Aug 5
Saying Goodbye & Hello
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Early last month, I announced that I had launched a new initiative called the Path of the Blue Eye project.  It is designed to foster greater collaboration and knowledge sharing among people in the health marketing communications field.  It was a risky move, but it appears to be paying off.  

We are still in the early days of the project, but I’m very pleased that nearly 200 people from companies and organizations like Johnson & Johnson, AIDS.gov, Novartis, Shire, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OrganizedWisdom and Digitas have joined the movement via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.  

In addition, we launched a blog, titled Walking the Path, and invited people from across the health industry to contribute.  Once again, I have been delighted by the response.  In addition to myself, five well-regarded experts, including Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, David Harlow and Nedra Kline Weinreich, have agreed to develop content for the Weblog.  

What does all of this activity suggest?  Well, it means that the Path of the Blue Eye project is getting stronger each day.  It’s real, serious and here to stay.  

However, as I expected, it is taking a lot of work.  In addition to fulfilling my client responsibilities, we are building a collaboration hub and forging partnerships with a range of organizations.  Something’s got to give.  Today I’m announcing that as of this post I will no longer be writing HealthCareVox.  

As you can imagine this was a difficult decision.  I started writing this blog in January 2006 when the health blogging world was a lot smaller than it is today.  I have been (and remain) hugely appreciative of all those who have diligently read, commented on and shared my content over the years.  You all played a big role in helping make HealthCareVox what it is today.

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Jul 9
Going for Broke With the Path of the Blue Eye
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A few months ago, I mentioned an initiative that I've been working on that's been stretching me to the limit and beyond.  Today, I'm pleased to announce that the Path of the Blue Eye project has been officially launched.

The goal of this initiative is to bring people working in health marketing communications together.  I'm trying to help to break down the silos that exist between industry sub-segments (e.g., PR, advertising, digital marketing) and geographic regions.

I've decided to launch the project a bit differently.  Once you go to the Website you'll understand what I mean. Some may react negatively to the approach, while others will think it's interesting. Whatever your reaction, know that  I believe so strongly in what I'm doing that I don't mind literally going for broke in order to grab people's attention and interest them in working together toward a common cause. 

Together, we are stronger.  Not only will we be better prepared to serve our clients and others, but the general public will benefit as well. 

I hope you decide to join me on this journey.  Learn more about my thinking on this project by visiting the official blog.  

Jul 1
Lisa: Where’s the Second Half of Your eyeforpharma Blog Post?

waiting.jpg Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have been posting less often recently.  This is because I’m only trying to post when I feel I have something to say.  Despite this, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and soaking in Tweets and blog posts.  This content has helped to shape my thinking about a number of issues.

This morning, I came across an e-mail from eyeforpharma, which caught my eye.  It was titled: “Roche buck the trend, is it time marketers do the same?”  The blog post it referenced was written by Lisa Roner and focused on Roche’s decision to leave the industry trade group PhRMA (and its sister organization the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.  It seems that since Roche purchased Genentech, it has moved its orientation from pharma into biotech.  Roner painted the move as an attempt by Roche to be different – ala Southwest Airlines. 

Roche’s move into BIO, the biotech industry organization, is certainly interesting. However, it will take more for me to consider Roche Big Pharma’s (or Big Bio's) version of the trailblazing airline.

However, I was most interested in reading Roner’s thoughts on how marketers can become less rigid and more creative.  Unfortunately, the post left me hanging, which led me to write this post.  I’d love to hear Roner’s thoughts on how marketers can become mavericks.

While we’re waiting for Lisa’s response, please see this excellent post from Copyblogger focusing on why we should all have the courage to be “wrong” more often.

Jun23
Support I Know. I Took the Test Day

The Department of Health and Human Services and a number of its partner organizations are promoting National HIV Testing Day on June 27.  The day is designed to encourage Americans to get tested for HIV and encourage others to do so.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 5 people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware they have the disease.  That number needs to come down.

Among other activities, HHS’s AIDs.gov and its partners are encouraging people to:

1.    Share your story about what taking the HIV test mean to you.
2.    Encourage others to get tested.  You can send a text message with your ZIP code to KNOWIT or visiting HIVtest.org to find a local testing center

Support the cause by spreading the word.  And, if you don’t know your HIV status get tested.  

Jun11
Must Read: Pew Releases The Social Life Of Health Information

 

Update: I just read Susannah Fox's summary of the data on e-patients.net.  She quoted an interesting stat from the study:

"Facebook/MySpace/Twitter fans: You’re the big loser in this survey. There is very little evidence that social networks have become e-patient hang-outs. Health orgs may want to spend their resources elsewhere for now: just 6% of e-patients who use social network sites started or joined a health-related group."

This brings up an interesting point regarding media consumption habits -- a key area I've been focusing on with clients for the past year.  Before you take the plunge into social technologies you've got to understand whether your core audience is using them.  While in general, the bulk of e-patients may not be utilizing these sites, you may find -- with research -- that the people you care about are. Do the research, it's worth the time, effort and money.  

----

Today the Pew Internet and American Life Project released another must-read report for those interested in the Internet is influencing the exchange of health information.  Titled "The Social Life of Health Information," the report focuses on how online health seekers or "e-patients" are using traditional and social online technologies.  

Pew's report reveals that while many people are consuming health information on line, fewer are creating it.  According to Pew:

But few are actively writing or creating new health content:

  • 6% of e-patients have tagged or categorized online content about health or medical issues.
  • 6% of e-patients report that they have posted comments, queries, or information about health or medical matters in an online discussion, listserv, or other online group forum.
  • 5% of e-patients say they have posted comments about health on a blog.
  • 5% of e-patients have posted a review online of a doctor.
  • 4% of e-patients have posted a review online of a hospital.
  • 4% have shared photos, videos or audio files online about health or medical issues.

In sum, 37% of adults, or 60% of e-patients, have done at least one of the above activities.

You can read the full report by clicking here

Jun 4
A Counterproposal: Four Digital Activities Pharma Companies MUST Engage In Now Or Next Year

 

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This morning, I came across a tweet by Jonathan Richman, who writes the blog Dose of Digital, focusing on "10 digital marketing ideas pharmaceutical companies will never try (but should).”  Richman said that he created the list because he has “grown bored with all the debates on why these industries should use social media.”

As I looked through his list, I kept wanting to him really get into a discussion about social strategies rather than tactics.  I wanted to see him challenge pharma use these tools to achieve concrete business objectives such as:

-Improving corporate or brand reputation
-Gaining greater competitive insights
-Forging deeper and more fruitful customer relationships
-Powering and improving research and development efforts

In my mind, these are some of the key things companies should be looking to achieve when they decide to integrate social into their marketing and communications mix.  In general, most people tend to focus on specific technologies or tools rather than high-level business strategy.  Richman has operated at a much higher strategic level in the past so I was disappointed to see he didn’t do so in this blog post.  

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Jun 2
Silence is the Enemy: Stop Sexual Abuse


 

Recently, I received a note via my Facebook account asking me to consider joining a movement dedicated to ending the sexual abuse of men women and children living in Liberia. "Silence Is The Enemy," focuses on assaults taking place in Liberia, it is also designed to raise awareness of sexual abuse around the world. 

Silence Is The Enemy started on June first on the Intersection blog, which is published by Discover.  The founder of the movement Sheril Kirshenbaum wrote:

"Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why?  Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help.  We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them.  I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world."

Please join me in supporting this very important movement by blogging about it, joining the Facebook group or participating in other ways

May19
Does New Yorker Article About “Neuroenhancing” Drugs Offer Glimpse Into Coming Post-Human Age?

 

If you’re a fan of high-tech science fiction, you will be very familiar with the concept of post-humanity.  Like the theory of parallel universes, used to great effect in the recent Star Trek movie and the television series Fringe, the idea of a post-human society has its roots in the non-fiction world.  According to Wikipedia: “In critical theory, the posthuman is a speculative being that represents or seeks to enact a re-writing of what is generally conceived of as human . . . the posthuman is not a singular, defined individual, but rather one who can ‘become’ or embody different identities and understand the world from multiple, heterogeneous perspectives.”

In popular science fiction movies and novels, the post-human is generally someone who (with the aid of medications and computer technology), is able to achieve superhuman status.  (See John C. Wright’s excellent Golden Age trilogy for a broad examination of a fictional post-human society.)

An essay published late last month in the New Yorker got me thinking about this concept.  The article, written by Margaret Talbot, focuses on the growing number of students who are using (and abusing) prescription medicines to achieve greater focus and multitask successfully.  Talbot writes:

“Last April, the scientific journal Nature published the results of an informal online poll asking whether readers attempted to sharpen “their focus, concentration, or memory” by taking drugs such as Ritalin and Provigil—a newer kind of stimulant, known generically as modafinil, which was developed to treat narcolepsy. One out of five respondents said that they did. A majority of the fourteen hundred readers who responded said that healthy adults should be permitted to take brain boosters for nonmedical reasons, and sixty-nine per cent said that mild side effects were an acceptable risk.”

This is a very interesting study that no-doubt worries people at the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.  However, Talbot is not at all nervous about the potential harmful effects of neuroenhancing drugs.  In fact, she seems to embrace their use, writing: : “It makes no sense to ban the use of neuroenhancers. Too many people are already taking them, and the users tend to be educated and privileged people who proceed with just enough caution to avoid getting into trouble.”

So, if you’re privileged and educated, abusing prescription drugs is okay – if it provides you with a needed boost?  I’m not so sure people using social marketing and other techniques to prevent prescription drug abuse, would view articles like Talbot’s in a favorable light.

I think those interested in building companies designed to help usher in the post-human age, are likely to share Talbot’s view.  After all, once we can routinely and efficiently manipulate the basic building blocks of the human machine, who knows what will be possible?  Clearly, the future is going to be very interesting.  

May14
Understanding the U.S. African Market

 african-us-chamber-commerce_logo11.jpgRecently, the U.S. African Chamber of Commerce released an important and groundbreaking study examining the U.S. African population.  This group, which sees itself as distinctly African and different from the African American population represents $50 billion in largely untapped purchasing power.  Those intersted in learning more about this growing market, should take time to read this important study.  Click here to access it. 

 

May12
Social Media “Experts”: You’ve Got To Know Your Stuff

trust_experts.jpg Thanks to Silja Choquet (whydotpharma on Twitter), I learned about a post on Sally Church’s blog, Pharma Strategy Blog, focusing on social media “experts” who are providing incoherent or inappropriate advice to pharmaceutical companies about social media marketing strategy.  She wrote:

“The other day I was talking to someone who described themselves (and their company) as a 'social media expert' and was looking to sell their services to Pharma companies wishing to use this channel for marketing their brands.  Except that on asking for more information, their world was mostly confined to blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Google Analytics.  Their response to which social bookmarks did they use got an airy, 'oh I don't bother with those, too time consuming.'   What about showing them trend data about their brands?  'Twistori is way cool!'  I couldn't even find them in LinkedIn.  Their Pharma experience was virtually non-existent, judging by the blank look they gave me on being asked how they would address adverse event concerns with review teams.”

Wow.  

The post has generated a significant amount of discussion around the blogosphere and Twitter.  A lot of what she discusses makes sense and the comments are very insightful.  

Speaking of people who know what they are talking about, I’ve been enjoying Jonathan Richman’s blog, Dose of Digital.  His posts are spot on and very thought provoking.  If you’re not reading his blog, you should.  You’re guaranteed not to be disappointed.

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