Congress and Exhibit Booth Strategies: The Influence of Methodological Rigor on Physician Engagement

A recent study published in the Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy by the FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) research team, titled “Physician Interpretation of Information about Prescription Drugs in Scientific Publications vs. Promotional Pieces,” found that prominently displaying a study’s methodological rigor helps the audience form an accurate perception of the information.

So, what is methodological rigor, you may be asking?

Methodological rigor refers to the strictness and precision with which research methods are designed and implemented to ensure the reliability and validity of the findings. It includes aspects such as:

  1. Study Design: Using appropriate and study designs (e.g., randomized controlled trials, double-blind studies).
  2. Sample Size: Ensuring a sufficiently large and representative sample to generalize the findings.
  3. Control Groups: Including control or comparison groups to isolate the effect of the variable being studied.
  4. Data Collection: Employing standardized and reliable data collection procedures.
  5. Statistical Analysis: Using proper and rigorous statistical methods to analyze the data.
  6. Replication: The ability to reproduce the study results under similar conditions.
  7. Transparency: Clearly reporting all aspects of the methodology so that the study can be evaluated and replicated by others.
  8. Bias Control: Implementing measures to minimize biases and confounding variables. [A confounding variable is a variable that influences both the independent variable and dependent variable and leads to a false correlation between them.]

In short, methodological rigor ensures that the research findings are credible, accurate, and trustworthy.

Now, what does this mean as far as implications for congresses and exhibit booth marketing?

The findings from the study by the FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) have several implications for congress and exhibit booth marketing, particularly in the context of promoting prescription drugs. Here’s how these insights can affect marketing strategies:

  1. Emphasis on Methodological Rigor: Impact: Highlighting the methodological rigor of a study in promotional materials can significantly enhance perceived credibility and importance of the information. Strategy: Marketers should prominently display methodological details of their studies, emphasizing aspects like sample size, control groups, and statistical analysis. This can be achieved through posters, handouts, and digital displays that explain the methods used.
  2. Use of Graphics in Promotional Materials: Impact: Sales aids with graphics can help convey information more effectively, though the study suggests that physicians might interpret them with more caution compared to text-only materials. Strategy: While incorporating graphics, ensure that the visuals are directly tied to methodological rigor and not just promotional. Use clear, informative graphics such as charts and graphs that show study findings and methodologies.
  3. Managing Time Pressure: Impact: Physicians under time pressure are less likely to critically evaluate the methodological rigor of a study. Strategy: Create and design an environment where attendees can engage without feeling rushed or uncomfortable. Provide summaries and key points that can be quickly absorbed but also offer more detailed information for those who have time to delve deeper. Consider using interactive elements like tablets where physicians can explore the data at their own pace.
  4. Addressing Bias Perceptions: Impact: Promotional materials are often perceived as more biased than scientific publications. Strategy: To mitigate this, ensure transparency in the presentation of data. Avoid overly promotional language and instead focus on presenting the study results objectively. Provide reprints or summaries of the actual scientific studies alongside promotional materials to enhance credibility.
  5. Preference for Detailed Information: Impact: Physicians expressed a desire for more information when presented with low-rigor studies. Strategy: Be prepared to offer comprehensive information about the drug, including detailed study results and methodologies. Having knowledgeable staff at the booth who can answer in-depth questions, provide further details or direct them to a medical affairs booth, can satisfy this need for information.
  6. Perception of Study Sources: Impact: Journal abstracts are perceived as less biased compared to promotional sales aids. Strategy: Use excerpts from journal abstracts or reprints of the actual studies in your exhibit booth materials. Ensure that these excerpts are easy to read and understand, even summarizing key points but providing access to the full text for those interested.

Implementation Tips for Tradeshow Booths:

  • Interactive Displays: Use touch screens or tablets to allow visitors to explore study data interactively.
  • Educational Sessions: Host short presentations or Q&A sessions about the study methods and findings.
  • Takeaway Materials: Provide handouts that summarize the study’s methodology and findings in a clear, concise manner.
  • Expert Availability: Have clinical experts available to discuss the study in detail with interested attendees.
  • Graphics or Visual Aids: Use infographics and data visualizations that clearly convey the rigor and findings of the study without being overly promotional.

By integrating these strategies, congress and exhibit booth marketing can enhance the credibility and perceived importance of the information presented, leading to better engagement and potentially more positive outcomes in terms of physician perceptions and prescribing behaviors. And, as a reminder, all materials should be reviewed and approved by internal legal and regulatory departments to ensure compliance and accuracy.

Link to study: Physician interpretation of information about prescription drugs in scientific publications vs. promotional pieces – ScienceDirect

For more information, please reach out to a member of the Poretta & Orr team.

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