‘The man behind the mouse’: bringing courage to creativity in healthcare communications


Whether it’s for entertainment or education, information or promotion, communication requires a finely tuned blend of qualities to achieve its desired aim. Even in healthcare communications, where we explore scientific advancements and pharmaceutical discoveries, we weave creativity, resourcefulness and a sprinkling of passion to bring about positive change for our audience.

But we also need courage, which we often look for not in the communication, but in the communicator. For one great communicator, it started with a mouse.

A visionary of not only inspiring joy but turning ideas into reality, Walt Disney had a mind that was a melting pot of creativity, passion, leadership and business acumen, which has lived on beyond his passing, across more than just animation and theme park innovation .

But what can we learn from ‘the man behind the mouse’ when it comes to healthcare communications?

‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible’
Walt Disney never took ‘no’ for an answer. His vision of ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ was born in the 1940s, at a time when the USA was moving into a post-war era of turbulent-to-booming economic activity. Following more than a decade of creatively navigating land-ownership challenges, financing issues and construction of his ‘impossible’ ideas, his vision became a reality. And at almost every point of his journey, somebody said ‘no’.

Healthcare communications is an industry often plagued by the word ‘no’. Entwined in a web of necessary guidelines and regulations, the frameworks designed to uphold ethical standards are often seen as barriers to creativity. This feeling of entrapment by pharmaceutical regulations often hangs over many activities and campaigns – projects are stifled in the first conversation: the hope of creating something extraordinary is seemingly extinguished by reviewers; sticking with what’s known, rather than trying to achieve the ‘impossible’, tends to be the go-to solution.

This perception of stifling creativity doesn’t seem to be evident across other highly regulated industries, where leadership in award-winning creative ideas and innovation seems to be commonplace. So why does the word ‘no’ hold so much power in healthcare communications?

‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them’
Walt believed in every idea. Whether his own or from one of his trusted ‘imaginers’, every idea was worth pursuing and pushed along the journey towards reality. His vision to challenge what was possible during his lifetime led to the magical experiences very few have since been able to replicate.

His tenacity aside, Walt was also unafraid to seek expertise across the Disney corporation or from external counsel, leaning on their wisdom to innovate film-making and audio-animatronics, as well as storytelling techniques and brand communication.

We should apply this courage to creativity, to turn around the ‘no’ in healthcare communications.

‘Togetherness, for me, means teamwork’
As creative partners, we excel at taking flight with our ideas and bringing creative magic to client challenges. We build relationships where open conversations are commonplace, and explore bold strategic thinking as part of our everyday. But we can go further when a ‘no’ comes our way.

When we strongly believe in an idea, let’s challenges and help clients explore creative solutions. Together, we can understand how to turn our shared vision into reality and overcome the fear around codes of practice. Let’s be courageous with our creativity.

And for marketeers, where strategies are designed to unlock the full potential of brands, take courage in seeking counsel from those at every touchpoint of the journey, including colleagues and creative partners. Bring in expertise and guidance early on in the conversation, to shape something bold into something viable – ‘no’ is often only said when it’s too late to adapt an idea, not because it’s impossible.

‘First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.’
Health is a spectrum: from illness to wellness, prescription to over-the-counter. The pursuit of health is fueled by innovation and discovery, seeking novel solutions that bring positive change for many. Communications hold the power to elevate that innovation to its greatest potential, getting the message to the right people, in the right way, to inspire change where it’s needed most.

When it comes to your next challenge, take courage. Because ‘the man behind the mouse’ was right: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’

Aaron Hall is Associate Creative Director at Purple Agency

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