Brad Dodge: President, Dodge Communications

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Brad Dodge is the president of Dodge Communications, a full-service integrated public relations and marketing agency helping healthcare and technology companies build strong brands, demonstrate thought leadership and drive sales. Dodge founded the agency in 2001 with a belief that healthcare companies of all sizes and specialties must have compelling, professional brands to compete effectively and grow in a sustainable way. He began his career selling practice management systems to physician practices in the early '80s, and has held positions in sales management, product management, corporate marketing and advertising. Dodge has worked with more than 250 organizations that sell products and services to the healthcare industry.

How did you get into the healthcare communications industry?

Back in the early ‘80s, I sold practice management systems to doctors. The personal computer was brand new at that time, and there was this huge disconnect between providers and technology developers. Physicians had no idea why on earth they would want to spend money buying a computer, and the computer manufacturers and software people had no idea how to explain why doctors should want or need technology.

Dodge Communications was born to bridge that gap, and we’re still doing that today. Interestingly, over the years the problem has remained basically the same: The companies that make software don’t do a good job explaining what makes their product so invaluable that a doctor should buy it. I really enjoy using marketing strategy, branding and content management tools to help healthcare technologists make that connection with the buyer.

Any emerging trends?

The ability to reach audiences is becoming harder due to the ways they self-segment into very narrow niches. This means your content has to appear in the channels where your buyers really live, and you have to be more and more direct with your message.

I’ll give you an example. I used to read blogs quite a bit, but right now I’m kind of fixated on politics—so if a company wants to reach me, they need to be appearing in the various political outlets I’m reading.

It’s like micro-targeting. You have to continue to expand the number of outlets that you go to in order to get your message out. If you can break your audience into, say, 50 segments instead of five, then you’re going to do a much better job of targeting those people. So, if there’s an industry trend to watch, I think it’s probably this micro-targeting approach.

What are some new opportunities or challenges?

Traditionally Dodge has focused on the B2B healthcare information technology market. As we now move into other life sciences areas like biotechnology, we’re finding a challenge in applying our successful granular communication strategies to the biotech sphere. It’s very difficult for an audience to understand precisely what a particular biotechnology product is, and our job is not only to explain that effectively but to make the message resonate with the audience. These types of communication strategies are new to the biotech world, so we need to find a new way to take our proven techniques and employ them effectively in this space. It’s a challenge we relish.

What is your vision for Dodge Communications, moving forward?

I think the future has to do with content, and that’s where the areas for growth are. If you think about breaking your audience into 50 segments instead of five, as I mentioned earlier, then you realize you need 10 times as much content as before. So, a client comes to us and says, “How are we supposed to succeed today?” Our answer is to develop a comprehensive set of relevant content that resonates with the market and that gets continually refreshed to keep them constantly in the conversation.

What are your key strategies for the growth and success of Dodge Communications?

One thing I’ve learned over the years is success is all about the people you hire. You could be the greatest person in the world, but if you can’t put good people around you, then you can’t do anything.

So, I think one key to growth and success is building a company that people are interested in staying at. Recruiting, hiring and retaining the right people will be a key strategy for growing Dodge Communications. And, by extension, when you have all the right people in place you can deliver the best service, strategy and creative to your clients.

Tell us about a difficult moment at Dodge Communications?

Years ago we had a person exit the company, and it devastated a whole section of our business because we had no back-up plan in place to continue servicing that person’s accounts. When that person left, no one else in the company even had the contact names for the companies that individual was working with. This person represented what I call a “single point of failure,” which is not savvy business planning. We immediately corrected the situation, and now we insulate ourselves from the effects of single points of failure by always having a contingency plan in place.

What is the best thing a client gets from working with Dodge Communications?

Our clients get the confidence that their messaging is being taken care of by a full team of experts. I mean, anyone could hire a person internally to try to do what we do for them, but they really can’t get the same results because we bring an integrated team of creatives, strategists, writers and others with a wealth of experience who focus their attention on the client’s needs.

How do you motivate others?

I think it’s all about treating people like people, to be honest. Motivators should lift people up and push them forward, inspire them and help them establish self-confidence. That’s what I try to do with people, as best I can. You know, sometimes motivation comes simply by remembering someone’s name.

Career advice to those enterting the healthcare marketing industry today?

I would tell them - and, in fact, I tell my own employees this all the time - to go after the things you’re good at and try to build a career around those things. When you’re in a happy, fulfilled place then you want to come to work every day and produce great things. It’s not a failure to say, “I’m bad at this part of my job, but I’m good at this other part.” Actually, it’s OK to identify the things you like and the things you don’t. It will help you not just succeed but be happy in your success.