Louise Lavelle and Phil Hall of Carrot Pharma Recruitment talk about how the digital world is influencing the traditional skill sets of medical communications.
What sector do you work in? (a bit of background)
Louise: We work in the Medical Communications and Medical Education team at Carrot Pharma Recruitment. We work predominantly with agencies who support pharmaceutical clients, and sometimes directly with pharmaceutical companies, to introduce scientific staff for their healthcare communication teams.
What kind of support work do these teams do?
Phil: These teams are typically made up of high science editorial people who enjoy creating content for various projects such as publications, manuscripts, articles, posters, abstracts, slide decks, advisory boards, symposia, congress, KOL meetings, investigator meetings and digital outputs (websites, apps, elearning). They sit alongside a client services or account management team who are often the main client liaison and are responsible for timelines, budgets, logistics, invoicing, proposals and pitching, internal team liaison and project management.
What are the most exciting changes you have seen/are seeing in medcomms sector?
Louise: I would say the main change we are seeing is an increasing number of agencies growing their own in house digital / creative studio of people with specialist skills to enhance the development and delivery of content. This may include graphic designers, website designers, interactive developers, Powerpoint and presentation specialists, digital and multichannel expertise.
Phil: There are a growing number of start-ups too. We are always excited to see new agencies join the industry as it is a sign of ongoing growth and this offers candidates greater options for their career. The increase in flexibility around working arrangements is also a welcome evolution. With the medcomms landscape being so diverse and progressive, the team here at Carrot make a conscious effort to keep their knowledge up to date and identify these changes. We can then be truly consultative with candidates, advising them on the possibilities available to meet their requirements. So, if they want to explore options that are digital, international, independent, start up, creative, publications or non-publications focused, genuine work from home or part time hours, we have the knowledge and partnerships in place to support them throughout the process of securing their perfect role!
How is the marketplace / skills base / roles / responsibilities changing (in your sector)
Phil: The ongoing popularity and high uptake of digital outputs has seen increasing demand in the need for digital professionals with medcomms experience, both to work in house or as a specialist support within a partner agency.
Louise: The traditional healthcare communications team structure mentioned previously is also adapting to enable them to offer clients the very best of service and programme delivery. Roles are merging so Medical Writers are increasingly client facing and commercially minded, and account handlers have a scientific or healthcare background to boost their understanding of projects and processes. The teams work collaboratively to share knowledge and ideas that lead to the development of world class and award winning solutions for their clients.
How is this affecting your clients’ strategy to team growth and the skill sets they are looking for? (are there any hybrid roles developing, are they looking for skills outside of traditional skillsets? Is there anything people should be looking at trying to add to their experience to help with career growth?)
Louise: Prospective candidates who can offer knowledge and skills across a range of areas within an agency are highly sought after. This might be a PhD graduate with the science background, who is commercially astute. A digitally savvy account manager who can input into how digital could be best utilised to enhance a client project. Or maybe a digital project manager who has worked on pharmaceutical projects so understands the regulations faced by the healthcare industry. To enhance employability within medcomms, we would recommend people try to gain a broad exposure across different types of projects and therapy areas. At Carrot Pharma Recruitment we value challenging industry perceptions and we feel that is important for people within medcomms too – be innovative, think creatively, differentiate yourself with fresh ideas and input, and try new things – (whilst keeping the client brand and key messages at the forefront!). If opportunities do not present themselves to you, ask your line manager about the potential of working on different accounts or projects that will build up the required knowledge. In our experience, a company will encourage upskilling and personal development so make them aware of your ambitions and work together on a plan to achieve your goals.
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