This week the UK celebrates British Science Week – an event created by the British Science Association to showcase all things STEM. As well as providing educational resources and activity packs for schools, British Science Week is also smashing stereotypes about science.
At Madano we’re proud to work with some game changing clients in the field of science, engineering and technology. Preetam recently joined our Healthcare team and he tell us about his journey from studying science to working in communications within a scientific field.
What was your experience of science at school?
In school, science was mainly a subject that I used to do to get good grades and get to the other end! It was only during A-Levels where I got more involved in science – joining in during open days, tutoring younger students and discussing different news with teachers. I do think as a subject, it was hard to really enjoy what we learn in school. A lot of it was just reading a textbook and studying the marking scheme for exams. University does a much better job of making science exciting, but unfortunately, I feel at that point a lot of students don’t want to take it further.
Why did you decide to study Neuroscience at University?
Mental health has always been an interest of mine. I am a strong advocate for mental health and ensuring people treat it the same way as their physical health. During school and university, I saw friends and family suffer and went through dips myself, particularly during university. It was here where I thought to myself that this is an area that I feel very passionately about and one that I want to help in any way that I can. So, when it came to my undergraduate dissertation and my master’s degree, it was clear to me that I wanted to go into neuroscience areas so that I could help in the way that I enjoy; behind the scenes and researching.
Were you inspired by anyone or anything specifically?
I have never really considered being inspired by any one person, but I do think some of the passion comes from my sister. She is a pharmacist and used to come home with stories about how she ensured her patients got the help they need. She also used to express her joy when patients would thank her for helping and providing them with their quality-of-life changing medication. That feeling of helping people is a big thing in science and that’s something that I feel quite strongly about.
British Science Week has ‘smashing stereotypes’ as one of its themes – are there are science stereotypes that you have encountered in your own science journey?
One of the biggest stereotypes is that scientists are boring, and they don’t do much outside of research but that’s a very big lie! From my time in university, I met plenty of lecturers who have done plenty outside of the lab: one has a published poetry book and owns a vineyard back in Italy, another has climbed many of the mountains in the UK. When I was in university, he had plans to extend that list abroad. I would say that scientists are a lot cooler than some may say or think!
What was it like working in a scientific field (pharmaceutical)?
It was great to see how a pharmaceutical company works from the inside. Apart from the laboratory work, seeing how all the other departments work together; medical, marketing, research, and development etc. was really interesting.
As part of the Competitive Intelligence team, my main day-to-day work was observing competitors who were bringing generics (medications using the same active ingredient as ours) and how they brought them to market. I also monitored the market and determined what the company could do to “combat” issues and maintain being the company with the widest reach.
What made you decide to use your science background to work in communications?
I’ve always had an interest in research, publications and medical editing and being at the forefront of breakthrough science and novel medications, in whatever way I could. At first, I was unsure about what my career path would be, so I put myself in a position where I was able to try things out and see what felt right.
My undergraduate degree was very broad. For my Masters, I wanted to specialise in a particular area (neuroscience). My Masters was completely laboratory based which showed me that working in the lab was not for me and I really didn’t enjoy it!
My job in pharmaceuticals showed me the difference side of communications, one that taught me a range of skills (client based and content creation) that I used to get the role I’m in now. Madano is the perfect blend of communications + client facing roles, alongside working with ground-breaking science companies that will innovate the medical world!
What are you most excited about working in communications?
I’m excited to learn! I see every opportunity to learn new things and develop as a person both outside of work and in work. I’m also very excited to work on the accounts in the company and help bring interesting and innovative science to the public, to continue developing the medical world and progressing. I’m also excited to meet many different people who come from all different backgrounds but managed to arrive at the same place as I am, working in communications. I’m excited to see where the role takes me!
Any advice for buddying scientists?
I would say the best advice I can give is that your degree doesn’t necessarily dictate what you do as a career. The science you learn is a great base to build upon, but I think the most valuable thing to take away from university is that all skills are transferable. No matter what the skill is, if you can relate it to a skill within a description for a job, you can really apply for anything that you really want to do. Of course, if the role is something very specific getting a little bit of experience there will help but transferable skills are extremely valuable!
Madano is one of the UK’s leading strategic communications consultancies. We simplify complexity within highly regulated sectors, primarily in energy & environment, technology, and healthcare. To get in touch with our healthcare team, email us at [email protected] or check out our current healthcare opportunities here.
During the month of October when World Mental Health Day is celebrated, Madano has been proud to be a pro-bono partner to the London-based charity Youmanity and lead the media strategy and press office for ‘Inner Journey’ – a project promoting passenger wellbeing on the DLR Network.
Twelve carriages across the entire DLR network were transformed to reflect mountains, forests, oceans, and countryside. Commuters can also download the complimentary Brain Recharge app to access meditation tracks, offering a full immersion into nature, and an opportunity to enjoy a moment of calm whilst on their commute.
Madano had the opportunity to join Youmanity on the launch day and see the changes in action. Madano’s Bethan Neil, Marketing and Brand Coordinator, was at Canary Wharf when the project was unveiled to commuters starting their daily journey and said of the campaign: “It’s a great initiative that I hope to see extended onto more train lines. The modifications are visually striking and genuinely do help you feel calmer – commuters were stopping in their tracks and taking notice of the dedicated areas on platforms and carriages. Mindfulness has become ever more important, especially after the last 18 months. Access to free, high-quality meditation services has the potential to benefit so many people.”
Head of Madano’s Healthcare practice Katy Compton-Bishop explains the importance of working with clients who are shaping the future, “Partnering with organisations driving change in the mental health space is one of the most rewarding elements of our work at Madano. This a fantastic campaign, with an important message, that we were delighted to be able to support. We are passionate about using communications to positively impact people’s lives and our work with Youmanity is a great example of that.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how Madano can help with your communications challenge get in touch at [email protected].
Madano has again been awarded a top 20 position in the PRWeek Healthcare Rankings for 2021, published today. The consultancy’s dedicated Healthcare team currently holds 17th position in the UK.
“We’re incredibly proud of our position in the top 20 Healthcare PR consultancies, which is testament to the results delivered by our amazing team over the last 12 months,” said Katy Compton-Bishop, Head of Healthcare. “We work with great clients who are shaping the future of healthcare – providing them with disruptive thinking and creative solutions.”
The Madano Healthcare team specialises in communications for brands that want to make a difference and who challenge the status quo. We approach our clients’ problems and situations from every angle, striving for outcomes that improve the lives of patients and society as a whole. Right now, more than ever, the world needs clear and compelling healthcare communications.
Our Healthcare practice is growing. To join a dynamic and passionate team with real purpose, check out our current vacancies here.
On 2nd December, the UK became the first country in the world to approvethe Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following review by the MHRA.
This announcement comesa ground-breaking seven months after the start of clinical trials and marks a major breakthrough, but it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Recent criticism that the approval was “hasty” and thespread of misinformation about vaccines on social media has already resulted in vaccination hesitancy.
Providingregular, clear and transparent communications about the new vaccine will be critical toincrease public confidence and encourage vaccination uptake.
Globally vaccine mistrust is growing
Vaccination is the most effective public health intervention available, ranking second only to clean water for disease prevention. Yet in 2019, the World Health Organisation listed vaccination hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health; at the time they couldn’t have imaginedhow soon the potential impact of that threatwould be realised.
A recentstudyfrom UCL found that a fifth of people in the UK said they would be unlikely to get a vaccine for COVID-19. Worryingly, vaccination hesitancy appeared to be higher for the COVID–19 vaccine than the flu vaccine, particularly in older adults.These findings clearly highlight the effect of the ongoing spread of misinformation around COVID-19 and the vaccines.
This growinginfodemic, a term used to describe the flood of information on the COVID-19 pandemic, has made it difficult for people to make informed decisions about their health. It’s therefore crucial that communications around COVID-19 vaccines be clear, honest and openly address the public’s concerns.
Compassion and clear communication will be key to increasing public confidence
The unprecedented speed of the development of COVID-19 vaccines has led many to, perhapsfairly, question whether they have been rushed. These are legitimate concerns and they need to be treated with respect and compassion to avoid alienatinga large group of people and risk them turning to non-trustworthy sources of information.
Professor Heidi Larson, Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, has emphasised the importance of trying to understand these concerns and encourages open and balanced dialogue about both risks and benefits.
Not only are the types of messages important, but the way they are communicated to the public must be considered. The public will inevitably be exposed to rumours and false information, and this must be countered by developing trusted spaces,via social and mainstream media, to share accurate information in an accessible way for the public.
It is exciting to see that healthcare professionals are already starting to adapt,with live Q&As on social media becoming increasingly popular. Doctors are even starting to use TikTokto bust myths about vaccines.
These strategies, along with other innovative methods to share transparent and compassionate messages,will play a critical role in countering the spread of vaccine hesitancy and ultimately ensuring we return to something close to normality in the future.
In global trust barometers, scientists have long featured among the professions most trusted by the public, but pharmaceutical companies remain the least trusted. This is an interesting dichotomy, given that most pharmaceutical employees are scientists.
Public trust has been an issue for the pharmaceutical industry for many years, driven principally by a few high-profile examples of negative practice from several years ago. Even in 2019, it was still the most poorly regarded of industries.
Industries banding together in the global response to COVID-19, coupled with increased curiosity about how medicines and vaccines are developed, has also had a positive impact on pharma’s reputation. This provides an opportunity for the public to change their perceptions of ‘big pharma’ in the long term, but what’s the best way to achieve this?
Transparency in communication is vital
Scientists and researchers have been increasingly visible across media channels during the pandemic to address the public’s concerns and advise those in charge. However, their increasingly public-facing position means that quality of communication is vital. Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy, Lecturer in Economics at King’s College London and co-author of a paper on public trust in science, stated that “if scientists fail to explain their findings clearly and concisely enough to inspire trust in public, people may perceive them as elitists or inaccessible.”
When a participant in a large late-stage AstraZeneca study testing a COVID-19 vaccine suffered a serious adverse reaction, the company immediately, and voluntarily, paused vaccinations and issued a statement where they firmly reiterated their commitment to maintaining “the integrity of the trials.” The following week, as part of efforts to maintain public transparency, researchers at Oxford University, published a comprehensive document explaining that the adverse event was unlikely to be related to the vaccine.
Following the science, not the headlines
Increased public and political pressure to accelerate development of a COVID-19 vaccine, such as President Trump’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’, have only created greater uncertainty about the intentions of drug companies.
In response to this, as part of efforts to engender trust and maintain public confidence, CEOs of nine leading biopharma companies announced a historic pledge in September. They outlined a united commitment to uphold the integrity of the scientific process as they work towards approval of the first COVID-19 vaccines. This includes high scientific and ethical standards, stringent requirements for approval submission and ensuring global access to a range of vaccine options.
Public pledges like this only strengthen the power of collaborations of this kind between academics, pharma companies, regulatory bodies and, most importantly, trial volunteers. Continuing to communicate good practices and ground-breaking science, while keeping patient safety at the heart of the process, will provide optimism and hope for the development and approval of a vaccine.
As the world continues to follow the scientific progress around the COVID pandemic, the pharma industry has the opportunity demonstrate its integrity and commitment to human health, to inform and educate with transparency, and, fundamentally, to win back trust at a time when the world needs it most.
Things were so much easier in 2020 BC (before COVID-19):
“A client wants us to organise a workshop? No problem! We’ve arranged loads of similar events before. We’ll use our experience, follow our tried and tested formula and then tailor the content to meet the specific requirements of this event…”
[Cue a global pandemic shutting down vast swathes of the economy and forcing large areas of the planet into lockdown. The reality of 2020 AC (Anno Coroni) suddenly hits home.]
“… Ah, this is not going to be as easy as we’d imagined! What do we need to do now to make this a success??”
That was basically the internal monologue of Madano’s Healthcare practice leading up to what would become a two-day virtual event for 80 internal stakeholders working in Alzheimer’s disease, with participants scattered around the world from Brazil and Europe to the UAE and Australia. We weren’t entirely sure how we were going to get this one over the line, faced with such unforeseen circumstances and pressures, but we love a challenge, and get it over the line we did! Here are the lessons we learned along the way.
As you can imagine, the event’s virtual setting presented a whole new set of considerations and challenges to overcome, and we wanted to ensure that the event was engaging and fun for everyone sat in their home offices, living rooms, kitchens, and even childhood bedrooms for those who locked down with family!
We began by circulating a survey among participants to help us plan the event in a way that would be of most interest and use to those attending, as well as requesting their current location and time zones (as many people were locked down in areas outside of their offices’ cities!) to help with the scheduling.
The survey also enabled us to determine the type of content attendees would like to be included in the sessions, with a mix of workshops, co-creation, information-sharing and training sessions. In addition, we asked attendees to indicate whose perspectives they would most like to hear – whether neurologists, caregivers and family members of people living with Alzheimer’s, or team members for best-practice examples.
The end result included neurologist and Alzheimer’s specialists’ perspectives for two of the sessions; fortunately, we were blessed with a group of personable, energetic and passionate presenters, so each session produced a lot of interaction and questions from the audience. Making sure your presenters are enthusiastic and able to transmit that enthusiasm to those listening is important for any event, but it’s almost mandatory in a virtual environment.
Another tip that we’d offer is to include an unexpected but relevant addition to your event to surprise attendees and maintain their interest. We did this in the form of a digital illustrator who sat in on the first day’s sessions, producing sketches of each session’s content, and then presented the illustrations back to the audience on the second day. Aside from providing a very creative way to summarise the first day’s discussions for attendees, those illustrations will now be used as a follow-up to produce an infographic tracing a patient’s journey through their condition and the team’s goals to help improve this. A short break for a team scavenger hunt – finding every day items around their homes in the fastest time – also added a very enjoyable element to the second day.
Make it personal!
Prior to the meeting, attendees were asked if they’d be willing to share country-specific experiences at the event (nine agreed) and their personal experiences with the disease (four were willing). We also asked employees to provide a 10-second video clip of themselves stating a pledge they wanted to make for the future – either patient-focused or within the business. These clips were compiled into a video shown at the start and end of the event, and individually hosted on an internal team platform (which we also completely rebranded and reformatted in preparation for the meeting).
Some presentations used videos and photo montages to tell very emotional stories. These poignant personal narratives, of parents and grandparents who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, demonstrated the real passion that this team has to keep patients at the heart of every discussion (and made both the clients and our team shed a few tears!), especially during a meeting otherwise quite focused on expertise and strategy.
Lessons and recommendations
At the end of the meeting, we circulated an evaluation survey to determine what had worked well and identify areas where we could improve future events. We were pleased to discover that all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the meeting had met their expectations in terms of content, was well organised, and the sessions were relevant and useful. Encouragingly, many felt that the virtual format was as effective as if the meeting had been face-to-face, a positive step for the new world we live in.
Our recommendations for similar virtual healthcare events would include sharing more best-practice examples from internal employees, including more time for Q&A sessions and giving plenty of emphasis to the patient and caregiver voice. As the organiser, we would also advise having more sessions that are shorter in length, with more frequent breaks in between (even if only for a few minutes), to allow the audience to refresh and maintain their concentration levels.
And finally, as anyone who’s been working remotely for several months now will tell you, anticipate technology not always working in the way you had planned and try to come up with an alternative for when it does… and when that happens, above all else, keep calm!
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