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Healthy partnerships – using comms to get the most out of health tech collaborations

Establishing partnerships as a health tech start-up can give you access to resources, knowledge, expertise and increase your profile and pipeline. But, it often only works well if you put communications at the heart of it.

After featuring on a Digital Health Rewired’s Pitchfest panel to discuss how to establish effective partnerships, our Co-founder, Sarah Bruce, gives her top tips on how you can you use communications to drive  value from every collaboration in an increasingly competitive market.

  1. Establish ground rules through a comms plan and resource exchange

When you’re negotiating a partnership make sure you have communications as part of the agreement. Too often, setting out guidelines around how the partnership will be communicated comes as an afterthought and companies can come unstuck when there’s a mismatch in expectations. One company can be hugely invested in comms and want to shout about the partnership from the rooftops, and the other may have restrictions on wording, claims and approval processes. Ensuring you are on the same page will result in less frustration further down the line.

One of the easiest ways to manage this is by defining the objectives of the partnership and what you want to achieve through communications. Then, running through a resource exchange and channel audit can help you identify what internal and external resources, and platforms, each partner has and how you can maximise each.

  1. Tailor your messaging but stay true to your values

Once you’ve set out what you want to achieve, develop the joint value proposition and create a message that brings out the values and goals of both organisations. Ensure that communication materials reflect a unified voice and reinforce the benefits of the partnership to your stakeholders both internal and external. Stay true to your own core messages while remaining open to refining them for different audiences, such as potential NHS prospects, existing users, staff, or investors.


  1. Leverage resources to go further, faster

One of the biggest benefits of having a partnership is being able to pool resources and reach a wider audience. Once you have your message, diversify your communications channels to reach a broader audience both online through digital, PR and wider marketing. Understand areas where it works best to co-brand, cross promote or work separately and also see if you can utilise each others marketing team or agency if you don’t have your own. Considering social media collaborations, integrated marketing efforts, sharing costs at events, all help to showcase the expertise and perspective of both partners and get the message further, faster.

  1. Create joint thought leadership

Often in partnerships there’s one side that has more brand credibility or profile than the other. Capitalise on this by collaborating on joint thought leadership pieces, whitepapers, webinars joint interviews or even sharing the stage during a speaking opportunity at an event. This shows real unity and collaboration and demonstrates clearly how you can work together towards a greater cause.

  1. Promote joint success stories and celebrate milestones

Set up a forum or checkpoint to share success stories internally and to demonstrate the value of the partnership to staff to get them to rally behind it. You can use these stories to demonstrate the positive outcomes of the partnership and its impact to the wider market including to potential investors, prospects or customers. These could include case studies, testimonials or joint award entries.

  1. Prepare for the worst with crisis communications

Often partners can get caught up in the benefits, opportunity and excitement that comes with a new relationship but developing a crisis communication plan that outlines how both partners will communicate with each other, to customers and to the industry is critical. Consider what would happen if your partner was a software provider that suffered a major outage or that had a negative impact on patient care – being prepared for potential issues can help mitigate negative impacts on the partnership or most importantly – your reputation.

  1. Review consistently to stay accountable

Schedule regular checkpoints to provide regular updates on the progress of joint initiatives against the comms plan. This not only keeps both parties informed but keeps them accountable and committed.

When partnerships are established, it’s often not considered if they serve a short or long-term purpose. As start-ups grow or pivot early, partnerships may no longer be fruitful. Fostering open and transparent communications between both partners and establishing a culture of honesty from the outset can help to preempt organisations outgrowing each other.