Kate Cingolani, Communications Business Partner, Life Science Communications, MilliporeSigma, will join our panel when PRSA Boston and Alkermes co-sponsor a webinar on “Communicating in the Era of COVID-19: Spotlight on Greater Boston’s Life Sciences Companies.” Our blog, Fast Five, serves as an event preview, introducing you to our panelists to provide a peek inside their worlds. Register for the event here and be sure to return to prsaboston.org for more stories leading up to the event.
- Eleanor Celeste, Director of Pipeline Communications, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
- Kate Cingolani, Communications Business Partner, Life Science Communications, MilliporeSigma
- Kate O’Malley, Senior Director of Internal Communications, Moderna
- Eva Stroynowski Otte, Vice President of Public Affairs, Alkermes
Amy Atwood, Head of Vaccine Communications, Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Q1: During the current COVID-19 pandemic, finding the right time to launch a product or hold an event, even if it’s virtual, has been challenging. How has the pandemic impacted your 2020 launch or big event plans?
Creativity and flexibility—two muscles that have had to be flexed across the organization. As Communications professionals, our leaders depend on us to assure our messages are cascaded both internally and externally. During the pandemic, our conventional ways of cascading and communicating were challenged and thus creativity stepped into the driver’s seat. We utilized new technology platforms and pushed the capabilities of those platforms to deliver engaging sessions whether it be with media, employees or investors.
Flexibility was fundamental as we needed to pivot from the traditional methods to methods and channels outside of our comfort zone. Training our leaders on how to best position their cameras from home, partnering closely with our IT colleagues to garner the best output for connectivity and learning to not only share presentations—all while ensuring a captive audience. One specific example was a major lab opening in China. This would have been one of our largest customer events and media opportunities and yet with the pandemic still looming, the decision was to move to a virtual opening. The session exceeded the expectations of the team and, with a virtual stage and engaging speeches from our leaders in front of a green screen, the team delivered a successful event to the more than 100,000 viewers.
Q2: Some brands are pivoting from earned media to increasing the use of social media to tell their stories. If you have done so, can you give us a quick example of a smart pivot?
Once schools shifted to remote learning, our team quickly pivoted from our typical community involvement at schools across the globe, to provide assets via social media. Our “Spark Program,” which is a scientific-based curriculum which is brought into schools, aims to spark curiosity in science. With several videos produced during the shelter-in-place, we were able to launch Curiosity Labs at Home, scientific experiment tutorials, through our social media channels. Employees were proud to share through their own personal social media channels, and feedback was overwhelming. To continue our efforts virtually, as well as to provide an opportunity for families to experience these lessons together, our corporate social media channels played a significant role during the pandemic with nearly 1.5 million views.
Q3: During the COVID crisis, consumers want to hear from doctors and health experts, not CEOs. How has that changed your spokesperson strategy?
As a data-driven and scientific-based life science organization, the leadership team relied heavily on our internal expertise. Fortunately, our internal expertise is comprised of epidemiologists, researchers, doctors and scientists, some of whom are currently our spokespeople for the organization.
Q4: More than ever, brands are being judged by how well they care for their employees, particularly during this unprecedented time. How has your company shown more sensitivity to your employees
Communication has been critical during this time, and communicating clear guidance, safety protocols and employee resources was, and still is, our priority. Providing safety kits for our employees to use at home as a way to ensure they and their family members have the supplies they need was of critical importance. With a majority of our employees working in manufacturing, it was necessary to reinforce safety at all times as we relied heavily on teams working on-site. As a company providing critical materials to companies developing vaccines and diagnostics, it was critical to keep our operations running. We have been working throughout the pandemic.
Q5: Employees hear messages of “take care of yourself” and they expect company leadership to do the same. What’s been your strategy, if any, to guide management to model the right behavior?
During this time of uncertainty, it is important to keep a pulse on the health and well-being of our employees. With vacations adjusted and the surmounting work our colleagues continue to face, leadership has needed to exhibit the desired behaviors for our employees. Encouraging employees to take vacation time is one way, but demonstrating that our leaders are also taking that time to rest and re-charge is incredibly important.
About Fast Five
This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go and with a story to tell. But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos