Category Archives: Multichannel
The world as we know it is changing. Our stakeholder’s way of thinking, and behaving, is changing due to 24/7 access to global information. So how does this impact our industry and what are the opportunities for pharma marketers?
Patients are engaging online around their health, and they expect to be able to engage online with other people and companies in this space. They do not understand why big pharma companies does not engage and this exacerbates the industry’s poor reputation. From a corporate marketing point of view this is an easy win. By accepting social media, rather than avoiding it, companies can start to have a positive impact on their reputation, and build corporate brand value.
This new dynamic is also impacting physicians, who face patients coming to appointments well informed, and with different questions than they used to, for example “is there an app for that”. Here again is a nice win for marketers. Rather than focusing on providing the information that they want physicians to hear, i.e. all about their product, why not look at also providing value by helping physicians with some of these real-world issues? Why not sponsor an assessment of disease apps, or ensure that the physician is kept up to date with what patients are Googling?
Another impact that the digital environment has led to is an increased pressure on people’s time. Marketing now means that you are no longer just competing with another pharma company. You now compete with a whole array of different parties to get a slice of a physician’s time. Give a person the choice to access information when they want and how they want, or to physically sit through a sales call at a specified time and it is a no-brainer which option people will increasingly choose. That is not to say that people will stop choosing the physical meeting altogether but they want a mix of options – and a choice.
Here again that word “value” comes in. As a marketer the way to grab a piece of someone’s time is to deliver value, both in terms of channel preference but also in terms of content. Digital enables us to understand individual’s areas of interest – why not then deliver your marketing information tailored to their preferences?
Of course this costs money, which is an age old problem. Again digital can help. Traditionally pharma marketing has been very siloed, by brand, function and geography. Digital provides the means to break down these siloes and generate cost efficiencies. By working in a more collaborative way, digitally facilitated, companies can reduce waste, for example in asset development and in time. Why should each brand, in each country, produce their own app? Often they have a similar end use and the backbone could be developed jointly and then adapted for local end use.
And this brings me onto the final massive change that digital, and in particular social media, has led to – namely access to information. The amount of information available on our stakeholders online is huge. Despite this I still see teams basing the bulk of their marketing plans on traditional market research with very little social media listening included. Now social media listening is not the be-all-end-all but it should be included. It provides key insights that need to be part of a modern marketing plan, for example where do your customers go for information, what topics are they talking about (and here is a hint – it is probably not about you) and what are their needs. Social media enables pharma marketers to get a better understanding of stakeholder’s emotions and behaviours, and at the end of the day it is emotions and behaviours that impact pharma sales.
Digital is no longer new and it is an integral part of daily life. Companies today should be optimising their marketing to reflect this digital impact and to start offering their stakeholder’s real value.
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 have been asked to talk about the topic of “Is Pharma Afraid of Social Media” at the GLC Social Media and Emarketing Forum this week in Frankfurt. Had I been asked this question a few years ago, indeed even last year, I would have said a resounding “Yes”. However times have changed and my initial response to this was “not anymore”. But I thought I would reach out and ask the community and see what they thought. I posted a poll on Linkedin, and then shared it via Linkedin and Twitter.
I will have to admit that I was mildly surprised by the result (so far at least). The first pleasant surprise was the talented Andrew Spong feeling inspired by my poll to write a blog post in response: http://stwem.com/2013/06/04/four-reasons-why-pharma-isnt-afraid-of-social-media/
The second surprise was that I thought the majority of answers would go to “Yes and No” as opposed to “Yes” or “No” – if anything because it is the most neutral “depends”-like answer. The result so far however is a resounding “Yes” with over 50% voting that Pharma is indeed afraid of social media.
Personally my response is the “Yes and No” because of the mix in responses to social media – there have been some great examples but there are also a large number of pharma companies failing to adequately engage via social media. I can however understand the strong tendency towards the “Yes” vote – there are certainly enough examples of pharma being scared of social media.
Firstly, while there are many pharma companies that have undertaken great social media initiatives (like GE Healthcare’s current #GetFit initiative) there are far more examples of no initiatives or a lack of activity. If we look at Facebook for example at first glance it looks like pharma is finally onboard as most of the big companies have some sort of Facebook presence. On closer inspection however you will notice that very few have their walls open to posting – Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the few to do this. This shows, in my opinion, a fear of opening up to conversation, questions and engagement. By restricting your engagement simply to comments under your own posts you have some form of control – comments are less visible than posts and in theory will be focused around what you posted. This reflects pharma’s fear of giving up control – something which is a reality on social media.
Secondly is the age old regulatory argument. As Andrew so rightly points out there are very few examples of regulatory bodies raising complaints or having issues with any of pharmas social media activity (including Boehringer Ingelheim’s full-on engagement approach). Nonetheless this fact seems to have evaded a number of people in pharma. Regulatory constraints is still the number one push back I get from pharma companies around why they are not active on social media. It is a great, and very comfortable excuse. It also highlights the fear of trying something “new” (even if social media really is no longer new).
Thirdly I believe politics and internal inefficiency is often holding companies back from publishing and pushing through social media guidelines. Yes many companies have these (I like Andrew have also written quite a few!) but what I have also seen is that these guidelines get approved and may get shared with a few people at global and department level, but it is not unheard of to find out that people on the ground, at local level, have no idea that these guidelines exist, or if they do they are still to concerned to take the risk to implement. For guidelines to be effective they have to be communicated, publicised and encouraged, from senior executives, otherwise they end up in drawers or getting ignored.
Finally I think the sad reality is there is still a great deal of “ostrich head in sand” syndrome in the industry – the concept that if I do not see or hear it then it does not exist or affect me. I have often heard the reason / excuse for not doing social media that “it is not relevant to me / to my stakeholders”. My response to that is “take your head out of the sand and look around”! There are very few instances when there is literally no value or use in social media. Certainly all marketing and communications related departments, and those relating to clinical trials, can glean a great deal of insights just from social media listening. As to stakeholders not using social media – this is an ever diminishing group – do they really warrant your total lack of attention in this area?
So there is still a great deal of fear of social media in pharma. That said I am an optimist and I think that fear is diminishing. I firmly believe if I redo this survey next year there will be a resounding majority answering “No” pharma is not afraid of social media.
And thanks again Andrew for the inspirational blog post (if you have got this far and have not yet read then I recommend it http://stwem.com/2013/06/04/four-reasons-why-pharma-isnt-afraid-of-social-media/ )