Category Archives: Multichannel

AR versus VR

This morning I was reading about the difference in opinion between Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on whether AR or VR is the future.  In my opinion they are both the future in their own different ways and for different audiences.

As an owner of a Samsung Gear VR I have to say that I think VR is pretty cool and can imagine it will only get cooler with newer technology.  The opportunities for VR are huge, from gaming, to education to healthcare.  I particular like the way VR is bringing hope and relief to patients, for example through sensory therapy for burns patients (the use of VR therapy during bandage changing saw a significant reduction in pain).

Currently though VR is still somewhat the domain of gamers and tech “geeks” like myself.  With the advent of cheaper headsets this may change but will VR ever become a mass market concept?  There I am not sure given the “isolationist” nature of VR – namely that you have a headset on which immerses you in the VR world but at the same time can “remove” you from the real world and real contacts.  I am not sure I can imagine the masses sitting around in their own world with their headsets.

AR on the other hand exists in the “real” world, being simply augmented over reality.  AR offers benefits in the same fields as VR, namely gaming, education and to a degree health too.  However the lack of full immersion can also make AR less impactful that VR.  What AR does offer however is the merging of technology and real world in a way that people can potentially enjoy together.  AR is no longer a new technology though and we also have not seen it take off to follow the hype that surrounded AR a few years back.  We also see AR still being used by individuals in their “own” worlds like the Pokemon gamers.  This could of course change with new uses and versions of AR, and AR could become something used by the masses in their daily lives, either individually or in groups.

Both technologies offer great hope and opportunity but in my opinion both will always remain more for the young or tech savvy rather than technology for the masses.  Both technologies have been surrounded by masses of hype that, to date, has not lived up to expectations.  I suspect both these technologies will slowly become part of the norm in certain situations, such as in sensory therapy in hospitals, quietly and without great fanfare, while much of the hype will vanish or move onto the next new technology.  But who knows ….

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The importance of cat videos

As I sit here checking out my Facebook page and the BBC news it is hard to get away from the whole Donald Trump thing and the doom and gloom that surrounds his inauguration.  As a staunch supporter of the environment I find myself terrified at the implications of a climate change denier running one of the world’s largest polluters, especially as he has filled his cabinet with fossil fuel executives and fellow deniers.

As more and more countries join the battle to try to stop climate change, including China and India, both traditionally countries with very bad records in terms of environmental damage and pollution, it felt like there was some hope and we might be able to turn the tide of environmental destruction and climate change.  Much of Trump’s rhetoric has felt very protectionist and isolationist, suggesting an America that can just go it alone without any concern for the rest of the world.  Whilst this may be fine for some things, when it comes to the environment and climate we are all interconnected and each country impacts the rest of the world.  What Trump does in his Ivory Tower (or indeed any other world leader) has an impact on the death of our oceans and our global biodiversity.

So … this is all frightening and depressing.  There also seems to be no way of getting away from all this doom and gloom as everywhere we look the world is talking about Trump.  But wait … there is hope!  There are people out there battling against the doom and gloom and offering a glimmer of a smile.  There are people still sharing funny cat and dog videos!  As I watch these I am able to take my mind off the potential disaster that looms.  I also find that I do not have to log off the internet and become a digital hermit for the next days to years – there is more out there! In fact here are a couple of my favourite funny cat and dog videos to help in this fight against the doom and gloom:

 

 

Laughter aside the above does raise a really important point – how pervasive the internet has become and how global it has made us all.  Whilst US presidential elections or large national disasters have always made the headlines, in the past we could just ignore or walk away by not watching TV or reading newspapers.  The internet has now made that just that bit harder and it has also turned very national news stories into global stories.  Whilst we are all watching the US presidential inauguration there are other national stories that are making global news, such as the Italian earthquake or the IS destruction of Palmyra.  The internet has made our world that bit smaller and has made us aware of the impact of some national news has on the world as a whole.  Frankly it can be overwhelming and depressing.  All the more important therefore that we also share the happy and funny stories.  Laughter is critical for our health and we need to balance the bad news with the good, the sad with the happy, and make sure that our internet activity also offers this balance.  So go ahead and share that funny video!  Bring some balance back into our internet viewing and make sure we continue to smile despite all the world’s woes.  But remember … animals can be jerks too!

 

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

 

Patient centric – this year’s buzzword?

The term “patient centric” seems to be cropping up more and more but is it just another buzzword,  like Multi-Channel Marketing was last year?  And what exactly does “patient centric” mean?

Looking first at the meaning of “patient centric” – it essentially is what it says!  It is about putting the patient at the center. Sounds simple – especially if you do not work in the pharmaceutical industry.  In most industries it is a no-brainer that you center your marketing, strategy and indeed whole business, around the end user of your product and service.  After all if your customers are not happy with your product or service you will potentially go out of business.  In healthcare, and in particular from the pharmaceutical industry perspective, things are not quite so simple.

To start with the industry still sees physicians as their customer, not the patients.  This is in part as a result of regulations but also in part historical.  Until recently patients had little say or voice in their healthcare and relied almost entirely on healthcare providers for information and, to an extent, decision making.  This, coupled with regulations forbidding most direct contact between industry and patients in most countries, meant that the patient rarely came into the equation.  As far as the industry was concerned the key decision maker, and therefore customer, was the physician.  Now as to how customer centric the industry is towards these customers is another story – and warrants a separate blog piece!

The advent of the internet and social media has led to a change in the dynamics between patients and their healthcare.  Increasingly physicians are not the only, or indeed in some cases the main, source of information.  Increasingly it is other patients who provide the answers and the information.  And increasingly other sources online provide information to patients – not always accurate or appropriate but there none-the-less.

A recent example I saw was of a diabetes patient who reached out to a closed group of online friends.  She had recently been prescribed a product by her physician but as a result of some of the things she had read online around side effects she was very scared of starting the treatment, despite her physician’s advice.  She was delaying starting the treatment out of fear, which her physician had not allayed (and indeed had probably not covered in the brief appointment).  She therefore turned to this Facebook group to express her concerns – not so much asking for advice as just wishing to share her feelings.  Fortunately for her a couple of people in the group had experience with this product and told her not to be afraid and that it really was not that bad.  They provided her with the more accurate, personal information she required but they also calmed her fears and provided the emotional support she needed.  As a result of this she started her prescription as her physician instructed.

So how does this story help a pharma company looking to be more customer centric?  Outside of the US the first response would probably be “oh we can’t talk about our products with patients so we are powerless in this situation”.  Poppycock I say to that!  Whilst in Europe companies are severely restricted in what they can communicate directly to patients they are able to communicate directly to physicians.  In the example above had the physician been more aware of the conversations that his patients are reading online he may have been better prepared to allay his patient’s fears.  Some appropriate patient support materials speaking to these fears may also have been useful for the physician to share.  In the US the same rings true but there is the added element that pharma marketeers need to be aware of the dangers of DTC advertising.  Due to regulations they have to document the long list of possible adverse events – which to many patients is far more scary than the disease!  Again being aware of how patients feel, are communicating and thinking, can help counter some of this – for example by moving away from being so promotional to being more supportive in the messaging.

In essence being patient centric is about bringing some of this customer centric thinking into the work practice.  It involves making sure you really understand your patients. How are they using your products?  What are their fears and concerns?  What support do they need?  What issues do they have taking your products compliantly?  How do you use this information in your daily work?  This is even easier to do today – just as patients have access to more information so do companies.  Using social media listening for example companies can identify what the key pain points are and look to provide support accordingly (either directly or via physicians).

This brings me back to my first point – is this really happening or is “patient centric” just another buzz word?  Judging by pharma companies websites it is real – many of them promote their patient focus on their homepages suggesting that this is indeed of strategic importance.  Sadly digging a little deeper shows that in many cases this is indeed just another buzz word.  In many pharmaceutical companies there is talk of being more patient centric but too little action to support this talk.  The regulatory burden puts many off.  The lack of innovative thinking hampers others.  But perhaps the biggest issue is the lack of realisation of just how import patient centricity really is.  Whilst the example above is of just one patient – mulitply this by thousands and you start to see an impact on revenues.  With patent cliffs, more specialised pipelines and tightening budgets every patient starts to count.  What good is it convincing doctors to prescribe your products if the patients are getting information online that then dissuades them from using the product?

Patient centricity must move beyond being a buzzword for the industry.  It needs to be embraced and incorporated fully by the industry today.  Without patients there would be no industry so it is time the industry started acknowledging patients and taking their needs, but also their potential power, more seriously.  Because if not who knows what the future holds for the industry – but I doubt it will be that profitable.

 

Patient's increasingly have a choice. What's your choice?

Patient’s increasingly have a choice. What’s your choice?

How digital and social media is impacting pharmaceutical marketing

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.

Building relationships with Key Online Influencers

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.

 

KOI needs

 

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.

 

 

Four reasons why pharma is afraid of social media

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.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis's Facebook pages

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis’s Facebook pages

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/ )

Why digital? Because everyone loves a rainbow!

A few years ago it was totally normal to have to convince people that digital was a valid, and important, channel.  That fact is now a given – and yet there are still people who need to be convinced.  One issue is that traditional marketing is a safe option and it has worked in the past.  During this tough economic times people are more wary of trying something “new” (even if strictly speaking digital is no longer new) and this is why they need convincing that they should shift some of their budget from their “safe” traditional channels to this “new” and “dangerous” channel.

The trouble is that this traditional way of splitting budgets no longer matches users needs and behaviours.  How come some pharmaceutical companies are spending less than 5% of marketing and sales budgets on digital when physicians, for example, would like to receive over 60% of their product information online?  This seems like a huge disconnect with reality and customer needs and cannot be sustainable.

HCP information preference

HCP information preference

It also seems rather ludicrous given clear direction from customers, physicians as well as patients, that they want more information and resources digitally, that we still need to stand up and argue the need for more digital to be included in the marketing and communications mix.  We should no longer need to be trying to persuade senior managers on the need for digital – rather we should be working with them to look at how best to integrate on- and off-line resources and how to get a more balanced marketing mix.

There will always be a need off-line materials but they should work in harmony with online elements and all marketing and communication elements should be integrated and optimise each other.  There is no battle between digital and traditional – one is not better than the other on its own.  Rather they tell a far more powerful story when combined in an integrated and strategic way based around customer, and organisation, needs.  Just like a the colours of the rainbow are truly impactful when joined together in a smooth combination, communications should be joined together to provide an impactful and memorable experience for the end audience.

Right now the pharmaceutical audience is just getting a huge sway of reds and oranges but there are hardly any blues coming through which is not impactful at all.  We need to stop defending why we even need digital, and and stop fighting to get more digital budget, but instead we need to start working on getting the mix and colour combination as perfect as a rainbow.

Rainbow in Sri Lanka

Rainbow in Sri Lanka