When healthcare and health IT organizations send out an RFP, they tend to think in terms of things they want targeted agencies to do. They tend to talk in terms of deliverables, e.g., write and distribute X number of press releases, perform media and analyst relations, secure speaking opportunities, write case studies and so forth.
While all of those capabilities are important, they’re hardly unique. Any halfway decent PR agency should be able to accomplish all of those tasks and more with some level of success on a regular basis. It’s actually one of the things that makes developing content for an agency so challenging.
To find the real differentiator you have to look much deeper. For example, if you look through the Amendola Communications website you can get a pretty good sense of our services. A quick survey will confirm that we can do all the things you need done to make your marketing program a success.
The real value, however, isn’t in what we do, or know how to do. It’s in what we know about healthcare and health IT in terms of its history, its evolution, the impact different decisions and regulations have had and continue to have on the organizations and people who work within it, and the interconnection between your organization’s messages and the bigger picture of the industry.
In other words, it’s the unique ability to present a message within a larger context that helps an organization differentiate itself. That context can only come from a PR agency that is deeply immersed in an industry as complex and nuanced as healthcare and health IT.
Perhaps one of the greatest values a top PR agency can bring to clients is a broader perspective. Subject matter experts and marketing teams within a healthcare or health IT organization tend to develop tunnel vision about their products and/or services. They know the problem their solution is attempting to solve and how it solves it, and tend to view everything through that lens.
Savvy organizations will also look at competitors to see how they compare. Still, that view is limited to a narrow sliver of the entire healthcare/health IT industry.
Because of the nature of the business, PR agencies have a very different view of the market. Rather than being a mile wide and an inch deep in a subject area, agencies will tend to bring more of an inch deep/mile wide perspective. They will be aware not only of the issues at the center of what the client’s products/services offer, but other areas that impact it – or it impacts – as well.
Example: population health management
The current buzz around population health management (PHM) helps illustrate the agency perspective. Even a casual walk through the aisles at HIMSS 2016 demonstrated how important PHM has become in the overall healthcare/health IT discussion. Ironic given that just a few years ago PHM was hardly in the mainstream of discussion.
Yet PHM isn’t just one thing. There are many different aspects to it, and carries different meanings to different people within healthcare organizations. When clinicians think of PHM they may think in terms of care gaps and how to reach specific populations, while finance may be more focused on the revenue opportunity (and cost to implement) and the C-suite may see it as a mechanism to transition into value-based care.
Each of these perspectives is valid from a particular point of view. If a health IT vendor gets too deep into the weeds in a specific area, it may make the job of selling its technology to these prospects more difficult.
A knowledgeable healthcare/health IT PR agency will understand the broader implications of the technology because it has had exposure to multiple areas and is already on top of other considerations that aren’t on the client’s radar. Its value, then, will be to make the client organization aware of these additional aspects and use them to tell the client’s story to the media and through content.
I know this idea certainly applies when I or one of the other writers here is developing content for clients. The typical process for developing a byline article, executive article, white paper, blog post, etc. is to review materials sent by the client, research what’s being said in the market generally, develop questions and set up a call with the client’s subject matter expert. Then we take all that information and create a compelling story.
In the process of writing the story, however, I will often find myself tapping into knowledge gained from working on another Amendola Communications client, past or present. Having already delved at least somewhat into the deep end of a particular topic, such as the crisis around chronic conditions and how best to manage them, I can add information that wasn’t part of the original call or client-supplied information review. This non-competitive, big-picture information delivers additional context that makes the story richer, and thus more valuable to the reader.
Fortunately, I don’t have to rely on just my own knowledge of the industry either. In an agency like Amendola Communications that is focused solely on healthcare and health IT clients, there is a tremendous store of institutional knowledge about a broad range of topics. As opposed to a general agency that may only have one or two people with healthcare knowledge.
A simple email asking if anyone here has a perspective on a particular topic will usually elicit an incredible wealth of information that beats anything you could find with a Google search. Especially since even that context often comes with additional context.
That doesn’t only apply to content, by the way. This same sort of cumulative, institutional knowledge is applied to media relations as well. Not just in sharing contacts, although that is certainly valuable, but also in how to approach a story pitch. One media relations expert’s knowledge of a particular aspect of predictive analytics, or telehealth, or some other hot topic can often guide another to a better way to present the story and demonstrate the reasons a media outlet’s readers or viewers will care about it.
It’s the expertise that counts
When you line their capabilities up side-by-side, most PR agencies will look the same. While who they know in the industry is helpful, it’s the agency’s overall domain knowledge that can really make the difference between a program that performs ok and one that exceeds expectations.
To gain the most value you want one that can connect the dots on their own and apply industry knowledge your organization may not possess internally to round out your story. That’s the hidden value the right healthcare/health IT PR agency can bring. Not just for ours, but in any industry.
Do you agree that domain knowledge in healthcare and health IT is critical? Have you ever worked with an agency that didn’t understand the industry? If so, what was the result? What aspects do you think are most important?