Communicating Effectively and Persuasively to Mixed Stakeholder Audiences

In most industries – and especially when dealing with health and science innovation – it’s critical for communicators to reach an array of stakeholders: investors, business partners, consumers, regulatory agencies, the media and advocacy groups. Whether a company is privately-held or public, building branding and messaging that resonates across all stakeholder audiences is essential.

On August 2nd, LaVoieHealthScience (LHS) explored these issues when our founder and CEO, Donna LaVoie, moderated a panel discussion at The Writing for PR and Corporate Communications Conference, presented by Ragan Communications and held at McDermott Will & Emery’s Boston office. The heavy-hitting panel included Sharon Correia, VP, Integrated Communications, LHS, Matt Osborne, VP, IR and Corporate Communications, Voyager Therapeutics, Inc., and Stella Lin, senior healthcare marketing leader, formerly with Sanofi Genzyme.  These communications experts discussed the importance of differentiating and prioritizing stakeholder audiences, balancing messaging to address individual stakeholder needs, mapping out a communications plan with aligned messages, and persuading management to think more broadly – and strategically – across the audience mix.

Key panel takeaways:

Sharon Correia explained how stakeholder prioritization and messaging alignment is core to LHS’ approach to strategic communications. Starting with a proprietary methodology called LHS Immersion®, Sharon explained how, “we work with internal and external client stakeholders to help establish the groundwork for key messages…then we take each message pillar and stratify those against the audiences they are trying to influence, creating topline and secondary messages.” The goal is to establish clear, differentiated positioning pegged to each stakeholder audience and ensure messaging alignment across all channels. Once a messaging strategy is developed, it’s pulled through to overarching themes for story development, news flow, paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) content distribution, thought leadership and social campaigns.

Matt Osborne of Voyager Therapeutics further broke down the importance of effective, targeted communication to key stakeholders. “You could be a $500B company or a $500M market cap company….60% of your stock price is usually based on the product you have, how you’re competing in the marketplace, another 20% of stock price is due to things beyond your control, but the remainder is absolutely in the control of corporate communications or IR: It’s what you say, how you say it, and when you say it. Companies that do that really well, capture that 20% of value all the time.”

Matt believes the key to effective messaging is to “understand all the functional stakeholder groups, understand who you’re speaking to, simplify the messages and get agreement for those messages.” He went on to discuss how his communications team develops simple, concise statements that apply to all audiences and that everyone internally can agree on. “Sometimes it’s not until you boil messaging down into two or three simple statements that people all agree…and if it’s not clear internally it won’t be clear or resonate externally.”

 

On the same thread, Stella Lin emphasized how important messaging alignment is during a fire drill situation, coming down to two simple ideas: commonality and preparation. “When you’re in a crisis, trying to get the communications out, [you] have so little time to try and align…start with the commonality – we all want to do disease awareness, right? Start there, whether you’re a doctor or a patient or communications professional.” As a best practice, Stella would meet regularly with different departments and share the market research and stakeholder feedback she was receiving to make sure everyone was on the same page. Further, when Stella looked at her positioning and messaging the first step was to decide what she was trying to communicate – what type of news, is there a call to action – and who her consumers are. Scientific information and complicated concepts need to be transformed into easy-to understand messages if the audience includes more than health care professionals. In healthcare, her consumers could be essentially anyone. Patients, patient caregivers, families, patient organizations, even the general public — all need to be taken into consideration when messages are being formed. Having a team that is aligned and prepared can help make that process easier.