Can social media cause a miracle?

Last week I wrote about the hopeless task I faced in trying to find homes for 60 Romanian rescue dogs who were about to lose their shelter.  I truly did not think we could save them.  I certainly did not think we would be able to find places for the very traumatised ones – who would want to give a traumatised dog a 2nd chance?  I thought perhaps we could find a few homes for the sweeter gentle ones.  I hoped that through social media we could find those few places and maybe raise enough funds to rescue these poor dogs.

Then the ball started rolling.  A few more people joined the group and offered help.  All of a sudden we had an offer for 15 places in a shelter in the UK!!  My heart stopped – could this really be happening?  This would be truly amazing!  Sadly hurt ego’s resulted in this offer being withdrawn – we were gutted.  But we got back to looking.  Slowly more offers poured in.  A couple of dogs were offered a place with one shelter and couple more were offered a place with a foster and a few lucky ones got offered forever homes.  Now just over one week later we have found places for 32 dogs!  I would never in my wildest dreams have thought this possible.  I am totally utterly humbled by the out-pouring of offers of help.  Thanks to the power of social media we have managed to pull of a near miracle.  Thanks to people all over the world pulling together, sharing these dogs photos, posting on their walls, tweeting and ringing around we have managed to save the lives of 32 dogs in less than 10 days.

However in order to make this a total miracle we need to find homes for another  15 dogs and we need to somehow raise funds to cover the cost of transport.  The cost per dog is €120 prep fee and then around £150 for the transport.  A few dogs have been sponsored or their adopter are paying but for all the rest we have to pay.  That is a very large some of money.  So again I am hoping that social media can truly bring about this miracle.  If by sharing and posting we can find 40 people to sponsor one dog or 80 to sponsor half a dog and if by sharing we could find 15 people who could home one of these dogs than we will truly bring about a miracle.  So I ask each and everyone of you to share this post.  Donate if you can and let me know if you can help any of these dogs in anyway.

You can donate via Youcaring here or via paypal to me: pharmaguapa@hotmail.com (and if you are donating for a specific dog please let me know.

 

Dogs that still need homes are listed below.  Please share for them!

 

Basil - a lovely waggy-tailed chap who also has impaired vision due to illness

Basil – a lovely waggy-tailed chap who also has impaired vision due to illness

Greta - a very sweet lady with impaired vision due to an illness.

Greta – a very sweet lady with impaired vision due to an illness.

Tantalic - an old boy, scared but with a heart of gold

Tantalic – an old boy, scared but with a heart of gold

Rex is a great chap - he is scared of men and strangers but find with the ladies

Rex is a great chap – he is scared of men and strangers but find with the ladies

Max - another great chap with a gorgeous smile.  He is wary of strange male dogs but otherwise a chiroy little chap.  He is around 2 years old

Max – another great chap with a gorgeous smile. He is wary of strange male dogs but otherwise a chiroy little chap. He is around 2 years old

sweet LUPITA, 4 years old female, she was crying when we found her . She is dominant with some dogs over food. Friendly and loving to people, she barks at strangers as has a protective instinct. 18 kg 47 cm high castrated

sweet LUPITA, 4 years old female, she was crying when we found her . She is dominant with some dogs over food. Friendly and loving to people, she barks at strangers as has a protective instinct. 18 kg 47 cm high castrated

Lea - dog on the left - very sweet 3 year old castrated lady. Lovely and not aggressive.

Lea – dog on the left – very sweet 3 year old castrated lady. Lovely and not aggressive.

Indy - a gentle giant.  Indy is a large lady around 3 years old with a lovely character - a total sweety

Indy – a gentle giant. Indy is a large lady around 3 years old with a lovely character – a total sweety

Griutu 1, a scared 5 year year old boy. Let's show him there's is more to life that Romania and find him a place to grow old free from fear. He deserves a home.

Griutu 1, a scared 5 year year old boy. Let’s show him there’s is more to life that Romania and find him a place to grow old free from fear. He deserves a home.

Griutu 2. An old, quiet boy who will not survive on the streets - we need to find him an urgent retirement home - old dogs deserve a chance too and certainly do not deserve to die in pain on the streets. Help us find him a home

Griutu 2. An old, quiet boy who will not survive on the streets – we need to find him an urgent retirement home – old dogs deserve a chance too and certainly do not deserve to die in pain on the streets. Help us find him a home

BRIANNA, a beautiful dingo-like lady, sterilized, around 2-3 yearsold. Sometimes she has big mouth on her but she is a total softy, not aggressive with humans at all. This adorable girl needs a home urgently

BRIANNA, a beautiful dingo-like lady, sterilized, around 2-3 yearsold. Sometimes she has big mouth on her but she is a total softy, not aggressive with humans at all. This adorable girl needs a home urgently

This chap has gone through so much - can we prevent him going through more pain?

This chap has gone through so much – can we prevent him going through more pain?

A happy waggy tailed dog soon to die miserably on the streets if we do not help

A happy waggy tailed dog soon to die miserably on the streets if we do not help

Griutu - an older chap who is a little scared but with some TLC will make a wonderful addition to a family

Griutu – an older chap who is a little scared but with some TLC will make a wonderful addition to a family

A ray of hope in sea of despair

dog5In my last blog post I wrote about my absolute despair at the situation of 60 rescue dogs in a private shelter in Romania that will lose their home next week.  Finding homes for that many dogs in Romania is next to impossible.  Their fate however, if homes are not found, is almost certain death on the streets or in the local death shelter.  It is faced with this task that I have turned, desperately to social media, to try to save as many of these dogs as possible.

I must be honest I had lost hope as few of people seemed to be responding to Anca’s plea for help.  I also wondered how on earth the fate of 60 Romanian rescue dogs could cause even a ripple in social media at a time of so many other huge global crisis such as Ebola or Syria.  Some people may say these are “only” dogs – but each one has a name, a personality and lots of love to give.  But still they are a drop in the ocean. I truly despaired. My previous post was a true cry of despair, a cry for help from anyone listening.

And some of you did listen.  Some of you did start responding, sharing and asking local rescues in your country.  All of sudden there is a ray of hope in the sea of despair.  We have started getting offers in from people who can take 1 or 2 dogs.  A dog’s home in the UK, a foster place in Germany, an adopter in Switzerland, the offers are starting to creep in.  I admit that it brings tears to my eyes to see the uptake of my plea for help.  It brings me hope.  It brings Anca hope – a woman who is a walking zombie she is so depressed and distraught about the fate of her dogs.

It is however still not enough.  It is only a small ray of hope and we must make it bigger.  We still have 50 dogs looking for a home.  Some of them have never lived on the street.  Others are so traumatised from their experience in the public shelter that they just cower in their kennels and shake at the sight of people.  We cannot let these dogs go back to this horrific fate.  These dogs need our help – urgently.  At the very least we need to find long term sponsors who will save these traumatised dogs by paying for a private shelter where they are cared for.

Which brings me on to funding.  Even when we have found homes for all 60 we still need to pay to make their final travel preparations (e.g. final vaccines for the puppies) and fund the cost of their travel, at €220 per dog.  That is a HUGE sum of money.  How on earth can a few individuals raise that sort of money?!!

It is looking at what still lays ahead – the impossible task of find more homes in such a short space of time and raising such a huge sum of money – that for me that ray of hope gets smaller.  The despair sets in again and I cry.  I do not know what else to do but keep begging for more help to pray with all my soul that we can find enough people to open their homes, enough people to give small donations (or a few big ones) and enough people to share this desperate appeal and find more help.

Again I reach out to you.  Please help.   Please share and donate.  And please pray for 60 dogs desperately close to be thrown into a living hell.  Please do not let them die in pain and misery.

For more information please visit: Help Save Anca Florea’s Dogs Facebook Group  or contact me via Twitter @pharmaguapa or email pharmaguapa@hotmail.com or in the comments of this blog.

Azzy, 3 1/2 year old female

Azzy, 3 1/2 year old female

Bebitza getting on in age at 7 years and a little scared

Bebitza getting on in age at 7 years and a little scared

Bodo a 3 year old, playful boy

Bodo a 3 year old, playful boy

A desperate cry for help

I generally rave about how wonderful social media is but sometimes it can also be devastating.  Yesterday I found out that 60 Romanian rescues will be essentially sent to their death on the 17th October.  I have been following the care of these dogs on Facebook and have been helping try to find them homes.  Their time is now up and they will die.  I feel helpless, powerless and utterly distraught.

As you may know I am very active and passionate in trying to save dogs in Romania through my charity Hope for Romanian Strays.  My passion is driven by the sheer horror of how the thousands of stray animals are treated, with dogs often beaten to death, maimed by other dogs, poisoned and so on.  Whilst the shelter we support is one of the better ones, others are rightly nicknamed “death shelters” – dogs are routinely starved or beaten to death, succumb to disease or are killed by other dogs and the survivors are traumatised and live in poor desperate misery with minimal shelter or food.

All of this horror was unknown to me before I got active on social media.  I would perhaps have read the add newspaper article or seen a TV programme, but for the whole I was not exposed to some of the most extreme and brutal animal cruelty in the world. Now I see it on a very regular basis.  Needless to say it is always distressing and fuels my passion to help. Despite not wanting another cat I ended up rescuing a second one.  Despite needing to save money I donate a large part of salary every month. And despite being overwhelmed with the huge need of my own charity I still also support a few individual women who rescue dogs despite their own meager resources.

Puppies - who will soon certain death on the streets

Puppies – who will soon certain death on the streets

It was therefore absolutely devastating to hear this week that one of these rescuers, Anca Florea, was about to have all her dogs evicted.  A few months ago Anca’s private shelter was raised to the ground – it was a ramshackle enclosure but she provided food and shelter to some very needy dogs.  A group of us got together and started funding private foster places for Anca and trying to find homes.  Anca then fell very ill and was hospitalised. Without her constant reminders over Facebook people started to forget about the dogs.  The funds for the foster places have all but dried up.  Anca took many of the dogs into her own home despite her ill health.  Despite having to pay for her healthcare she still somehow managed to feed the dogs – albeit very very little.

This dog has already known the misery of the streets & soon will go back to that misery

This dog has already known the misery of the streets & soon will go back to that misery

Now the 60 dogs are to be evicted.  She has the option of letting the dogcatchers come – cruel men paid per dog they catch regardless of how (resulting in many dead and injured dogs).  They will take her rescued dogs, who have now known love and warmth, to a death shelter where the old and infirm dogs and puppies will definitely die relatively quickly but miserably.  A few of the younger strong ones might last  a year or so if they are “lucky” before succumbing to starvation and disease.  To Anca this is not an option.  When the day comes she will take them to a field and give them a fighting chance on the streets.  Sadly the old and infirm and the puppies will almost certainly die.  The younger ones, if they are not caught, will have a better chance.  The reality is though that on the 17th 60 dogs that were safe will have their death sentences signed.  They will face a winter of misery, pain, starvation, disease and eventually a horrible death.

A happy dog soon to be in danger on the streets

A happy dog soon to be in danger on the streets

And now I feel helpless, powerless and utterly distraught.  The mighty social media that has helped me so much with my health, brought so much benefit into my life now fails me.  It opens my eyes to a horrific reality for some wonderful, happy dogs that are loved.  I have shared their photos.  I have begged for help via Facebook.  I have asked people to retweet, repin, repost their photos.  I have reached out to everyone I know asking if they know anyone who could help save just even 1 dog.  I have failed.  Social media has failed me.  I have no idea what more I can do.  All I can say is I will continue to post, to beg and to pray with every inch of my being that a miracle happens and some place can be found for these poor poor dogs.  I will continue to beg you to share their posts, to share their photos in the hope that if everyone shares these photos someone out there will see them and decide to help.  That through sharing we can save these lives.  That you will help me save 60 dogs in desperate need through sharing this and that in doing so will restore my faith in social media to do good.  Will you do that for me and for them?

 

UPDATE:  A fundraiser has been started to raise funds for transport to foster places. Please donate if you can.  http://www.youcaring.com/pet-expenses/help-save-anca-s-dogs/246573

This puppy won't survive alone on the streets - will you help her?

This puppy won’t survive alone on the streets – will you help her?

A lab-mix who I'm sure could find a home if we tried

A lab-mix who I’m sure could find a home if we tried

Tibi - an old dog that will not survive on the streets

Tibi – an old dog that will not survive on the streets

anca-oct3

A little terrier - small dogs have a worse chance on the streets

A little terrier – small dogs have a worse chance on the streets

A happy waggy tailed dog soon to die miserably on the streets if we do not help

A happy waggy tailed dog soon to die miserably on the streets if we do not help

Ursulica - a lovely lady who wants to have a home of her own

Ursulica – a lovely lady who wants to have a home of her own

 

 

This chap has gone through so much - can we prevent him going through more pain?

This chap has gone through so much – can we prevent him going through more pain?

Already traumatised from abuse on the streets soon to go back to her worst nightmare

Already traumatised from abuse on the streets soon to go back to her worst nightmare

One of Anca's early rescues - has not been on the streets for years - she won't know  how to survive

One of Anca’s early rescues – has not been on the streets for years – she won’t know how to survive

Safe off the streets today but next week in danger again

Safe off the streets today but next week in danger again

Another small dog who will be in more danger on the streets

Another small dog who will be in more danger on the streets

A look of hope - please make that hope come true and help us

A look of hope – please make that hope come true and help us

The evolution of medicine

The other day I listened to a really interesting presentation by Tom Blue, Chief Strategy Officer, American Association of Private Physicians, on the evolution of medicine. He made some fantastic points about how medicine, and the industry surrounding it, has changed over the years. It started with our battle against infectious disease, and the magic bullet approach (which became the blockbusters of yester year), and then evolved into specialisation and compartmentalisation around the different organs. Today we face a new era as our medical understanding has increased and where we understand that a heart ache may not just be related to heart but may be an indication of an overall systemic wide disease. Whereas we have built up an industry based on organ specialisation in fact it is that the GP is closer to the reality – a broad view across organs.

For me this totally resonates and makes total sense. Having been to specialists who focused totally on the organ (in my case the thyroid) it was my own research that led to pinpoint what the actual, systemic cause of my thyroid problems were. Admittedly it probably did not help that my Spanish endocrinologist was a heart-less, disinterested and unprofessional medic but had she had a broader vision she could have told me that in fact the problem with my health lay not in my thyroid but in my immune system.

The industry’s focus on organ speciality has not always had a positive impact on systemic disease like autoimmune disorders. When my mother came down with Churg-Strauss syndrome it took nine specialists to diagnose her as each was focused on their own speciality organ rather than her system as a whole – my GP brother actually diagnosed her sooner over the phone because he had a broader perspective.

When you look at all the specialists we have we do have some broader specialities like oncologist but there are few immunologists focused on auto-immune disorders. Pharma companies also need to move their focus from finding products to treat symptoms to looking for products to tackle the diseases. Cures would be fantastic but in the meantime products that reduce the effects of auto-immune responses (rather that treat the organ being attacked) are greatly needed.

However the healthcare industry is a very conservative industry focused on heavily entrenched ways of doing things – from the medical side as well as the industry side. Just seeing the slow battle of trying to introduce new technology and ways of interacting with patients it would be fair to guess that the change needed in how medicine is practiced and how products are developed will take even longer.

So perhaps rather than grumble at the various pharma websites that provide no interactivity or value I should applaud them for at least having made an effort. The next steps needed for modernisation will be far scarier and will require a huge industry wide shake-up. But who knows – perhaps the big leap required for digital and social media will help shake some of those traditional foundations enough to drive change?

 

Medicine of old

Medicine of old

Pharma and social media

I was asked by a twitter friend if I could provide some articles or examples of some of the things pharmaceutical companies are doing these days on social media.  I thought why not do one better and just write a post about it?  I am always using Boehringer Ingelheim as an example of best practice in social media and in my mind they still are a leader but other companies are also now doing great things in social media.  So I had a little perusal on Facebook, Twitter and other channels and have pulled together some of my favourite, none Boehringer, examples from recent efforts.

 

GE31. GE and Pinterest

I though I would start with Pinterest which is one of my favourite pastimes when I am traveling and is often overlooked as a channel by pharma.  I love Pinterest because it is so visual and I find it rather fun to post pictures quickly on my mobile while I sit on the bus. Pinterest also happens to be a great platform for driving traffic which I feel is something that pharma overlooks (and do not get me started on pharma and traffic driving failures!).  GE has a fantastic Pinterest board covering a range of subjects relating to the organisation.  t GE Healthcare does not have an active account itself there are numerous boards within the GE account dedicated to healthcare.  I personally find it interesting to see them in with other non-health boards – it is rather like browsing in a bookshop when you stumble upon something you were not looking for but find fascinating.  Just like a bookstore GE’s Pinterest account is worth visiting because of the number of “books”, i.e. images, there is always something to find.  Many pharma have very concentrated, small boards, so once you have visited you have pretty much seen it all.

GE I also really like the GE pins as they are very much in line with the image GE is trying to convey and they are successfully integrated with their various campaigns like #GetFit. Many of the pins provide useful information and statistics around a disease but they also have a great board called Pinspire and one called Cancer Pintherapy which are full of inspirational content and quotes.

Learning for other pharma: start being more active on Pinterest and share more of your visual content via this channel.

 

 

 

2. Roche and Twitter

Whilst Roche may not be as engaging through their twitter feed as Boehringer is they do share interesting scientific content.  This reflects the company’s culture and focus on science and gives them a clear image on Twitter.  There are tweets targeted at patients, for example linking through to their oncology Pinterest board, but for the most part their tweets are about the science.  The whole look and feel of their Twitter account also reflects this with an image of scientists emblazoned across it.

Screenshot from @Roche

Screenshot from @Roche

What I particularly like about their approach is that they are very clear in the purpose of their twitter feed and who they are targeting.  This is a business account targeting scientists and medical professional first and foremost, followed by healthcare journalists and scientifically inclined patients.  Despite this strong leaning towards the science they still manage to keep the tone of the tweets friendly and they do engage, responding to questions or tweets directed at them.  Another noteworthy thing is the number of tweets – they are often tweeting multiple times a day and using relevant # which is great, in particular because this is still not always being done by some of their competitors.

Learning for pharma: Be clear in who you are targeting via twitter and use frequency and # to ensure your target audience is seeing your tweets.

roche

 

3. Bayer Diabetes and Facebook

bayer 2Looking in the diabetes space on social media there are some great examples from pharma notably Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Bayer Diabetes. As a whole I suggest to my pharma clients they should look in the diabetes space to see a vibrant active online community, where patients and caregivers are highly active and pharma are really engaging with some great content.  As such it was a hard call but I decided to go for Bayer Diabetes as in my opinion their Facebook approach is just that bit more engaging and patient focused whilst at the same time targeting a global audience.  It is also notable as its Facebook page is open to commenting, which is still not standard practice in pharma – Bayer is showing that they are open to engaging with people directly and are open to providing answers and resources in response to direct questions.  In fact relating to this another notable element to the Bayer Diabetes Facebook page is how they respond to questions.  I have seen quite a few questions asking about content in different languages and Bayer has responded by developing more multi-lingual content (they currently cover Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and German as well as English).  This to me is fantastic to see!  Many pharma still spew out their social media and look like they are engaging but in reality they are not listening to their stakeholders needs and requests as they do not adapt or alter their content.  Perhaps the other notable thing about these requests that Bayer Diabetes is getting is that it suggests diabetes patients are finding this information relevant and useful if they are proactively asking for it in other languages.  I suspect this is because Diabetes Care is trying to do what they say they do – namely “helping to simplify the lives of people with diabetes, empowering them to take charge of their health and happiness”.  Their content certainly is clearly focused on lifestyle tips (including recipes which were also requested by followers).  They occasionally intersperse the content with disease awareness campaigns but for the most part the content has a clear purpose for a clear target – diabetes patients.

What pharma can learn:  Open up your Facebook and engage – if people ask you direct questions listen and answer them (otherwise why are you on Facebook in the first place?!)

Bayer

 

These are just three nice examples from three of the platforms.  When I have time I will provide my views on Linkedin, YouTube and Google+ but now I have to go back to doing some charity work and saving dogs’ lives in Romania.  I would be interested to know your thoughts on  your favourite pharma social media offerings and indeed GE, Roche and Bayer I would love to hear from you and hear your perspective on your efforts in this area.

 

 

 

 

 

Engaging with KOL & KOI online – wake up pharma!

Despite my grumbles of not having had time to post much to this blog I have managed to find time to write three blog posts for the ZS Associates blog The Active Ingredient. The subject of this triad of posts engaging with KOL and KOI online, starting with why it is important, how to engage online with KOL and with KOI. I actually wrote about this over a year ago and to date it is probably the blog post I have shared the most with pharma clients and teams.

It is a subject area I am passionate about and as you can read in the posts it has potentially a huge value for pharma companies. The relationships of today are increasingly happening online as well as offline and the sheer volume of content on the internet is making it harder to find relevant information. Content shared by KOI is more likely to be found, in part because of their networks, but also because people are more likely to read something shared by a KOI rather than by a pharma company. Building those online relationships today is therefore aligned with current trends but also helps companies make the most of those increasingly tight budgets by expanding the reach of their content.

I was already looking at this over three years ago, and given this potential value I really thought that pharma was going to start doing more in terms of engaging online with KOI and KOL. However to date very few are doing this, with exceptions like Roche Diagnostics & diabetes bloggers and some of the early steps being taken by Boehringer Ingelheim.

Screenshot from Little Bird tool

Screenshot from Little Bird tool

Whilst a few years ago it would have taken a great deal more manual effort to identify these KOI today there are some great tools out there to do this. I actually spoke this afternoon to Little Bird who took me through their tool. I loved it! It does exactly what one needs to identify the KOI and has some great ways of looking at the data and provides actionable insights. Of course it is just a tool and the key to any tool is how you use it. When looking at this particular area the key thing is to focus on the relationship part. Once you have identified the KOI you need to develop a clear plan of who exactly you will build a relationship with, why and how. This is something that cannot be automated and is not something that should be left to your agencies! Just as in the offline world to build the relationship you actually have to present, the same is true online. How can you build a relationship through a 3rd party, or even worse through a barrage of automated tweets?! And do you really want your agency to own these strategic relationships?

Whilst in the pass the tools were a barrier to building online relationships, today I believe the key barrier for pharma companies is the lack of internal knowledge and process to deal with this new relationship model. This however should not be a barrier anymore. Equipped with the insights and looking at how relationships work offline companies can start to put in place the expertise and process required to build these relationships. Perhaps the main question is not how can they do this but why on earth are they not started doing this already?

Network visualisation from Little Bird tool

Network visualisation from Little Bird tool

 

Screenshot from Little Bird tool

Screenshot from Little Bird tool

 

Too much to do too little time

I have been a tad behind at writing this blog post and responding to comments, which saddens me given the glowing responses I have got in some of my comments. In an ideal world I would like to write a post weekly, rather than the current monthly timing. I should also be responding to comments ideally within 24 hours which I am also failing to do. This blog is hobby which allows to me to share my thoughts on one of my passions – digital and social media in the pharma industry – and I do enjoy writing it. Career wise I am sure the blog helps too. Sadly working as a full time consultant, trying to support my charity, spending time with my cats, and dealing with an Auto-immune disorder which often leaves me very tired and requires me to sleep 8-10 hours a night, leaves me with very little spare time to do anything else (including blogging for my charity www.hopeforstrays.com). I occasionally also blog for my employer ZS around social media but I find that far less rewarding (for one I never get many comments glowing orotherwise!). It is the age old dilemma of too much to do and too little time.

This is of course a similar dilemma that many companies face with their social media and digital efforts. A number of companies I have advised on social media where taken aback when I told them how much content and resources would be needed if they wanted to truly engage via this channel. One local brand team, for example, were adamant that they had more than enough content to set up their own Twitter feed, which warranted them going against the Corporate guidance of using the local country Twitter account. When I joined the discussion my first questions was how much content exactly? How often would they be Tweeting and what were their monitoring plans? It turned out they planned to Tweet once per week – a far cry than the recommended multiple times per day! Realising how much effort and resources (tine and financial) would be required they ended up towing the line and using the country account and appropriate #. Whilst Twitter is a particularly active social media channel that requires high levels of content and monitoring, other channels also benefit from a steady stream of new content, which takes time and money to develop.

The other side of social media is of course the monitoring element. As I have already confessed I am far from following the best practice in terms of responding to comments, but I am not a large company with products and services and a reputation to defend.   Whilst as an individual I can get away with taking a few days to respond, a company is expected to respond within 24 hours, 48 max. This again takes resources, as well as a clear process, to respond appropriately. This is the scary part for many pharma companies and is also the part that has led to automated responses (and there are some classic examples where automated responses go horribly wrong). It need not be scary however if you have the appropriate level of resources involved in this activity and process in place to be able to respond rapidly. Technology can do a large amount of the leg work (for example sending an alert that a response is required) and having a team of people who can respond then facilitates responding within the time-frame required.

Many companies I know have 1 or at most 2 people dedicated to social media. In my opinion this is not enough. In fact for most tasks you should never be solely dependent on just one person because when that person is sick, on holiday or decides to quit, the company is left vulnerable (and given that you are probably requiring them work through holidays and sick days they are more likely to be sick, and eventually quit). That does not mean that you need to employ another dedicated resource but it does mean you have to have other employees appropriately trained so that they can step in if required.

For companies looking for resources in social media but struggling with restricted headcount and resources, there is one resource that few are totally optimising – their own internal network. Looking at social media there are now many employees who are active with social media in their personal life who, with appropriate training, could be called upon to help out. It is a useful skill for many people’s career and there are many ways of rewarding or incentivising people to provide that additional support. As resources within the industry become more restricted, but the demand for digital and social content and engagement rises, the industry will need to start thinking a bit more out of the box to find solutions such as this.

Sadly this is not a resource I have access to. Much as my cats take an interest in my laptop (sitting on it, walking over it, etc.) I have not yet managed to train them to write blog posts or respond to comments for me. All I can do is keep trying to find time and when I don’t, keep apologising. And perhaps posting more kitteh photos because everyone love a good kitteh photo right?

 

The Don helping out

The Don helping out

 

Packaging – people do care!

A couple of days ago I came across a very interesting question posted on Twitter. A patient had posted an image of their medication package and reached out to @novonordisk to ask why the new packaging was so big compared to the old packaging.

I noticed this post for a couple of reasons. Firstly I am always intrigued to see how pharma companies respond to direct questions from patients via social media. Will they respond, and if so how quickly and how appropriately, or will they ignore the question? I saw a great example of a tweet that Pfizer should have just ignored but instead they sent a totally inappropriate automated response – clearly no one had bothered to read the tweet!

Secondly this question made total sense and resonated with me. Like many consumers I am so fed up with excessive packaging that has become endemic in our society. I get so frustrated trying to grapple with DVD packaging or double packaging for food products. A pet hate is also large boxes for tiny products, for example my Fuelband came in a huge box which was mostly empty – why? I am aware of the damage we are doing to the environment and I hate contributing to this, especially by excessive use of packaging. This was then a great question that @martinzwart1 posted and I was intrigued to see what the response would be.

I was very happy to see a prompt response from @novonordisk, stating that they would get back as soon as possible with more information. This is a great example of how to respond when you are not able to respond immediately – far better than not responding and just waiting until you have the information to respond. @novonordisk then came back a day later with an answer – again very prompt – and also invited @martinzwart1 and me (by now I had of course jumped on the bandwagon) to get back to them with further questions. A great example of how to respond to a patient via Twitter.

Sadly the actual response was very disappointing. The reason Novo Nordisk has had to increase the size of their packaging is not through choice but rather as a result of new regulations from European authorities. This to me is so absurd. We have various EU and national directives aimed at reducing packaging and packaging waste and yet here is an EU authority demanding that packaging is made bigger!

I personally find this rather disgraceful and irritating. In a day when more and more people get their information online why on earth is there a need to increase package size? If patients require additional printed material could this not be requested at the pharmacy when they pick up their medication? Those, like me, that prefer to read the information electronically (or just ignore it) can then be served with our smaller, more environmentally friendly packaging. Why must we, and our environment, suffer as a result of over-zealous, backwards looking regulatory authorities?

So … who is Doctor XXXX?

x

I had the great pleasure today to be chatting with @Boehringer, and it was politely pointed out to me that there was a typo in my last blog post “Boehringer still chatting away”. I presumed that in my hurry to type up my post & then post I had got a where / were wrong or perhps some other typo. @Boehringer however then asked whom did I mean by Dr.X.   I took a deep breath … this was not the typo I was expecting – this was a blatant error! In actual fact it was Dr XXXX – it was one of the doctors taking part in the tweet chat and I had meant to double check the name before committing some error on my blog. Well that failed spectacularly because I forgot to amened and now my blog talks about some Dr. XXXXX!

Had it been Dr X I would have been annoyed but mildly amused too. Dr XXXX however brings up all sorts of connotations and my blog is meant to be vaguely professional! If I were new to social media, or a pharma company, I would have rushed online, made the change and prayed that no one had spotted the error. As it was somebody very kindly parted me with my smartphone in Barcelona over the weekend so I had no way of getting online quickly. Panic you may think.

However I am now starting to be bit of an old hand at social media so actually I was not overly concerned. I maintained that mild amusement – of a slightly different ilk but still mildly amused. And I was in no rush to try desperately to find wifi and get online with my laptop. In fact I started mulling over writing this blog post … and wondering what sort of traffic I will get with XXXX in my title!

The reason for this mild nonchalance is because I know and I trust social media. I know for starters that the intent of my article was serious and well-intended so any comments I get will either be relevant to the rest of the post or humorous (at least I hope so). But perhaps more to the point I also feel that now that the mistake is made it is better to point it out, have a laugh and live with it rather than furiously, desperately try to correct it and pretend it never happened. This is what my experience in social media tells me.

Sadly many companies when they make a mistake in do exactly this – they try to very quickly cover up the mistake and hope no one noticed, and potentially get very defensive if anyone is so “rude” as to point the mistake out. This can back fire and there have been some spectacular examples of this in social media (Google this and you will find plenty of entertaining examples). They essentially dig that proverbial hole – which I am sure most of know from experience makes matter worse (and often even more entertaining for the bystander).

The correct way to handle this is of course not to try desperately to brush it under the carpet, bring lawyers in, close down your page, etc. The best way is to accept it, admit that you made a boo boo, and perhaps like me, have a strong drink and laugh at your mistake. Some would argue this is different from companies but I always point them back to that rather old example of the Red Cross getting slizzard post (and yes alcohol again).

The original Red Cross post

The original Red Cross post

I love this example. Here is a very reputable organisation, with a very serious subject matter, mistakenly tweeting about getting drunk! Shock horror! If ever there was a time to desperately back pedal here is a great example. The problem of course was that this one mistaken tweet had gone viral. Again shock horror! What to do?! A knee jerk reaction might be to temporarily close the account. A better reaction was however for the Red Cross to tweet a light hearted, but genuine apology.

The Red Cross response

The Red Cross response

The result shows why this was the right thing to do. The tweet went even more viral, along with the response, and people started using the # used in the drunken account as a drive for people to give blood. One drunken tweet turned into a charitable drive to get people to donate blood. That to me is a result – born not of planning but of being human and transparent.

It is therefore along this vein that I am now tweeting about Dr.XXXX – to show that even potentially rather embarrassing social media mistakes are not the end of the world. In fact they can reinforce your credibility and your social media appeal. You cannot plan for these things (that is just creepy and wrong) but you can show your true metal but how you respond to your mistakes online, in public. It takes guts but we will love you all the more if you can show that you too are only human. We are forgiving when you admit your mistakes and damning when you try to hide them.

 

Addendum: Stealing from the Red Cross mistake I wanted to also follow this with a fundraising drive for my charity Hope for Romanian Strays. If you laughed at my mistake or appreciated this blog post and think that you would like to make a difference to a life then please make a donation via paypal to @hopeforstrays Dr XXXX campaign. We need funds to feed, vaccinate, neuter and treat puppies and strays in the shelter (hence the loose connection to a doctor and the number 4). You can donate via paypal at hopeforstrays@yahoo.com, mentioning DrXXXX – for €10 you can vaccinate a puppy or buy a bag of food, €21 neuters a puppy and for €40 you can vaccinate, neuter and feed a puppy. Donations for treatment will go to pay off our never-ending debts with the vets for treating all our emergency cases. So essentially for the price of 4 drinks you can save the life of a puppy or a stray, and bring hope where there is so much despair. Now that would be a great result from a social media mistake! For more information on the charity visit www.hopeforstrays.com

 

Ursa - when she was so emaciated she could no longer stand we picked her up and gave her the care she needed.  Will you help her and others like her?

Ursa – when she was so emaciated she could no longer stand we picked her up and gave her the care she needed. Will you help her and others like her?

 

Left to die in a field - rescued by Hope for Romanian Strays

Left to die in a field – rescued by Hope for Romanian Strays

 

@Boehringer still chatting away

This week Boehringer Ingelheim held another tweet chat around Afib, which IMHO was a great success, like their other previous tweet chats. Using the #CHATafib, @Boehringer led the engagement, along with a few physicians who had been invited to join, such as DrXXXX.

Quoting @lenstarnes: “Have to congratulate @boehringer for staging the 2nd #CHATafib, not many pharmas have the courage or vision to do similar”. I think this sums up my point of view too – I genuinely congratulate Boehringer for their forward thinking and bravery in organising these tweet chats and continuing to use social media as an engagement channel, rather than just a PR channel.

I thought it was also great to see the @Boeringer handle being handed over to Dr Sona Tvrdonova, Global Medical Advisor, for the tweet chat. I have been telling pharma for years to get their medical teams involved in social media and this is a fantastic example of how that would work, and why it is a good idea.

The tweet chat itself was as always interesting and engaging. For me tweet chats provide value in a number of ways. The first has to be as a great way to introduce newcomers to twitter – give a live feeling of how twitter works and the dynamics of the platform. I also think it is a great tool for students. These conversations often include real experts and some great insights – which may be less interesting to people who know the content really well, but great for those trying to learn it can provide fantastic insights, and for free.

The other value I see in tweet chats, and again a favourite topic of mine, is how they can be used to develop relationships with people. One of the reasons this is one of my favourite topics is that it was through the #hcsmeu tweet chats that I really got into twitter and start to “meet” people via twitter, many of whom I have now met in person. People who do not use twitter do not always grasp how this is possible. The reality is there is a degree of trust and openness that is, IMHO, unique to social media. This comes from sharing and discussing common interests from the start, unlike a face to face meeting, where you have to first find out what people are interested in. The people I met through #hcsmeu all shared my passion for healthcare and social media – we had an automatic shared interest, and in the end this is the foundation that relationships are built of.

I know other pharma will start to follow @boehringer’s lead, but Boehringer holds that pioneer crown. It is well deserved and I look forward to many more successful and interesting tweet chats with @boehringer.

 

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