Behind the Scenes in Medical Communications – Our Invisible Work

Screeching and scratching my armpits, I’m jumping around the stage of my elementary school, doing my best impression of a flying monkey. In 3rd grade, I was quizzically and comically cast as a flying monkey in our school’s performance of the Wizard of Oz. While the finished performance may be what stands out in my mind now, my castmates, and I, and the team worked on so many things behind the scenes leading up to that oh-so-memorable show.

For MedCommsDay this year, we’re honoring all of the work happening behind the scenes in medical communications and the people who are making it happen. Much like shepherding a theater play to performance night, there is a ton of work that goes on in MedComms behind the scenes and leading up to showtime, or the final deliverable. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain at some of the invisible work that happens in medical communications.

Story – There is almost always a story to be told, or at least a point to be made, in a play, and MedComms is no different. Much of the invisible work in MedComms is to figure out what are the key messages and what story needs to be told. Foundational information – in the form of corporate strategic pillars, or clinical trial data, or a package insert – will help shape the story. MedComms further builds the story and messages by providing the context for the disease state, or the therapeutic area, or the patient impact.

Casting – In theater, these are the actors. In MedComms, it’s the format of deliverable that is best suited to tell the story. Certain stories are better told through 3D animation, while others are better conveyed in a live educational presentation, and other messages resonate better in a scientific publication. Experience can help quickly narrow down your possible formats to a top choice or two.

Set Design – Tons of planning, building, and coordinating with teammates occurs to get the stage ready for a play. In MedComms, our design takes place through outlining or storyboarding, and building out the content from there. Multiple specialists are involved behind the scenes to provide their expertise and deliver a detailed structure that is tailored for the story.

Wardrobe – A well-dressed actor not only looks good but imparts a lot of information about their character and the story. In MedComms, we create stunning and impactful visuals (graphics, charts, data visualizations, medical illustrations) that, when done well, clearly convey important pieces of information that help shape the story that the audience receives.

Rehearsing – Test our your play (deliverable) and get feedback from your audience (stakeholders). Revise as needed until you’re ready to go.

Rules and Monitoring – Just as professional associations, like the Actor’s Equity Association, have rules and monitoring for how theater actors are employed, MedComms also must abide by rules and guidelines ranging from how a drug is discussed, to if and how much clinicians can be paid for their activities with a company, to how data are presented. People working in MedComms need to know that these rules and guidelines exist and how to apply them to their project at hand.

Showtime – Your audience takes their seats and enjoys the result of many hours of hard work behind the scenes: a wonderfully-written and beautifully executed play (deliverable). They’re following right along with the play (deliverable) and don’t notice all of the moving pieces falling into place that made it happen.

Cheers to all of the directors, designers, writers, project coordinators, and monitors who make the show go on every day in MedComms!

Hat tip to Courtenay Shipley at Retirement Planology for the blog idea.