I have just finished my slides for a presentation I am giving in September at the Pharma eMarketing Congress in Barcelona http://pharma.flemingeurope.com/pharma-emarketing-congress. I will be talking about global and local social media. A tricky subject but one which companies do need to look at.
Then again as I was writing my slides I did also wonder whether for many pharma companies this is still too advanced. After all the sad reality is that despite the fact that social media is no longer new, has become a part of day to day life, and is increasingly becoming one of the top communication channels, some life science companies still are not embracing it. I am still having conversations with pharma clients about how they should tackle social media – still with that wary, keep-it-at-arms-distance, “oooh it’s scary and dangerous” mentality.
However there are now also many pharma, and some medical device, companies that have embraced it and are ploughing ahead. It is these companies that are now looking at taking their social media to the next level. They have an established global presence, they often have various local social media initiatives, and they have gone through the pioneering days of pilots and trial and error. They have the experience, they have the confidence and it is they that now need to start looking at social media in a more professional, corporate and consolidated way.
As is often the case with pioneers many of these companies have done great work, but their presence is not always consistent and there are clear disparities between the pioneers and the champions and others. Sometimes they have an amazing global presence but no local presence to speak of. Other companies have some great local examples but no global presence to shout about. The next step is to look at how these disparate groups, at local and global level, can start to work together.
So how can a company tackle a global channel such as social media at both a global and a local level? After all we are governed by local laws and regulations, and in fact it is fear of these regulations that have held many companies back, both at global and local level. The answer as we have clearly seen is not to sit back and do nothing! The answer lies actually in embracing social media and social media principles whole heartedly at all levels.
By embracing these principles, and introducing more open leadership and a new era of communication and co-operation, companies can start to move to the next level, and not just in social media.
If we look at the global local issue the fact is at the heart of it often lies poor communication, and inadequate support and co-operation between global and local teams. Each team has different objectives, goals and needs. The concept of a common purpose and vision has often been lost in these huge organisations. However when you strip everything back there are still common goals which can be worked towards jointly. Better relationships with stakeholders, for example, is something that most pharma teams – be they global or local – would like. This is something that the principles of social media address very nicely.
Once you put stakeholders at the middle and start to look at your communications and marketing from their point of view (as opposed to the pharma-must-push-sales-messages mentality) you realise that a stakeholder does not want 101 contact points with your company. They want one contact point – and they do want to interact with you – not listen to your sales message. They want companies to provide them with value and then they are happy to listen to what companies want to say.
This is of course also where location comes in. Stakeholders, in particular patients, do not always care where you are based, nor are they aware of the regulations that govern the industry. It is therefore really irritating to be on an English language Facebook page and to be trying to interact, and ask a very relevant question, only to be ignored because you are physically based in the wrong country.
This is where communication and co-operation come in company side. If a US Facebook page, for example, has a comment or question from a UK resident then the best course of action is not to ignore this or tell them that you are only interested in US residents. Far better – direct them to the right contact point in their country or if it is a question that you can actually answer (less likely) then do so. The problem here is that the communication and process needed for this rarely exist.
Looking into building these and other better global/ local communication and process channels will benefit not only social media but the company as a whole. Global and local are not enemies or from different planets. They have the same over-arching goals and objectives and are all working on the same team. It can only benefit an organisation if people at global and local really do start working like a single team rather than competing entities. Will social media help? I hope so.