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Why eating seven M&Ms daily is essential for digital communications success at BIO-Europe Spring®

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In light of the restaging of BIO-Europe Spring® 2020, the most important springtime life science partnering conference in Europe, from a three-day onsite event to a five-day fully digital conference, we thought you’d enjoy some pointers on optimum digital engagement.

When President Obama was still in office, The New York Times ran a fascinating piece about how he managed his precious hours alone. The NYT revealed that to stay focused when writing speeches, he’d eat exactly seven almonds each night. Not six, not eight, but seven, lightly salted. Now, we’re not so keen on almonds at Scius Communications, but we do like M&Ms, so we wondered if we could learn a valuable life lesson from the former President and improve our work by eating them regularly. And you know what, it really helps, so we’d like to share with the BIO-Europe Spring community the secret (chocolate) sauce for communications success.

When developing a communications strategy, we consider seven elements, each starting with an M. We reward ourselves with a single M&M each after fleshing out each element. We suggest you get your own bag of M&Ms and eat one after reading each element below. In a world where business development and partnering meetings must often be done digitally across time zones anyway, and now with travel restrictions preventing face-to-face meetings, we offer these M&Ms for success.

Messaging – What is our story? What messages do we need to get across, and why should people care? What would ignite their interest? What’s the call to action? What do we want people to do when they hear our messages? Is it to partner, invest, join the company, or something else? What are our competiors saying? Would it help to get our messages through if we talk in languages in addition to English? Are M&Ms still called M&Ms in French, or German, or Chinese? Is it more important for the world to know M&Ms were invented in the USA in 1941 and have since been sold to over 100 countries, or that they are colorful button-shaped chocolates? Focus in on your key messages. The CEO's favorite color of M&Ms may not be essential for potential partners to know.

Mapping – Who needs to hear our story? Who are the influencers? And where are they geographically (and by time zone)? Segment the audience, e.g., scientists, investors, patients, the general public, government, chocolate connoisseurs, and so on, and think where each is coming from, listen to them on social media, and decide which aspects of our story are best for specific eyes and ears. While media is an audience, it is primarily a means to reach the other audiences and make them do something. If we need to reach politicians, perhaps around topics such as access to advanced therapies, or financing vaccine research, let’s map them too.

Marketing materials – What can we use to help sweeten our story? In the digital age it’s even more important to make your brand stand out visually. There’s a whole range of marketing materials, many more than there are colors of M&Ms. Do we have a great image, a short film, a micro-site, an online brochure, an interactive annual report, planned social media posts, even something as simple as a badge to show commitment to the cause, which you can wear prominently on a conference call? Does our signature line have something interesting in it beyond just our contacts, such as a link to a key piece of content?

Meetings – Often we like to meet in the real world at conferences, and on chocolate factory tours, but if we can’t do that, where can we meet the people we want to be moved by our story? BIO-Europe Spring is the first choice, and is now necessarily digital, but there are lots of other ways, and we used to use our phones to talk. It’s still good to talk, but do we have a reliable conference line, and do we know how to seamlessly work our video conference system? What’s the etiquette for eating M&Ms on a conference call, should you mute while eating? Should you have sent some M&Ms in advance by post so everyone can enjoy? What color M&Ms did the CEO of your potential partner say they preferred?

Measurement – Once our story telling is live, how can we tell if it is driving real and measurable value? Media coverage is a measure, as are website hits or retweets or downloads, or share price moves, or levels of M&Ms consumption, but if it is actual societal change we’re after, e.g., legislation to nudge a behavior, such as a sugar tax to reduce obesity, how do we know if we’re racing towards that or only have a fat chance? Can you even get fat on seven M&Ms a day?

Money – All the above elements require resources: people, time, and money. How much do we need, how much do we have, and how do we allocate those scarce resources effectively, and in a way that motivates the team? Should interns also be given M&Ms? As many as seven?

The Guardian, a UK national paper, later ran a piece saying that the “seven almonds” fact was more a joke, as the President did occasionally eat eight almonds, so it’s not like he was obsessive. Which means if you’ve just reached into your M&Ms bag and found it empty, that’s fine! You’re all presidential and fired up to communicate! And that’s where the seventh element comes in:

Magic! – What can you do to make all the above more than just the sum of the parts? What insights, ideas, connections and other aces-up-the-sleeves do you bring? What’s your golden M&M? The magic dust you can sprinkle over the strategy is what will make your story sizzle in order to guarantee success at the digitally-hosted BIO-Europe Spring this month.

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