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


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.  

Given this, I’ve come up with a counterproposal focusing on four digital activities pharmaceutical companies MUST engage in this year (or because we’re getting into the planning season) or in 2010.

1. Develop solid social media monitoring policies and procedures that:

-Enable executives in marketing, analytics, competitive intelligence and research and development to:

**Understand unmet patient needs and (potentially) shift R&D efforts to take advantage of these learnings.
**Determine when “noise” about adverse events might merit a full-fledged clinical trial to determine the extent of the problem -- an initial step might be to adapt procedures used in call center management to social so that people feel comfortable looking for this information.
**Figure out when and how stakeholder responses to competitor or company-initiated marketing efforts should shape decisions about short-and long-term corporate or brand strategy.

2. Decide whether using a specific social technology is worth the effort – i.e., is it truly a good fit for the company? And, if the answer is yes, commit to building relationships with stakeholders using these tools over the long term rather than on a year-to-year basis.

3. Determine how and why social should be integrated with other digital and traditional marketing tools, including mobile, public relations, advertising and corporate communications.  

4. Finally, if company leadership is truly interested in convincing management that social technologies are important, develop immersion programs designed to ensure they are familiar with and understand how and why these technologies are critical – for themselves, the company and key stakeholder groups.

I should say that I wouldn’t be writing this post if Richman hadn’t gotten my creative juices flowing.  However, if we’re going to have a debate about whether and how pharma should be  using social technologies, let’s get the strategic stuff right first rather than focusing on tactics or specific tools.

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4 Comments/Trackbacks


Jonathan here. You're totally right. My post wasn't about strategies and did focus on tactics. That's why I called it "marketing ideas." That's all they were. The point of the post was just to show that there's more out there than simply social media. I'm guessing most brand managers in pharma haven't considered any of these. Once you start to think about what's possible, then you're free to start creating more holistic strategies. That wasn't the point of my post. While your ideas in your post are good, I'm worried that too many people are focused on social media in pharma and no one's thinking about other emerging channels that, frankly, are more likely to be implemented and might have a great chance of success.

Stay tuned as I'll have plenty more posts in the near future about why pharma ought to forget about social media in the ways many of us industry observers (myself included) have been talking about. It's simply not going to work that way.

More to come.



Thanks for the clarification. I'm curious, what's made you move away from social specifically?


Some great ideas!

May I suggest a “threesome” with Jonathan?

See: Let’s Make it a Threesome: One Other Social Media Activity Pharma Can Do Now!

It is very useful and the postings are very interesting for more information you can check :

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