When I was in first grade, the game Telephone was a favorite activity. You may remember the game – where one person whispers a line or two to the next person and so on throughout the circle. By the time the statement reached the last person, it was completely different than how it began, giving everyone a big chuckle.
In the life sciences industry, how you communicate with customers, investors, employees, the media and community stakeholders can oftentimes resemble a game of Telephone. Without planning, communication with these important audiences can come across as disjointed, unprofessional and downright wrong. This inconsistency can negatively impact your prospective partnerships, sales and ultimately harm the firm’s reputation.
So, how can life sciences companies of all sizes—from startups to multi-billion dollar firms—ensure clear, consistent communications about their business and unique technology? Through the use of public relations. When conducted strategically, PR can play a key role in helping company executives describe the impact of the business and technology to key internal and external stakeholders. Consistency is imperative for all executives to sing from the same hymnal, whether the audience is a potential customer at a conference, a neighbor or a potential investor. So, what is the key to public relations success for a business? The following four strategies will start you on your way:
Playing offense: For company executives, a common misconception about positioning the business with stakeholders is that simple word of mouth will spread the great assets about the firm organically. This approach may have worked pre-internet, but in today’s 24/7 digital world, companies need to play offense and take control of how the company and the science is described not only for accuracy but what kind of reputation the company wants to have. If you don’t take control of your company’s message, someone else will.
Strategic show and tell: What is the big picture for the company for today, tomorrow, in five to 10 years? These big picture questions are critical, so ask them first. For instance: how is the technology going to save lives, lead to process improvements, lessen the impact on the environment and create jobs? The answers will guide the development of your strategic communication program to clearly tell the story of your business.
Memorable messages: To communicate effectively about the promise of your company and how your product is making the world a better place, remove the scientific-speak and explain the technology in plain language. Although this may be challenging, the payoff will be evident when the audience clearly understands your company and technology. This plain speak should be developed into three to four key messages, or key takeaways, that highlight the big picture ideas about the company.
Spread the word: Once you have the strategic communications with key messages in place, make sure to share the information with any employee who speaks on behalf of the company and instruct that they use the messages at trade shows, conferences, with the media or with investors. Consistency with employees at all various venues will ensure that your company’s message is heard loud and clear.
Communicating your company’s story is not as simple as you may think. It takes thoughtful, strategic planning, messaging and employee coaching to share the exciting work that you are doing at your business. Time spent upfront developing cohesive messaging about the technology will be rewarded with clear understanding of your business by key stakeholders, which is certainly much more productive than communicating by a game of Telephone.
Angela Howland Blackwell is Vice President for McDougall Communications. She and her family recently returned to Indiana after living in Upstate New York for 25 years to head up the firm’s Indiana office. Angela is a graduate of Carmel High School and DePauw University.