It’s been more than six months since we learned about the virus that has changed all of our lives. In that time, we’ve clapped for essential workers, watched astronauts launch into space for the first time in nearly a decade, bought and sewed a lot of masks, saw a civil rights movement take off – and spent a whole lot of time at home.

For those in health care communications, it has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Here are a few things we’ve experienced and learned over the last six months:

  • What plans? Any plans for product launches, clinical trials recruitment, conference attendance, new campaigns and any media outreach required a fast shift in strategy. We saw our clients move quickly to adjust their businesses to help manufacture products, develop new technology and initiate research that could help in the fight against COVID-19. This level of change required fast and careful internal and external communications. At the end of the day, the most successful organizations have been those who were able to shift quickly, yet strategically, and contribute in meaningful ways.
  • When employees are essential. Because we work with hospitals, health systems, medical device manufacturers – clients who have continued on-site requirements in order to continue serving patients – it became evident that internal communications would need to strike a delicate balance. Many employees felt great pride continuing to work – in many cases to help fight COVID-19 in one way or another. They also felt fear. Employee communications were led with empathy and transparency and provided details (as available) about how employees would be supported and protected on site – and how they could help protect their coworkers through preventative measures.
  • Getting creative. Content developed and approved pre-COVID-19 – sometimes through rigorous medical, legal and regulatory reviews – suddenly became less relevant. In the face of COVID-19, we had to get creative around how we could still use these materials without appearing insensitive or tone-deaf, including:
    • Revising content or re-cutting content that no longer made sense in the new environment.
    • Changing channel strategy for content. (E.g., graphics developed for social media would be used instead for newsletters, websites or paid promotions.)
    • Holding content past the peak of COVID-19 and releasing at a later date.
    • Adding disclaimers that content was filmed/produced before COVID-19.
  • To engage media or not to engage media? The media landscape shifted dramatically to nearly exclusive coverage of COVID-19 – and six months later, the pandemic is still the primary news topic. While the media landscape is beginning to open up to topics beyond COVID-19, we’re continuing to counsel clients to carefully consider whether their news is truly meaningful and appropriate to share during this time.
  • Everything digital. Going into 2020, none of us could have predicted the extent of the digital transformation (and the number of Zoom calls) that would take hold this year. Industry conferences have been cancelled in lieu of digital events – complete with virtual exhibits and virtual networking opportunities – and people have finally begun using telehealth services in earnest. While many are hoping that conferences will be in-person again in the future, going fully digital has given us insight into what is possible when you take away the option of meeting face-to-face.

It’s clear COVID-19 will impact our lives and work for the foreseeable future. As your company adapts to ongoing changes, Padilla’s COVID-19 Response Team is here to help.