The pharma industry depends on innovative practices, but the ability to sustain innovation has always been a challenge—this is true for different aspects of the industry from development to marketing. Innovation in pharma can result in both failure and success. While this risk is a byproduct of innovation, it is also one of the reasons that pharma companies find sustaining a modern outlook to be such a difficult task. However, innovation is vital for pharma companies to remain profitable and relevant, especially when the drug approval process is so daunting and the industry is frequently subjected to public scrutiny.
Pharma marketing practices that support a more sustainable approach to innovation include 2 primary actions. The first is to realign goals, objectives, and incentives for pharma employees; the second is to introduce outside talent and new practices into pharma activities. Both of these initiatives are cost effective and can be applied to mitigate the risks associated with innovation as well as to avoid creative stagnation. In order to execute these strategic initiatives, the most beneficial practice is to partner with a medical communications agency.
Realign Pharma Goals, Objectives, and Incentives
The nature of the pharmaceutical industry—making medicine from molecules—places value on modernization associated with the underlying science. However, innovation should ideally be applied down the line, especially in pharma marketing practices. In order to invigorate innovation across the board, there is a need to first evaluate and realign the goals, objectives, and incentives of individual programs. This may include pointing out programs that are not doing enough to better the company, and aligning a cross-functional team around the success of the company rather than individual programs.
A cross-functional team in pharma involves researchers, clinicians, stakeholders, marketers, and more. While understanding individual objectives is important, how each member fits into the larger picture is necessary to achieve a common end goal. Redefining the roles of each employee—and offering incentives that motivate them to reach their individual objectives, such as stock options—allows them to take ownership in their contribution to the success of the company. With more eyes on the value of medicines, there can be greater foresight or opportunity to find constructive solutions for programs that are falling behind, including a broadening of potential indications.
Medical communications agencies can facilitate the realignment of goals, objectives, and incentives for pharma employees. For example, they can provide leadership steps that help build a more collaborative company culture. Partnering with a communications agency that specializes in a specific therapeutic area such as oncology can help foster innovation across all activities, and not just pharma marketing practices, as they can determine compatibility among different teams and introduce appropriate outside talent.
Introduce Outside Talent and New Internal Practices
While it’s important to uncover any tensions and misaligned opportunities within an organization, another contributing factor to innovation stagnation is a lack of outside thinking brought into everyday tasks and functions. For this to happen, engaging non-scientist stakeholders and other suitable outside talent is necessary. A pharma company may consider recruiting talent from such areas as finance, tech, academia, and consulting, and engage them in drug development or marketing roles.
This initiative should ideally be introduced not just in the marketing phase, but during development in order to promote innovation and success throughout the process. One example of this is the company Roivant partnering with Lyft in order to provide transportation for elderly patients to participate in clinical trials, a common hurdle for an older patient population. This solution was discovered when Roivant involved non-scientist newcomers in a discussion with scientists, who explained the obstacles they experienced in the clinical setting.
Of course, this is a delicate balance, as veteran scientists may feel alienated and outside recruits worry they don’t fit in. Enter medical communications agencies: using the same approach in defusing tensions among internal team members and advancing innovative practices, an agency can facilitate the integration of outside talent. A great benefit of partnering with an agency is the recruitment process itself. Medical communications agencies have the ability to screen outside personalities that are compatible with the client’s existing employees. Furthermore, an agency can design an appropriate onboarding program that is tailored to the new outside recruits, and that can help align them with the company’s culture and professional goals.
While bringing in outside talent is key to evolving a more innovative climate, in order to sustain it, companies ultimately need to track the effectiveness of various pharma marketing practices as well as their own teams. Consider implementing an ‘opt in/opt out’ program for outside hires, providing them a way to exit gracefully if the collaboration is less than compelling. Offer all employees bolder incentives—whether veteran employees or pharma newcomers—to help sustain innovative initiatives. A more flexible vacation policy, for example, can provide stressed-out employees relief in an intensely fast-paced work environment. Encourage employees to provide genuine feedback, and more importantly, take action on the feedback to support a more collaborative and viable work culture.