Building cultural competency through diverse hiring
Niki Papaioannou makes the case for building diverse teams (1,220 words, 6 min.)
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“I believe that your team’s [diversity] should reflect the world,” said Niki Papaioannou during last week’s 2022 National Pharmaceutical Congress Summer Webinar on contemporary trends in the pharmaceutical industry. Papaioannou (photo below) is the founder of Niki Inc, a Toronto-based public relations firm.
She discussed how developing cultural competence is more important than ever—and how it can have a profound impact on business—for serving an increasingly online patient community.
“Organizations now are invoked to be online and have a social presence, to be transparent, to have a position on things,” Papaioannou noted, highlighting the caution necessary for navigating a constantly-connected world. “It’s not enough” anymore to talk about diversity through advertising, she said. “People will follow your social platforms to see if they trust what you’re about.”
Papaioannou suggested that employing a diverse team that is representative of the diversity of the customer base can help mitigate the problems that arise through a lack of understanding. “Employing people from different cultural groups [is like getting] inside information,” she said, and can help to “overcome unconscious bias.”
“If you are a diverse organization, [if they feel represented], the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour] and Asian communities will respond.”
Papaioannou’s firm emphasizes its collaborative approach, first seeking to understand the audience and speak to them in their own vernacular. “When I started my PR business, I employed [people who look and act like me]. And it proved problematic because we didn’t have an ear on the whole world.”
“[Cultural competence] is important in the health sphere and pharmaceuticals,” she said, since “health [information is] often very differently consumed by different cultural groups.” She cited the uneven impact of vaccine rollout efforts as a high-profile example.
A report published in 2021 by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) explains that vaccine hesitancy in Indigenous communities has its roots in well-documented examples of racially segregated healthcare and medical experimentation in Canada. Per the report, “these concerns, fears and experiences need to be taken seriously by doctors and other healthcare professionals and differentiated from the ‘anti-vax’ movements that have thrived on social media in recent years.”
Studies out of the United States have shown similar reasons for vaccine hesitancy among Black communities. Papaioannou—in line with the report’s recommendations—suggested that cultural competence could be the answer.
“When you hire for diversity, and you’re open to input from your team, it impacts your go-to-market strategy in a way that saves you money in the end,” she said, “and can prevent you from having a damaging tone-deaf moment.”
THIS WEEK 09/13/22
The U.S. FDA has approved Boehringer Ingelheim’s spesolimab (Spevigo) for treating generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP) flares in adult patients. Spevigo is a selective antibody that blocks the activation of the interleukin-36 receptor (IL-36R).
Pfizer Canada and BioNTech announced that Health Canada has authorized Comirnaty, the companies’ Covid-19 vaccine, for children between six months and five years of age.
Advanced Accelerator Applications Canada reported that Health Canada has approved lutetium (177Lu) vipivotide tetraxetan injection (Pluvictom) as Tx for prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) in adult patients who have received at least one androgen receptor pathway inhibitor (ARPI) and taxane-based chemotherapy.
The U.S. FDA has approved daxibotulinumtoxinA-lanm (Daxxify) as an injectable Tx indicated for the temporary improvement of moderate to severe glabellar lines, aka frown lines, in adults.
CANADIAN HEALTHCARE MARKETING HALL OF FAME
The Canadian Healthcare Marketing Hall of Fame awards were established in 2002 to honour healthcare marketers who have contributed to our vocation and inspire others.
More than 100 honourees have been selected during the past 18 years. In the selection committee’s view, they represent a cross-section of the qualities that make our business unique and fulfilling. NPC Healthbiz Weekly will acknowledge one past Hall of Fame Honoree each week.
Editor’s note: Mary Layton died in 2013. She was a founding member of COPD Canada.
A self-proclaimed “people-person,” veteran media planner Mary Layton knew how to schmooze even before the term was invented. “My focus group of choice was a wine and cheese party.” says Layton, adding that “clients loved this kind of research.” Indeed, she says that a wealth of rich information could be gathered over a fine glass of Merlot, and early in the game, she learned “not to mix GPs with specialists; they’re two different birds.”
Layton, whose 30-year career in healthcare began with a post as media director with Hume Advertising straight out of university, admits to having a “unique” perspective on media planning. This was important, she notes, “not only to help me stand out from other media directors but ultimately to have my clients’ products stand out in the marketplace.”
Opting at times to buck tradition, Layton resisted letting results from readership studies become the sole influence for making decisions. “Instead, I familiarized myself with every issue of every journal cover to cover, then took the journals to at least ten doctors for feedback.” One of her favourite questions, “If you had to spend $100 a year for a subscription to a medical journal, which two would you select?” provided her with a valuable benchmark for further research.
Layton, whose pharma media career included stints with Crombie Advertising, Grey Healthcare, Allard Johnson, LMP, and Euro RSCG Healthcare asserts that the real leverage to the media dollar is in thinking outside the box. That is, outsmarting rather than outspending the competition. “This is what I always strove to do during my career. Isn’t that what agencies get paid for? ‘To leverage the media dollar by doing more for less. If you can do that, you have a huge competitive edge.”
Why did she stay in pharma media for so long? “I love challenges,” says Layton, who has written hundreds of media plans for pharma clients. One of the highlights of her career was launching Viagra to the physician audience. But her main claim to fame was being the only media person in Canada who, when she made her various moves to different agencies over the course of 25 years, was followed at each step by a particular media client. “Over that time, there were numerous staff changes at the client level, but because of solid relationships and mutual respect, I secured this account for many years.”
Layton, who retired in 2001 due to health problems, observes that the media market has become extremely cluttered. At the beginning of her career, there were only six journals which made the formula for media planning far less complex. “Things have changed over these last 30 years,” she says. However, “I’m glad I was there to see it all from the beginning.”
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The Future of Rare Disease & Oncology
Updated Perspectives for the New Normal
Evolving Roles in Commercial & Medical
Pharma’s New Role in the LifeSci Ecosystem
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