After living in Chicago, New York City and now Los Angeles for the past three years, I have observed and experienced the expansion of the life science and biotechnology industries – but nothing quite like what is currently underway in California.

According to the 2019 California Life Sciences Industry Report, authored by the California Life Sciences Association and PwC*, we are on an upward trajectory. In 2018 alone:

  • The number of life sciences companies in California has grown to 3,418, an increase of 169 companies from last year; this also translates to a 4.2 percent increase in jobs with 311,226 people employed by these companies
  • California companies have 1,332 total therapies in the pipeline
  • California is outpacing any other state in U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants ($3.9 billion in funding, 7,922 awards), in doctoral recipients in sciences and engineering (4,954) and with the number of universities (10) in the Shanghai Index 100 top universities

Biotech and life sciences on the West Coast are heralded for innovation and nimbleness. As we look forward to the New Year and applying this same spirit of innovation in communications and marketing, we must understand how the media and digital landscapes are evolving and what this means to our craft.

Evolving media, moving West

To say the media landscape is evolving is an understatement. While we have seen significant shifts in trust in media globally, on the West Coast we’ve seen media double down, likely because of the health of our industry – for example, Rebecca Robbins recently joining STAT to launch the new Go West newsletter, as well as bolstered Reuters and Bloomberg healthcare teams on the West Coast. For communicators and marketers here, this means there is an increased opportunity for sharing company and brand stories with reporters who understand and appreciate the complexities of doing business in California and who will champion our collective successes.

Digital transforms roles and expectations

The digital landscape is also changing the way that we are doing business. Regardless of how robust a company’s pipeline, companies must demonstrate innovation and progress in a more fluid manner to increase transparency and ultimately trust in our organizations. This may deliver discomfort for traditional communicators. According to a just-released Edelman Digital Trends Report 2019 produced in partnership with Kaleido Insights, communications and marketing departments “have a key role in the innovation process. They often have relationships with the broader market, own the go-to-market process and know how to effectively communicate internally, to partners, and externally to other groups.” Communications and marketing teams will need to have a seat at the table with R&D to lead how stories and information extend to external stakeholders.

Trust is paramount

The concept of transparency to build trust extends to our c-suites. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, business is more trusted than government and 64 percent of people believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it. Further, 56 percent have no respect for CEOs who remain silent on important issues. This means that stakeholders want to hear from companies and executives on important social issues. Taking a firm stance gains trust, and our research has also repeatedly shown that employees want to work with companies with approachable executives who are active, authentic and timely on social media.

These new realities require curiosity, adaptability and partnership (especially with legal and regulatory colleagues). Are you ready for what’s next?

Jessica Akopyan is a senior vice president, Health media, Los Angeles.

*Edelman client