FHI 360 , a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions, published a Communications Handbook for Clinical Trials: Strategies, Tips, And Tools To Manage Controversy, Convey Your Message, And Disseminate Results . FHI 360 serves more than 60 countries.
Although focused primarily on trials having to do with HIV/AIDS research, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned from this handbook which can be applied to clinical trials of all types. A look at just a few of the chapter titles can lay the groundwork that can be used in any type of clinical trial recruitment and management:
- Preparing and Budgeting for Communications: No clinical trial recruitment plan should be implemented without first developing a communications budget, assembling a communications team, and training staff and spokespersons. The time to accomplish these tasks is before the trial begins, not when a crisis hits.
- Developing a Strategic Communications Plan: The communications team should meet to identify all of the key stakeholders involved in a clinical trial - physicians, medical staff, pharmacists, patients, hospitals, and trial participants - anyone who may be impacted by the study and its results. The team then develops a strategy for ongoing communication with all of these stakeholders, as well as a strategy for managing any controversy that may arise during the trial, and a dissemination plan for trial results.
- Communications During the Trial: Strong communications are essential during all phases, from announcing the start of your trial, to tracking and responding to emerging issues, and disseminating results. Each of the stakeholder groups may require an individual communications strategy.
- Developing and Using Key Messages: Know in advance what your key messages are going to be. These can be translated into keywords for digital marketing strategies and search engine optimization purposes. Messages can be created in advance and tailored so you’re prepared for any situation. Refine, test and deliver your messages, then analyze, refine and deliver again.
- Communicating Science Clearly: Although you may understand why the research is necessary, various stakeholder groups may not be as enthused as you are. You need to translate the language of clinical trials and demystify statistics to promote participation and minimize misunderstandings.
- Working with the Media: The media may be helpful in increasing recruitment and participation, as well as disseminating results. Nurture relationships with the media, and learn to help journalists write good stories about your trial.
Whether you are dealing with a third world country or conducting a clinical trial in the U.S.A., clinical trial recruitment is a crucial component of the strategic communications plan. Use all of the traditional, online, social media and digital marketing tools at your disposal to attract a broad range of interest in your trial, maintain a steady stream of communications during the trial itself, and disseminate results efficiently through media channels to the target groups of interested stakeholders.