A Pep Talk for the Biotech Industry

When was the last time you heard something positive about biotech? Hillary – or now The Donald – says drug prices are too high, and stock prices go in the tank. Ethanol is killing our engines, and overplanting of corn has killed our farmland. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the devil’s spawn (a Twitter search for Monsanto is an entertaining way to kill 10 minutes). Hey, it’s hard out here for a player in the biotech space. You know why? You lost control of your story! But I’m here to let you know that 2016 can be the year you take it back.

In order for this to work, we need to agree on one thing: The biotech industry does a lot of good for the world. Deep breath. One more time: The biotech industry does a lot of good for the world. OK, with that understanding as our starting point, let’s get to work.

I love the three simple headlines on the homepage for Bio, the leading trade organization for the healthcare, agriculture, industrial and environmental biotech industries:

HEAL the world

FUEL the world

FEED the world

To each of those, I say YES! A world seemingly always on the verge of an antimicrobial resistance catastrophe, ever at the mercy of the explosive emergence of the Zika virus and constantly at risk of old standbys like Ebola breaking out needs healing. Regardless of where you stand on the climate change debate, it’s hard to disagree that the world of the future will be powered, at least partially, by cleaner, renewable fuels. And a world in which 800 million people don’t meet their daily calorie requirements (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Food and Nutrition in Numbers 2014) needs to be fed. Biotech – you’re making strides every single day to develop solutions for these incredibly complex, vitally important global problems!

But here’s the rub: Nobody knows it.

So what can we do in 2016 to take back control of your stories?

1. This one may seem basic, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Define your story and tell it in a way that the public can understand. Most biotech companies operate in a traditional B2B fashion, but those days are over. B2B, as a defining singular model of promotion, is dead. The politicians, special interest groups and all the other haters have been heard loud and clear by the public. You need to be as well.

2. Once you have your story nailed down, use a multichannel approach to give the story legs. Video is your friend. Social media and PR are your allies. Your own web channels are your secret weapons. A well-thought-out, integrated plan will get your story in front of the right people at the right time.

3. Finally, listen at all times. Social media makes it so easy to monitor conversations, trends and sentiment on issues. Use it! Use it to identify trending topics and create content to address them. Use it to inform course adjustments on a campaign. Use it to identify thought leaders. It provides the most accessible pool of cheap market research that has ever been available. Just use it.

At Capstrat, we’ve gotten pretty good over the years at telling important stories in complex industries. Contact me at godonnell@capstrat.com to talk about how we can help you tell yours.