New creative healthcare partnership formed between Smyle and The Difference Collective to guide new digital era, as majority of doctors say they won’t go back to face-to-face events – even post-pandemic.

More than 50% of neurologists say they are unlikely to return to physical events even after the pandemic ends and physical events return, according to the latest research by Across Health.1 The major driver for remaining online is not anxiety over the virus, but the low costs, convenience and the quality of the digital offering. This is mirrored in another recent survey, which reveals that 58% of physicians in Europe are likely to continue to participate in virtual conferences and congress after Covid-19 mitigation measures have lifted.2

The challenge of navigating this seismic change has prompted creative agency Smyle to form an industry-first partnership with healthcare communications experts The Difference Collective to give pharma companies the confidence to innovate with virtual and hybrid events. While virtual healthcare events have had a good start, maintaining innovation alongside the varied demands of the industry remains a challenge.

The pandemic has been the catalyst for healthcare professionals to finally reconsider the value of face-to-face interactions. Studies conducted almost 10 years ago showed that 84% of doctors recognised the benefits of being able to attend conferences, meetings and training virtually – particularly for educational events3, but it took the forced lockdown of healthcare professionals to move meetings online in a much more widespread and innovative way. 

Smyle, whose clients include Ferring, Roche and Vertex, is marrying its consumer expertise in the digital event space with the strong healthcare understanding offered by The Difference Collective, whose clients include AstraZeneca and Boehringer Ingelheim. The collaboration is intended to strike a balance between the demands of forward-thinking pharmaceutical companies to deliver impactful virtual and hybrid healthcare events – whilst adhering to regulatory policies and scientific understanding. When physical events do return, the companies’ combined expertise will also help implement important hygiene measures, such as audience testing, space planning and biosecurity, while still maintaining real-time ‘wow’ moments.

Smyle Communication Director Jonathan Boyne says: “2020 has been a testing year for the pharma industry as it has had to rapidly adjust its mindset during a challenging time. But 2021 now provides an opportunity to shape those lessons into a truly effective digital model that works across the varied demands of the industry.”

Digital Lead Wayne Page, of The Difference Collective, says: “The enforced shift from physical to digital events during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a radical change in healthcare professionals’ behaviour. Hybrid and virtual events mean pharma can continue to reach and engage with these critical audiences remotely, but what the industry needs is a partner able to combine innovation from the consumer world with science and regulatory rigour.”

The industry’s changing behaviour has major implications for not only pharmaceutical marketers, but also those audiences who attend. Virtual healthcare events are not only attracting greater numbers, but also enjoying greater global reach. Events that would have hosted only 250 people in one room are now attracting four times that number with a far wider geographic spread thanks to a more accessible ‘on-demand’ format.

Published 21/01/2021

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