Healthcare is a multi-trillion-dollar industry. The organizations and companies inside this ecosystem are invested in solving some of the world’s most complex issues, and this landscape is being upended by historic changes, among them myriad policy and technological developments affecting the industry both externally and internally.

Coinciding with this disruption is the notion that today’s healthcare industry is also breaking down virtually every silo we’ve known. Healthcare clients want to leave a legacy of meaningful change; they demand unique experiences from communications pros who understand today’s commercial, healthcare, public policy and patient advocacy environments and can help them solve complex challenges while delivering results they can’t find at other agencies.

In the middle of this are the 68 firms boasting major healthcare operations in O’Dwyer’s 2018 rankings of PR firms, all of whom have undoubtedly learned that innovation and integration are paramount for success in this competitive, constantly changing environment.

Timothy Bird
Timothy Bird

Global health consultancy and communications agency Health Unlimited was ranked #4 in healthcare by O’Dwyer’s, taking in nearly $26 million in healthcare-related net fees in 2017.

Health Unlimited was founded when U.S. agencies Cooney Waters Unlimited and Corkery Group Unlimited, as well as UK consultancies Red Door Unlimited, Rock Unlimited, Loooped Unlimited, DJM-PAN Unlimited and Search Unlimited, formally united in a bid to deliver a wide array of client solutions across varying health-related disciplines.

Global CEO Timothy Bird said clients have more choice nowadays, and as a result, the healthcare PR industry needs to compete harder for new clients and work more diligently for existing ones. More and more of today’s clients want a full-service agency under one roof and one P&L that provides efficiencies beyond the mere financial benefits; they want teams with nuanced perspectives and multi-disciplinary experience they can rely on to deliver results and succeed.

O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings Magazine

“Talent engagement, retention and recruitment remains key,” Bird said. “Our success depends not just on our ability to recruit experienced healthcare specialists from diverse backgrounds in science, medicine, law, and public health but also inclusive of the audiences we and our clients seek to reach with health messages — people from differing cultural and ethnic backgrounds and experiences who bring perspectives, fresh new thinking and creative ideas.”

Already, the newly-minted agency has signed a portfolio of new clients, including opioid addiction treatment specialist Indivior, Sickle Cell Disease therapeutics company Global Blood Therapeutics, women’s reproductive research and policy organization Guttmacher Institute and autism research specialist SPARK.

Bird said client satisfaction remains high because the agency makes it easy for them to get an agile PR-led team of specialists who can demonstrate ROI and deliver results vital to improving and saving lives.

“It is a key focus for us as a health-specialist agency,” Bird said. “Our clients cannot continue to make investments in delivering new treatments, improvements to existing approaches and public health interventions without seeing measurable improvements in health outcomes. We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Timothy Bird
Jonathan Wilson

Spectrum, the D.C.-based health, life sciences and consumer PR firm, accounted for $24 million in healthcare-related net fees in 2017, ranking #5 for healthcare PR in O’Dwyer’s rankings this year.

Spectrum President and CEO Jonathan Wilson told O’Dwyer’s that a crucial part of the agency’s strategic growth comes down to its staff, and fostering an environment that inspires employees to make a difference in the lives of patients and caregivers while meeting the needs of its health and science clients.

“This philosophy has attracted a team of experienced, passionate and focused communications leaders who, in turn, inspire all our teams to champion client needs,” Wilson said. “Combined with the flexibility of being independent and our integrated model, teams are empowered to focus on exceeding expectations in their work to improve the health landscape.”

Wilson also noted that while “innovation” has become a buzzword, there’s no denying it’s needed in every facet of today’s healthcare industry.

“While a perceived inertia amongst industry outsiders has driven them to engage to try accelerating healthcare innovation, ultimately, the industry still plays a large role in driving progress in all areas from drug development to caregiver support,” Wilson said. “To keep innovation coming, pharma needs to look both within and to external players in order to inspire continuous, meaningful innovation — and, as health communicators, it’s part of our job to assist.”

Healthcare specialist Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. accounted for $9.8 million in healthcare net fees in 2017, ranking #9 in O’Dwyer’s rankings of healthcare PR firms this year.

David Jarrard
David Jarrard

David Jarrard, President and CEO of the Nashville-based agency, believes healthcare will continue to outpace many other communications sectors this year and beyond as the healthcare landscape is roiled by internal change as well as a new breed of external competitors such as Amazon, CVS and WalMart.

Jarrard also believes that PR agencies known for their strong data analytics will prove highly competitive in the coming year.

“In the big picture, the ongoing convergence of siloed communication practices — public relations, marketing, content management — will continue to reshape the expectations of our clients and, ultimately, our industry,” Jarrard told O’Dwyer’s.

Healthcare agency Lazar Partners was #15 this year, boasting nearly $5.4 million in healthcare-related net fees.

Founder and CEO Fern Lazar said the agency experienced growth from all healthcare segments last year, and the New York-based shop’s expertise in medical technology, scientific communications and patient-to-patient communications were what especially drove the bulk of its revenue in 2017.

Fern Lazar
Fern Lazar

Lazar said the healthcare industry can expect to see dramatic changes in the coming years as scientific breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and diagnostic innovation transform data into knowledge, allowing clinicians to deliver personalized, precision care to patients in a bid to improve outcomes.

“Such transformation underscores the need for communications practitioners to deliver original, informative content that catalyzes action from healthcare stakeholders,” Lazar said. “We must also recognize the advantages of an integrated approach to our marketing as new channels that reach doctors, patients and caregivers emerge.”

New York-based shop Bliss Integrated Communication skyrocketed in O’Dwyer’s healthcare rankings this year, moving from #39 in 2017 with $866,000 in healthcare-related net fees to take the #29 position this year with $1,848,000 in healthcare-related earnings, representing a gain of 113 percent.

Michael Roth
Michael Roth

Bliss’ healthcare group, which was formed only five years ago, brought in some impressive healthcare account wins in 2017, including Aetna, adding to an already impressive roster of clients that includes Gore Medical, TransCelerate, Procure and the American Geriatric Society.

Roth cited a number of factors for the agency’s success, including a dedication to hiring talented, passionate staff. But the biggest factor behind Bliss’ recent gains, he said, lies in a deep B2B heritage that understands the complexities of the evolving healthcare landscape as well as an expertise in the health business where it intersects with life sciences.

“Our role as communicators is becoming much more consultative, and clients rely on their agencies to partner with them to think through a complex range of issues,” Roth said. “This shift in the industry requires that agencies place more emphasis on integrated communication strategy versus tactical execution and content creation. Our clients tell us that they see great value in our hybrid teams and a more consultative approach to communications.”