Reviving Healthcare and Pharma Communications after the Pandemic

March 20 2023

The Covid-pandemic has left behind some major obstacles for future healthcare and pharma communications campaigns. While there are regional differences, the general pattern seems to be global and comprises of four key trends:

  • a renewed scepticism towards science in general and medical sciences specifically;
  • a deep distrust in the pharmaceutical industry;
  • a spirit of non-reflected opposition against all recommendations and regulations of healthcare authorities;
  • and a confusion about the roles and trustworthiness of all major stakeholders in the field of medicine which also includes physicians, pharmacists, healthcare journalists and of course all kinds of companies that generate revenue in the healthcare sector in its broadest sense.
healthcare and pharma communications
Photo by Laurynas Mereckas on Unsplash

So, what can be an exit from this doomsday scenario?

In the course of our work for global pharmaceutical companies on a very limited local market, we at accelent communications here in Austria have identified three strategic guidelines to overcome these obstacles. They are not new – but it might be necessary to take them more seriously now than ever before. And it’s funny: they apply not only to the healthcare sector…

Stick to the truth – even if it’s uncomfortable

We all want to hear simple and plain messages that are not mitigated by exceptions, conditions, or graduations. But the truth is often ambiguous, and that is especially the case with scientific findings and their interpretation. A new vaccination against cancer? That would be great, but it comes with so many “ifs” and “only afters” that the temptation to “simplify and optimize the truth” (what an idea!) may be overwhelming.

Still, even an uncomfortable truth is better than a cosy lie.

Like always, also in healthcare and pharma communications it’s better to stick to the facts instead of offering an interpretation that makes the unavoidable caveats of medical science more palpable.

Know your customer – and serve them precisely

Medical service providers should have a very clear picture of who they serve, what these people need and how they can benefit from the products or services offered to them. In times of personalized and precision medicine, a one-size-fits-all-approach is no solution, neither in product development nor in the accompanying communications. So, it’s about questions like: What are the deep-rooted concerns and prejudices of the patients? How can we reach the few dozen responsible decision makers within the social security system or the relevant patient organizations? How can we explain the product to the sceptical physicians who should prescribe it to their patients?

Be patient – and try to be big

After the pandemic, many pharmaceutical companies complained about the general science scepticism and invested into public education campaigns about the value and benefit of science in general or medical science specifically. This was well intended, but the actual results might be quite disappointing.

Peoples’ knowledge, interest and expectations are so vastly different that no traditional campaign can reach more than just a few segments of society.

The more general the messages are, the less effect they will have. So, communication for products, services and projects in this field has evolved into multi-faceted and multi-channel campaigns that need to address various groups in distinct channels over a long period of time. As such, it’s no surprise that at least in our market in Austria we see that only big players can invest in comprehensive PR activities while newcomers and smaller players are having a hard time trying to be seen and heard.


Robert Bauer
Managing Partner, accelent communications
Robert has been in the pr industry since 1995, taking care of clients, projects and campaigns with a special focus on making topics easy to grasp and understand. For him, communication is the art of thoughtfully translating complexity into today's reception reality.

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