MacDougall Musings

Biopharma’s Role and Opportunity in Disease Awareness and Patient Advocacy

The MacDougall team brings decades of experience helping leading life sciences companies elevate their communication and connection with key audiences. Your success depends on visibility and credibility with your core audiences, partner with MacDougall to amplify your message and its impact.

Throughout the biopharma and life sciences industry, many companies operate with the same credo: patients are at the heart of the work. But in a field that is plagued by distrust from much of the public[1], it is essential for companies to show an authenticity that goes beyond “lip service.” Patient advocacy and disease awareness efforts can help companies connect with the people they are working to serve, share their science with the public, and actionably support the messaging at the core of the company.

Awareness is More Than Being Aware

It is important to remember that awareness campaigns go beyond simply declaring that a certain disease or patient population exists – they should serve as tools to educate the public on a disease’s impact on patients and communities, the therapeutic landscape and prognostics, and how the status quo can be changed. Perhaps most importantly, these efforts cannot be an advertisement for your company in sheep’s clothing – organizations have tried this in the past and caught scrutiny for it.[2] These campaigns can vary in scope and focus, but certain core values and traits can help to support any awareness efforts’ success.

What will be the central focus of your messaging? Are you educating others on the daily struggles of individuals living with a certain disease, or are you looking to connect patients with potential supports that could improve their quality of life?

What actions are you looking to inspire through your campaign? Do you want to encourage patients to share their perspectives, or shed light on risk factors and motivate individuals to take early interventions?

What role do you want to play in these efforts? Do you want to provide a platform where others take control of the messaging, or share your perspective from working in a certain disease area? Whatever your focus is, it’s essential to clearly identify it early on.

Authenticity is Key

Just as awareness efforts must emphasize more than the presence of a certain illness, advocacy efforts must also serve more than simply promoting one’s own organization. Without a genuine desire to work with patients and strive toward improvements in care, any attempt to capitalize on these efforts will be transparent.

Corporate communications can strengthen a company’s brand, but the main focus must be on growing your network and sparking conversation around the impact on patients. Many campaigns can be considered a two-way street: companies gain perspective on the lives of those they are working to serve, while patients get targeted information on progress being made to address their most pressing needs. When you clearly identify the types of conversations you want to spark through these campaigns, a genuine desire to engage becomes palpable.

Share Your Voice and Amplify Others

Disease awareness efforts can also present the opportunity to educate the public on your organization’s scientific approach to treating certain conditions. Shedding light on the underlying mechanisms of health conditions, particularly rare diseases, can help a broader audience better understand your company’s approach to developing treatments. Just as you can use advocacy to share more about your company’s mission and approach to treating disease, it also presents an exciting opportunity to give patients and caregivers an audience.

One of the most appealing aspects of these campaigns can be the fact that they are ideally positioned for social media, a platform that can present unique challenges for biopharma companies due to concerns about compliance and message control.[3] Out of fear of misstepping on social media, many biopharma companies shy away from creating content. When campaigns utilize others’ voices, social media presents as an excellent opportunity to share organic content and bring your messages to those who otherwise may not have seen them.

Life sciences companies and organizations have incorporated disease awareness and patient advocacy into their communications strategies countless times over – if you are looking to do the same, it’s essential to consider what will set yours apart from the rest. Anybody can assemble a few statistics in an attempt to get easy publicity. But if you have a genuine interest in engaging with the patients you serve and bolstering conversations on the unique challenges that surround them, you have an excellent opportunity to make an impact – and we want to help you do that.

Contact our team to learn more.


[1] Talev, M. (2020, September 15). Ipsos poll: Distrusting Big Pharma and the FDA. Axios. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from

[2] De Chant, T. (2021, May 7). Facebook and big pharma exploited disease “awareness” for personalized marketing. Ars Technica. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from

[3] Davis, B. (2017, July 7). Advantages and challenges of using social media for pharma R&D. Elsevier. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from