Cassie Liddle (Associate Research Director, Research & Insights team, part of Ashfield Healthcare Communications), Andrew Moore (Client Partnership Director, Ashfield Meetings & Events) and Stephanie Tortell (Director, Client Engagement, Ashfield Healthcare Communications) sit down to discuss how, together, they bring clients maximum value. Through a truly collaborative approach, these three innovators combine their own specialisms to enhance the congresses, meetings and events they deliver for clients.
Tell us more about your collaboration to optimise congress offerings…
Ashfield Meetings & Events recently undertook a piece of research commissioned by the Research & Insights team to identify the true value of congresses to healthcare professionals (HCPs), which formed the white paper titled the Science of Healthcare Congresses. Physicians confirmed that congresses are, without question, a key component in both medical and commercial education for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. This white paper has piqued various clients’ interest to uncover additional insights on specialised topic areas unique to their own business and congress strategies.
The commissioned research work we are undertaking with Cassie and the Research & Insights team allows our clients to carefully consider the kind of congress experience they can deliver, and how they shape a congress strategy, mission and vision. We are supporting our clients to evaluate their corporate vision, operational delivery mechanisms and refine their congress objectives.
At Ashfield Healthcare Communications, we focus on supporting credible, clear, and impactful scientific content at congresses and often need to understand what the data mean to different specialist audiences and caregivers. We have found, similar to our colleagues in Meetings & Events, that our clients are increasingly looking to gain a measure of the impact of their activities; for example, how well it is understood, who is talking about it and what are they saying, what questions remain, how it was received. Our Research & Insights team help us support our clients to ensure that their congress activities are truly meaningful for that audience.
As specialists within Research & Insights, part of the Ashfield Healthcare Communications organisation, we are perfectly positioned to make sure that the congress activities our colleagues are providing to their clients are informed by evidence and customer needs. We are now working with some of Ashfield’s key clients on a range of projects, from high level strategic planning to very focused feedback on a single congress. Regardless of the size and scope of the project, it’s great that our clients are collecting feedback, reflecting on this and making sure that they deliver the best experience for the delegates.
However, we also get to see the opposite, where clients are not asking for feedback or feedback is collected in a limited or inconsistent approach that does not provide meaningful guidance. By working with Andrew and Steff’s teams, we are striving to help our clients work with an informed viewpoint on what is working well at their congresses and what can be improved.
It has been great to be involved in the Science of Healthcare Congresses initiative, supporting the Meetings & Events team in finding out how HCPs’ experiences measure up and what is important to delegates. Conducting our own independent research is great, as we can ask the questions that we really want to know the answer to! Then share the insights with all of our clients so that everyone can learn from it.
What type of research do you typically conduct for your clients, and how have your clients reacted to the outputs?
The collaboration between our three Ashfield agencies provides an array of tangible benefits to our clients. Our unparalleled experience in the congress space, twinned with the Research & Insights team’s robust, considered and objective approach, identifies tactical opportunities and operational advances to our clients’ congress activities, garnered from real life feedback from both their internal teams and HCP delegates, as well as looking at organic conversations online.
Feedback from our clients has been positive. They’ve valued the integrated approach and sharing of findings throughout; it has allowed them to incorporate the insights into their current strategy, before the delivery of a final workshop.
To date we have focused on the impact of our clients’ activity using online measures and specialist secondary research resources that our Research team has access to, as well as including all social media channels. Within just a few days of a congress finishing, the analysis by the Research team is available and provides useful feedback and guidance to our clients on perception and reaction to, for example, their latest data release. This information feeds into decision making for future communication strategies and tactics.
We tailor our research design to meet each client’s objectives – so every project is different. To illustrate this, one of our clients wanted to refine and focus their whole congress strategy – right from the big picture overview down to feedback on individual congresses. We proposed a holistic approach, beginning with an internal stakeholder audit to understand current activities and perspectives across the business, and then moving to online and social media analysis to see the buzz around key events and share of voice for our client and their key competitors. We also delivered congress mapping to guide and prioritise global activities for the year ahead. We are about to embark on the next phase, an in-depth dive with HCPs utilising qualitative and quantitative methods, before a final workshop to cement a tactical plan. We have taken an agile approach to the research programme, with regular debriefs of our learnings, so that our client can feed these directly into their strategic planning.
The important question for pharma… how do you think the congress experience will evolve in the future and how can pharma prepare for this?
We’ve carefully considered ‘what’s next’ for congresses, we firmly believe there will always be a place for face-to-face engagement and interaction between physicians and industry. Our Science of Healthcare Congress research findings certainly support this sentiment; HCPs are attending congresses in greater numbers despite the time limitations that practising HCPs face. What the data unequivocally states is that HCPs truly value and appreciate the role of industry in the congress space and recognise the positive impact it plays in both their continued medical education and most importantly, patient care.
Based on our research, the key considerations for associations will be the duration of these events and locations. We would expect to see a rapid evolution of digital engagements in and around congresses and the need for both industry and associations to interact and engage with the virtual attendee.
Congresses are usually the first time that key data is presented in any depth to experts in the field. With advances in technology and social platforms in particular, experts can share this data and communicate their thoughts and opinions digitally in real time – and they do. It is essential for us to know what they are saying and that we listen to their opinions. This helps us to improve our understanding on different viewpoints that we may not have previously considered and, for example, where information gaps or misunderstanding might be.
We are finding that more and more discussion is happening online even while the data is actually being presented – keeping abreast of the sentiment and impact of this discussion is essential to ensure pharmaceutical and healthcare experts can maintain a productive dialogue. Just monitoring the volume of tweets and posts is not enough; it is the understanding of the opinions being shared that is so valuable.
We don’t know for sure the direction that congresses will take in the coming years, but one thing is certain – we want to make sure that our services are optimised and in tune with customer needs. We truly believe that the best way of doing this is by constantly evaluating and improving our activities. By constantly engaging with our clients, delegates and thought leaders, we can identify trends and changes as they happen and ensure that the Ashfield Congress offering is always, industry leading.
To find out more about how our teams could optimise your congress experience, do not hesitate to contact us.