>> So I'm here today talking to Simon Holt, an expert in healthcare communications and marketing, to understand a little more around what's required to generate the pitch, generate the message. What are the hooks and the levers that are required to communicate what your healthcare innovation is all about and to get it into practice? Simon, thank you so much for your time today. It's wonderful to speak with you about this really important topic, and to draw in your many years of experience in the healthcare communications industry. Could we start by just having you talk to us a little bit about your background? >> Hi everyone, I'm Simon Holt. I started off about 25, 26 years ago after going to university and studying Comparative European Politics, poor choice of subjects given that we're doing this while Brexit is being negotiated. I started off working for a big drug company on one of their marketing programs and I bounced around with the different brand managers, and I spent some time in the sales force, which I didn't really like very much. I didn't think that approaching doctors and getting appointments to talk for 10-15 minutes with a paper-detailed aid was my thing. I always thought there was a version 2.0 or 3.0 just behind the curtains with marketing. So I was advised to go back to the head office, and I spent some time in pharmacoeconomics, health economics, understanding how value messages were generated from clinical trials and non-clinical trials, so observational studies. Then I spent a large chunk of my career in management consulting and I did a lot of post-acquisition integration, is what they call it to make it sound glamorous, but essentially what it is is trying to make sense of conflict when two companies come together. I always worked in the parts of the companies which were focusing on the business end, not the research end, but the business end. So the sales teams, the marketing teams, the promotional stuff and always in healthcare. Then over the last few years, I moved to Switzerland, where I'm talking to you now. I have spent some time again working for a big drug company. I ran their economics group, their global public policy group, and their pricing and market access teams. So trying to make all those things relevant to an external audience. Four years ago I joined McCann, and McCann is a global leader in healthcare communications. I'm in McCann as their Chief Business Strategy Officer at the moment. >> Let's start off by asking you a little bit about healthcare communications. What is it, and why is it important? That's a good and a really interesting question. I've always been concerned that I'd be asked a question that would floor me, that would be really simple, and that is it. That's like the Milgram question that people ask you. So really I think what healthcare communications is: it's about flipping the data and the promise that a brand has and turning it into a story that resonates with an audience. Story usually is accompanied by various campaigns, whether they are face-to-face discussions, or whether they are digital campaigns. Whether they age with a mood video as they call it, or some sort of presentation, but essentially, healthcare communications or advertising I suppose in its previous language, that happens when you're taking a bunch of facts and a bunch of promises and messages and really trying to convert that into a story that sticks and resonates with the audience. >> That sounds really important when you're thinking about healthcare innovation and getting people to consider your innovation and adopt it into practice. Can you talk to us a bit about what makes therefore a good story that sticks? >> What makes a good sticky story? It's very similar to the sort of things that you think about when you design anything that is sticky, like apps and things like that these days. The red threads through all of that is there's a slightly different slant on the story from all the other stories that are out there. So don't forget there's a lot of noise in the system, and this is a story which will have a slightly different slant, which is peppered with a number of different memorable hooks I suppose. Within your story there are a few things that actually make things bite, whether there's a musical hook or whether there's a hook which plays on a trend. So gender is an incredibly cool discussion point at the moment. I've seen some ads coming out that played against the re-framing what gender stereotype is, and that's what captures the imagination or whether the hook plays against generations. So for example if you want to tell a story about how to get the kids to go to bed so that you can watch a movie on the TV and rekindle your romance if you're an aging couple and perhaps it's a viagra ad. What better than tell the story of a mother and father sitting next to kids eating popcorn and the mother and father decide to make out in front of the kids. The kid's thinking, oh my god, I can't pause you guys, I'll go to my room and watch Netflix. You distort a story which is just about a product, everyone knows what a viagra does, but here you've got a story that entertains and is really memorable. The last thing is if it gets people talking and they're sitting around the table, if I take the viagra idea we just had as an example, we start talking around the table of, did you see that Viagra ad and wasn't it hysterical when their daughter had a mouth full of popcorn and she coughed it up when the father said, I was your age once, and I was a bit of a player. All this type of things. So there's an element of a hook, there's a slightly sideways view of this of playing around with some stereotypes. Then I think making things entertaining is always the way of cutting to memory. >> That's very helpful. So these are things I don't think we necessarily automatically think about in healthcare, at least. I'm hearing that it's really important to have a hook, it's important to make it entertaining. It's important to build on or think about stereotypes whether they'd be about gender. I'd be interested to hear a bit about what processes do you have to go through when you're developing your marketing strategy or your advertising campaign or your communication strategy, what processes are important to think about to get it right? How do you figure it out? >> There are constraints with that. So with constraints on, you've usually got a certain amount of money to play with in the private sector, but let's say you take the constraints off, this isn't about budget or making something happen. This is about fundamentally getting that killer idea, that moment where you think, oh my goodness, this could re-frame everything. This is a beautiful idea. I was really interested working in the advertising industry because I was curious about whether there was a black box that made this type of thing happen, and the truth is I don't think there is one. So I hit the books a little bit and tracked down someone in MIT, who has done a little bit of research on what is it about the creative idea, and where did it come from. What I loved about the research was that it suggested that those amazing ideas often come when you're on your own, after something, after energy, after a brisk walk, after being in a meeting that you felt was just so tiresome on your trip home. Sometimes those wonderful sparks of inspiration come to you when you're on your own, and yet as groups we tend to say, okay, let's all get together as a team and come up with an idea. But then when you talk to the experts, you realize that that eureka moment happened when they were on their own. I don't know about you. My eureka moments don't come when I'm listening to podcasts or jogging, listening to music, they usually come in the immediate aftermath of something like that. So that was a big lesson to me and then putting together a plan, so a great idea let's assume that it comes on your own. Great scientists come up with amazing hypotheses to study, sources of information, designing a new trial, but then wrapping an approach around it, that's when I think teaming is fantastic. I was in The World Economic Forum yesterday and their big thing is about collaboration. The thing with collaboration where I think is a really untapped moment in business is, those voices that can turn something to a different direction can come from anywhere. So if you look at what happened in Davos a few months ago, the idea of climate change and air pollution was voiced from a Swedish school girl, and it suddenly has formed an agenda, which so many people decide to talk about now. So if you can create a multi-stakeholder room to just listen to your ideas or this killer idea that you've got, suddenly there will be a spark and a voice that comes from perhaps an area where you weren't expecting it. I think this is massively underused by the way. There's loads of modules and modular approaches to putting together marketing plans. So in healthcare, we often ignore price because we think the price is not something we can play around with, but actually I think price now and value and creating an outcome story is phenomenally important as part of the marketing mix. So going right back to basics, people still talk about Walter's 4 Ps of promotion, and pricing is one of those Ps, and how you create the message, how you present the message, and how you deliver that message. I think those are important. I think in a long story short, I keep things nice and simple, and I love the idea that inspiration comes on your own, and I don't think people do that well. Usually, they huddle together as a team and try and come up with a killer idea, but actually it's more likely to come to you in the shower after exercise. >> Some of the things that we think about on this specialization is the extent which some perhaps features of an innovation that are intrinsically about the innovation might influence how people value that innovation, so for example, where it's from, to what extent does the country where a healthcare innovation is from influence how people view it. We talk a bit about in reverse innovation, where healthcare innovations originates in low-income countries for the adoption into high-income country contexts. The country of origin influences sometimes negatively people's perception of that innovation. What do you think from a marketing point of view, from a healthcare communication point of view can be done to manage that effect of the country of origin of an innovation? Is there anything at all? Have you seen any good examples of that happening? >> This worries me to death because when putting things like this together and various companies or research institutions or think tanks will do their own research, and commission primary research or collect secondary research. What worries me is a bias. In a conversation with someone just a couple of days ago, we were talking about someone from Johns Hopkins coming over to talk to the Ministry of Health in London about an innovative approach to screen women for breast cancer, and the same civil servants and their likelihood to take the same meeting with someone who is coming from an African country or Latin American country. What worries me to death is that bias is a massive blind spot across lots of businesses. The reason I'm completely convinced about this is, I love traveling and I've loved to going to countries where the average disposable income is phenomenally lower than most developed countries. What you see is people putting together innovations and thinking more creatively to make more use of what they've got. Then I come back to the UK or Switzerland or Germany or France or somewhere like that, and you start hearing messages of, we need to have another, say on breast cancer, so another breast cancer clinic or tertiary center but we can't afford it, and that for me is a major challenge, so addressing that bias in the system. Some of the innovations that have happened, I think that are worth mentioning, I once saw an advert from I think it was Coca-Cola and it was a big shack, in the middle of almost nowhere in Africa, which had a coded protection fridge and the fridge was powered by solar energy, and in the fridge were medicines and vaccines, and it allowed medicines and vaccines to be accessible by people that were living in very urban environments. I think the idea came from having dispensing canned machines, I don't know what you call those, the big coke machines, and having a solar panel to power them. So lifting the solar panel and putting it on a rather large dispensing unit, which still actually looked like a big coke machine, which is something everyone recognizes. But instead of having coke or as well as having fizzy drinks, I hope it was instead of, medicines and vaccines. I think those are the type of things where we could use this and then suddenly it's an opportunity for a big company to say we're doing some good. The flip side, something else to add is that a lot of the larger companies that I come into contact with have corporate social responsibility groups and they're looking for opportunities to try and change the way they're perceived in developed markets by leaning into help and offering help in developing or underdeveloped markets. Generally speaking, I think those organizations within companies are so underfunded, but when you think of the Coke example, I just gave you, I think it was coke, the benefits are potentially massive. >> In terms of communication strategies therefore, how do you if you find an innovation in a low-income country as you mentioned that you think could have potentially massive benefits elsewhere, is it necessary to manage the message around where it's from? Or do you think because you did mention about the bias and so on, how do you manage the bias in terms of the messaging, what strategies might there be? >> I will definitely be aware that there's bias, and I don't know, I'm not a behavioral psychologist, so that bias is probably called something, and it's probably someone in your classes that will say it's called this and that bias. Definitely manages the bias. I think that when you sell anything, you sell the benefits of the thing you're selling rather than the features. One of the things that we have in the healthcare industry compared to other industries is, we have amazing human stories that if we can just capture and start telling, those are the sort of things that people are incapable of reproducing in other industry sectors. Healthcare has this incredible human story opportunity. The other thing I think that's amazing with healthcare from whatever country but in particular from underdeveloped markets is the innovation story, and what we've been able to achieve the less. Now, if you overthink it, then maybe there's a backlash, so you don't want to be exposing the developed market for having spent lots of money, and every year you get a budget that's returned more or less the same amount plus a little bit more if you're lucky. Then you get exposed that actually there's someone who's put together a very safe and clinically acceptable way of treating people in a tertiary center that you put together on a real shoestring budget. I think you've got to think through how that message is approached, and generally and it sounds awful, making someone look good is something that I've picked up by observing the way decisions are made in big companies. People love a bandwagon and they love jumping on the bandwagon when they see it, so presenting them with an opportunity to look super and do more for less is quite zeitgeist of amendment. I definitely think about the bias, and then I definitely fold in the human story, so don't ignore the human story. This isn't about Coke machines with solar panels. This is about, as a result of the solar panel powered vaccine dispenser, my community was able to do what. Then you tell the story of what that community was able to do, and it's the way that story rolls out that's really important. One of my previous bosses was used to say, it's about changing the conversation and it's about flipping the conversation towards an emotional story that connects to the audience you're trying to appeal to. I think that's when adverts or communication strategy is really powerful, that you can see a conversation that you would like to be part of, but at the moment maybe it's just not being talked about, maybe people are stepping away from it because they're a bit worried it's a little bit too edgy, but you're courageous and you're prepared to tell that human story, and your brand is within that usefully articulated story which has something to do with the benefit that you're trying to produce. >> For, if you like, small-scale healthcare innovators that don't necessarily startups or spins out and so on. They're not yet at the point where they can hire a major advertising agency to think about their communication strategy. What skills do you think are important at that smaller level for them to try and think about? To get to all of those strategies that you've mentioned the human story, the emotional hook, entertaining, thinking about stereotypes, gender, and generational, what skills that individual healthcare innovators do you think when they're setting out on their journey, do they need to have or think about getting in order to do marketing themselves? >> It's not a gender friendly but there is a David and Goliath story out there, and I think technology at moment favors the David. I think that using the channels that are available through technology at the moment is a way of over-weighting your voice. So making a conversation sticky and creating a community around you. If you are in a resource constrained environment then looking to technology to improve the reach of your channel is phenomenally important. Then using technology to generate a word of mouth, that is, letting something go viral and playing with how something goes viral is really important. I think there's a role to be played in capturing the movement energy, so the energy that's created with a movement. You see that in climate change and air pollution at the moment, and you see that in any message that captures the imagination of the youth. So at the moment, there is a political environment which says that people making decisions don't represent us, so having a healthcare innovation that is coming from the youth for the generations to come, that's a really compelling story. So first of all, I'd really focus on over-weighting the voice you have using technology, so the channels of social media in particular, and there are lots of tips and tricks that people are using to do that. Then human stories tend to help things go viral I think. I would definitely focus on the emotional story that's contained in the research, or the emotional story that's contained in the innovation which tends to help us flip the feature into a communication conversation, and training against that conversation. Once you get that conversation started, I think is important. >> Simon, this has been an absolutely fantastic discussion about healthcare communications and how it applies to entrepreneurs of any scale and size, and in almost any area. We've heard an awful lot around the human story side of things with this, and just how important that is amongst many other important issues. Obviously, it requires an awful lot of empathy and deep understanding of your innovation, and how it fits into people's lives. Thank you for sharing your vast experience.