Communications alignment in collaborations

Laura Liotta

Sam Brown, Inc.

As our partnerships &amp, licensing month continues, Laura Liotta shares her top tips on how to successfully collaborate in the area of communications.

Industry collaborations are highly successful in rapidly bringing breakthrough medicines to patients. The biotechnology industry is filling Big Pharma pipelines with innovative research. Big Pharma is bringing these innovations to the world by providing funding, development, global reach and commercialization infrastructure. It is an exciting ride, albeit a bumpy one, but if you look at the new therapies in cancer alone that have come to the market recently, you will agree that industry collaborations are working.

Many factors play into a collaboration’s success. One critical factor is alignment on communications. By their very nature, these two industry ‘partners’ are very different and are naturally misaligned due to size, structure, culture, resources, etc. The two companies have very different PR / IR approaches and disclosure requirements based on their individual needs. And therefore, by necessity, they communicate differently with key audiences.

We have worked with many teams who collaborate extremely well in the area of communications. They align the strategy, create a road map, identify roles, talk early and often, and when in conflict, create a process for resolution.


“…if you look at the new therapies in cancer alone that have come to the market recently, you will agree that industry collaborations are working.”


Here are a few best practices to increase your odds for a successful collaboration in the area of communications:

• Create a joint communications team. Just as you have joint commercialization, development and / or marketing teams, you need to identify individuals who are responsible for public relations strategy, decisions and activity on behalf of the collaboration. An important, but often overlooked, function of this team is to immediately identify and agree on the individuals who will be the public face and voice of the collaboration.

• Establish a strategic communications plan and clearly define public relations responsibilities, priorities and approach in the collaboration agreement. This process should include investor relations needs and requirements. Do you have a Europe or Asia-based partner that requires disclosure of material news before the market opens there? These may seem like trivial details, but addressing them up front will prevent confusion, potentially damaging disclosure and credibility delays, and resource “churn”.

• Establish a clear, joint review process very early on. Coordinate an in-person meeting or call with key representatives of both companies and their respective communications agencies to describe the individuals and steps that are part of the established communications and materials review process at both companies.


“The future growth of our industry lies in the strength of these innovative collaborations…”


• Foster an “ahead of the game” communications mentality. Even in the best situations, getting things done in a collaboration requires twice as much time. And because there tends to be more team members – who are often separated geographically ? there is also greater potential for the erroneous assumption that others have the same information you have. Put yourself and your team in the best position to maximize good news and positive events (e.g., data, publications, presentations) and prevent disclosure and materiality issues by preparing for all upcoming communications opportunities together. Maintain a calendar of events, and revisit it as a group on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure you’re always doing everything possible now to prepare.

• Lastly, have a strategy for conflict resolution. Relationships, by their nature, have conflict. But a few relatively simple approaches, guided by committed and empathetic individuals, can help ensure that biotech-pharma relationships stay on the right track to deliver optimal results for both parties.

We work in the greatest industry in the world (one that is dramatically underappreciated in my opinion, but that is another article). The future growth of our industry lies in the strength of these innovative collaborations that bring new treatments to patients faster and more efficiently. So, here’s to successful collaborations, communications alignment and bearing more fruit.

Previous articles by Sam Brown, Inc.:

Translating Science to English

Targeting hard to reach patient populations with brand messages


About the author:

Laura Liotta is the president and founder of Sam Brown, Inc., a leading independent, healthcare communications agency that has been serving the life science industry for 14 years.

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