The concept of creativity in itself is inherently
subjective and difficult to define. [[wysiwyg_imageupload:163:]]Add the challenges of a regulated environment to the conversation, and it is almost impossible to put creativity in the healthcare space in context alongside the highly visual and social outputs of creative campaigns in other industries. Nancy Hicks, Senior Vice President, Associate Director, North America Healthcare Practice, has described achieving creativity in healthcare as trying to look glamorous in army fatigues. In healthcare, much of the creative thinking is hidden behind the scenes – it’s about finding an engaging way to reach an audience when language used to connect with people is strictly regulated and interactions with them are even further limited in spaces where they spend large portions of their time, such as on social media.

Christa Lombardi, Account Supervisor, New York, connected with Jon Hendl, Senior Vice President, New York; Diane Johnson, Vice President/Account Supervisor, Washington, D.C.; and Chelsea Krepps, Senior Account Executive, Washington, D.C., to collect their perspectives on creativity in the healthcare industry in recent years and how they hope it continues to progress moving into the future.

CHRISTA: When you first started your career in healthcare communications, how was creativity defined?

DIANE: Twenty years ago when I began my career in healthcare communications, creativity was largely defined by “political correctness.” It was about “seeing” yourself in the health message.

JON: Creativity was really driven by what the advertisement looked like – how it could attract consumers and drive sales. I think there is still a lot of that in healthcare, and it’s challenging to break the mold.   

CHRISTA: Has the definition of creativity in healthcare communications changed over the years?

CHELSEA: Over the last five years, I’ve seen the focus shift toward using creativity to develop programs that stay within regulations instead of just coming up with campaigns that sound creative.

JON: Creativity is now about finding ways to solve a client’s problem while remaining compliant within the regulatory, legal and medical context. The creativity is how you are able to get your message to break through with the intended audience, not necessarily what that message looks like.

DIANE: The field has changed dramatically as we’ve begun utilizing different tactics and communications philosophies. We are encouraged to tailor a message to the audience using a variety of means from music, to images, to language – and, of course, through various media, including social media and infographics.

JON: There is a lot of interest today in chasing the shiny object and sometimes a tendency to jump to tactics such as a YouTube page because it’s the new and cool thing to do.  That’s not being creative – it’s about following the leader. We have a whole toolbelt of tactics today. If you are not driving toward a client solution, then you are not doing your job. 

CHRISTA: What are elements of a successful creative campaign in healthcare communications? 

JON:  To me, successful elements of a creative campaign center on truly understanding and addressing the problem. It’s about creatively identifying the right combination that’s going to deliver client results.

CHELSEA: A successful creative healthcare campaign provides valuable information to healthcare providers and/or patients, utilizes shareable content and communicates the essence of the brand through the program.

DIANE: At Ketchum, we are really encouraged to be as creative as the issue and client will allow. We work hard to be sure that we are thoughtful, mindful, and even pushing the envelope in terms of our messaging, imagery and execution of our communications campaigns, resulting in a number of industry awards.

CHRISTA: What do you hope changes in the realm of creativity in healthcare communications?  

JON: I want to demonstrate that creative solutions are not confined to one discipline or channel. Direct-to-consumer advertising is flashy and compelling and easily measurable by marketers, but it may be that addressing a patient access issue will deliver a better end-line result. Creative solutions don’t just live in a visual. My definition centers on finding a new way to solve a persisting client challenge.

DIANE: The industry of health communications will continue to evolve as new media present various opportunities for appropriate health messaging and as our clients are able to effectively utilize media. As communications specialists, we are challenged and charged with delivering messages that change health behavior and/or promote our messaging in the most engaging way possible.

CHELSEA: With consumers becoming increasingly more engaged with the brands with which they interact, the same expectations will be associated with their healthcare approach. It will be important for brands to interact with their customers within their preferred forms of communication. I hope that progress is made as each company gains comfort by observing the activities of others and then adding their own unique insights so that creative programs can continue to emerge.


In: Creativity  /   filed under: creativity | healthcare communications