I am just returning from the annual PMRG Institute, interfacing with peers in the pharmaceutical sector around a series of new topics & challenges in market insights. The theme of the conference was a 360º View, and many of the presentations focused on storytelling and the current wave of patient-centric initiatives impacting global pharma leaders such as Merck, Teva, UCB, Boehringer-Ingelheim to name a few.
It’s no surprise then the New York Times also recently published an op-ed on the importance of storytelling with Why Doctors Need Stories. This piece by Peter D. Kramer talks about Danish psychiatrist Per Bech, an innovator in clinical psychometrics, which is the science of measuring change in conditions like depression. Per Bech generally focuses on statistics, but more recently he’s shared stories about patients and case vignettes.
This Per Bech example reflects many of the exact challenges of our industry today – how we are changing our perspective in treating specific conditions, shifting to more patient-centric and relatable materials. That’s something we do first hand at BuzzBack. Our eCollage™ is a unique storytelling technique – in research-speak, it’s an enabling technique that helps both patients and physicians open up and express themselves more authentically. We use this technique in our Diabetes study and much of the other healthcare work we do. It helps clients get to the ‘power of the narrative’ and the ‘texture’ alluded to in Why Doctors Need Stories.
The narrative completes the job – it fills in the blanks between clinical facts and data points. For pharma marketing, the article’s author articulates it beautifully, “But vignettes can do more than illustrate and reassure. They convey what doctors see and hear, and those reports can set a research agenda”.
The physician author admits that vignettes about cases and outcomes augment evidence-based medicine and inform his decision making. In our daily work, we have seen how stories tell the big picture, while also capturing the details of a smaller snapshot too. Time and again, stories provide opportunities for the audience to recognize themselves – and in this case, for the physician, his patient. Stories help individuals connect on a deeply personal level. For marketers, this is the gold they are mining for when weaving their brand narrative.