The Power of PR for Medical Devices
Talented entrepreneurs are entering the medical device industry at an unprecedented rate to tackle problems with worldwide appeal. It’s an innovative and heterogeneous marketplace that comes with its own set of challenges. The road to market of a new device, from conceptualization to public introduction and acceptance, is a crucial process in a dynamic and competitive business environment. Start-up leadership teams, by their nature, maintain focus on mission-critical activities like design and development, verification and validation, and regulatory challenges. If there are limited resources, which is often the case, raising funds is added to the mix.
In a field where there is tremendous competition for funding, investors want to see evidence of long-term viability, low costs, and improved outcomes. The evidence burden for institutional rounds is even higher. While venture investment in medical technology has recovered since the financial crisis of a decade ago, it does not reflect the challenges an entrepreneur faces while raising money at that critical transition from seed to Series A. Regardless of the source, investors are looking for a visionary entrepreneur, a home-run market opportunity, and attractive risk/reward, which means so much relies on the CEO demonstrating the knowledge and experience necessary to run with the punches and maneuver the gauntlets inherent in the industry.
When the device is ready to launch, it will rely on the awareness and support of multiple audiences including any combination of physicians or doctors, patients, payors or health insurers as well as hospital materials management, finance departments, and nurses and clinical support staff. If any of those groups misunderstand the value of the device, support is a struggle – if it’s received at all.
With so much stake at every phase of the company, communication is a key driver in determining which companies fail and which ones make it to market. Having clear messages and a well-crafted public relations program in place enable entrepreneurs to distinctly articulate their vision to sophisticated audiences. Enough cannot be said about the importance of third-party credibility for legitimizing brands, building trust and transparency, and expanding visibility for target engagement.
Audience considerations are integral components of the process. Investors, doctors, practice managers, and hospital executives prefer articles from scholarly, peer-reviewed, academic, and refereed journals because they go through the most rigorous review process making them more credible than articles from popular or trade journals. Trade and professional journals on specific topics bridge the gap between scholarly and popular sources, yet can be enjoyed by laymen.
For those companies targeting patients, a direct-to-patient strategy comes into play. They are responsible for more healthcare costs than ever before, so they have more skin in the game. Patients are behaving more like consumers, conducting their own extensive research before making healthcare decisions. They take a much more holistic approach. To facilitate research, decisions, and purchasing, public relations and social media are a particularly effective strategy for educating this market.
In short, medical device entrepreneurs are developing incredible products and putting extensive resources, time, and energy into their efforts to give their company the best shot possible. Executives are well-advised to partner with PR professionals that share their passion and excitement – those that will stop at nothing to make the world know, understand and adopt their innovations. For those executives that aim for more ambitious depths in reaching their audiences, public relations delivers.
Patti D. Hill and Dana Summers