The Difference Between Disease Education and Awareness

5 Criteria Your Outreach and Engagement Should Meet

Many don’t make a distinction between disease education and awareness, but the difference can be profound. If you are not viewing your indicated conditions through the lens of how your existing or potential treatment can uniquely matter, then you are squandering an opportunity to optimize your product brand. Here are five criteria to consider when developing disease outreach and engagement initiatives.

  1. Treat Your Disease State Like a Brand
    It’s crept in to marketing lexicon. Disease communication is “unbranded.” We use this to differentiate between disease and product marketing, but the truth is that your disease state is just as much a brand as your treatment. The argument can be made that disease education focuses on the facts and therefore doesn’t necessitate branding. Simply communicating the facts with targeted audiences is enough. Facts certainly matter, but the limitation to this approach is that facts are not proprietary. No one owns facts. So why would you want to spend on raising awareness of a disease in a manner that your competition could equally benefit from? Instead, use the same processes that you would to cultivate a brand for a treatment. Even though you won’t address treatment in disease awareness, intimately understand the differences of how your treatment affects the disease and use that as the platform to position the disease and package the facts that are pertinent to treaters and patients alike. The goal is to set up the need for your treatment in a manner that no other can fulfill.

  2. Never Compromise Credibility
    Positioning, messaging and communicating your disease state in a manner that is meaningfully differentiated (and aligned with your approach to treatment), doesn’t mean that your outreach isn’t fact based. Just the opposite. The burden on us is to make sure that our positioning and messaging are credible and based on sound science. This necessitates an understanding of the relationship between disease mechanism and therapeutic mechanism of action. Even if some of this is hypothetical, it is most important that it is so in a viable manner. The old expression that you only get one chance to make a first impression counts here. It’s essential to maintain credibility at all costs as regaining trust is much more challenging than earning it.

  3. Get Help Bringing Your Story to Life
    When cultivating a disease awareness campaign, you will undoubtedly work closely with practitioners and patients to make sure that your positioning and messaging are not only credible but resonate and lead to specific calls to action. These individuals can be invaluable spokespeople. It’s one thing for a company to address the facts surrounding a disease state. It’s entirely more compelling for expert practitioners and people living with the disease to help you raise awareness by expressing the disease in the manner that you’ve positioned it. This approach helps validate your message, increases credibility and helps personalize the medical condition. It also demonstrates your company’s commitment to working with practitioner and patient communities.

  4. Always Be Ready for Competition
    Some markets and disease states are populated with several competing therapeutic options. In this scenario the need for differentiation and positioned disease awareness is clear. There are, however, other medical conditions where there are few or no treatments. Here the need for positioned disease awareness might be overlooked or deprioritized. The reality is that there is always competition. Sometimes it may be battling current approaches to disease management. Other times it might be competitors with alternative treatment approaches in their pipeline. And lastly, there’s the possibility of treatments coming off patent or whose period of exclusivity has passed. In all cases, whether the competitive threat is near or far, it makes sense to secure and protect your place in the market. Again, it’s much more difficult to try to claim proprietary ground only when a competitor starts encroaching on your space. Define yourself early on or be defined.

  5. Be Prepared to Spend Time and Money
    Successful disease awareness demands a serious commitment from leadership. It is a critical investment that ties directly to your corporate and therapeutic brands. It can be a useful tool to solidify relationships with practitioners, patients and caregivers, educate targeted audiences (including investors and potential partners), motivate existing and potential employees, and pave the way for treatment adoption. The disease awareness development process will also reveal new information that can be invaluable for positioning the disease, directing treatment messaging and even informing patient support services. It’s not a question of whether you can afford to develop a disease awareness initiative, it’s whether you can afford not to.

It is intuitive to focus on the solution to a problem – but when we do this, frequently, all of the learnings along the way are not broadly shared or experienced. This creates an opportunity – the chance to demonstrate a unique understanding of the disease state that legitimizes your approach to treatment. Don’t limit your outreach simply to disease education and the sharing of facts. Go further. Position the disease state strategically and credibly, and then commit to continually raising awareness.

by Jonathan D. Katz