Written by Hannah Brazier on Wednesday 20th March 2019
Following 10 successful pitches for OPEN Health Medical Communications this year; Hannah Brazier provides an updated commentary on pitching and the importance of a medical writer in this process.
Although the company has grown, evolved and re-branded since Jon wrote about his views on the medical writer’s role in the pitch team, the core of what we do (keeping science at the centre) endures. The challenges Jon outlined – time restrictions, distilling broad insights are still extremely relevant today, however, in light of a recent pitch win that I was involved in, I wanted to share some of the new and innovative ways we have developed to tackle these challenges.
A number of factors inherent to pitching and agency life mean that high pressure and short timelines are still challenges we face today when a brief arrives. However, in my experience, the anxious excitement fuels and improves the pitch development, and the pressure brings the team together, building on existing relationships and creating a slick dynamic on pitch day.
Another unchanged aspect is the idea to let the science do the talking, and that the solid background knowledge, provided by the Medical Writer, can help shape the proposal and field any client questions. This focus on the science (and the strategy it dictates) remains the core components of our pitching ethos.
One learning to add to this article would be how, nowadays, we more astutely prioritise tasks by quickly getting ‘under the skin’ of the brief and what the client is looking for. For example, if the proposal is in a complex therapy area, the Medical Writer is afforded more time to thoroughly research the background and find the ‘so what?’ that underpins all elements of a successful pitch.
Another important strategy we implement is to carefully analyse what external input the pitch team require and from whom. Thus, when we receive the pitch, we swiftly identify the scientific, creative and digital needs of the project and arrange brainstorms with the relevant experts within OPEN Health. As a result, these discussions are more focussed, occur at the ideal point of the pitch development process and together we develop innovative ideas from a broad perspective which allows us to stand out.
In conclusion, although we are still tackling some familiar challenges, we have adapted our preparation strategies with each new proposal. This concept of evolving our pitch process while retaining the key aspects that create success (excellent strategic insights from our Medical Writers) has allowed us to build upon our pitching success rates and win further multi-faceted, global business.
When a request for proposal arrives from a potential client, it can be a scramble to assemble a relevant pitch team and assign members their roles and responsibilities. The team often relies upon the medical writer to absorb vast amounts of information on complex therapy areas and to identify strategic insights in an often very limited timeframe! However, this means that, as medical writers, we play a core role in the pitch process and are essential for its success.
The research for a pitch is undoubtedly one of the medical writer’s most important tasks because it informs both our recommended strategy and tactics. The conversion of knowledge gained from research into insights (i.e. the ‘so what?’) underpins everything in the pitch and is often the hardest task to undertake. For example, it may be relatively straightforward to determine the prevalence of a disease or the safety profile of a drug, but it can be more challenging to determine why this matters.
The research process can be very time consuming and often involves the creation of multiple documents full of notes, quotes and snippets of data before any actual insights are generated. As timelines are often short and the available literature around a therapy area is vast, the task can be daunting and sometimes feel unproductive because most of the research does not make it into the final pitch slides. However, when the key insights are distilled from the research, it can be very rewarding to realise that after all the hard work, you truly understand the key challenges of a disease and its treatment.
As medical writers perform the research and generate the insights, it is also natural that we present our findings at the pitch and answer questions from the client. Although pitching can cause some nervousness, thoroughly preparing makes the whole process much smoother. I have been put on the spot several times and been asked to elaborate on an insight or defend something proposed, but in each instance the background research I had carried out allowed me to confidently reply and back-up our proposal.
If our insights don’t exactly align with those of the client, I find that explaining our thought processes leads to informative discussions about the client’s strategy and aims for the project — this then allows us to adapt our approach, which in turn leads to a much more productive process. Therefore, it is really important to read the audience and adapt to feedback and reactions on the fly, rather than continue as if reading from a pre-defined script.
Although pitching can be time-consuming and sometimes stressful, I find new business development to be one of the most engaging aspects of my job. Based on my own experience, I believe medical writers are the most important people in a pitch team (although as a medical writer of course I would say that!) because the insights they develop and the tactics they propose contribute to the strategy of the pitch. At OPEN Health Medical Communications, this winning process has been validated by our 75% pitch success rate!
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For more information contact Louise Carrington, Client Partnerships Lead