This week I had the pleasure of talking to John Mack, aka @pharmaguy, on his blog talk radio about the need for senior executives to understand social media. There has been a great deal of talk about the need for pharmaceutical companies to get involved in social media but not so much talk about the importance of senior executives also getting involved. So why is this important?
Firstly let us take a step back and actually look at whether senior executives are using social media at all. There are mixed reports around this but research at Standford University suggests that many senior executives do actually have social media accounts, with Linkedin being the clear favourite. However having an account and actually being active are two very different things, and this same survey indicates a large gap between those that have accounts and those that actively use them.
It is also not overly surprising to see Linkedin at the forefront – it is after all a business network. I would however like to see how many of the active users use Linkedin simply to stay up to date with colleagues and keep their own profiles up to date, and how many participate on a regular basis in the groups and discussions that exist on Linkedin. I suspect very few to be doing the later.
It is also not surprising to see such a low use of Twitter given that there is often a high perceived risk and a view that Twitter is of no value. However the reality is that Twitter is a channel that senior executives should be familiarising themselves with. Whilst Twitter does not have the same business linkage as Linkedin it is however also a channel that can have a high business impact and value. The beauty of Twitter is also that you can use it as a source of information without actually tweeting or contributing – which actually is a relatively low risk activity. It is also a channel that can be particularly hard to understand without actually having spent any time using it – and is surrounded with numerous misconceptions. Senior executives may actually find it turns out to be a useful resource for them personally – for example set up properly twitter can be a great way to quickly scan the key news and trending topics in your field for the day.
So besides this potential personal value in social media why then should senior executives being aware of how the various social media channels work and the value they bring? Firstly there is the issue that social media has now become the norm in society for many of our stakeholders and it will become a standard way of communicating, whether the industry likes it or not. This means that social media should no longer be a stand alone area but rather it should be integrated into all key communications and should be handled as a strategic “asset” and integrated into corporate strategy. In order for this to happen at organisation level it will need to be sanctioned by senior level executives. This level of integration also requires sign off, at senior level, on training, headcount etc.
The other reason for senior level support (and hence a need to understand the channel) is that social media is part of a change in thinking around how companies within the industry interact with stakeholders. This involves some serious change management and at this level it requires senior level backing – including signing off on specific budgets, changes in working and training.
The third reason senior level executives need to understand social media is the global nature of the channel. This means that there need to be some clear direction from the leaders of the organisation as to how it will be handled at global and at local level. Will each country have their own accounts or rather will social media be organised by language, which is how stakeholders use it after all, and in which case what organisational changes need to be implemented for this work. Given than traditionally in this industry there is very little cross-country co-operation on external communications, and the internal local politics involved, it will probably take mandating from the leadership team for a more international form of co-operation and communication.
The final reason is that for all projects, be they around social media or traditional media, there is a higher chance of success if the project has senior level sponsorship.
Social media has now moved mainstream and has become of strategic importance to pharmaceutical organisations. As such this means that the leadership in these organisations needs to understand social media and stop being afraid of it. Rather they need to start seeing social media for what it is – a highly valuable communication and engagement tool that is enabling organisations to be closer to stakeholders than ever before. The opportunities this presents for a business are vast, so business leaders now need to get on board the social media bandwagon.
So how can senior level executives get on this bandwagon and learn what they need to know about social media? Simple – contact me!
You can hear the full interview here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pharmaguy/2013/05/01/social-media-for-pharma-c-suite-dummies
And you can read John Mack’s post about the interview here: http://pharmamkting.blogspot.com.es/2013/05/why-pharma-execs-fear-followers-on.html
The latest buzzword in the pharmaceutical industry seems to be multichannel marketing or multichannel strategy. I am reading numerous blog posts about multichannel this and multichannel that, how to do it, how important it is and so forth, and I am also getting increasing requests from clients around the area. The problem is when I was with McKinsey multi-channel was a buzzword . . . but that was over ten years ago!
Now do not get me wrong I think multichannel strategy and multichannel marketing (two different things) are extremely important. In fact multichannel marketing really is basic and all companies will be doing some form of multichannel marketing. The big issue, and the reason it is this year’s phrase du jour, is that very few pharmaceutical companies are demonstrating a clear multichannel strategy and therefore a consistent multichannel approach.
If we take a step back to 1996 and take a look at Tesco, the UK supermarket, and the launch of their Clubcard. This was done with an integrated PR, TV, press advertising, and in-store support. Whilst this was still pretty much pre-digital this was already using multiple channels to market – namely publication, TV and in-store.
Now jump forward to today and Tesco is still using multiple channels to market – they have however added digital areas such as websites, email and social media. They still integrate across the channels so the experience the customer gets in-store is mirrored in the other channels. The messages the customers are exposed to are consistent and match across channels.
Looking at other industries today, such as the highly regulated financial industry, they too generally provide a consistent presence and style across channels. Lloyds TSB for example matches their advertising (TV, print, etc.) with their in-store and online branding. There is a clear, consistent look and feel across channels – the customer knows that every touch point, regardless of which channel, is clearly Lloyds TSB.
One can also see that they have a clear strategy around their channels and how they work together. Offline materials for example will drive customers to an online asset, and they may also train in-store staff to be aware of the various marketing materials available in other channels. A classic example of this would be walking into a store and enquiring about an offer that the store has online – in my experience the salesperson will often be able to answer whether they are matching this in store or whether it is online only.
If one then looks at pharmaceutical companies and their marketing practices not much has changed over the years. We have added new channels but we have not done a great job of integrating across channels or providing consistent experiences or messages across channels. The contact an HCP gets at a conference may be very different from what he experiences through the website or sales rep meeting. Similarly the materials patients are exposed to through patient hand-outs from their HCP and the information they get from the company’s public website may not have a consistent look and feel.
One of the big reasons for these inconsistencies and lack of integration across channels is the siloed nature of the industry. There will be different people responsible for congress and sales materials, for example, and they do not always work in a collaborative way. This is within the same product team – you can then imagine how this works when you have people from the same company, targeting the same customers (for example oncologists) but from different product teams. Rather than work collaboratively and ensure that when they are targeting the same people (e.g. the same breast cancer specialist), they combine resources and provide a single, integrated experience to this customer across channels, they will each deliver their own brand experience with no correlation with other brand experiences. The pharmaceutical customer today then gets very different experiences across channels and from the same company. There is a very clear lack of integration and consistency.
There are also regulatory barriers such as medical teams or the R&D teams not being able to work with or match what the marketing teams are doing. However this does not mean they are not able to provide a consistent experience and ensure an integrated strategy across channels. Just because they are not able to work together does not mean they are not able to communicate – after all they share the same brand strategy. But again these siloes are very ingrained and there is a limited culture of collaboration – be it cross-functional or cross-brand.
Here lies the crux of the issue and the reason that multi channel strategy and marketing are such hot topics at the moment. The industry is looking increasingly dated as customers get exposed to more integrated, consistent and sophisticated marketing from other organisations. HCPs are people and they use shops and technology just like other people do – they are exposed to the Tescos and Amazons of the world. When it comes to contact with pharmaceutical companies however they have to put up with one feel at congress, another through the sales rep and then what they get online may be totally different again.
There is now a growing realisation within the industry that this must change. It is time for the industry to grow up and become more customer centric but also more sophisticated. The only thing holding pharmaceutical companies back from providing a consistent, integrated face to each and every customer is internal process and politics. Unfortunately these can often be the hardest things to change. Will a year of having multichannel as the hop topic have an impact? I hope so!
I am a strategist by nature and have spent most of my career in strategy. I believe that you can learn about strategy but to be a great strategist takes more than just studying it in a book. A great strategist has vision and passion and is a forward thinker. A great strategist also knows that strategy is a living thing that needs to be based on insights and understanding and needs to be adapted. A great strategist also knows that strategy is not a list of tactics.
Unfortunately strategy is a word that gets bandied around a fair amount without it always being understood. Every Tom, Dick and Harry now has to have a strategy – but that does not mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry has the required skills or expertise to put together a strategy. The result tends to be a “strategy” that is little more than a list of tactics. The result is disjointed, inconsistent and ineffectual marketing and business.
A strategy should be the cornerstone of any business venture – be it a product launch or a new Twitter campaign. The strategy should be based on knowledge and insights – not on what the team leader thinks and knows or what tactics the agency happens to suggest. The strategy should be a road map which provides the team with the directions to success and how to get there. Tactics are then the vehicles used on this road – but they are not the road themselves.
A strategy is also a multifaceted document. Like any good roadmap it features more than just a line where the road is. It also gives you distances, key points on the map, alternative routes, etc. McKinsey’s 7 S model provides a good overview of the various key elements for the Strategy roadmap.
Most important is the shared values. If doing a digital strategy, for example, at its centre should be the corporate strategy and values, and if appropriate the brand strategy and values, as well as the values and needs of the target audience. A strategy should not be a stand alone document but should link to other relevant documents and should be founded on the corporate strategy. I have however rarely seen a brand team approach the corporate strategy team to ask for the latest corporate strategy on which to base the brand strategy. Unfortunately I have also come across brand digital strategies that were not even based on the brand strategy.
A further important element in the strategy is the structure and systems. It is all well and good developing a brilliant, innovative strategy, if the infrastructure or internal systems required to implement it do not exist. In the case of marketing the strategy should also include the structure of the ecosystem (so for example how will the various channels be interlinked). Given the changes in marketing today the strategy should also include the process and systems that need to be put in place to be truly successful, for example cross-functional workgroups. Whilst the industry may be highly siloed the outside world is not. A strategy should suggest how to tackle this issue in order to follow the road successfully without getting diverted onto a side street – what systems need to be in place in order to overcome these obstacles?
Style is also worth mentioning. As one progresses down the road will the style remain the same or will it evolve? Should the style be a mirror image of the corporate style or is there a need for different style in order to achieve the objectives. Having a clear idea of style before going to an agency is worthwhile as it gives the agency a clearer direction and ensures that everyone has the same idea in mind.
Last but not least are skills and staff. If there is a need for more headcount this needs to be flagged in the strategy – and if that headcount cannot be met then the strategy should also provide an alternative route. When it comes to implementation these elements are also very important. A great strategy will fail if there are not the right people with the right skills to implement it. Education is a key element to many successful strategies. In particular when looking at “new” areas, such as digital, education is critical to success. If you come up with a great strategy but people just do not understand it or the required steps, then it will fail. Providing clear directions around the education needed for the strategy to succeed is very useful.
Finally when looking at skills and staff there also needs to be the acceptance that not everyone has the required skills to develop a strategy. This is why consultancies like McKinsey do so well – they are strategy experts. However too often strategy is left to the team and very few will have the sort of expertise that McKinsey does. Many of these strategies consist of no more than a mission statement and a list of tactics. There is minimal research behind this, little analysis and very little direction. The result is a document called “strategy” that is however nothing close to being a real strategy.
This is a huge flaw as the strategy is the most vital element to any business. It is worth investing in doing a strategy well up front and providing sufficient resourcing for this – including for market research and external expertise. Managers should accept that they may not have the required skills – or indeed time – to develop a great strategy – and should reach for support (internally or externally). Strategy is the foundation stone and as such it needs to be robust and taken seriously – and any manager handed a list of tactics called “strategy” should be very concerned.
The strategy is after all your roadmap and if you have the wrong map you may take a disastrous wrong turn. Invest in the map first – then you can judge what type of car you need.
Searching the internet for health information is no longer even remotely new, and indeed it is something that many of us take for granted. In fact it is a tool that we often use merely as a support to professional medical services, for example prior or post a doctors visit. There is also increasing use of the internet to provide lifesaving health services in less developed geographies and rural communities with inadequate physical health infrastructures.
One area however which we often do not think about is the use of the internet for health information by tourists and people in countries other than their own. This in itself is potentially a large number of people, with a global community of over 200 million expats and over 1 billion tourists in 2012.
Being an expat myself in Switzerland I often turn to the internet for health information – largely as a result of the language issue. Whilst I do speak and read fluent French and German I prefer to access my health information in English so I often turn to UK and US sources of information. Many other expats however turn to the internet because they do not speak the local language and suddenly the internet becomes a lifeline to home – a lifeline to highly valuable information that would not be available to these people locally. There is also a comfort for some in getting health information from a source from home that they feel comfortable with and trust, whereas they may not know of or trust local sources. I myself still regularly use NHS Direct which I know is a highly reputable source whereas I do not have a preferred Swiss source of information – and to be honest as I Google health information in English anyway I rarely come across Swiss sources in the results.
For tourists who are on holiday in countries where they do not speak the language and do not know the local resources the internet really can become a life saver. Whilst those staying in five star hotel in cities may not have issues getting access to healthcare, for those travelling in more remote or rural locations, local and reliable healthcare may be hard to get to.
I had the wonderful fortune of spending a month in India and Sri Lanka – but was less fortunate in getting a full-on electric shock in India and an infected knee in Sri Lanka. In India I could not have been closer to healthcare – my brother was staying with us and he is a GP! In Sri Lanka however I was less lucky. I was staying in a wonderful beachside hotel thirty minutes along the coast from the wonderful fortress town of Galle. On my third day however I noticed that a mosquito bite on my knee had obviously got infected. My first port of call was therefore the internet where I looked up what type of antibiotics I should take before getting a tuk tuk to the main private hospital in Galle. I was slightly flummoxed as the pharmacist did not stock the antibiotic I requested (and I had not thought of looking up a fall back option) so I found myself having to pop the doctors office for a prescription. Upon return to my hotel my first port of call was yet again the internet – this time to check up on what the side effects where, whether I could drink on the product (it was New Year’s Eve after all) and all the questions I had been unable to ask the doctor as his grasp of English had been limited. Satisfied that it was a good product – and that it would not interrupt my New Year’s celebrations – I proceeded to take my medication as prescribed.
My next issue came five days later when I was on my last dosage of the antibiotic. My knee by this time had swollen up and had been very painful but it appeared to be getting better – however it was now oozing with pus which was most unpleasant. Yet again I turned to the Internet to check what I should do as it was still too painful to contemplate another tuk tuk journey unless totally necessary. I found instructions on how to clean the oozing wound and by the next day the knee was less painful and swollen and I was able to pop back to the hospital. There I underwent a horrifically painful dressing of the knee (a rough handed nurse trying to squeeze every last ounce of pus out of my very sore knee was not my idea of fun) and an additional prescription for more antibiotics and this time thankfully some painkillers too. I am pleased to say my knee was fully healed by my last day of holiday!
Whilst the internet in no way saved my life it certainly provided me with greater confidence in my healthcare needs, and it also prevented the need for what would have been a painful tuk tuk ride to the hospital until my knee was slightly less inflamed. Had I however been in an even remoter location the story may have been different, particularly if the local healthcare providers had not spoken any English at all (much maligned as Google translate is it can have its uses).
My little holiday incident though also got me thinking about access to my health records. It would have been great to have had access to these remotely – both for me and my local healthcare provider. Instead I found myself having to update my doctor in Switzerland verbally when I got back, for her to update my records there. I also have records in London and Suffolk with my old physicians – and no where do I have a single record all in one place which I could take with me to my next destination.
Of course I could set up an EHR myself and compile a complete record myself from the three versions that exist – but would it not be great if my European physicians at least could all communicate and share my records electronically when I move? I actually would feel far safer with an electronic transfer than a mail transfer. It would also be great if there was a single European EHR system that all EU physicians could access – with a patient’s consent of course.
Unfortunately as my Swiss physician still reaches for a text book when she has a query and given current EU politics and crisis I think this is still a long way off. Even if it were here today as I am now job hunting in the Americas and Asia this would be moot point for me anyway – as the day that American, Asian and European physicians share patient records is still some way off!
I am fortunate enough to be spending my Christmas in India, a lovely and complex country which I have had the pleasure of visiting numerous times. What is fascinating is the juxtaposition of ancient and new, rich and poor. On the one hand here is a country that provides technology outsourcing to organisations around the world and yet the technology infrastructure within the country itself is patchy to say the least. Plagued with numerous power shortages, dodgy wiring (I have had the misfortune of having two electric shocks since I have been here) and inefficient fixed line telecommunications the country’s growth could have been in danger of stalling as a result of these major issues.
What has happened, however, is that India has leapfrogged fixed line telecommunications to go straight to mobile communications. Whilst the power cuts are still a major issue, communications and mobile internet access have not been too hampered. I was particularly struck by the number of ordinary (as opposed to wealthy) Indians walking around using mobile phones.
This access to mobile technology, including phone cameras, but not to reliable fixed line, pc access also partially explains the high uptake and usage of social media within India. Culturally a social people anyway social media is also particularly suited to mobile technology and in such a huge country with such temperamental infrastructure social media offers a number of benefits, above and beyond just being social and sharing photos.
Research shows that social media users in India are far more engaged than their counterparts in the USA and Europe, with nearly 80% acting as creators ( as opposed to around 25% in the USA and Europe). Indian social media users are also far more active with only 7% being inactive versus 21% in Europe. This of course needs to be taken in perspective that the percentage penetration is still very low, but for a country with 1.21 billion people even a small percentage is still a large number of people.
Social media usage is also different from Europe and the USA with picture and video being even more popular, in part as a result of the multiple languages of India making text more of an issue. Facebook has also been lagging behind Orkut until recently, and whilst Orkut still has more registered users Facebook now leads in active users and has overtaken Orkut as the 4th most popular website.
The infrastructure has also been an issue for healthcare provision. India has some fantastic healthcare service providers, with highly qualified medical professionals, state of the art hospitals in the cities and a well developed pharmaceutical industry. The issue is however access to healthcare for those that cannot afford to pay for it and in particular in rural areas where the nearest hospital is often miles and miles away.
This is where mobile technology could really make a huge difference, providing access to free health information even in rural areas. Of course poor literacy in some parts of the country are a huge issue here but in other parts of India, such as Kerala, there is high literacy and reasonable English, opening up access to this information to a swathe of the population who in the past could only have accessed this information by paying for it and/or travelling a considerable distance to get it.
This combination of mobile access, global health communities, be they HCP or patient communities, and reasonable literacy and English language could potentially have a hugely beneficial impact on communities in India. This is an area that is still new but is growing rapidly, and given the significant value to the population, will undoubtedly continue to grow. Watch this space : India + mobile + health + social media = huge and interesting opportunities!
It is that time of year when all the summaries of the year and predictions for the following year start to appear.
In terms of digital and social media for the healthcare industry 2012 definitely saw progress. The attitudes have changed from last year, with the industry accepting that social media is now a must – it is not some fad that will disappear, nor is it something that companies can afford to carry on ignoring. Whilst we did not see much movement from the FDA around guidelines, most companies have now moved on without guidelines – some like Boehringer Ingleheim trailblazing and others are still taking baby steps.
Companies like Boehringer Ingleheim, Pfizer, and Sanofi are amongst those that are now showing the industry just what can be done with social media. They are demonstrating that it is not as risky as everyone feared and that it is possible to have true engagement with stakeholders in the public domain. These companies are putting the needs of their stakeholders first – be they patients, doctors, nurses, caregivers, etc. The industry as a whole should pay attention and start following their lead. Many pharmaceutical companies say their key goal is to improve patient health, patient access to care, etc. However very few truly demonstrate this supposed patient-centricity. Very few pharmaceutical companies truly connect with patients and provide them with the sort of services that would bring full value to patients. Unfortunately for many companies the focus still remains on traditional sales focus and internal goals.
My hope is that this will change in 2013. The world has as a whole become more transparent and with some companies now providing stakeholder-focused digital tools and services, and engaging and providing value through social media, there is even less room for those companies that are still stuck with traditional business models and marketing.
In 2013 companies will have to work twice as hard to break down the traditional silos and cut through the internal politics that is holding the industry back from providing true value and innovation to all stakeholders. Internal processes and structures need to be amended to deal with the transparency and speed that digital and social media bring. There is no room for internal power plays that lead to months of debates over guidelines and systems. There is no room for the same old excuses not to get involved in social media and not to engage. The innovators have shown what is possible. It is now up to the rest of the industry to step and put their money where their mouth is – lets start to see some real patient-centric innovation. Lets start to see just how big a difference pharmaceutical companies really can make if they put their mind to it.
When I lived in the UK it was hard to forget that Christmas was coming – from as early as August some shops start selling Christmas products and as Christmas approaches one can get dangerously close to Christmas over-load. Living in Switzerland however it is slightly less “in your face” and feels much more traditional and festive which is lovely.
But what about the online world? When does the festive buzz really kick in? I have noticed that the online presence of Christmas is definitely less “in your face” than the offline UK presence – partially as there are events such as Halloween and Thanksgiving which also hold sway online. Online from December onwards one starts to see the adverts for Christmas gifts, festive food and holiday offers. Timing wise this is perfect - when Christmas hits the stores in London it feels too early and I will tend to put off my shopping until later, but once I start to see the offers online I know it is time to start thinking about gifts.
As per usual the internet offers a wonderful window into a magical festive world full of new opportunities. It also opens up opportunities for people who may traditionally have dreaded Christmas. Everyone understands the frustration of battling through the crowds buying gifts as Christmas approaches but for some people this goes further than frustration. People suffering from a variety of chronic diseases find Christmas particularly challenging. For some the effort required to go to the shops is impossible making gift buying very hard and particularly stressful.
The advent of online shopping opened up a world for people who previously would have relied on carers to go and do their shopping for them. Now you can purchase your gifts without moving from your bed or sofa – for many this now means that they can personally choose gifts and it is a huge relief.
Social media also plays its part. Thanks to social media and customer reviews and input people can now get a better idea around gifts they are considering purchasing. Again for those who find gift buying difficult this is a huge help – now there is a whole world out there providing support and help around these horribly stressful decisions. That support though goes further than just help in making purchase decisions.
One often hears about how stressful Christmas can be – but for some people that stress can be unbearable, for example those suffering from depression or anxiety disorders. Social media is able to provide support not only in reducing the stress of Christmas shopping but also having access, wherever you are, to a support group or network. I myself will be off to India but I know if I have a low day I can go online and get support from my friends and communities that I am part of. Social media means that no matter where you celebrate Christmas, and no matter how you celebrate it, you no longer need to be alone or feel lonely (two very different things!).
And for those that have a stressful family Christmas social media is a great place to vent – while for those who have a wonderful Christmas it is a lovely place to post those happy photos and share the festive joy.
Like many people today I have been avidly following the events in the US and the path of destruction as Sandy stormed across the East coast. The constant stream of live tweets on the BBC and regular video posts enables people across the globe to follow events as they happen and stay up to date with what is going on all in live time. My end it also made me realise when I started seeing the first images of just how major this storm was – I had had no idea.
If you know me or have read some of my blogs on here or my blogs on www.hopeforstrays.com you will realise I am a huge animal lover and natural disasters can be very distressing not only because of the human suffering but also the animal suffering. Animals are often the forgotten victims of disasters and authorities underestimate the attachment, and value, that some people place on their animals. As a result of the internet I am aware of some of the very upsetting images and stories from Katharina a few years ago. One of the big learnings from then was the number of people who refused mandatory orders to evacuate because they were not able to take their animals. Some of these people died as a result and others ended up having to be rescued at considerable expense.
Those who do not love animals may not understand this. I know from my own experience, but also from may Facebook friends, how very dear animals can be, not least because of the amazing comfort and support they bring to people with illnesses. I know of a few people who are adamant they would not be alive today if it were not for their pets’ support during tough moments in their lives. These animals become a member of the family and therefore is it really that hard to understand that someone would under no circumstances leave their animal behind?
Today this factor was again emphasised by people refusing to leave without animals – this time in New Jersey. One of my Facebook friends, who I will call Mika, posted that she had received the mandatory order to evacuate but was refusing to leave without her pets. The rest of today was then spent constantly checking her wall for updates. As always the outpouring of support and concern was amazing and then finally an hour ago an update come – not from Mika herself (she was without electricity and low on mobile battery) but from another friend who had got through to her. Mika was safe and well as were the animals. Facebook has become such an important communication channel that Mika’s friends first thing after the call was to post on Mika’s wall and share the news.
Another friend from the UK now living in NYC also kept her friends and family constantly updating with live news via her Facebook page. Whereas once I would have been putting the news on to check what was being reported now I go to Facebook. I get the latest news here from friends who are there live. It also means I can check that in times of emergency friends are safe.
Facebook did however also play another critical role in today’s disaster. News and information was shared quickly with people who needed to know. The image below for example was posted to Mika’s wall and has been going round Facebook. It is actions like this that hopefully can save lives – in emergencies having access to the latest information can mean a matter of life or death.
Fortunately after today’s drama it looks like a happy ending for all my US friends . . . and another win for social media!
This year I had the honour of being asked to take part in one of the panels at Digipharm around the effective implementation of digital strategy. Having only arrived straight from the airport 30 minutes before and with very little idea of what I was meant to be talking about I was a little worried.
I am happy to say though that I really enjoyed the session. Then again no surprise there – I LOVE social media in pharma and here I was getting to answer questions about my favourite subject! It was noticeable though that the moment I mentioned that I was a social media expert ears pricked up and I suspect there would have been a great deal more questions had there been more time. But why? Social media is not rocket science is it? Even within the regulatory constraints it should not be this complicated.
Unfortunately though the reality is that social media is a minefield of complications, misunderstandings and false expectations. In big pharma though one of the largest issues can be internal politics. Traditionally pharma has been very siloed and this has led to what is often a highly political internal environment. It can be these siloes and the subsequent politics that can cause some of the largest barriers to effective digital and social media implementation.
Big brands for example can have far more political clout internally than cross brand functions and they certainly hold the budget. In digital and social however the world does not work by brand but by disease or topic area. Even where cross functions have more internal power the whole set up of pharma companies is still invariable stuck around big brands which does not fit with the external reality.
I am not for one moment saying that pharma companies need to restructure but there does have to be a realisation, at senior level, that the current set up is not optimal for today’s conditions. The world has changed and the industry needs to change more to align with today’s reality. Patients are online and trying to engage – they do not understand (or care) about the industry’s structural and regulatory impediments.
This is not a new message – and this is the sort of thing that I was hearing way back at Digipharm when I last attended a few years ago. It is sad that the industry has still not moved fast enough and we still face the same issues. It is however heartening to see changes that have occurred. When I attended digipharm a few years ago there were the familiar faces (Alex Butler, Gary Monk, etc.) that you always came across at these events. They were the few pioneers. Today the audience is full of pharma digital marketers (ok not bursting full but mildly full). The industry is definitely changing and digital is now being taken seriously and organisations are starting to build digital resources and knowledge.
However the sad reality is that one of the reasons the same issues still crop up is that the industry is just not changing fast enough and is still not putting enough resourcing behind digital and social media. The industry does have more digitally skilled employees now but still not enough. Invariably digital and social media within pharma is still far too much in the hands of agencies simply because pharma companies have not bulked up internal skills and resources.
The world has moved full stream ahead into digital and social media – our stakeholders are there – why are we still so far behind?