macdougall musings

Challenges and Takeaways of Debuting in a Pandemic

Debuts are important. Companies fresh with cash after a Series A or seed financing want to be known in the industry and this is the first opportunity to tell their corporate stories to a public audience. Debuts are more than just announcing the financing and investors – they lay the stage for a company’s value proposition and how they will be judged on future progress.

Despite the pandemic, early financings and company launches remained strong – according to NVCA data reported in Pitchbook, 2020 was the third consecutive year where early-stage companies raised over $40B in Series A and B rounds. The size of these financings also continued along the trend of increasing in size and the pandemic only slightly slowed early VC activity. Within the life science industry, biotech VC reached an all time high in 2020, raising just under $20B. The average financing per round was nearly $45M, nearly $10M higher than the average in 2019.

Timing is Everything

The largest hurdle of debuting in a pandemic is timing. Before the pandemic, it was important to find a good news window that avoided major medical meetings or FDA decisions that might impact reporter receptivity and industry readers’ attention. Finding an ideal time to announce has been a lot more difficult during the pandemic.

Daily coverage on COVID-19 has taken a significant amount of industry reporter bandwidth, making it a challenge to bring attention to debuts. Understandably, industry reporters are carrying the heavy weight of keeping the public informed on COVID-19 developments, but the unpredictability of COVID-19 announcements makes it difficult for companies with other news to share.

The New Status Quo

Standard debuts that announce a moderate financing and interesting science sometimes fail to garner the attention they would normally have received pre-pandemic.

When planning a debut, we recommend building as much flexibility into the process as possible. Having some leeway will be immensely helpful in navigating competing news flow. By staying informed of what’s happening in the industry and having a flexible debut date, we can better identify external news competition and adjust the timing to our advantage.

Messaging Remains Key to Success

When we work with a company on debuting, a positioning meeting is a critical starting point. We like to start with a meeting that involves all the key stakeholders and management who each hold a critical piece of a company’s story. By gathering everyone into the same room, we can have a robust conversation and align on a narrative.

Due to social distancing necessitated by the pandemic, we have adjusted this process to a virtual format. Although it was difficult at first – our positioning meetings often last four to eight hours – we found that we can conduct them in the same way we did in-person once we and our clients became more accustomed to lengthy virtual meetings.

Moving forward in a post-pandemic world, our preference will still be to conduct these meetings in person, but scheduling and travel time for teams that are spread out geographically can be a challenge. In these cases, we are thankful for the ability to achieve the same results in a virtual setting.

Newsroom Changes

Pandemic reporting requires specialized science reporters to keep the public accurately informed. It has been a heavy and important job for these reporters to break down key learnings from epidemiologists and public health recommendations for the public to digest.

We hope that the value of high-quality science-focused reporting will be universally recognized moving forward and a less expendable position in newsrooms. We have seen a few industry outlets expand their reporting teams and scope of coverage in the last year and we hope this will be a growing and lasting trend.

Looking Forward

Despite changes in nearly every industry due to the pandemic, new company launches continued steadily through 2020 and into 2021. There were challenges to overcome for the brave companies that debuted in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis, but the rewards were still worthwhile. The last year has brought about important changes in the way we do business that will have lasting impacts on companies and how they debut for years to come. The value of science reporting was brought front and center. We hope this shift in reporting and efficiency of virtual meetings will prove useful as we continue to help our clients debut in a post-pandemic world. We learned through experience that flexibility and timing around major industry news are crucial. But as we all eagerly await our return to the office, we will continue to enjoy the luxury of taking meetings in pajama bottoms.

Are you planning to debut in the coming year? Do you need strategic communications, IR or PR counsel? Contact our team to learn more about how MacDougall might be able to help.

Creative Services

Digital Media
& Content

More than a Tweet
Building your brand and voice is a key function of digital media, but, with the right goals in mind, digital media can be much more. Meet your audiences where they are by building digital campaigns and content that help to connect and engage your stakeholders.
  • Social media strategy & content
  • Narrative building
  • Blog creation and execution
  • Metrics, monitoring and reporting
  • Social listening
  • Executive digital profile strategy and management
  • Influencer monitoring and engagement
  • Digital advertising
  • Content creation, design and marketing
  • Video creation and podcasting


Credibility is your most important asset
Investor relations is about building trust, transparency and liquidity. The MacDougall IR team has helped many clients bridge from private to public and showcase our public clients to new investors and analysts.
  • Audience targeting
  • Shareholder communication
  • IPO preparations and communications
  • Conference calls & webcasts
  • Conference outreach and support
  • Presentations
  • Special events
  • R&D days
  • Perception audits

& Creative

A picture is worth a thousand words
Visual first impressions are so important in this era of precipitous information. Our digital and creative services team are true life science artists devoted to visual storytelling and capturing eyeballs.
  • Branding & identity​
  • Visual storytelling​
  • Logo design​
  • Website design & development​
  • Scientific illustration & MOA graphics​
  • Infographics / data visualization​
  • Animation & video production​
  • Presentation design​
  • Scientific posters​
  • HTML emails & newsletters
  • Advertisements


Be known for making a difference
Thought leadership campaigns open many channels to promote both a personal brand as well as your organization. Let’s pick a subject and run with it together.
  • Executive profile building​
  • Strategic counsel
  • Presentation coaching​
  • Speech writing​
  • Media training​
  • Social media​

Scientific & Medical Communications

Show and tell

From preclinical to platform to Phase 3 results, strategic medical and scientific communications is the cornerstone to building visibility and credibility with your target audiences.

  • Medical and scientific meeting support
  • Patient recruitment for clinical trials
  • Disease awareness campaigns
  • Patient advocacy outreach
  • Data communications
  • KOL identification and development
  • Custom scientific symposia/events​


We love telling stories
Public relations is about building your network and getting other people talking about you. We want to help you build buzz and credibility at the same time.
  • Company debuts​
  • Media campaigns ​
  • Social media strategy & content​
  • Press releases writing, editing & pitching​
  • Ongoing trend story development & pitching​
  • Conference tracking & management​
  • Disease awareness campaigns
  • Clinical trial recruitment campaigns
  • Media monitoring & analytics
  • Events​


Think before you talk
We have seen it all. Helping our clients navigate the macro and micro ups and downs of the life science and healthcare industry is our passion.
  • Corporate branding, positioning and message development
  • Product and technology branding
  • Public policy advisory
  • Crisis communications
  • Strategic communications plans
  • Capital markets advisory
  • Scientific and medical publication and presentation strategies
  • Board presentations
  • Competitive intelligence
  • M&A advisory & rebranding
  • Corporate rebranding