Getting Healthcare Advocacy Right For Pharma & MedTech

Posted: 30th March 2022
Categories: Uncategorised

Practical support and tools, based on Triducive’s experience of over 100 advocacy-developing campaigns with business teams in healthcare.

Any market in any sector is fundamentally comprised of a network of stakeholders, whose behaviours define choices, purchasing decisions and consumption of products or services. The driver of these behaviours is a complex mix of what’s needed, the benefits offered by a product/service, previous experience, wider constraints, perceptions, or conventions, and increasingly often, the social influences across the individual’s network on both what’s needed and what the solution could be.

The social influence exerted across healthcare stakeholder groups is perhaps even more evident than in many other sectors with multi-disciplinary teams working across multiple areas of expertise. All stakeholders sharing some of the same objectives (usually patient-oriented outcomes) but each with other varying aims.

The Need for Healthcare Advocacy

The healthcare environment is growing in complexity; demand for trusted data to demonstrate value increasing at a time where potential for businesses to communicate directly with stakeholders in healthcare systems is diminishing or, at the very least changing. The need for the voice of external advocates who can help communicate/reinforce important messages and share vision and experience around patient care is becoming more pronounced.

In this context, the power of external expert advocacy as a core strategy to communicate and support behaviours amongst target audiences is difficult to ignore. The quest to develop a group of experts willing and able to convey data, experience and perspective that aligns with brand strategy to peers and others is a challenge that requires vision, planning and a durable commitment.

Download our Practical Guide to Brand Benefit Differentiation to Demonstrate Value

Healthcare Advocacy Development Framework

As part of advocacy strategies, Triducive offer a simple framework for advocacy development and some concepts that can help to improve outcomes when embarking on this task.

Establish the goals of advocacy

Why do we want to engage?

How should success with this be measured?

Align with stakeholder interests

Why would a potential advocate engage with us on this?

How can goals be adapted to include their interest?

Develop specific activities

What mix of activities will help get us closer to achieving the business goals?

Profile & mobilise external experts

Who can help achieve the goals?

Does the plan consider how to support experts effectively?

Measure the impact

Are the right KPIs in place to measure the impact?

Establish the goal:

‘Why do we want to engage in advocacy’?

Can we answer the most important question (already the most important question even before Mr Sinek wrote a book on the word) – ‘why’? What is it that we ultimately want to achieve and why is it critical that we do?

Developing a medium to long-term view that very clearly defines what ‘good’ looks like with advocacy activity helps a business determine a more purposeful approach to the activities that may be selected. Creating some ‘hard’ measures to accompany the vision helps make this even clearer.

For example, the goal could be:

  • To elevate the perception of the company amongst target stakeholders
  • To achieve awareness & trust in the scientific data amongst specific audiences that supports the evidence base for a brand
  • To see wider behaviour-change around a specific aspect of the management of a disease
  • Something else.

Depending on the complexity of a particular market and the barriers that exist to achieving success within it, there may be more than one goal that needs to be described.

Align with stakeholder interests:

‘Why would an advocate engage’?

As goals are developed, it’s important to consider the potential for would-be advocates to align with the cause. This alignment may not mean a total eclipse of business objective with the interests of external experts but should share sufficient aspirations related to patient or health system outcomes.

A concept that can help organise this thinking, particularly when the goal of advocacy is focused on supporting or changing current practice is the ‘convergence of interest model’ developed by Saxton et al.

Public health needs
  • Prevent disease and maintain well-being
  • Provide access to optimal, affordable care
  • Provide access to disease and health information
Patient needs
  • Increase/maintain quality of life, health & wellbeing
  • Access to optimal, affordable care
  • Mitigate risk of getting disease
Healthcare system needs
  • Maintain a competent medical workforce
  • Address existing medical needs & resolve gaps
  • Prevent/avoid disease
  • Standardise and improve efficiency
Payer needs
  • Ensure cost-effectiveness and cost-containment
  • Drive competitiveness of commercial offers
  • Improve effectiveness of treatment
HCP needs
  • Stay abreast and competent (inc. maintaining licence/accreditation)
  • Achieve excellence in practising medicine
  • Avoid errors

Convergence of Interest Model (adapted from Saxton et al)

The goals that organisations have will ideally relate well to more than one of the stakeholder group’s needs and, the stronger the alignment, the easier that initial advocacy will be to achieve.

Writing a shared goal (or goals) that captures the interests of the business, but in terms that describe how this aligns with interests of other stakeholders helps cement the basis for advocacy and can become the root of messaging that supports any activities that are developed.

For example:

The business goal of: Encouraging earlier diagnosis of disease x could become the aligned goal of:

To support clinical excellence in diagnosing disease x within general practice and preventing non-urgent referral to secondary care

Develop specific activities

‘What should be done to get us closer to achieving our goals?’

There are a wide range of activities that may be considered but usually they fall into 3 broad domains:

  1. Relationship-building
  2. Education
  3. Co-creation

Level 1

Level 1 activities (relationship-building) we see as foundational activities that help build trust and alignment between the organisation and external experts and will usually form an ongoing basis of any broad advocacy plan. Individuals may be continually recruited based on an emerging relationship and at least some level of initial understanding of, if not alignment with the business focus.

Level 2

Level 2 activities (empower to educate) are the type of activities that are ideally developed with external experts who already have a growing level of trust with the organisation and an appreciable level of overlap in terms of business goal and their interest.  This type of emerging advocate is well suited to educating others (on data, practice, or techniques) that support this aligned agenda. Inspiring, equipping and supporting them to achieve this is the focus of programs in this domain.

Level 3

Level 3 activities (co-create market development). While there will often be elements of co-creation involved with level 2 activities this is the domain of programs and projects with wide strategic impact on the business and brand. These activities may also have a greater degree of initial uncertainty about what the final output will be even though the goal of developing it is very clear (e.g. model care pathway re-design programs or expert opinion-based studies). In our experience, external experts engaged here will need to be well aligned with the end goal and have a significant amount of trust in the organisation as any outputs are likely to require their endorsement, if not ownership.

External expert advocacy programming tool

Profile & mobilise potential advocates

‘Who can help achieve the goals?’

The following profiling tool is based on the questions that we routinely pose to business teams and can help to stratify potential advocates (across all relevant stakeholder groups), according to the goals and activities that are being considered.

This exercise is best done individually, by each internal team member and then discussed as a project team to ensure a balanced and accurate view is produced. Sometimes the experts where the best relationships exist with an organisation are not the individuals who will be best equipped to help support the goals of advocacy (but may be an audience for it).

rrespective of what the advocacy activity is, the need to achieve and maintain strong engagement with participating experts is paramount. The aim of engagement is ultimately to inspire and support mobilisation – to earn the proactivity of the expert to use their voice to advance the cause. This may look like their ready commitment to leading a number of educational speaking engagements or a drive and desire to engage their networks to champion their support for a change in care pathway design.

Our basic checklist for maximising the potential for strong mobilisation is:

  • Does the external expert have a strong profile for this activity?
  • Do we understand what motivates them to support this cause and what exactly they would like to see change because of this work?
  • Does the plan include consideration of how to manage regular communication and updates with them throughout the program (particularly if/when progress is not visible)?

Measure the impact

‘Are the right KPIs in place to measure impact?’

Any investment that a business makes will need to have established key performance indicators (KPIs) in place to understand if the value expected is being achieved. Activities to build and leverage advocacy should be no different.

Using the broader goals as a guide and considering the stakeholders involved it should be possible (sometimes with a bit of imagination) to create SMART KPIs for any program that is launched.


What exactly is the aim of the activity?

(e.g. increase GP confidence to diagnose disease x…)

Measurable & Actionable:

How will the business know if that aim is being achieved?

(e.g. …as measured by 3 questions on a self-reported rating scale…)

Realistic & Timed:

How will this be done & when?

(e.g. …included within the quarterly perception tracking research)

If you get it right, effective advocacy-building and campaigns can

  • Give your data credibility and increase its reach
  • Make your business and brand stand out from the crowd
  • Create strong impetus to influence change

Working with relevant expert agencies who are experienced with developing activities that align to the business goals and profile of expert stakeholders in the market can ensure structured and assured planning and delivery and help reduce the risk of expensive missteps.

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