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How to Develop the Content Your HCP Audience is Looking For

Our industry has generally followed the same formula when developing content for online educational platforms, also called healthcare professional (HCP) engagement platforms. Instead of letting HCP needs and pain points dictate what you host online, an “event” like the release of new data, a congress, or a regulatory update prompts pharmaceutical companies to begin building their communication plans.

The problem is, this approach ends up being quite linear: This “event” happens, triggering the creation of content for your educational platform. Unfortunately, this linear approach values timing over educating your audience and solving your audience’s needs and pain points.

HCPs rarely flock to platforms simply because there is new data available. Instead, they usually rely on certain sites and platforms where they know they will consistently find valuable data that is relevant to their needs — whether it’s a question about a new treatment, guidelines, or information about a disease path.

Developing scientific content when you have something new to share without considering the HCP perspective is an exercise in futility. There’s already plenty of resources and sites for them to visit to simply find new data. If your platform doesn’t provide easy-to-find, timely and relevant information, HCPs will navigate elsewhere and they won’t return.

To make your platform a go-to source for HCPs, develop topics that are clearly and immediately aligned with the knowledge they need.

A Better Process Starts With the HCP Perspective

To achieve better educational outcomes for your audience, start by putting yourself in the HCP’s shoes. Again, ideating topics isn’t just about communicating new data. It’s vital to focus on how you can best educate your audience and make a lasting impact when communicating your data. Without a strategy and thoughtfully developed content, you will essentially be shouting your findings into the void.

Insights from Our Peers

MedComms Experts hosted a workshop at the Medical Affairs Professionals Society (MAPS) meeting this past May. During our session, participants provided insights about their knowledge around educational platforms. When asked what unmet needs their platforms will solve, participant answers ranged from sharing scientific data to providing peer-to-peer exchange opportunities, to supporting daily needs in clinical practices. Nearly every participant identified an educational opportunity — whether it was around gaps in the landscape or provided more access to HCPs to engage with content.

However, participants struggled when asked further questions about what makes one platform better than the others for HCPs. Only a few identified a tailored approach that takes into account HCP preferences. Others simply identified that up-to-date content is important.

While content is the cornerstone, how you approach it strategically is what will set your HCP engagement platform apart.

Guiding Principles Align Your Efforts

First, it’s important that you don’t develop your content in a vacuum. By this, we mean taking steps before identifying the topics that help you understand your strategy for your scientific platform. These considerations include:

  • Conducting a landscape analysis
  • Understanding stakeholder needs
  • Considering regulatory challenges
  • Determining the metrics you’ll use to measure success
  • Reviewing all the formats and channels at your disposal
  • Characterizing your HCP audiences

Only after you’ve reflected and researched all of the above will you be ready to create an effective editorial plan. We realize it’s much quicker to simply let the data determine when and what you will host on your platform. But ultimately, your time is better spent completing the up-front work, because it will make your platform, and your content, much more valuable to HCPs.

3 Steps to Uncover Valuable Topics for HCPs

When it comes to ideating your topics, it’s very easy to skip over the HCP’s pain points and assume what to prioritize based on your objectives. This three-step process helps you step into the shoes of your HCP audience, which in turn allows you to choose valuable topics that will resonate with the community.

1. Define a focus area

Consider the following example: There is a rare disease with an existing treatment landscape. A new treatment is now available, but HCPs have varying levels of awareness. Some HCPs may not even be familiar with this disease at all, and therefore, it’s unlikely they’ll know or understand the symptoms.

From this information, you can begin to narrow your topic down to a single focus area:

Let’s choose the lack of awareness around the disease as our first area of focus. Other focus areas could include understanding the mechanism of the disease, differentiating the new treatment from existing ones, and interpreting the clinical data about the new treatment.

2. Investigate why this area of focus is a pain point

We need to delve deeper into the challenges faced by HCPs. The first pain point may seem obvious: since the disease is rare, a physician diagnosing a patient might not be aware of it at all. Further, perhaps this disease does not have specific, recognizable symptoms, and even the HCPs who are aware might think it’s something else entirely. Moreover, HCPs might not know who to refer to if they think the disease is something else.

Identifying these pain points help you continue to narrow your topic and decide on an objective or theme for your content. These pain points provide a lens through which you can frame your content to make it relevant to your audience. Concretely listing these questions is an important part of the process that helps you ideate the topics that will resonate most.

3. Identify questions related to these pain points

The final step is to dive into the pain points you’ve identified that stem from your areas of focus. To identify a valuable, narrow topic, consider what information HCPs will specifically be seeking.

For our example, when ideating topics for a physician audience, take their perspective. What questions would they ask?

  • What signs should I be looking for to diagnose this rare disease accurately?
  • How does the new treatment compare to existing ones, and what benefits does it offer my patients?
  • What does the latest research data say about the new treatment’s effectiveness?

This creates specificity in your content — something that is extremely important. Overwhelming HCPs with too much data all at once won’t help knowledge retention. Conversely, broad topics and articles that overwhelm readers with superfluous details won’t provide value to HCPs. If after reading your articles, the HCPs don’t feel a higher level of knowledge or understanding, they’ll begin a search elsewhere.

Create Better Topics — and Better Outcomes for HCPs

Through thoughtful planning, you’ll have a better understanding of what HCPs need from your content. Then, you can ideate specific topics that cut right to the heart of the issues they are hoping to address.

Not only does this provide better educational outcomes, but it makes your content — and, your educational platform — a valuable resource that HCPs will rely on for new, up-to-date, unbiased data.

A framework like this makes ideating topics straightforward. We often see clients create one long article that covers every possible topic. But this isn’t helpful to your HCP audience. When you have a simple process that leads to a variety of topic ideas, you can craft a content journey that makes ideation easy and provides value to the HCPs who rely on your content.

To learn more about engaging HCPs through your platform, get in touch.