Bob Pearson and Michael Roth
Michael Roth and Bob Pearson co-wrote this article.

Innovation is often the unintended consequence of a situation we find ourselves in during a period of significant change. Like the COVID-19 era.

In response to the pandemic, the healthcare industry pivoted to reshape the way that we think about health and wellness. We only need to look as far as the normalization of telemedicine as an example of how far we have come. Entire medical practices and live treatment paradigms, like psychiatry, shifted to virtual as we all tried to contend with a corresponding mental health pandemic.

For the remainder of 2021 into 2022, the healthcare industry will be breathtaking, frustrating and inspiring as we collaborate in new ways to promote access, understand social determinants of health and work tirelessly to bring the latest scientific advances and innovations to consumers.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '21 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

Our communications industry is also being reshaped due to the massive shifts in technology applications and consumers’ full embrace of digital solutions, from how we consume content to how we order goods and services to how we expect to interact with brands and companies. We believe the answer is to stay one step ahead via analytics and technology, to create new media models that both protect and promote our clients.

Here are five key trends that represent new models for the years ahead.

Planning for the “new age of reputation.” Companies, communities, citizens and countries are under relentless attack from bad actors, ranging from ransomware to disinformation to counterfeiting of products and services. Communications leaders will become experts in understanding how valuable information is stored and sold in the dark web, where threats are initiated and products and services are being sold in a manner that could create harm for companies and patients alike. To build the best reputation for a leading company, we must become experts in both protecting ourselves in the cyberworld and telling the positive story of those same companies in the mainstream world.

Imagine walking into the C-suite and explaining how adversaries are using the dark web, which country they’re staging material in for a future attack against your company, how this group works and why you recommend new training based on this knowledge. That is all possible today.

Shifting to a disease-based media planning model. Why continue to build traditional media plans when we can utilize algorithms to create disease-based media models that offer targeted precision? Imagine creating a media planning model for a disease that shows us which towns are most important, as well as which influencers, channels, words and content matter to reach patients with important health information. Today, a communications firm can deliver a more accurate model that leverages the best of earned, shared, owned and paid media. We all need to swim in this direction.

Analytics unlocks an entire era of precise media planning. This is incredibly helpful to reach the people who will benefit the most vs. always having a goal of “getting the most coverage.”

In our work with Johns Hopkins supporting two clinical trials related to COVID-19 and convalescent plasma, it’s this level of precision that has been key to nearly completing enrollment in both trials during a time of incredible “noise” in the market. We can figure out exactly who to reach in Houston, for example, by geo-location, media channel and time of day. This type of knowledge completely changes how we plan our media efforts, whether earned, shared or paid.

Making a difference in people’s lives will require more precision in the future as we shift to a disease-based model vs. the standard “here is who I know in the media” model. We all surely agree that patients and providers deserve our highest level of efficiency.

Building “search media relations.” Search engines (mainly Google) are the largest and most untapped media platform on earth. Approximately one-third of the digital advertising spend worldwide goes to Google. We search for answers all day long, particularly when we’re in need of important information.

Did you ever wonder if the people who have the most influence in media have the same sway in search? Turns out that it’s not quite the same. We can use analytics to identify which people, organizations and content are prioritized by search vs. what we hear via media coverage. Through analytics, we can identify a new group of people to reach out to for briefings. Search media relations will soon become a media relations staple.

Imagine having a Venn diagram on your desk that shows the most influential people in the physical world, the most influential in shared media and the most influential in search. That’s a future media grid worth spending time on.

Unlocking historical data to find new insights. Ever wonder how you can analyze an entire disease area in seconds? We have, which is why our team-built queries that empower us to look at five to 10 years of publications and trials for a specific disease and quickly see which investigators are trending in importance, which medical centers are doing the same, how clinical trial design is evolving and more. We take in this data to identify who the best spokespeople and advisors may be, as well as who to follow and learn from. History is ready to teach us if we’re ready to query it properly.

Storytizing is replacing coverage. It’s important to get great coverage of our clients’ stories. It’s more important to ensure the audience they want to reach hear that same story. And this requires expertise in understanding their audience ecosystem and how it works. We’re continually developing new audience architecture techniques that show us how the audience interrelates, so we can see who has influence, who to follow, where to share content and when utilizing paid media, how to ensure our story is arriving at the right virtual doors at the right time.

We’re taking a story and ensuring it’s being delivered effectively, which we think of as “Storytizing.”

The good news is that advances in technology are making it possible for our teams to innovate at an unprecedented pace, all with the spirit that our models may improve healthcare for the patients and providers we all serve together.

That’s plenty of motivation for us.


Michael Roth is Managing Partner and Owner of The Bliss Group. Bob Pearson is CEO of The Bliss Group and Chair of The Next Practice.