Propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, fake news … whatever you want to call it: the challenge of presenting (and agreeing upon) credible truths has existed throughout history. In the US, for example, misinformation has been a recurring news story as bots and algorithms increase the amount of information available to us. Beyond the quantity of misinformation being shared, more concerning is the sheer amount of people who believe different “truths.” Our challenge is to come together and decide what to do about this credibility crisis amid the moving target of distribution formats. 

Having worked with life science companies for over 10 years, I have witnessed the diligence that pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies apply in ensuring the accuracy of the content they put out into the world. Both businesses and individuals could learn from best practices of life science companies related to content verification and distribution. Read on to discover what we can all learn from life science companies’ content marketing practices during this information credibility crisis.

Life sciences content best practices

Lead with truth

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have often heard the phrase “follow the science.” Life science companies, by nature, lead with science. Pharmaceutical companies often employ groups of scientists to spend upwards of 8-10 years researching and verifying product efficacy, which ultimately informs how they can compliantly market their products to healthcare providers and patients. While not all companies have years of scientific evidence to draw on, there is still immense value in companies leading with the truth, facts, and data to gain the trust of their audiences.

Takeaway for businesses:

If you have scientific evidence that proves the value of your products or services, incorporate it into your content. For those companies that don’t have scientific evidence, choose to lead with the truth behind your products and services. 

Takeaway for individuals:

Before creating and/or sharing content, educate yourself about the science or facts behind the information you are sharing. If you are unable to find sufficient evidence, consider if there is value in sharing the information.

Back up claims

Due to the regulated nature of the life science industry, companies are required to validate and verify the accuracy of claims made within content, including social media posts. For example, even when promoting product benefits through an informal platform such as Twitter, FDA guidelines require life science companies to include risk information, a direct link to complete risk information, and the drug or product’s established name.

Takeaway for businesses:

When you create and distribute content with marketing claims, back up those claims to your audience with references. Their growing trust in your business will be worth it.

Takeaway for individuals:

Before creating and/or sharing content, take time to research any claims made. If you are unable to find evidence to back up the claims, do not distribute that content.

Use a proven process for content verification

Life science companies use a proven process for verifying content before releasing it to the public in the form of marketing materials. The process often involves Medical, Legal and Regulatory (MLR) review, which is an organized and thorough content review process conducted by a team of professionals from the legal, medical and regulatory disciplines.

Contrast thorough MLR reviews with how often people typically research news before sharing it. In Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer Report, 57% of their survey respondents share or forward news items that they find to be interesting. Of those, only 29% have “good information hygiene. By their definition, good information hygiene involves these four activities related to news and information:

  1. Engage with news: stay informed.
  2. Avoid information echo chambers: engage with differing points of view.
  3. Verify information: avoid assuming something is true simply because it supports your point of view.
  4. Do not amplify unvetted information: check information veracity before forwarding content to others.
Takeaway for businesses:

If you don’t already have a content verification process in place, make a plan to create one. Consider starting up a content review team with employees who own different areas of expertise to ensure accuracy of your content.

Takeaway for individuals:

Educate yourself on the process you can take to ensure “good information hygiene” and begin practicing it.

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Perform content maintenance

Life science companies make content maintenance a priority. If a piece of their marketing content is no longer accurate or relevant, it is immediately expired to ensure it is no longer used by their sales team or available online. Software is often used to set expiration dates for life sciences content and to automatically pull documents once an expiration date is reached.

Takeaway:

If you learn that you shared inaccurate information in the past, or the information is now out of date, take the time to remove that information and report the inaccuracies to your audience.

Addressing the information credibility crisis

Time will tell how and if we are able to fully address our information credibility crisis. Ideas about how to address the problem vary, such as banning bots, changing algorithms, starting up public service algorithms, passing governmental regulations, employing a governmental task force, and/or putting effort into developing communities of trust.

Whatever comes of our crisis, one step that our government leaders and the public can choose to take today is to learn from life science companies: rely on science-led information, verification, and thorough content reviews before sharing information with the public.

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