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October 19, 2022 // Kristin Deuber  //       //  Opinion

What To Do When Your Healthcare Thought Leadership Efforts Aren’t Working

As we enter the endemic stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain – efforts to communicate complex health information have often failed and deeply eroded trust in science, healthcare providers and policymakers. In the absence of credible health information, people rely on social media and hearsay, often filled with misinformation, to make critical decisions about their health and well-being. At the same time, thousands of businesses across the healthcare spectrum offer new, innovative solutions to health and wellness.  

In this overwhelmingly noisy space, it’s no wonder the thought leadership efforts of so many healthcare and life sciences organizations have fallen flat. 

On the bright side, consumers and business leaders are thirsty for authentic, credible information and seek to engage in meaningful conversations about what the future of healthcare could and should look like. They want strong leaders to advance these conversations and help them navigate what continues to be a complex ecosystem.  

With 2023 planning efforts underway for many healthcare organizations, it’s the perfect time to revisit your thought leadership efforts, so your experts can more effectively engage with their most important stakeholders.  

Here are four things to consider as you look to improve your thought leadership program: 

 1. Are your purpose, mission and vision aligned with who your company is today?  

Your thought leadership program must evolve with your organization, so you tell authentic and meaningful stories that build trust. This includes ensuring your thought leadership efforts align with your company’s purpose, social impact, and environment, social and governance (ESG) efforts. For example, many companies in the digital health space quickly accelerated their services and innovated new offerings to meet pandemic demands. Those organizations are likely not the same companies they were two years ago, so their thought leadership efforts shouldn’t be either. It’s worth looking inward and evaluating what your company is today, what it values most and what it wants to look like in the future to ensure that’s part of your brand narrative. 

 2. Is your thought leadership strategy built on a data and analytics foundation?  

Like any strategic communications initiative, it’s critical to use research to inform your thought leadership program. This research can be done via a range of tools and processes to establish a critical baseline, uncover white space, and identify current and emerging trends across the healthcare space. Conducting a digital and media audit and using digital listening tools is an excellent place to start and will help you derive deep insights about your organization, competitors and the healthcare industry. That way, you have a data-driven basis for your content strategy development and storytelling. 

3. Does your platform move you toward the next stages of thought leadership? 

At Allison+Partners, we look at thought leadership in four stages: 1) awareness (driving visibility), 2) authority (providing commentary on important trends/issues, 3) advocacy (advocating in your industry and for key stakeholders, and 4) iconic leadership (industry leader who also makes an impact on society at large). For your thought leadership efforts to be successful, you must continually review and update your platforms to ensure they move you toward the next thought leadership stage. 

4. Do you have a detailed and measurable plan of action? 

Many organizations believe if they develop and execute a handful of tactics annually, they can effectively position their executives as thought leaders. But that’s simply not the case. To build trust and credibility among stakeholders, they must deploy an ongoing strategic action plan using paid, earned, social and owned (PESO) tactics that showcase their unique point-of-view on issues impacting the industry rather than promoting the company’s products, services and achievements. The plan should also be revisited quarterly using agreed-upon metrics to measure the program’s success.  

Just because your thought leadership efforts don’t meet today’s expectations doesn’t mean they can’t impact your bottom line in the future. As we plan for 2023, take the time to evaluate your current program, because organizations that don’t prepare for the future now could lose their position to competitors that bring strong voices to essential healthcare industry conversations.  

Kristin Deuber is a Senior Vice President based in San Diego, where she leads work for a number of Allison+Partners’ healthcare clients, providing account strategy and management, media relations and thought leadership strategy and corporate reputation management counsel. 


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