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Why HCP Personas Are a Valuable Part of Your Publication Extender Strategy

In Medical Communications, there’s always interest in how to make your content work better for you. But somehow, we almost always miss a step when thinking strategically about how to best share information that HCPs need.

Most publication extender strategies jump straight from data to content, without thinking of the audience who is consuming your content. This turns your publication extenders into excess information, vulnerable to getting lost in the already overwhelming landscape of content available to HCPs. Or, your content might simply not be answering to the needs of your audience.

If physicians can’t quickly find and digest your information, it unfortunately loses all value. Avoid this scenario by leveraging personas to make your content relevant and helpful for your audience.

Aren’t Personas for Marketers?

While the term “persona” is a commonly used term in the marketing industry, it’s not a unique or proprietary idea that only marketers lay claim to. Persona development is the essential foundation of any good strategy — marketing or medcomms.

What defines a persona is what you are trying to achieve through developing one. If you are identifying a subset of HCPs to get them to prescribe a specific drug, yes, that is commercial. However, if you are learning about your audience, and segmenting them into personas with an end goal of increasing their access and knowledge to data, that’s not a marketing activity. That’s just tailoring your content to better meet the needs of your audience. Let’s not forget, 81% of physicians are dissatisfied with their interactions with pharmaceutical companies, mostly due to a perceived lack of personalized, relevant content. 1

What Happens Without HCP Personas?

By taking your audience’s needs and preferences into account, you strengthen your ability to reach and engage them with your content. When you consider your entire audience to be one monolithic structure, without unique pain points, needs and wants, you hamstring your ability to effectively reach them.

Understanding the value of creating HCP personas becomes evident when you consider the following example: two healthcare professionals (HCPs) — an oncologist and a primary care physician (PCP) — are seeking information on a new immunotherapy drug for their patients.

The oncologist works at a leading cancer research center and regularly deals with advanced cancer cases. They are already familiar with various immunotherapy drugs and are specifically interested in the latest clinical trial results, efficacy data, and combination therapies for different cancer stages.

The primary care physician, on the other hand, works in a small community practice and encounters cancer cases less frequently. They need a comprehensive understanding of the new drug, including its mechanism of action, safety profile, and patient eligibility criteria. They also want to learn about the referral process and supportive care resources for their patients.

Without HCP personas, a publications digital extender strategy may adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. This could lead to both HCPs receiving the same information, which may not cater to their specific needs and priorities. As a result, the oncologist may not get the in-depth information they need, while the primary care physician might feel overwhelmed by the content.

By developing HCP personas, you can tailor your digital extender strategy to address the unique needs and preferences of different healthcare professionals. For instance, you can create specialized content for oncologists that delves deeper into clinical trial data and combination therapies. Simultaneously, you can design content for primary care physicians that provide a clear overview of the drug, its safety profile, and essential resources for patient care. This targeted approach ensures that each HCP receives the most relevant information, allowing them to make well-informed decisions for their patient.


What Goes Into HCP Persona Development?

InMedical Communications, there’s currently no precedent for developing personas. It’s common to jump directly from data right into content development. Instead, we leverage a new approach: tailoring content to your audience’s specific pain points and professional interests. Without a narrowly targeted message, your publication extender strategy is unfortunately too broad to make the maximum impact. When we develop personas, we consider the best ways to educate HCPs based on the knowledge they need, and the circumstances affecting their daily practice.

Like HCPs diagnose before they prescribe, we need to “diagnose” our audience to prescribe what data will be most relevant to each HCP persona.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Identify Knowledge Gaps and Needs

The first step of developing personas is putting pen to paper around what your audience knows, and what they need to know. Asking yourself a series of questions can help you uncover gaps that your data can fill:

  • What’s the problem for HCPs? Do they all have the same problem?
  • Is this a new mechanism of action? What do HCPs already know about this therapy?
  • What gaps in the therapeutic landscape does this fill?
  • How does this data help HCPs?

Uncovering the challenges HCPs experience and how your therapy and data can help is the first step to identifying your personas.

2. Audit Your Communications

Looking at how you currently communicate around your publications is essential to understanding how to continue developing your personas. What tools and tactics are working? What resources do you have to share information? By surveying your entire ecosystem of communications, you can identify what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t — and then use this information to optimize future communication tactics by tailoring them to the personas you’ll create.

For instance, if you get the most engagement on infographics, you can deduce that your audience prefers visual resources. If you realize part of your audience prefers to listen while they commute, you can add that into your strategy by incorporating audio-first publication extender formats, like podcasts.

3. Isolate Key Messages

Next, you need to integrate your extender strategy into your publication plan. When publication extenders are considered as a one-off resource, you lose the ability to create an omnichannel strategy that reaches a wide audience of HCPs across multiple channels.

Once you’ve integrated your publication plan and extender strategy, you can define the key messages for each extender, using your Scientific Communications Platform as a guide for consistency. Personas and key messages go hand-in-hand. A key message without a specific audience isn’t a key message, it’s just words. Your key message is typically the medical value a particular drug or therapy offers. For different personas, the value is often different.

Developing and Applying Personas to Your Strategy

Once you have all of this information, you are ready to finalize your persona development. Throughout each of the prior steps, you’ll have identified gaps in knowledge in the current landscape, discovered what tactics you employ are the most effective, and isolated the key messages your audience needs.

Now you can group your audience into categories based on the pain points, motivations, needs, and knowledge gaps. The exercise of developing these personas is valuable in and of itself. However, to create the best educational impact, you need to apply these personas to your publication extender strategy.

You can’t reach every HCP on every channel. As part of an omnichannel strategy, you want to reach specific HCPs with each channel and tactic.

Personas are especially important to a publication extender strategy because it helps your team discover the short-form, bite-sized facts that need to be communicated. Through the previous exercise, you’ll now understand the challenges, pain-points, and interests of your audience. You’ll also know when you need to optimize your content for your HCP audience’s communication preferences.

How Personas Benefit Your Publication Extender Strategy

Persona development isn’t a science, it’s a discovery process. This discovery process allows you to create more impactful publication extender strategies.

Think of it from the HCP perspective: If you have a particular question or pain point, and you are browsing scientific content to find an answer, you’ll likely sift through a lot of information just to find something relevant.

When you find something that immediately captures your attention because it’s highly relevant to the problem you are trying to solve, you’ll immediately engage with it.

A strong strategy based on personas broadens the footprint of your publication and drives engagement by providing clear, relevant and interesting information.

When you package your highly-specific, valuable information into bite-sized, easy-to-digest extenders, HCPs are able to quickly evaluate and absorb the scientific data they need to make informed decisions on patient care.

Develop Personas to Create a More Impactful Medical Communications Strategy

You can’t communicate effectively to an audience without understanding the unique perspective and challenges of that audience.

Before creating extenders, consider how targeting your strategy toward specific personas will make the biggest educational impact.

At MedComms Experts, we partner with pharmaceutical companies to help them communicate essential data from their publications to HCPs. Without taking the crucial step of developing personas, you limit the impact your strategy can have.

By incorporating persona development into your omnichannel publication extender strategy, you increase reach and engagement, and then, impact will follow.


1. Reference: McKinsey 2018. Medical affairs: Key imperatives for engaging and educating physicians in a digital world