The holiday season is upon us. And with it another season’s worth of dismay at how early it starts. One minute you’re sneaking your kids’ Halloween candy, and the next you’re face to face with Santa at the mall after some time warp transported you into the holidays nearly two months ahead of time. It’s enough to turn anyone into a Grinch. But pharmaceutical and med-tech companies could take a cue from retail in this instance, because the time to prepare for a product’s commercialization is not just two months – but at least two years – before FDA approval.

That’s right. At least two years to “seed the market” for your product’s success. Here are five PR insights about what that entails.

Shifting your mindset.

Research is what gets you to “the next big thing,” so understandably that’s where your focus has been. But preparing for commercialization requires you to move from that singular goal/singular audience mindset to more “multi-level thinking.” Who needs to know about us? Where do we need to be seen? What publications do we need to be in? Before the market can trust in your product, it has to trust in you – your science, your reputation and your story. Start thinking about building that trust now.

Knowing the playing field.

Who are or will be your main competitors? How do they differentiate and market themselves? What industry trends, obstacles and opportunities are on the horizon that could influence the commercialization of your product? Do your research and illuminate the battlefield upon which you’ll find yourself deployed so you can show up armed and ready for business.

Expanding your circle of influence. 

During the research and pre-commercial development phase, your primary audiences tend to be the scientific and regulatory communities. To prepare for commercialization, you need to expand your circle of influence and build relationships with the industry’s key opinion leaders, policymakers, providers and patient organizations. This also requires creating an advisory board of these influencers to help move your organization forward. Understanding and building relationships with those critical to your success – before you need them – creates a fertile environment for your product’s success.

Getting your communications house in order.

There’s a lot of work that has to happen before you issue that much awaited press release:  We work with clients to create their own “newsroom” to drive and leverage the content necessary for successful commercialization; the three pillars of which are:

  • Messages – how are you going to talk about your product and your company in ways that 1) differentiate them from the competition, and 2) motivate the audience behaviors you desire? And what writing and approval processes are in place so you can quickly create and capitalize on opportunities to share them?
  • Messengers – who are your spokespersons going to be (both internally and externally)? Do they need spokesperson or media training to help polish their skills?
  • Methods – what are the methods by which you will communicate your information to each audience? Your company’s paid, earned, owned and shared media strategies all need to be in place so you can reach and respond to your audiences when and where they need to hear from you.

Planning for the worst

That’s right. No matter how sound your science is and how well your clinical trials are going, every company needs a crisis plan. Whether there is an adverse patient outcome, or simply a delay in FDA approval, your ability to handle a crisis directly correlates with how well your company recovers from it. Plan for the worst, strive for the best. You’ll rest easier in between.

So the next time you bristle at the sight of candy canes next to the candy corn (or maybe next year, back to school supplies), remember…if you’re a pharmaceutical or med-tech company with promising products in the pipeline, it’s not too early to have visions of a successful commercialization dancing in your head. Preparation will be the gift that keeps on giving.