As anyone who follows me on Twitter may have noticed I was extremely active these last few days tweeting from the SMI #pharmasocialmedia and the Digital #pharmaconf conferences.

Jaclyn with the famous Hawaiian shirt

I had the pleasure of chairing day one and presenting at the SMI conference, as well as organising drinks for fabulous Jaclyn Fonteyne and @phamaguy to celebrate @Boehringer’s win of this year’s social media Hawaiian shirt. It was a smaller event but I found this also meant there was a higher level of discussion and interaction, including over drinks of course!  @lionelreichardt put together a great storify of the event which is worth having a look. The Digital Pharma conference on the other hand had a slightly broader perspective and a larger number of participants.  Both were extremely interesting and covered a range of topics but similar themes came through from both.


1. Co-creation 

This for me looks to be this year’s buzzword.  It came up multiple times at both conferences.  Co-creation is the concept of partnering with your stakeholders, be they physicians, patients or medical students, in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.  Doing this ensures that the offering resonates with your stakeholders by meeting their needs and offering them value, because it is based on input from them.  The other aspect of co-creation is that it creates greater buy-in from stakeholders because they are part of the creation and development process. There were some great examples presented on this including a case study presented by Jenny Cowderoy, where she explained the how partnered with medical students to brainstorm and help with the development of their offering for medical students.  The end result was some very innovative ideas but also a group of 20 highly engaged medical students who volunteered to help build and promote the service.  Another, very touching, example of this came from Birgit Bauer, a MS patient and journalist, who now blogs for Novartis’s Living Like You. She made the fantastic point that patients are experts in their own disease, they use the same language as other patients, and tell an authentic story.  They also tend to already be networked and have established presences online.  From pharma’s perspective they offer a relatively straightforward way to bring in the doctor or patient POV and help build trust, engagement and extend the reach of content.  Indeed Sinem Erenturk presented a great pharma case study around the success of an HCP community built by Boehringer than was co-created with doctors and which uses content from doctors and has been a huge success.

Picture1Picture2Picture4 Picture32. Customer Centricity

The above points are actually part of the broader push to be more customer centric but I have placed this point second and this has been a buzzword for some time.  Most big pharma now talk about being patient centric and some think that they are already customer centric around their physicians.  Of course many do not consider patients as customers and there is a whole debate to be had around this.  The reality though is that pharma is still brand driven, not customer driven.  There were some fantastic presentations around the importance of customer centricity, and the need for organisational and behavioural change in pharma to start being customer driven.  MSD’s Thibaud Guymard presented a fantastic example of customer centricity, and the success that this approach can bring.  Last year Thibaud presented at SMI around the launch of Univadis’ Comuniti, a physician community in France.  Comuniti was developed based on insights from doctors and their needs, and was co-created with doctors (that buzz word again).  The result has been very impressive, especially in a country where doctors are less active on social media – since launch last year Comuniti now has nearly 44,000 users.


GSK’s Kai Gait made some fantastic points about the importance of being customer centric but also flagging that much of what we talk about is just good marketing.  This resonated with me and I remember when I did my masters in Marketing many, many years ago we talked about the importance of understanding your customers and building your marketing based on their needs.  This is basic marketing and yet in pharma we talk about this sometimes as if it is a new thing!

Picture8Picture7Another great example of customer centricity was presented by Christian Kranich from Abbvie.  I have to admit that this was probably one of my favourite presentations from both events thanks not only to the great points and examples Christian talked about but also due to his wonderful humour and humanity in presenting.  He started his presentation by introducing himself as a gay HIV patient and activist, who used to see pharma as the enemy but now works for Abbvie as a patient relations manager.  This was so refreshing to see a pharma employee speaking so openly, and with such wonderful humour, about their disease. By hiring a patient, like Christian, Abbvie has demonstrated how serious they are about being patient centric – I just wish more pharma followed this lead.

Picture9Picture113. Measurement and data

This was another topic that cropped up multiple times, but again as Kai Gait flagged, is part of basic marketing and it still amazes me how badly this is sometimes done.  There was much discussion, and muttering, around the need to demonstrate ROI, with quite a few people pointing out the importance of being able to demonstrate value to senior management – and in order to do this you need to be clear around what you will measure, how you will measure but also how you will then report back on those measurements. Boehringer made a good point too though around understanding what you are measuring and that often ROI is not the appropriate thing to measure, but rather ROE (Return On Engagement).  Indeed from a compliance point of view trying to link ROI with a public channel like Twitter can get you into some deep water. Picture12 Boehringer was very clear around what their goals were for their tweet chats and also what the measures of success would be.  I particularly liked their inclusion of not only the impact on Boehringer but also on the KOL they worked with for tweet chats – again another demonstration of customer centricity.  And of course measuring today is so much easier as a result of technology and the access to big data, although Sinem Erenturk made a great point that it is not the big data that is important but rather the insights you get from that data.

Picture134. It’s still all about cats (and content)

Perhaps my final take-away is that at the end of the day social media is still all about cats!  Actually this relates to GE Healthcare’s Dimithri Wignarajah who had a fantastic presentation which to my delight was very cat image heavy.  The point being though that content is still king in the digital world and therefore focusing on content that provides value to customers and is engaging is extremely important. If that content with cats in is what is going to have the most impact then use cats.   Picture16

In GE’s case it is actually  less about cats and more about using visual content as part of a strategic move to become a more visual content. GE has approached what many would think of as boring content, machines, in an innovative way and turned their content into visually engaging content.

Another very interesting point was made by Gedeon Richter’s Haidler Alleg about the balance of content versus technology. He gave the example that previously their focus was 80% on technology and 20% on content, a balance that sounds very familiar to me, and he has turned that around to have an 80% focus on content and 20% focus on technology.  To me this is spot on as technology is an enabler but it is content that drives impact and engagement.  This flags up another relevant point that actually it is not which channel you use but how you use it.  The key thing is to deliver the right content to the right customer via the right channel and at the right time.  If you get the channel right but the content wrong then you have wasted you budget.

There were many other great points and presentations at both conferences but these four points stuck out as they were the ones that were mentioned repeatedly at both conferences – and I believe all four are very important.    I hope next year though that some of these points will no longer be discussed – it is high time we understand that in today’s world being brand centric no longer works and that you need to start using the data at your disposal.

Of course I think it will always be fine to talk about cats …  after all social media is and I am sure will always be all about cats!  On that note I leave you with a photo of my own cat 🙂

My cat The Don

My cat The Don

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