PR’s Top Pros Talk… Optimizing Modern Communications in Healthcare – Cori McKeever
Cori McKeever, Global President of Healthcare, Golin
>> More episodes here
>> Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and others.
About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: CORI MCKEEVER
DOUG: So one of the biggest challenges for brands is how they can keep their campaigns appealing. What are some of the strategies and approaches you’re using to be able to enable them to do that?
CORI: That’s a great question. And we hear that a lot from clients who come to us and ask for specific communications and integrated strategies of how they can maintain their relevance and continue to attract their audiences and keep people coming back and act on what it is that they want to ask them on. And I think it really starts with understanding the end audience and what the motivating factor is. They’re also tapping into insights certainly about that audience and importantly to what is happening in the environment and culture, being able to tap into the cultural context of the moment and find something unique that is also relevant and certainly authentic to the brands, I think can help a great deal, specifically when you’re in between perhaps launches related to the brand or certain milestones. That’s one of the things that we counsel our clients on.
DOUG: Yeah, it’s interesting. You talk about sort of touchstones in the moment, but it’s also interesting that if it’s moment by moment, you still have to translate into something with legs. How do you go about combining those two and is there a way they can work together?
CORI: I certainly think there’s a way that they can work together. And I think at the core of everything that we do as it relates to healthcare communications goes back to data and to insights about the audience and really understanding at the most granular level that’s possible. What motivates our audience to read something, to understand something, to take an action, no matter what that might be, from liking something on social media to ultimately purchasing something or asking their doctor about a specific medicine. And some of those actions or motivations are so unique to different groups of people and then down to the individual. And it’s really exciting to be at a time now where there are so many sets of data that exist that it can almost be overwhelming. But also really interesting if you can find a way to harness that information and apply it to communication strategies. And I think that’s at the heart of how, you know, you’re creating a strategy that’s going to really stick and be impactful and that you can measure that progress down the line.
DOUG: And the scope of your role is so large. One of the things in there is a difference between a pharma client and also maybe a general health or wellness client. Can you maybe give us some points of sort of differentiation…we’ll start to take them one at a time to make it a little easier. How do you approach things with a pharma client? And then we’ll get into more of the general wellness and health clients?
CORI: Yeah, that’s also a great question. And I’ve been lucky throughout my career to work with a number of wonderful pharma clients and really great medicines that have changed the lives of a number of patients. And I think for so many of us who work in health care communications, that’s what motivates us to get up and come to work, because we do feel like we’re making an impact and being able to work on those things. Pharma represents an entirely different challenge than other health and wellness clients, given the regulations of the industry, which of course are needed. But how you are able to still be creative, still use those insights that I was talking about and partner with these clients and really counsel them on ways to move the needle, raise the awareness, increase the amount of understanding around a certain disease or the science behind a new medicine, depending on the audience, whether it’s patients or doctors as well. And we counsel our clients to again start with the data and the insights around the audience. But also, I think one way that we really excel is with scientific storytelling and being able to break down the incredibly complex into something that’s simple to understand, whether that’s in the written word or in some other way of bringing it to life, animation, video, et cetera. And I think that’s critical not just for a patient audience, caregiver audience, but also for a physician audience as well, because we’re living in a time where physicians are inundated with information, things are coming at them very quickly and they aren’t always able to stay as on top of the latest news as they would like.
And so the onus sometimes is on our clients to be able to communicate that the latest breakthroughs very quickly and well in a way that the doctors are can understand so that they can then take those findings back to their patients. And that scientific storytelling really is a. Heart, I think, of pharma communications overall.
DOUG: And good storytelling, such a consistent piece across all kinds of communication and PR, we’ll get to some of the general wellness and health strategies in a moment. But one of the things we’ve spoken about previously is how during the pandemic there’s been such an increase in viewership among people who are watching local TV news. In fact, there was a stat that sixty four percent of people working from home from Nielsen watch local TV news regularly. Has that caused a shift or is that always been an important audience for your clients?
CORI: I think local news has always been an important audience for clients and even more so now, particularly when newsrooms continue to shrink. But to your point, the audience continues to grow and rely on those local news sources as a source for their information. And we know that reporters continue to be stretched and with a zillion different demands. So for communicators and public relations professionals, it’s on us to articulate the story and the impact and why the audience needs to know and why they should cover it and then give them the news to cover in a way that’s easy for them to take and to do so. But ever so much more important, I think, and will continue to be so these local news sources, it’s critical. And I think the importance for us, too, is not just to focus on whether it’s broadcast news or the main papers within the city, but also the rise of journalists who are publishing their own newsletters, who are working outside of the realm of just within the newsroom walls. And that’s pretty important.
DOUG: And there’s also a lot of crossover in those audiences with distributing their content through different channels. I promised we’d get back to sort of general wellness tips that you advise clients sort of in the health and wellness space in this current environment. Any advice for them?
CORI: I think one of the biggest pieces of advice is to treat any journalist as a health care journalist. We saw during COVID that everyone’s beat changed. All of a sudden, folks who are covering things that were completely unrelated to health care became health care journalists in their own right, because they had to be. Because it was something that was impacting every single story. And while I think the earned media landscape has changed more in the favor of non-covid stories over the past several months, and we’re certainly seeing new non covid stories becoming easier, I think, to achieve and an earned media landscape. The reporters are different now. And you might not just be going to a traditional Hamo beat reporter. There are other reporters who you can take your story to. And so to think through that lens as you’re crafting your strategies, I think is pretty key.
DOUG: That’s awesome advice. And finally, you’ve obviously achieved extraordinary success in your career. Any people, any advice for people maybe just starting out earlier in their careers and what they can do to be more of an asset to the organizations they’re with, whether it’s agency or on the client side?
CORI: Certainly, I think you can never discount grit. That is showing up every day with an attitude of I’m going to work really hard and prove my value. Never resting on your laurels is really important and has served me well early in my career. If there was something I didn’t understand or I didn’t fully nail the first time, I think being tenacious and still attacking the ask and showing to the people that you work with, that you can you can do it and you can nail it is key and not to be afraid to raise your hand or raise your voice when you’ve got an idea. I think that especially junior people and particularly women don’t always voice their opinion and can be at a table where they sometimes see others take an idea that they’re thinking about and present it. And then there’s always that moment of, oh, I wish I would have said that. And it’s finding that confidence to go ahead and say what you want to say, bring that idea to the table and push for it if you believe in it. I think that’s a great way to get ahead.
DOUG: I love that you’re saying that it’s music to my ears because I always tell the new people we hire that if they have an idea of something that they think could be interesting or better and they don’t share it, they’re not only cheating the company, they’re cheating themselves. So they really have to just share what’s on their minds to make it better. Well you’ve clearly done that not only throughout your career, but during this conversation with some great stuff. Thanks so much for your insights.
CORI: Thanks so much for having me. I loved being here.