macdougall musings

Science Communications During and After COVID-19

by Shai Biran

Since everything in the biopharma world is moving so fast during these Corona times, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss science communications in the biopharma world. As part of our work at MacDougall, we spend a lot of our time translating complex, cutting edge science into information that can be consumed by investors, physicians, patients and the general public. Scientific communication, be it of basic science translational breakthroughs or milestones in the clinic, needs to be done very sensibly:

  • Be accurate, there’s no room for exaggeration. If you over promise to your investors, and even more so to your potential patients, it will come back to haunt you

  • Be credible. Even if you thought your new molecule will “cure cancer,” unless you have multiple peer reviewed data points corroborating this claim, no one would believe you, and you would end up further back than you started

  • Be clear. If there’s room to misinterpret your message, it can affect your stock price, your credibility and the lives of patients who count on your work

  • And finally, you need to be compelling and targeted. Our conduit to these audiences is the media. If you do not keep your messaging relevant and interesting, and target the right journalists, your news will not be picked up and broadcasted to the right audience

During the last few months (or has it been weeks? or years?), we’ve experienced so much information poured on us from multiple sources, from academic researchers, physicians, biopharma companies, through politicians and all the way to the neighbor’s uncle who really understands this pandemic since he had the flu once. Not only are there many sources, but we are all also learning new facts about the disease on a daily basis. Who do you trust? How do you know what’s real and how do you reconcile today’s information that conflicts with what you heard yesterday?

In this climate, it is all the more important to keep your messaging crystal clear, under-promise and over-deliver. Many of our clients, and biopharma companies in general, saw an opportunity to do good and jumped feet-first into developing new drugs, vaccines and devices to help fight the disease and to tackle the numerous challenges that accompany the quarantine. Whenever a company initiates such a move, it is important for them to update their current and potential partners, investors, customers (physicians and patients alike) and the general public.

Our advice to these companies? Read the advice above, and always keep it ‘cool’. Overly enthusiastic messaging will make it look as if you are only using this terrible situation to your gain, grabbing for ‘COVID-19 attention’ from overworked reporters. Instead, explain very clearly what you are trying to do, why you think that your technology has a chance of success, and how your actions can help patients in the long run. Good reporters will see the value your news is providing and will be happy to share it with the world.

Good luck, keep safe, and please drop us a line if you have any questions or need any help. That’s what we’re here for!

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