In this episode of AMP Up Your Digital Marketing, Glenn Gaudet speaks with Kayt Leonard, the public relations manager at PSI CRO. They talk about what executing marketing campaigns looks like when working in a highly regulated, highly targeted, and highly misunderstood industry.
- Clinical trials are an integral part of health care, but they’re often misunderstood. (Thanks, Hollywood.)
- At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of clinical trials registered across the world. Each one needs a specific number of participants who meet a specific set of criteria. As the PR manager of PSI CRO, it’s Kayt Leonard’s job to find these participants.
- “There's no template we have,” Kayt says. “There's no ability to look through previous campaigns and see, ‘All right, this patient population worked; these advertisements and keywords worked.’ We really build out every single campaign and every single persona as if it's the first time we've ever done it.”
PR managers don’t have the breeziest of jobs. But when you’re the PR manager of a highly regulated, highly targeted, and highly misunderstood industry? That requires some trapeze work.
These campaigns are under strict regulations — a “minefield,” she describes — and they often require a large amount of targeting. To add to the difficulty, clinical trials don’t exactly have the best reputation, thanks to Hollywood horror films.
Kayt joined the AMP Up Your Digital Marketing podcast to explain exactly how she and her team at PSI CRO navigate these obstacles to create successful marketing campaigns.
Back Up: What’s a Clinical Trial?
Before diving into the whole marketing aspect of clinical trials, it’s helpful to understand what clinical trials look like.
Clinical trials are medical research studies consisting of human volunteers. These are an essential part of health care and the development of new medical treatments and cures.
But not everyone understands this.
“They're an incredibly important aspect of healthcare that have a pretty negative connotation globally,” Kayt says. “People think of clinical trials, and they think, ‘I'm going to lose an eye, or I'm going to have bruises or scars, or something weird is going to happen just because of Hollywood.”
That’s just not the case, though.
When a drug hits the clinical trial phase, it’s been thoroughly tested and has passed through a number of regulatory hurdles.
At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of clinical trials registered across the world. Each of these trials is made up of a specific number of volunteers who meet specific demographic and medical criteria.
Now you can probably see why Kayt’s marketing efforts require so many layers of regulations and targeting.
Marketing Clinical Trials: Overcoming Major Obstacles
If you manage PR or marketing in an industry laced with regulations and/or targeting requirements, you know how difficult it can be to create a successful marketing campaign.
Kayt reveals some of her strategies for navigating the complicated world of clinical trials, which you can apply to your own industry.
1. Leverage the Team’s Collective Expertise
To overcome a “minefield” of regulations, as Kayt describes, she taps into her team’s collective expertise.
“In coming up with that message, there's decades of experience across the staff that know this avenue, this theme, this overall motif has been approved before, so we know this can work in the future,” she says.
Each new trial comes with its own set of regulations, so between studying up on it and using the team’s past experiences, they’re able to head off of any regulatory issues.
2. Know Your Audience (and How to Find Them)
Each clinical trial requires specific types of patients. Sometimes trials can be broad — think about the COVID-19 clinical trials you’ve probably seen advertised lately — but other times they’re super niche.
It’s Kayt’s job to figure out how to get each trial in front of qualified patients. She and her team think about each clinical trial as a mini market research project by studying every aspect of the patient population. This helps her determine how to reach the most qualified patients.
“Sometimes we can tell that, ‘Hey, this population is so narrow, it's not going to make sense to use social media, it's not going to make sense to use heavy, heavy advertisement, and we're going to have to lean on the doctors for this one,’” she explains. “And then in other areas, the population is so large that using social media makes sense.”
Source: MSTranslate, Understanding the Clinical Trial Process
They can also use medical databases to better understand the patients they’re targeting.
Kayt gives an example: If they’re advertising a clinical trial for a lung cancer drug, they can study data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health to understand lung cancer patients typically live in the South. They can also use Facebook to target folks who “like” different tobacco brands.
Additionally, some demographics simply aren’t on social media. Others might not go to doctors’ offices, where they’ll potentially see a brochure for a clinical trial. In those cases, Kayt and her team will target caretakers, home health doctors, or travel nurses.
“We do a lot of reverse-engineering around each patient — really try to put ourselves in the shoes of that patient within that protocol and say, ‘If I was this person, what type of behaviors would I take part in?’” Kayt says.
3. Remember: Just Because it Works Once Doesn’t Mean It’ll Work Again
Just because you think you’ve found and targeted your ideal persona, doesn’t mean they won’t change.
“There's no template we have,” Kayt says. “There's no ability to look through previous campaigns and see, ‘All right, this patient population worked; these advertisements and keywords worked.’ We really build out every single campaign and every single persona as if it's the first time we've ever done it.”
A big part of that has to do with people’s changing lifestyles, needs, and desires. What your target customer looked like six months ago definitely won’t look the same today.
Between juggling regulations, targeting specific demographics, and battling the overall misconceptions around clinical trials, “Somehow, in between there, we mix it all together and still come out with a message and attractive marketing materials,” Kayt says.
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