Defeating data dribble: How to maximize the impact of an incremental data readout

October 19, 2023

Biotech is entering a major conference season with two significant oncology-related conferences on the horizon – SITC (abstract embargoes lift Oct. 31 at 6 a.m. PDT/9 a.m. EDT for the Nov. 1-5 conference) and ASH (embargo lifts Nov. 2 for abstract content and Nov. 21 for late-breakers for the conference taking place Dec. 9-12).

Both are forums which feature highly anticipated clinical updates from across the industry. For companies presenting at these conferences, getting on the program is only the first step. Communicating the data in a crowded landscape and reaching target audiences with the news can be just as challenging.

Beware of “data dribble”

Recently, what is considered “news” versus “noise” at medical conferences has come under greater scrutiny. Following last year’s ASH conference, STAT reporters discussed on the Readout Loud podcast the increasing number of incremental updates on clinical data seen in the cell and gene therapy spaces. Responding to this trend, dubbed “data dribble,” the journalists’ perspective was that because it is difficult to interpret incremental updates and small data sets in clinical studies the industry would benefit from some standards as to what represents a significant clinical update.

While that may be ambitious, the complaint is understandable. There will be over 275 companies attending ASH this December, many of which will have new data to share. It’s a tough task for reporters to sift through every abstract to determine which ones warrant a story. And we recognize that press releases which overstate insignificant new data (or worse, recycle data) in hopes of generating unwarranted coverage only make matters worse.

So how do you fairly, forthrightly and assertively promote your latest data to ensure that investors, physicians and other target audiences hear about it and appreciate the progress it represents?

Reaching the right audience for your data

If you are releasing new and significant but incremental data at a major medical conference, there are several things you can do to avoid data dribble.

  • Contextualize your update. Even if an incremental update, new data is always part of a larger story. When communicating about data being presented, always be sure to provide the necessary context for a reader to understand that bigger discovery or development framework, and what your advance may do down the road to help people in need. While it may not be enough to generate coverage the first time, it will help to tell the story of your new development and could result in coverage down the line.
  • Consider varied channels for reaching your audience. Your key audience may not be able to attend your presentation or see your press release, particularly if it is not one of the conference’s major updates. Even if they do, they may not have that eureka moment you are trying to evoke. Consider hosting a webinar or other event to communicate the data and key information about the study and its relevance to your core audience. Our partners frequently host webinars on important clinical updates to reach audiences outside of the conference floor with their company perspective. Promotion on social media provides an additional opportunity for exposure. Which leads to the next recommendation…
  • Don’t underestimate social media as a precision amplification tool. Coverage in the industry trades for your update may be the holy grail, but if it doesn’t happen all is not lost. With a small investment in paid social media you can target a specific audience – say medical oncologists, hematologists or immunologists – and increase the likelihood your update will reach the folks that matter most to you. By geo-targeting a conference’s location, using keyword targeting, or tailoring your efforts to target followers of organizations like SITC or ASH, you can engage users most interested in your update. This approach offers a cost-effective means of connecting with your desired audience while strategically amplifying your message.

As conference season approaches, think critically about your data presentation and whom you would like to reach. With some thoughtful planning, an update that might otherwise be regarded as “data dribble” could become a well-contextualized narrative shared strategically with your most important audiences, and an impressive communications success.


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