The value medical communications bring to phase 2/3 of drug development

Derek Annan

As Bedrock’s Head of Strategy, Derek Annan explains, development of successful communication requires not only planning, strategy and execution (and measurement), it also needs to be able to respond to the unexpected.


Communication at phase 2/3 of drug development involves many stakeholders [e.g., healthcare professionals (HCPs), patient association groups, pharmaceutical internal teams]. Over time, the volume and formats of communication to these audiences can vary considerably. With so many moving parts and potential pathways to success or failure, effective medical communications allow Pharma companies to look at things through other lenses and to remain relevant.

Knowing your audience – and your story

The principle of good communication revolves around clarity of message and identifying the best ways of engaging your audience. For example, take a journalist – they start writing knowing what they want to say but as they put pen to paper, it’s likely that the story flow will shape itself with consideration of what the specific audience needs to know and will understand. It’s about structuring the story to really connect with those you are trying to reach, and effective phase 2/3 communication is no different; ‘scientific story telling’ in a nutshell.

Being heard through the noise

In medical communications, if you are communicating the same as everyone else, you become part of the noise. To be relevant you have to identify a gap that has not been filled. The gap may be from your product’s perspective, portfolio perspective, or the HCP or patient perspective. Take the time to identify that gap (and preferably more than one). But be aware that as time progresses, the market may change which will require you to evolve and forward plan. This is where your skill of developing a communication strategy, listening and knowing what to say to your target audiences, as well as being conscious of what others are saying comes into play. When you understand your audience, have a clear message, and a way of delivering it with impact, that’s good communication. But when you don’t have that clarity, you will face challenges.

Changing your game plan

Expect the unexpected. You have got to be agile, quick thinking and flexible enough to learn and adapt your communications. Let’s use a sporting analogy here. Most teams will go out with a game plan. They may think they know their opponents well but of course, the opposition may have other tactics in play. Just like in medical communications, you might have everything planned (and we do pride ourselves on considering multiple scenarios and outcomes during the initial planning stages). However, you cannot plan for every eventuality – something may change that you hadn’t anticipated. This changes how you respond to the situation. At Bedrock, when we encounter the unexpected, we pause, gather insights, reconvene and move forward – quickly. It’s part of our freethinking approach that leads to sound and agile communication strategies. Being able to successfully adapt communications is one of the biggest challenges pharma companies face at phase 2/3.

What can a med comms agency bring to good phase 2/3 communication?

We understand the dynamics at play in the phase 2/3 stages of drug development, and the importance of having the right message at the right time for the right audiences. Forming an alliance with the pharma team as early as possible in the drug lifecycle is often the key to success. We can bring objective clarity from the start and subsequent communications are then built on every piece of data generated from the very beginning. We can help pharma companies to thoroughly understand what their real communication needs are and be able to characterise those needs. We can also help them reflect and flex as things change.

What makes Bedrock different is being part of the Resonant Group, which brings a diversity of experience and capabilities to our solutions. In the Group, we have Origins – a team of patient-focused specialists adept at uncovering the authentic patient voice and applying it to every stage of the drug lifecycle, and Anthem – a healthcare communications PR agency specialising in bringing credibility to health conversations. Whether working collectively or singularly, we have a vast breadth of understanding of the environment, patient and HCP needs and the treatment landscape in the early phases of drug development, which produces industry-leading and often award-winning campaigns for our clients. And when our clients succeed, we do too.

Find out more

Get in touch for a chat about how we would approach your communications needs in 2023.

Derek Annan

Head of Strategy, Bedrock Healthcare Communications