Should Webinars Be Part of Your Outreach?
It’s not easy to engage a national base of thought leaders in academia, philanthropy, biotechnology and medicine.
But by integrating webinars into its outreach campaign, FasterCures is able to engage its audience and advance its mission to speed up and improve the medical research system.
It has also inspired a few other organizations in the process.
Planning Is Key
FasterCures, which describes itself as an “action tank” determined to remove barriers to medical progress, started its webinar program in 2011. The goal was to bring together specialists to discuss research and regulation issues, improve patient involvement, and share models that helped advance the treatment of various diseases.
The group has hosted 25 webinars in the past four years. Organizers started slow, putting on just three or four webinars annually. But the program has been so successful, it is now hosting up to eight webinars annually.
Over the years the group has refined its process to increase audience engagement. Registrants are invited to submit questions in advance. Planning calls are held with speakers to discuss what will be covered. The group even goes as far as to create storyboards that outline how the webinar will unfold.
“We want it to be as engaging as possible,” said Gillian Parrish, FasterCures’ director of communications. “We want all audience members to have a take away — a ‘what’s in it for me?’ — that they can apply or utilize in their organization.”
Afterwards, a summary of the webinar is sent to registrants and put on the group’s blog. This way people who couldn’t attend, and even those who didn’t sign up, are still able to learn about the latest research and successful treatment techniques.
As it has refined the process, FasterCures has seen participation grow. The webinars started with about 200 to 300 registrants; today they’re up to more than 500.
The mission at first was to expand its audience. Now the hope is to activate and empower organizations to make successful treatments scalable to help more people.
In the beginning the group relied on anecdotal input from attendees about whether the webinars were valuable. Now they send formal surveys that ask how groups are applying the lessons learned in their organizations.
The more feedback, the more useful information FasterCures is able to provide in future webinars.
“Now we have a really good sense of what our audience wants to hear,” Parrish said.
The success of FasterCures’ webinar program inspired the Alliance for Aging Research to follow suit.
The Alliance, which promotes medical research into human aging, has a similar communication goal as FasterCures: address scientific issues in a way that’s in-depth enough to engage specialists, but accessible enough for the general public.
When the Alliance held its first webinar in April, it just made sense to follow the FasterCures model.
“They have very high quality speakers doing a high-level overview, but also getting into the meat of the issues,” said Cynthia Bens, vice president of public policy at the Alliance for Aging Research. “We tried to do that too.”
They succeeded. The webinar brought in registrants from India and Europe, as well as the West Coast. Afterward, traffic to their site tripled.
For any group considering webinars as part of its outreach strategy, organizers at the Alliance said finding quality speakers should be the top priority.
As Bens put it, “Having someone who is a really dynamic speaker on a timely issue, and has something to add to the conversation, is very important.”