The scientific communication platform: generating a clear, consistent and compelling product narrative
An SCP provides the strategic basis for a product’s communication plan and, when designed effectively, will ensure that accurate, consistent language and referencing is used throughout all communication activities and by functional teams. For a new product, the ideal time to develop an SCP is during the late stages of Phase II trials, as it may help define the Phase III clinical programme. It could also ensure that even early publications communicate a coherent narrative, while for later stage products, an SCP can highlight existing data gaps. If the product is part of a franchise or has multiple indications, an integrated SCP is critical to ensure that there are no inconsistencies in communication across products or indications.
Four main components shape an SCP. Firstly, the pillars provide the framework and prioritise the story flow. Common pillars include disease area, mechanism of action, efficacy, safety and value, but others can be added to reflect the key differentiating features of the product. Each pillar can be paired with an objective that describes the desired strategic outcome. Secondly, for each pillar there should be one or two core scientific statements that define clear, coordinated communication points and are aligned with the related objective. These core statements are then supported by referenced evidence statements that delve into the granular detail and are essential for an accurate and robust platform, providing confidence in the platform’s strong scientific foundation. Finally, a lexicon provides a uniform vocabulary for the product that should be used across all communications.
As the SCP will underpin future communications across cross-functional teams, hearing a wide range of voices during development is crucial to creating a successful SCP. It is also important to consider what resources already exist for the product when developing an SCP, such as strategic documents, medical plans and regulatory filing documents, and ensure that these are aligned. Functions usually involved in SCP development include Medical Affairs, Clinical Development, Competitor Intelligence, Health Economics and Outcomes Research, Market Access, Drug Safety, Regulatory Affairs, Medical Information and Patient Advocacy. Getting opinions from each function on the central statements of the product in the early stages can help identify if there is a lack of alignment among stakeholders and prevent disparity later in development when statements have already been established. Holding informal interviews or perception audits can be a great way of recording the thoughts of stakeholders and serve as a starting point for pillar and statement development. It is important to consider the format these interviews will take; while it may seem cost- and time-effective to hold a single meeting with all stakeholders this may not allow all voices to be heard. Several smaller meetings will enable stakeholders to voice their opinions and discuss their thoughts in more detail. Depending on company policy, Commercial and Marketing team members may be involved at an early stage to aid understanding of the product challenges but should not be involved in developing the scientific statements – key marketing messages are developed separately by the Commercial teams.
Once the core scientific statements have begun to take shape it is often valuable to regroup with stakeholders in a workshop to ensure the narrative is on the right track and to unearth any other thoughts missed in the perception audits or shifts in emphasis. Alignment among functional teams on the central narrative is critical to gain support for the SCP and will aid in the successful rollout across the cross-functional team. The design, agenda and facilitation of the workshop is therefore vital; stakeholders can sometimes become preoccupied with specific wording or the lexicon, when the core narrative still requires validation. A successful workshop will result in a consensus among stakeholders on a set of core statements or, at the very least, a clear path in this direction.
It is important to remember that the successful rollout of the SCP is as important as its development. A structured rollout featuring launch activities and training for internal team members can help to make sure the SCP is used correctly and position it as the key guidance document for the product. Delivering the SCP in a digital format can also make the content more accessible. Each functional team will need to determine how best to integrate the SCP into their communication activities to ensure consistency.
Finally, an effective SCP should be a living document, updated in response to changes in the therapeutic landscape, such as new product or competitor data, or updated guidelines. This is where a digital format can really be valuable, allowing seamless and timely updates to the SCP without the need for frequent re-distribution of static documents.
While the development of an SCP may initially seem daunting, with good planning, collaboration among functional teams and scientific accuracy it can be a strong foundation for a successful product. If you want to find out more about how Bioscript can help support your teams and projects, please do get in touch!