Category Archives: General
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?
Last week I was at the GLC social media & emarketing forum in Frankfurt listening to an interesting presentation by about HCP relationships. One of the slides presented showed a KOL map, showing who the KOLs are, who the upcoming KOLs are, and where they are based. This map is developed based on an analysis of presentations at congress and publication – but it is all offline inputs. I am however happy to hear that they are also looking into doing a KOL digital map.
Personally this rings a bell a with me as one of my recommendations in the past has been to do precisely this. Pharma companies generally have a great idea of who their traditional KOLs are, but they have no idea about how active they are online (if at all) and they often have no real idea of who KOI (Key Online Influencers) are. This is a big gap in a key knowledge area. As more and more HCPs turn to digital the impact of KOI will become increasingly important. Pharma companies need to start finding out which KOL are active online, and who the KOI are that they should be building relationships with them, just as they have traditionally built relationships with KOLs. This is essentially just a new group of KOL and the process for KOL relationship development offline already exist – they just need to be adapted for online.
From experience I know however that at this point alarm bells go off with legal and compliance as this is a new area. A second issue though is that unlike KOLs who are always HCP KOI may be HCPs, but they may also be journalists, bloggers, patient advocates, etc. This raises a whole area of problems. For the HCP KOI it is relatively simple to deal with – they fit into the existing framework and the Medical teams can build the relationships here, using a different process but still essentially following the same principles and guidelines. The problem however is how to deal with the other KOI – who owns the relationship? How to deal with the various regulatory issues that then arise? So, for example, for a non-HCP KOI there is the danger of being seen to be doing promotion. How can a pharma company deal with these issues?
The answer is to be totally transparent and never, ever look at relationship building from a promotional point of view. Building relationships needs to be based on providing value, whether it be for an HCP or a patient KOI. With that thinking as a starting point you then do some research. What are the KOI interested in? What content and assets would be of value to them? Do they have a blogger outreach policy or do they give any indication of how they feel about partnering with organisations? Build up a good level of knowledge about each individual KOI, just as one would do with a traditional KOL.
You then need to identify where the relationship will sit. As mentioned Medical KOI relationships sit comfortably with medical, journalists sit well with the comms team, and patient advocates sit well with advocacy teams. Very rarely do these relationships sit in marketing – even though very often this is where the desire to have these relationships starts. The other issue is of course also that digital and social media often sits either with marketing or comms – not with Medical, and yet Medical is the area that could really provide the most value and also get some real benefits from social media. Given the lack of digital expertise in Medical there is a strong argument, in some cases, for some relationships to live with the digital or social media team, who (hopefully) understand the dynamics of digital relationships.
Once you have identified who owns the relationship you then need to start relationship building. Like any relationship it will depend on the individuals involved, what channels they use, what value you can provide etc. However in general your first step will be to start building the relationship digitally – retweet their content, comment on their blog posts, etc. Offline however also plays a pivotal role in this relationship building – just because this is a digitally focused relationship does not mean it has to only stay in the digital arena. If you know the KOI is going to be attending the same conference as you then get in touch and arrange a meeting. Or perhaps you see that the KOI is going to be in the same town as you – arrange to meet for a coffee. Alternatively invite them to a specific event you are organising.
A good example of this comes from Roche Diagnostics blogger summits which are annual events they organise with key diabetes bloggers specifically to build relationships. Roche has been very successful – partly because they were realistic in their approach and accepted that this would need to be a long term initiative and it would take time for the summits and relationships to work (in fact it took 3 years). Another reason Roche was so successful was also because they went in with a “what can we do for you” mentality – rather than a promotional “what can you do for me mentality” – they asked attendees what they needed from the organisation and what value Roche could bring to the community. The response Roche got was very positive and they now have a good relationship with the community, who blog and tweet about Roche’s initiatives and help improve the Roche name within the community.
Follow Roche’s lead then when you look at building your own KOI relationships – allow time, and focus on their needs first and not your own. As the relationship develops and builds it will turn into a win win relationship, with the KOI spreading the reach of your content and providing a more credible way of reaching your target audience. Put aside internal squabbling and politics to focus on the relationship and share knowledge and process internally. Building KOI relationships will increasingly become a key part of the “KOL” process in the future so learn how to do it today – and do it well.
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.
One wonderful thing about social media and new technologies is the power it places in individuals hands. Where previously as an individual you either had to have actual power – e.g. be the Prime Minister, or be in a powerful role such as a journalist for a leading newspaper, today technology has placed power within reach of individuals and small groups.
This is particularly valuable when it comes to worthy causes and raising awareness. Social media has enabled some very positive changes in healthcare – for example raising the awareness around the need for women to get screened for cervical cancer. Often the awareness is driven by an organisation or charity, but at other times it can come from a dedicated individual who knows how to make full use of the channel. Kelly Young, aka @Rawarrior, and author of the http://rawarrior.com/ blog, springs to mind as a great example of an individual who does a great job in raising awareness and providing resources around a disease.
Now the reason I was inspired to write about this is actually not related to healthcare. Rather my inspiration for this post comes from a very small and brand new charity called Hope for Romanian Strays set up by Aniela Ghita. To me Aniela is a wonderful example, like Kelly Young, of the difference that one person can make – and how social media can then amplify that difference.
I first came across Aniela via my cat’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheDonCat). I saw a rather desperate post asking for help with a paralysed dog that had been rescued from the street. Emily was a one year old terrier and along with her friend Aira – another rescue dog – had been found a forever home in the UK. Emily and Aira’s new mum was going to pay for the medial expenses – including Emily’s expensive wheels – and a transport option had been found for them. However the cost for the transport was around €1000 and Aniela had four days to raise the funds – the new mum could not afford to pay medical expenses and transport costs.
Years ago this would probably have been an impossible ask – but Aniela posted an event on Facebook and shared it with her network. This was how I came across this heart-wrenching story. My first concern was that this was one of the many scams but I decided to risk it anyway and donated – I felt that if this was genuine then I had to act to help get these two dogs both with horrific stories to a new loving home. It was no scam and Aniela managed to raise the funds in time thanks to Facebook and Emily and Aira are now both very happy in their new home in the UK. Had it not been for Facebook both these dogs would probably still be in a desperate condition in Romania but social media gave one woman the power to make a small change for the good and rescue these dogs.
For me this is truly inspiring to see passion and dedication like this becoming really effective, and making bigger changes thanks to a technology and channel that gives the individual the power to reach out to like minded people around the world and ask for help for such a worthy cause. I salute all you individuals out there making these changes and doing good – and on behalf of all the dogs and cats you rescue I thank you Aniela!
As an addendum: I am now working with Aniela to help further extend her work. She has formally set up a charity called Help for Romanian Strays and you can find out more information via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-for-Romanian-Strays/310177669061280 , Twitter @hopeforstrays and via the blog http://hopeforstrays.com If you can help with your skills or wish to donate (or even better adopt) then please contact Aniela at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course please share!
We are now part of a world that is full of digital natives. But what about those who are new to digital – or what about back in the day when you and I were new to digital? How did we behave? What steps and feelings did we go through as this brave new world opened up to us?
A colleague recently described his mother’s reaction to her new iPad. She sounded like a young child with a new toy – describing every new action and move. And this made me think about the “ages” we go through in our digital journey.
First contact with digital technology – be it a new device like a iPad or platform like Skype – generates a child like glee and excitement. Everything is new and full of discovery and brings further exploration and a verbalisation of the joy of discovery. Those of us who have recently experienced parents going through this process can testify to the simple pleasure the joy of new technology can bring.
But what happens as the relationship progresses and the person reaches “school age”? Here there are lots of questions, lots of learning needed and unfortunately a need to do some homework. The excitement and glee has all but worn off – however a glimmer still remains and it is this that carries the person through the “school years”. Frustrations however do start to appear – the lack of understanding and despair at not getting it, despite having done ones homework. Encouragement by the “teacher” (generally a younger relative or more tech savvy friend) pulls them through.
School age moves into the difficult teenage years. Not all teenagers are alike – some pass through their teenage years with no rebellion, no problems whilst others have a very troublesome time. These problem years can mean a move away from the newly learnt technology and skills, a disregard for the joys but also the stress the technology brings. The “teenage” rebellion can mean a return to the old ways, turning away from Skype or the computer. Like all of our ages however the “teenage” years will invariably come to an end for most. A few may remain forever in their teenage years but most will mature and move into their 20s, 30s etc.
The next decades bring increasing confidence and a comfort in the technology. They will be familiar and happy with the basics and will be open to new platforms and technologies – depending on their age mind you. As the person matures they find a comfort level they are happy with and find the technology meets their needs. Their youthful curiosity may give way to routine but generally contentment, mixed with a bit of frustration that life invariably brings. They now use technology as part of their everyday life. If something new comes along that will really make a monumental change, then they may consider it, but if not they will do very nicely with the skills and technologies they have.
And so we come to old age. This is where we hand the reins over to the next generations – it is up to them to lead the change and bring in the new technologies. It is up to them to teach their “grandparents” how to use the latest of the latest. The “elderly” user however can look back and reminisce on their early days with the technology and all they learnt – and how quickly things have changed again. Some will be forever youthful and keep learning and evolving but many will stay at a happy status quo with their technology.