to the fact that our clients too are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of working at home and dealing with their own situations and challenges, and just making sure that we’re always accommodating those and customizing our approach to the relationship with them.
DOUG: So, GCI Health’s clients are global in nature. What advice do you have for communicators who are trying to navigate different regions around the world with the same corporate entity?
KRISTIN: I think it’s the same advice that we’ve had for our team globally. Certainly there are regional nuances to everything, and in terms of how people are experiencing the pandemic obviously varies greatly regionally. It’s important to help find those universal human truths and those human experiences and find the commonalities when you’re building a global strategy, but then make sure that you’re giving people the room to adapt it locally. And that’s how we approach running our agency too. We all are united under some certain values and we all are looking to support and protect our people, but we also defer to the regional leaders to make sure that they can make it their own. I think that’s a good way of operating for any company in this crazy world.
DOUG: Great. Final thought as we wrap up, if had one piece of advice for communicators as they enter 2021, what would you tell them?
KRISTIN: I think that the dynamic nature of our industry has created a lot of challenges, and so it’s really important for us to stay inspired. And so, I would say to wake up every day and try to find a source of inspiration, whether that be an amazing patient story or a story of a healthcare provider on the front line. But finding that inspiration to keep you going through the challenges is really important.
DOUG: Well, great. Well, thanks so much for inspiring the people who are going to get a chance to view this conversation.
KRISTIN: Thanks for having me.