Aug26

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Dave Chapman Blog Image August 2015 EDThe more things change the more (some) things should remain the same

Many of the conversations you hear or take part in about our industry are focused totally on change. Changes on the client side, the rise of procurement, the move to digital, the uptake of mobile, the impact of social. Changes on the agency side, the focus on project management, the growth of planning and digital strategy, the redefinition of account management.

You name it, we’ve discussed it. We’ve talked about change and, better yet, we’ve done something about it—transforming the agency across an untold number of parameters, with more surely to come.

And rightfully so. Change is the constant in our world. And if we don’t change with—or ahead of the current—we will be left behind. Even if we were the world’s best buggy whip manufacturers, we’d still wind up being the world’s best buggy whip manufacturers, only we’d be sitting in Google self-driving cars taking us to an ever-dwindling set of client meetings.

However, what I don’t hear—and I don’t think we talk about enough—are some of the things that haven’t changed and should never change. Like building positive, lasting, and trusting relationships with the client.

A couple of days ago, I was on the first floor when a gaggle of clients came into the building. Holding open the door for the conference room area was an Account person.

Each client literally stopped and hugged her and the level of excitement—seeing a trusted friend, colleague, and teammate—was wonderful to see. She had a visible, audible, and palpably positive relationship with her entire client team. I thought to myself, that’s one aspect of this business that has never changed and should never change.

That type of relationship opens the door to better results in every way. A connection is made on a human and personal level, not just a purely transactional exchange. Information flow and sharing is unhindered. Confidence that, should the need arise, gives room to explain why or how something unanticipated occurred. Inherent belief in a partnership focused on having all ships rise, that success is a common cause.

So here’s a short list of some things that shouldn’t change in a service industry, especially for an Agency, because their importance hasn’t diminished and will not in the future:

  • Create a positive, trusting relationship with the extended client team—not just the brand, but Medical Affairs, Sales, Regulatory, Admins, Security—the whole nine yards
  • Lead by example: do what you said you were going to do, and do it when you said you were going to do it
  • Provide solutions proactively, creatively, strategically, and efficiently

I’m interested in hearing what you think has always been part of being successful in this business and hasn’t—and shouldn’t ever—change.

Let me know some of your ideas. Perhaps we can compile our own manual.

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Aug14

The Client’s Always Right…Except When They Aren’t

Darlene Dobry Med Mktg Blog Image EDIn a service industry, many of us live and die by the mantra, “The client’s always right.” We have long understood and served our role as agency partners and know that we need to passionately support our clients’ efforts.

But is it acceptable to challenge the clients’ wisdom and tell them from time to time that the path they want to take will not result in the best outcomes? That they should take greater risks and push themselves and their brands to greater heights? That they should not accept mediocre results when they can achieve greatness? That they should stop doing what the others are doing and break away from the pack?

Absolutely—this is our job, this is what true client partners should want and expect. We cannot simply nod our heads in approval if we truly care about our clients and the brands we support. We need to tell the truth―backed up with data, customer insights and market knowledge—and state it with conviction. When it’s out, the client will ultimately determine which direction to proceed, but they will do it knowing the potential “watch outs” or barriers to its success, and we can then work together to be armed with the ultimate plan.

It has been my experience that clients do appreciate partners who show passion, conviction and a commitment to doing what they believe is right. Most are not looking for order-takers or yes-men (and if they are, you may want to consider working with a new client).

In my office, I have a sign that says, “I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.” It’s not there to remind me that I’m always right—it’s a daily reminder to stand up for the brand and what you believe…always, even if it’s not necessarily popular. Of course, it’s critical to be able to back it up and deliver with diplomacy, grace and experience. In the end, the client drives the ultimate decision, and as their partner, we align, support them and drive to deliver the very best.

My best client relationships have been based on trust, truth and transparency, and respecting that it works both ways. There is immense power, transformative ideas and inspired problem solving that come from collective diverse thinking and challenging the status quo. Remember, in the words of David Ogilvy, “We only get a spark when the stone and flint are moving in opposite directions.”

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Mar27

(In)Sanity Check

Blog Image Insanity2Here’s an all-too-familiar story about a team in Ogilvy CommonHealth – trying to launch a Value Prop, get a label update, overhaul 2 separate iPad assets, and submit 2014 work for an last-minute award. And that’s on top of our regular day-to-day items! As I sat to write this, and looked at the items on my to-do list, I realized that I’m not alone in the fight to keep my sanity in the midst of agency chaos.

As workers in advertising, we have our own type of sanity…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be healthy. Here are the things I’ve seen work for myself and others, to keep us relaxed and sane in even the most stressful environments:

  1. Write everything down – Starting your day (and week) with a to-do list is essential. Add whatever pops up, and cross items off as they’re accomplished. Spend the first 2 minutes in the office (or at home with your first cup of coffee) looking at your calendar. Jot down what meetings you have, what needs to be accomplished. Keep a running list of what you know will be “hot” within the coming days, so you can get ahead of them if time allows.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths – This is helpful for when you want to send a sassy response to an email, or are trapped in a heated meeting. Taking some deep breaths will help lower your heartrate, which will in turn help you make more level-headed decisions.
  3. Take your eyes off of your devices before bed – I know, I’m just as addicted to my email/texts/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest as you. But take 15 minutes in bed to read a book or do a crossword puzzle. It’ll help you disconnect and start relaxing.
  4. And while we’re talking about bed, sleep – Resting your mind and your nerves will help in all aspects of work and life. If you’re having trouble sleeping because your mind is always racing, refer back to Step 2: slowing your heartrate will help your body relax into sleep. You’re not you when you’re sleep deprived.
  5. Treat yo’ self! – In the wise words of Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle, “treat yo’ self!” It doesn’t have to be extravagant or unnecessary, but treat yourself to something that you know you deserve. It can be as simple as a Starbucks run, or a drink with a friend after work. Give yourself the time that you deserve to reset and recharge.

These are simple solutions. But when we’re in the throes of work, it can be hard to step back and remember to take the needed time for ourselves.

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Dec11

Now That’s a Vision

visionary_governanceIn our business, we often help our clients to develop and navigate their corporate vision. If done well, the vision of the company is aspirational, achievable, and distinctively ownable. Far too often when reading a company’s vision statement, you feel that you could simply replace Pharma Company A with Pharma Company B, and might at times even question their ability to achieve that vision. So it is with fascination and awe this holiday season that I reflect on one corporate leader’s amazing vision for his company and his unwavering commitment to delivering on that vision. In 1994, when Jeff Bezos founded Amazon, he articulated:

“Our vision is to be the earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

He has clearly redefined online retailing, and Amazon is the world’s top Internet retailing company.  While there are arguably many out there who may not agree with me, I applaud the customer experience that Amazon has created, and I have often tested the theory of whether they truly have “anything” I might want to buy online and my “cart” has yet to be disappointed, even for the most obscure or uncommon searches. So this month as I cross off items on my holiday shopping list and avoid carrying a heavy coat and shopping bags around a crowded shopping mall with annoying people, I thank you, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, for having an aspirational, achievable and distinctively ownable vision.

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Nov21

The Glue in Life, and the Agency

glueWhat’s the glue in your life?

For me it is fitness. Running, triathlon, setting goals, eating clean, and having a training plan. That’s the glue that keeps it together for me, the hub around which my world revolves. When I am working towards a new goal, it makes me more balanced, positive and happy.

For others it’s other physical activity: yoga, cross-fit, hiking. Or other ways of being healthy: being a vegan, eating paleo, meditation. Or for you, it could be external: your pet, your children, your significant other. Your house, your car, your boat. It’s what you brag about, how you improve yourself, the destination and the journey. We all have something that feeds and rewards us, holds us together in mind and body and spirit. That’s our glue. One key to success and balance is to figure out what, exactly, your glue is.

So what is the glue at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide? Or rather, who?

Who is usually the first one in the office, and the last to leave? Who can rattle off the status of two dozen jobs from memory in 10 minutes during hot sheet? Who do we see in the corridors lugging those big job bags from floor to floor, securing, organizing or maintaining job cards, status reports, cover sheets, portal links, med/legal submissions, tagging and linking, night coverage plans, weekend plans, job number lists, finance reports, archiving, uploading files, downloading files, launches, RFPs, pitches, comps, spec sheets….

The glue that holds an ad agency together is the Traffic Coordination department, now known as Project Coordination (PC). PC is the hub of it all—from inception to completion, this group shepherds jobs from manuscript to release. PC works with every department—edit, copy, art, studio, account, business management, finance, project management, and production. If you don’t know something about an account, ask PC. There’s no better launch pad for new account executives or other staff positions at our agency than PC.

PC is a great place to learn, and a great place to stay. It’s everyone else’s glue, and it’s what makes us whole. It’s my glue too. What’s yours?

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Also posted in behavior change, Clients, Culture, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Networking, Public Relations | 2 Responses
Jul23

Curiosity Taught the Cat

6568523“An endless trail of ideas floats in the ether. You will only see them if you are curious.” I read this in The Eternal Pursuit of Unhappiness book all Ogilvy employees know and love. It got me thinking about curiosity—one of David Ogilvy’s eight habits. Is curiosity an important skill to have in the healthcare communications field?

They say curiosity killed the cat, but I believe curiosity taught the cat (plus, don’t cats have nine lives?). From interning at Ogilvy CommonHealth in the summer of 2014, I can see why curiosity is a must skill to have. In the rapidly changing healthcare field, there are so many aspects to be familiar with. For starters, healthcare reform is constantly changing with new laws and regulations. The pharma market is always evolving with new drugs and medications for patients. Also, the aging population is causing shifts in the demand for certain drugs, devices, and medications. There is always something new you have to keep your eye on in this field, so unless you have the curiosity, you are likely to miss current trends in the healthcare field.

Curiosity as a student

Curiosity helps people grow. In college, I’ve learned that curiosity is best practiced by taking chances. Each semester I believe it is important to take a course that is unrelated to a major or minor. It helps students think outside of the box and get a different understanding about various topics. I’ve noticed that the students who take chances like this in college are the ones who build a well-rounded background.

Curiosity at Ogilvy CommonHealth

I believe being curious is important at Ogilvy CommonHealth too. However, instead of just giving my reasoning, I will share the viewpoints of two others here at Ogilvy:

Jamie Fishman, senior account executive in Payer Marketing, believes we can’t be proactive in this evolving market or even provide value to our clients if we are not curious. There is a difference, however, between being proactive and being curious. Jamie states that questioning or looking into what is known is being proactive, while questioning or looking into what is unknown… that is true curiosity. When we research our clients and understand their industry, we are able to be ahead of the game to serve our clients the best. Jamie stays curious by reading about the work she is involved in and sharing articles with others in order to spark their curiosity. It is no surprise that she believes it is an important skill as well.

Jenita McDaniel, EVP director of operations in Payer Marketing, takes the importance of curiosity a step further. “The people that are curious change the world,” she said, “if our ancestors were not curious, we would not even be here.” It goes to show how brilliant minds are curious. In fact, if our ancestors were not curious, would they have taken risks to explore new life? Would they expand their knowledge to explore the world? Jenita also believes great ideas stem from curiosity; it helps us understand our clients and serve them to the best of our ability. Additionally, Jenita went on to say that curiosity is about taking chances, and those who are curious constantly push the envelope.

I’ll end by sharing a few tips I’ve learned from Jamie and Jenita to help you be more curious:

  1. Read. A lot.
  2. Share what you read with others. Including clients!
  3. Ask questions.
  4. Learn (from any opportunity).
  5. Teach.

I’m sure the more these five tips are practiced, the more curious you’ll become, thus achieving greater results, enhancing intellectual growth, and practicing professionalism.

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Jun11

My First Experience Working on a New Business Pitch

FinishLineAt first I was apprehensive about working on a pitch. And by apprehensive, I mean…terrified. I heard about the sleepless nights. I heard about the weeks in overdrive. I heard about the soul-stealing, confidence-crushing monster (perhaps known by others as a time crunch). I imagined myself going into crisis mode…which isn’t pretty, let me tell you: a lot of crying and a lot of M&M binging. But I soon learned that the Kleenex and the M&Ms wouldn’t be necessary. For me, working on a new business pitch ended up being an amazing experience, and a bit like college orientation.

During my freshman year of college, I was placed in an orientation group. It was The Breakfast Club all over again: a group of people who wouldn’t ordinarily hang out are all put in a room, bring their individual personalities to the table, become friends, and develop a special bond because of their experience together. This experience was replicated at Ogilvy CommonHealth in my first new business pitch that happened just weeks after I started my role as a planner.  Not only was I able to meet a lot of new, amazing people and develop relationships with them, but I was also introduced to what my life would be like as a planner. While these relationships were definitely important for the purpose of the pitch, I really loved that they significantly influenced the work I would do in the future. Plus, it made the office a friendlier place!

Now down to business. So, I mentioned my first new business pitch happened just weeks after I began my role as a planner in CommonHealth.  In my 6 months as an Associate, I had some exposure to Ogilvy’s Fusion system and to market research—all very much on the surface. On this pitch, I knew I would get to go way deeper into a brand than I had gone before. This was the opportunity for me to really get my hands dirty. I couldn’t wait. I was able to be part of the planning process from start to finish for the first time. I researched market trends, I conducted target audience interviews, I drafted the Fusion Journey and Blueprint, and I even got to write the creative brief—all in just a few weeks, and of course with supervision (Thanks, Mindy!). I loved becoming the expert on the client’s business and even more so the target; I loved learning about the different experiences these people had, whether a benefit consultant giving weight-loss program anecdotes, or an HR manager sharing how she chooses health and wellness programs for her company; I got to be a part of their world for a few minutes, and I felt their excitement and pride as they told me about their roles in their companies. I loved being a part of the entire pitch process from the competitive audit down to writing my very first DO Brief. It was a three-week taste of everything I would get a chance to work on in my career as a planner. And it tasted amazing.

Goodbye soul-stealing, confidence-crushing monster (the time crunch again). Goodbye M&Ms. Actually, not goodbye M&Ms, I still quite like your chocolatey crunch—not ready to be rid of you quite yet. But seriously, working on a new business pitch has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me at Ogilvy CommonHealth, not only for the extensive planning experience that I gained in such a short time, but also for the friendships I made along the way. Thanks, team! Oh, and to make my first pitch experience even sweeter, we won the business! I continue to work on the brand and grow my planning experiences every day.

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May23

The Art of Self-Reflection

reflectionsOne of the many benefits of having my great-grandmother well into my adulthood was the opportunity to learn many tidbits about what was important in life and how to assess and improve character. Of all the gifts she imparted, one in particular really stuck with me, and I have tried to apply her advice daily in both my professional and personal life.

Whenever hearing her great-grandchildren complain about something or someone, she’d say (as she danced at age 96 with an imaginary partner after having a brandy or two), “When you point those fingers, take a good, hard look at them. You have three fingers pointing back at you!

I’m sure it’s a phrase that many of us have heard through the years. The lesson, of course, is to own it, whatever it may be. To grow and learn from our mistakes means investing time to look within, objectively assess situations, and determine “How did I contribute to that?” and “What can I do to make sure it does not happen again?” It’s easier said than done, of course, and it’s always easier to point a finger in another direction. Admitting to one’s mistakes takes quite a bit of courage. But while difficult, self-reflection leads to a very satisfying place, a peaceful place. It assures growth in only the best and most productive way.

So why not apply the same principle in the workplace. If our goal is to find the balance between being client-centric and company-centric, it means not only delivering quality work in a timely fashion and being efficient, but also holding our company principles to heart and ensuring our staff does not burn out in the process. To achieve this in our fast-paced agency world, self-reflection must be an ongoing and open process. It requires each of us to have the hard conversations with ourselves and our colleagues and commit to being part of the solution. It means letting our teammates know that “I know I could have done some things better and this is what I promise to do in the future to ensure success”; or “…this is what I will change in my behavior to help us get to a better place.”

Some things are in our control, others are not. But for those that are, the art of self-reflection and recommitment to change will land us in a good and positive place. If you don’t already do it, give it a try. My guess is it will be infectious and feel good, not to mention result in a truly collaborative, collective effort in the workplace.

So then, what’s your promise?

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May16

The Challenge of Change–Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

POP flyerJ-codes. ICD-9 codes. CPT codes. UB-04 forms. Medicare reimbursement appeals. Care Management Strategy and Solutions. Formulary access. Business case. Value prop. These are just a few of the vocabulary words from a whole new language I’ve been learning—the language of Payer.

I’ve spent 20+ years in pharmaceutical advertising—long enough that I truly thought there was very little left for me to learn. How wrong I was. When our Payer group expressed the need for more copywriters recently, I answered the call. And the last couple of months have been quite a ride.

Suddenly I was a newbie again. I went from focusing on one or two products with one client to juggling more than half a dozen different brands for three different clients simultaneously. Beyond the multitasking, though, I’m discovering that breaking out of one’s comfort zone is, while scary, the best and fastest way to grow, personally and professionally. And I’m fortunate to have found some very smart—and very patient—teachers along the way.

Payer is the future of our industry. As everyone from the federal government on down turns their focus to managing the cost of healthcare, the days of billion-dollar blockbuster brands (like Claritin—an account I worked on for seven years) are behind us. Budgets are tighter. It’s not enough to convince a doctor to write a prescription when any one of a handful of middle men—pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), commercial insurers—can step in and switch that branded drug to a generic, charge a hefty copay to discourage patients from paying for it, or just refuse coverage altogether. Efficacy and safety aren’t the most important selling points anymore—they have become the price of entry to a market that is much more cost-sensitive. And patients are more discriminating too—no longer willing to blindly follow a physician’s directives, especially in the current economic environment, they scour the Internet and become educated, sophisticated healthcare consumers in their own right.

We are all going to need to learn this new language—promoting pharmaceuticals in this brave new world requires talking about our brands in a whole new way. The points we use to persuade potential customers are going to have to be more compelling than “Drug X worked better than a placebo.” And I’m excited to have the opportunity to be involved in this emerging area.

My horizons have broadened exponentially in the short time I’ve been involved with Payer—I’ve worked on reimbursement guides, wrote a sales training manual teaching reps how to use a formulary access app, crafted emails announcing formulary status changes, and edited a PowerPoint promoting care management solutions (online resources and programs that encourage patients to participate in improving their health). And I know I’ve only scratched the surface—Payer encompasses a wide range of audiences, not just payers but also HCPs, patients and even caregivers. Future projects could include everything from writing a value prop, to a webinar, to materials for an ad board. I look forward to continuing to learn, and ultimately master, the terminology that sounds like Greek to me today. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll figure out what a business case is, and how to fill out a UB-04 form!

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Also posted in career decisions, copywriting, Creativity, Healthcare Communications, Learning, Managed Care, Payer Marketing, Personal Reflections, Reimbursement | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
Apr15

Mindfulness: An Age-Old Concept in a Bright, Shiny New World

yoga officeIf you asked others to define mindfulness, you’d likely hear a variety of responses, the most common of which might be relating the term to a Buddhist concept. Mindfulness indeed originated thousands of years ago, and for those who conceptualize it this way, a quote from the well-known author Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates the point well. He said, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Too esoteric? This is far from the only interpretation of the word.

A more practical and relevant definition for business is simply: awareness. We all know full well the challenges in today’s environment, particularly within the rapidly evolving healthcare space. The digital age isn’t coming, it’s here, but all of its obstacles and opportunities are still being pulsed out over time as we answer some questions and then inevitably raise more. As if our own world isn’t changing quickly enough, that of our clients is right there beside it, equaling if not outpacing the transformation we’re experiencing. One of the keys to all of this—to recognizing the hurdles and also to overcoming them—is mindfulness (yes, that 2,000+ year old practice).

Mindfulness facilitates a more complete view of what’s around us. It compels us to consider our immediate and long-term challenges, and the resources we have available to address them. But it also encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, to become more connected to (in other words, aware of) their work climate, and that always makes for better, more creative and insightful work.

But it is more than just awareness. Going back to the more obscure definitions, it’s about being supremely present, the result of which is the ability to recognize beauty and connectedness in the world. The more of that we see, the more impassioned we become and the more driven we are to contribute to it—through our work, but also through our hobbies, our families and our friends.

So let’s make a pact to be more mindful and to reap the rewards, personally and professionally. Become more familiar with and aware of your working environment and that of your clients, work after hours at home and even monitor those devices as needed, and you will be a better, more valuable professional for it. But when the job is done, continue to practice that mindfulness by being fully present and invested in whatever you’re doing after work. It helps us all, even those who love every waking second of their job, to unplug and recharge. There are few things that clients love—and need, especially in today’s healthcare landscape—more than an eager and fresh perspective ready to confront their most formidable challenges.

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