Many of us have watched with a mixture of fear and intrigue over the last 12 months as the unexpected has increasingly become reality. From the US electing eccentric outsider Donald Trump as their new president, to the UK aligning behind Boris Johnson’s big red bus and voting to leave the European Union. Surprising, no doubt; shocking even for some. But surely such things have no impact on the sturdy old business of medical communications?
Unfortunately, such an assumption is extremely dangerous. At the core of the Brexit vote, Trump’s election, the social uprising after the Philando Castile shooting and numerous other recent events lies the continuing collapse in trust, both in authority and in traditional sources of information. Far from being a different world, the implications for medical communications are in fact stark, impacting some of the fundamental principles that have governed our work since time immemorial.
With the loss of trust in figures of authority, the traditional ‘top-down’ model of influence has been completely deconstructed. No longer can we simply expect clinicians to have their opinions swayed by a perceived elite. The Edelman Trust Barometer data demonstrates that greater levels of trust now sit with ‘individuals like myself’. Healthcare professionals no longer want to be lectured at by an expert or read an expert’s tome in a peer-reviewed journal, but rather want open discussion of clinical practice with their peers.
While technology is aiding clinicians to access information, it is also reaffirming their existing opinions, as search engines and social media deliver material that aligns with that viewed previously. With trust in pharma dwindling, the job for medical communications of crafting something engaging that seeks to challenge rather than reaffirm clinical behaviour becomes harder than ever.
Presidential elections and Facebook live controversies may seem a million miles from the arena of medical education, but their lessons on the importance of trust-based communications are unambiguous. The big question is who will be worried enough to change?