Leading Thinking

What Meta Means for Brands

Last week, Facebook Inc. (the parent company, not Facebook the website/app where your relatives post pictures of their dogs) announced it would be changing its name to Meta. This long-speculated move comes as the company announced a split into two segments: the “Family of Apps” (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) and Reality Labs. Reality Labs is Facebook/Meta’s attempt to develop a metaverse from its suite of virtual and augmented reality properties.

What is the metaverse?

The next iteration of the internet will be shared virtual spaces, 3D or otherwise, that become their own world. Meta simply describes its version of the metaverse as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” To that end, we already exist in a metaverse (for example, Teams calls) and ask any child about their experiences in Fortnite or Minecraft to know that the metaverse is already here. Meta’s bet is on how VR and AR will make us even more connected to these spaces.

What does this mean for brands?

For today, very little. Meta’s “Family of Apps” will continue to be fully supported and still represent most the company’s business. Going forward, however, this could have huge ramifications for how people around the world communicate digitally over the next decade. A fully realized metaverse is an entirely new way for brands to speak to their audiences, one that could put a greater priority on connection and communication between people.

If you’re interested in reading more about the metaverse, this WaPo article does a great job of summarizing what it is. The Goodfuse digital team will continue monitoring these trends and would love to hear about any of your experiences with metaverses and ways we can integrate some of these ideas into our day-to-day strategies.

Sam Henken is a Senior Account Executive, Digital at Goodfuse Communications.

Leading Thinking

Our Goodfuse brand turns one: Empathy will guide our future

One year ago, we set out to launch a brand that reflected our legacy and ethos: Goodfuse. Humanity Infused Communications.

To us, Human to Human (H2H) Communications is about considering people’s beliefs, feelings, experiences and intentions — not just with data but with empathy and purpose. And to incorporate that awareness within every business strategy we develop, and on behalf of every client we serve. As we celebrate this first birthday of our reimagined brand, we take a moment to reflect on our journey and share our learnings with you, human to human.

We observed.

Our transformation from Y&R PR to Goodfuse came at a time when health care went from being a part of our lives to the forefront … where protocols and process of drug discovery and development came from the halls of Big Pharma to our kitchen tables. People from all walks of life were expected to become experts in health care, and it spotlighted significant gaps in health literacy and how we communicate health information. Humanity-infused communications became vitally important. People were receiving health information without the foundational knowledge to understand or contextualize data, regulatory guidance, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols. We knew we needed to better serve the public good by throwing away all the “wisdom” we had gained about how, when and why to communicate health information, and instead to embark on something unknown and new. Something rooted in listening and empathy.

We dreamed big.

By daring our teams to dream, together with our clients we have pushed the boundaries of what is possible. We encouraged cancer patients to find their voice and advocate for their treatment goals. We built websites and rebranded nonprofits. We generated awareness for up-and-coming biotech companies reimagining the future of health and wellness. By pushing our creativity and allowing ideas to flow freely, we created memorable campaigns, out of the box new business pitches and an internal culture that fostered inspirational individual growth. We can always go back to our bread and butter, the work that PR professionals are expected to do each day, but what makes Goodfuse stand out is our desire and ability to tap into each person’s unique self and come together as a dynamic team to dream. To deliver work that excites and motivates people.

We empathized.

The past year has reinforced the importance of empathy. That means empathizing with our colleagues – recognizing and accepting that today might not be someone’s day, or that someone may approach a challenge differently and embracing those differences. As a collective, we think about our communications through the experiences and journeys of our audiences and speak to them as people, not as potential customers. Our culture of Human to Human, or H2H, reinforces the belief that every person has their own story, emotions and point of view that makes them who they are. The pandemic has been one of the greatest tragedies of our lifetime. But it also reminded us of the importance of empathizing with our fellow humans, shifting our perspective on the way we interact with the world.  

What’s to come?

Our future is bright. Our legacy and centuries of combined expertise will define a generation of communications professionals. Our passionate and nurturing team will continue to infuse humanity into the important work we do, on behalf of the people we ultimately serve. Communicating without purpose should not be tolerated. It is not the message, the prose or mode of delivery that defines success, but its impact on people. Our clients will partner with us to push boundaries, innovate and create in order to inspire and motivate. For many of us, the pandemic shone a light on what matters most in life. Our Goodfuse values — exploring, listening, empathizing, interacting, observing and dreaming — encompass everything we hold dear. As we continue to live and work through the pandemic and everything it changed in our lives and perspectives, bringing empathy to all we do is not only refreshing… but necessary.

Leading Thinking

4 Tips for Brands to Maximize Agency Relationships

Leading Thinking

Empathy: The Foundation of Health Literacy

Leading Thinking

Embracing humanity during National Cancer Survivors Month

June is National Cancer Survivors Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the millions of adults and children across the U.S. who have been diagnosed with cancer. For healthcare providers and communicators, it should also be a time to reflect on how we can elevate our work to advocate and support the communities we serve. We have an obligation to ensure that families living with cancer have their voices and vulnerabilities heard. Every story represents unthinkable challenges. By embracing humanity and sharing their stories, each individual can bring comfort and understanding to countless others.

A human behind every story

My stepdad died from prostate cancer. But that wasn’t the first-time cancer affected me personally. By the time he was diagnosed, cancer was part of my daily vocabulary, it was part of my job as a healthcare communications professional focused on patient advocacy. I had met so many mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, all impacted in some way by cancer. Though it was my work that connected me with these families, the relationships formed would forever change me.

Connecting with People Living with Cancer  

Each person’s experience with cancer is different. Cancer is deeply personal. Utterly raw, human, and emotional.

As a communicator and passionate patient advocate, I feel a responsibility to every individual I have the privilege of getting to know, to ensure their experiences, their voices, are not only heard but acknowledged and embraced. By empathizing and providing a platform for storytelling, we can become the eyes and ears of people living with cancer, their advocates, and caregivers.

How can healthcare providers and communicators make meaningful connections with people living with cancer?

1. Establishing a genuine relationship

Most people thrive on genuine human-to-human relationships and authentic connections. A cancer diagnosis often leads people to feel dehumanized by a distant world. This is where empathy-driven relationships and interpersonal communication must take hold. Relationships need nurturing, so connect often and make each interaction personal. Put in the work to know the person behind a cancer diagnosis and understand, to the extent possible, their experiences. Ask about their family, hobbies, and life before and after cancer. These pieces make each patient unique and will allow us to connect and better understand their individual experiences and circumstances. By listening to their stories, we can craft impactful communications for the patients we serve.

2. Being vulnerable

Part of having a genuine relationship is creating balance. Patient advocates volunteer to share their most vulnerable experiences. As communicators who engage with people living with cancer, it is our job to ensure we give back and support. Find common ground. Start by sharing your own connection to cancer. Being vulnerable ourselves will open the dialogue to real, human-centric conversations, revealing the most authentic story to tell.

3. Listening with purpose

Every detail within a conversation has meaning. Once you’ve established a relationship based on trust, people living with cancer and their caregivers can provide invaluable feedback to health information they receive. Patients are inundated with health information 24/7, so listen to what works and what doesn’t. Understand the way they hear, perceive, and interpret that information. If we listen with purpose to understand their unique experiences and how it shapes perceptions, we can better develop resources and materials that will not only resonate but make a profound impact on the cancer community.

Building relationships with people living with cancer requires a conscious effort to listen with purpose, embracing humanity and empathy with each interaction. As healthcare communicators, we can bring purpose to our work and make a positive and lasting impact, which is the ultimate reward.    

Whitney Segel is Vice President at Goodfuse Communications

Leading Thinking

Effective Listening Starts With Empathy

Leading Thinking

Humanity-infused agency expansion in a changing world

In the not-too-distant past, spreading your wings as an agency meant opening a new office and planting new geographic roots. It also meant partnering your way to additional office-listed letterhead, or a host of other bricks and mortar influenced “location, location, location” growth strategies. Candidly, it was more about the place than the people.

Then, life as we knew it changed. Pandemic…social disruption…social distancing…economic rollercoaster…and the list goes on. Ironically, it is quite possibly the virtual, Zoom-based “office” work life of COVID-19 that, at least in part, brought humanity back into focus. Everyone was suddenly dealing with each other from a common place…their homes. Life became very real and very human, through the lens of a monitor.

For Goodfuse, humanity-infused communications has always been our North Star. And, it was critical to our overcoming the challenges of a remote work existence. It will also drive our expansion strategy as we look to the future. How?

COVID Learnings… People Make the Difference

For more than a year, most of us have become accustomed to virtual work and social connections…no handshakes, hugs, or fist bumps, outside our limited family and socially distanced friend bubbles. It took time to adapt, but soon it became the norm. Something else occurred as well. We were in each other’s homes. We were seeing and commenting on each other’s screen backgrounds – artwork, books, family photos – not to mention kids, spouses, and pets whenever they would make unannounced visits midway through a meeting. And lest we not forget the joys of mute button mismanagement. We began to know more about each other by not being in the office down the hall or in a conference room only seats apart, but by connecting on a more personal level through common ground and relatable circumstances of work and life melding.

Work-Life balance, or lack thereof, was no longer the predominant topic of conversation, especially around the “virtual” water cooler. People were connecting in a different way, and it mattered, whether they were clients or co-workers, CEOs or interns. 

Expansion in an Evolving Hybrid Work Environment

So, as agencies are cautiously looking at ways to expand their business during this anticipated hybrid transformation, what lessons can we learn since March 2020 that will help guide us toward steady growth?

  • Relationships do not require geographic proximity to be meaningful.
  • Office location is not a driver of successful business collaboration.
  • Humans are adept at listening and learning, teaching and challenging, planning and problem-solving, without being in the same room.
  • Like-minded communities thrive on humanity, engagement, passion, and purpose, none of which is predicated on physical location.
  • Human interaction doesn’t rely on sharing the same space.

Affinity Groups… Gateway to Growth

As organizations try to balance client demands with continued economic uncertainty amid a new breed of workforce, one that has tasted the fruits of remote and/or hybrid work life and didn’t dislike the experience, the concept of business expansion has taken on an entirely new meaning. For us, it is not a question of where our real estate lies, or where our people happen to live. We are focused on leveraging our relationships, our expertise, our professional passions, and our commitment to building an affinity presence with like-minded communities.

So, what does that mean?

For starters, we will build on our existing relationships and expertise in the life science, health and wellness communities. Boston will serve as our affinity hub for these communities, and we will be engaging with local as well as regional and national academic institutions and thought leaders, industry influencers, civic organizations, and media. That said, members of the life sciences affinity group will be located across the US, but tethered to our affinity hub lead, Holly Hitchen. Our goal is to break down barriers and bring together community thinkers and doers that share our drive and commitment to advancing thought leadership and improving the public good, regardless of location.

This is how we will continue to grow our business and expand our horizons. We will listen, we will learn, we will absorb, and we will collaborate, all by becoming deeply embedded on a human-to-human level within communities that share a common interest, expertise, and intellectual curiosity.

Care to join our humanity-driven culture? Learn more:

Michael Myers is Executive Vice President at Goodfuse Communications

Leading Thinking

Silver Linings of a Global Health Crisis: A New Path Forward for Pharma Media Professionals

Leading Thinking

The Quest for Truth

It’s now a year since the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States. As we look back at 2020 and move further into 2021, we ask the question of whether the media has done its job getting accurate information to the American public during the worst public health crisis in modern history. As communications professionals, perhaps the more important question we need to ask ourselves is: did we do our job to be a resource they can trust or did we just add to the noise, creating potential more confusion and even distrust?

The only beat in 2020 was healthcare.

Mainstream media in the U.S. completely turned on its axis in February 2020. Regardless of their beat, every reporter essentially became a healthcare journalist. National and local reporters were assigned coronavirus stories without any foundational knowledge of science, medical information or how the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry operated. Not to mention, this was a novel virus and even trusted sources didn’t have all of the answers. However, there was really no room for error if you wanted to build trust. It was incumbent upon the press to get it right. The media were almost becoming a public health agency in their own right.

Journalists for the most part understood the weight of this responsibility. We saw some of them leaning on biotech and health trades to get up to speed fast. However, the sheer volume of information put news directors and editors in the position of having to choose speed over accuracy. The pressure to break COVID-19 related news first also at times sacrificed in-depth coverage that would have clarified a lot of misconceptions. Additionally, many news outlets found themselves relying on the same sources over and over again simply because there wasn’t time to explore other expert opinions. There were so many gaps in knowledge. While it is the job of the press and their expert sources to talk about what they know, rarely do they openly say what they don’t know simply due to the dynamic of reporting the facts as they are in the moment.

This brings us to the issue of trust.

Trust is critical when you’re communicating medical information. It has been argued and data shows that Americans started losing trust in the media before the pandemic even started. News has been highly editorialized and politically charged. Growing consumption of opinion-based journalism and increased reliance on social media for facts has led to increased confusion and distrust.

Americans craved reassurance and guidance from outlets they could trust during this difficult time which required consistent and accurate communication. There was a lot of “noise” which became confusing to the American public. As information about coronavirus evolved, many articles written earlier in the year were proven to be inaccurate. We forgive the press for this as the global community kept learning about this virus on the fly and information was constantly evolving. The volume of breaking news was relentless in 2020 and newsrooms were so overwhelmed that it became difficult to properly vet new sources and question existing ones. Additionally, we still wonder if the news media was going deep enough. Were reporters not asking the right questions or in some instances could it also be they just didn’t know the questions to ask?

Moving forward and focusing on facts.

Facts are critical when disseminating scientific information but what do you do in an America where everyone is questioning what the truth even is? As healthcare communications professionals, we also have to question the impact of politicizing medical information and how we navigate this landscape with a new President and a new Congress in 2021.

The good news is America has a growing appetite to now understand science which presents a golden opportunity for the healthcare industry. As a result of the speed of getting the coronavirus vaccine to market, people are going to start asking more questions about why cancer hasn’t been cured or why Parkinson’s research hasn’t progressed. COVID-19 has lit a spark for the exploration of science. Medical advances like the mRNA vaccines have a good shot at leading major medical breakthroughs in other disease categories. As healthcare communications professionals, we look forward to witnessing the new wave of innovation in biotechnology and paving the way for telling powerful stories in the next era of modern medicine. To do that successfully, we as healthcare PR pros have to acknowledge the fragility of trust and take on the same burden of responsibility as the news media to get it right when communicating scientific information at a time when American lives depend on it.

Jenifer Slaw is Senior Vice President of Media Relations at Goodfuse Communications

Leading Thinking

From Port Authority to pajamas: 3 tips for starting a PR career during COVID-19