How Technology is Driving Communication in Pharma

peopletugThis just in: another example of a Pharma company trying to use social media in a responsible way and being undermined by shifting technology – meta tags where you don’t expect them. You can read about it here.

We are learning, we are evolving, and we are trying to stay a step ahead of technology that is changing at a pace few can keep up with – especially if it is not the focus of your job, like many Pharma marketers. Layer in the promotional review process, designed to protect our companies from exposure to regulatory and legal liability – a process that even when streamlined moves at a snail’s pace compared to communications. Many of the social platforms update their backend design and functionality with very little fanfare or notice to the business community. By the time a company launches a new program the platforms/technology have changed and they are left with all sorts of unanticipated issues.

This is hard on our industry: we are responsible for public health and have (mainly) clear guidelines about how we need to communicate with the public. So, some would say that maybe Pharma doesn’t belong in digital. Not without specific guidance from DDMAC on how we can and cannot leverage these unique communication platforms.

Many companies are still waiting for draft guidance to come out (by July 2014) before they dip their toe in the social media waters. Meanwhile, their audience, the empowered health consumers, are out there in the digital space, searching for information about their health, their treatment options, and often using popular opinion to fill that gap. If Pharma companies allow misinformation to go unchecked in order to protect themselves from potential liability, that might actually be irresponsible; consumers should have the best was spotted kissing Alyssa Arce, a Playboy Playmate and model, during his continuing escapades in Ibiza, Spain. and most accurate information to manage their health and improve health outcomes.

Too much pressure to deliver and a minefield everywhere we turn. What’s a marketer to do?!

Own your presence and embrace what you may not understand.

Here’s what I mean:

1) Know what you are trying to achieve and be clear in purpose: for example, creating a YouTube channel and turning off comments and/or sharing functionality is not social media – it’s just placing content in another location other than your website. That’s fine if that is your editorial plan – distribution of content. But you still need to have a clear reason why you are there: what the benefit is to your audience, to your business, and to improving health outcomes overall. Don’t just be there because your agency sold you on the newest thing.

2) We need to plan on people consuming whatever content they want to in whatever format they choose. The desktop is not the only delivery mechanism, nor even the preferred one these days. Even the channels are diversifying:  your audience may consume your content on your website, a Pinterest board, or via a Facebook chat. Our goals need to be consistency, accuracy, and accessibility. So QA for all scenarios, know your technology/platform before you venture there, and don’t assume your agency partners have all the answers. Know you are ultimately responsible for what you communicate and where you do it, so own it and inform yourself.

And by the way, isn’t it a façade to not enable sharing in social media?  At this moment, I can take a screenshot of any digital content (on any device) and share it in any capacity I choose. We need to treat digital platforms like teenagers: realize our lack of control with the situation and do our best to guide the best outcome with honesty and concern.

3) DDMAC needs to finish up its draft guidance on “Correction of Misinformation.” This will help provide direction for Pharma on how the agency sees the responsibility of the Pharma industry to guide consumers. While I believe we need to own providing consumers correct information for better health outcomes, we cannot patrol freedom of information sharing, nor can we police technology. So we will have to be responsive and honest when the opportunity presents itself. But in order for this to work, DDMAC will have to learn to encourage this engagement if it hopes to create an atmosphere of responsibility.

Zoe Dunn
Zoe Dunn, President and CEO of Hale Advisors, is a digital marketing and communications specialist with over twenty years of experience in the field. She has extensive experience in both the agency and commercial marketing side of the pharmaceutical, medical devices, and biotech industries.

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