Jul2

Does Size Always Matter?

How Pharma Engages With Its Followers Online

Social Network Blog Image_EDPharma is investing more heavily in social media than ever before; tweets are up 530% since 2013 and Twitter followers have increased by nearly 300%. So far, so good. Because more followers means more opportunities to get involved, and the more impact you make online, right?

But engaging in genuine, meaningful conversations about a corporate brand isn’t easy, and it’s important to ensure we don’t fall into the trap of focusing too much on numbers and not enough on engagement. Companies need to ensure they don’t build followers just to push out messages to anyone willing to pay attention. While people are increasingly more open to finding new knowledge on social media, they don’t want to wade through hundreds of pages of information, images or tweets to do so.

The balance between community size versus engagement is becoming more and more of a priority, and formed one of the focus areas for a recent report published by Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide (the health behavior specialists of Ogilvy & Mather).The report, Connecting the Dots: Which Pharma Companies Are Succeeding in the Social Media Space?, was the first of its kind to provide insights into which pharma companies are leading the way in integrated social media marketing strategies.

“We know that some pharma companies have been cautious in their approach to social media, but our report clearly demonstrates a dramatic and successful increase in activity,” said Rebecca Canvin, Social Media Manager at Ogilvy Healthworld, adding: “Social media has changed the way pharma companies communicate—it allows them to build corporate reputation and engage in genuine, meaningful conversations with audiences. For companies who want to stand out from the crowd, it’s time to be brave, get personal, educate and integrate social media into their wider marketing strategy.”

Interestingly, companies that ranked most highly in the audit weren’t necessarily those with the largest communities, but those who engaged their audiences through frequent activity. And it’s not hard to understand why the more active companies enjoy the most engagement with their followers—after all, social media in its very nature demands participation and interaction. But the companies that do it well manage to create content that is less about the organization and more about connection points or interests that followers share.

The report highlights that although the focus for pharma companies is still on building brand profile, the priority is turning to attracting, keeping and engaging with loyal followers. And to do this, the onus needs to shift to “quality over quantity.” It’s more powerful to engage with a small group of passionate followers, whether they’re consumers, doctors or media, than to blast one message to 10,000 followers and “see what sticks.”

And loyal followers will reward companies who engage continuously in this way—so really, shouldn’t we all be asking, how much does size matter?

Connecting the dots - infographic UK Post

To find out more on Connecting the Dots: Which Pharma Companies Are Succeeding in the Social Media Space? please visit: http://bit.ly/1P5R5Ws

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Jun5

A Case Study: Unlearning

Blog 6.5.15resized

“Fail, fail again, fail better.” Samuel Beckett

I have this fear of making mistakes.

I find that I’m always second-guessing and triple-checking myself in most things I do because of that fear. When I do end up making a mistake, I find that I spend about 5 minutes scolding myself and wondering how it could have all been avoided. Let me just say that I find about 10 different ways to answer that question.

But isn’t making mistakes a part of life?

Yes. Everyone makes mistakes in life but it is how you bounce back from those mistakes that defines you. I recently listened to a podcast where the focus was on learning and unlearning. To “unlearn” means to let go of what you have already learned or acquired. To unlearn, you have to be open to letting go of what has been pushed on you for so long, pressing the pause button, and relearning all over again—but this time, the right way for you.

After some research, I decided that the time was right for me to start unlearning a few things—therein began my month of renewing my mind. Here is one thing I’ve “unlearned” thus far:

1. All mistakes are bad.

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review about “The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes.” Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther, the authors of the article, state that “the resistance to making mistakes runs deep, creating traps in thinking and decision making”—a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. I believe the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of us being our best creatively is fear. I am learning to call my mistakes “experiments.” We live in a world of trial and error, and sometimes the greatest things can come out of simple experiments. As a wise person once told me, “It’s all about where the creative work is taking you and not where you are trying to take it.”

I have come to believe that in our line of work, especially in the creative department, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace it because some of the greatest innovations have come from just the simplest mistakes. Don’t believe me? Take some time and research how one of the antibiotics widely used today—penicillin—was created.

I’m still on my journey of unlearning, and if you would like to learn a little bit more, feel free to reach out!

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May19

Wearable Wonder: Will They Improve Patients’ Quality of Life?

LeanneLakeBlogImageSizedClearly wearables are “all the buzz” in our industry. Soon our Fitbits, watches and the like will become an essential part of connected healthcare, monitoring our bodies and feeding important data about our health to the cloud to be analyzed by our healthcare professionals. More data in, better outcomes come out—it’s fantastic news. But what if these devices can go the next step and actually respond to the data they are monitoring? Can you envision a future where a wearable device can improve our body’s function and a person’s quality of life in real-time? I recently learned about one that just might.

It’s called the WAK, short for the Wearable Artificial Kidney. This wearable innovation has the potential to be truly life-changing for the more than 400K patients with end stage renal disease who are currently undergoing hemodialysis every day in our country.

For the majority of these patients, treatment is their lifeline, but it can also take over their life. Hemodialysis patients receiving treatment in centers spend on average 4 hours a day, 3 days a week completely immobile—tethered to a chair, tied to a machine. Much like chemotherapy, the treatment that is saving them often makes them sick for hours afterward. In the absence of a successful transplant, they will undergo dialysis until the end of their life.

The WAK is designed to help patients get out of the chair and back into life. It is a miniature battery-powered dialysis device that is worn like a tool belt. It is connected to the patient by a catheter, weighs approximately 10 pounds and offers dialysis 24/7. Some experts believe that in a perfect world, more frequent dialysis would yield better control, however this comes with a tremendous burden to the healthcare system. If proven successful, the WAK could improve outcomes and deliver new hope for patients, reducing their time in the chair and giving them the mobility to go about activities of daily life—a more “normal” existence. The FDA fast-tracked the WAK, and it is currently undergoing its first human trial in the United States. Human clinical trials conducted in Italy and London already concluded successfully.

For me, following the progress of this wearable technology is personal. I lost my dad to end stage renal disease and its complications three years ago this June. During the five years he “survived” on dialysis, I watched his body and spirit wear thin. Early on, the dialysis center gave him the personal connection he needed to share with patients having a similar experience, but soon after getting into the three-day-a-week routine, he and my mom longed to get back the flexibility that every retired person deserves. The ability to hit the driving range with his buddies on a Tuesday, attend his grandson’s football game on a Thursday, or even make the trek to NJ to visit me and my family on a Saturday afternoon.

Looking back, I wonder how the WAK would have changed my dad’s dialysis experience and the burden it placed on both him and my mom.

What’s your wearable wonder?

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Also posted in adherence, Apps, Culture, Data, Design, Digital, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Patient Communications, Self-monitoring, Technology, Wearable Health Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment
May12

Product Launch Made to Work

Product Launch Blog ImageIntroducing a new product into the highly diluted pharmaceutical market is no easy feat. Our industry spares no time for coming up short of flawless, where the barriers to entry are a proverbial North Korea for the inexperienced and unprepared. The road to success is windy and narrow, but once achieved, the view is unmatched.

In today’s marketplace, suppliers are red-flagged for doing things the way they have in the past, and the competitive edge gained is in the ability to differentiate completely in some cases, and only partially in others.

How can we differentiate ourselves?

For a baseline, any transaction within the pharmaceutical space is a complex sale. The traditional model of selling a product, handling the logistics, and looking forward to a reorder does not cut it. As suppliers, we must adapt to the notion that we are no longer offering or launching a product, but rather have entered the era of solution-based selling. We must come to terms with the reality that being “geared” toward a client or industry is no longer acceptable, and complete customization comes at little or no extra revenue.

Make no mistake: selling a product is still physical, but an in-depth understanding of the customers’ base is now essential to the sale of a creation. The utilization of that understanding is to align our goals to match the customers’ needs. The result of a properly executed alignment is the transformation of the supplier into the partner. By outgrowing the paradigm of being the wholesaler, and embracing a newfound cooperative mantra, trust becomes the foundation of our rapport.

But trust isn’t just a way in, and a share of the market isn’t the only measure of our success. We have to continually push the limits of our capabilities to stimulate fresh ideas, and remain at the forefront of innovation to our clients. The growth driven from market advancement is what will allow us to maintain our business and simultaneously cultivate new opportunities. With trust, our new partners will expect us to act on our promises and will be more critical of our deliverables. We are no longer reacting to a signed Statement of Work (SOW) or Request for Proposal (RFP), we are building a proactive and cooperative plan of action. Suppliers cannot simply provide a product; they must also act as consultants.

The stigma of “Big Pharma” having deep pockets and quick trigger fingers is far from the truth. Pricing is critical and partners will expect us to eat a slice of the risk pie when entering into an agreement (you are a partner now, why wouldn’t you?).

We optimize the product for the consumer experience through the ability to launch a solution directed toward a specific client and their void. This style is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and the relationships formed via this approach will be more personal, more customized, and ultimately, more lucrative.

Differentiation begins with common interest, and results in great success.

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Apr15

ResearchKit: A Medical Research Revolution?

Research Kit Blog Image SizedIn what boils down to crowd-sourcing medical information, Apple’s ResearchKit promises to turn the iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research. But will it live up to that promise?

Apple is putting the power of clinical trials in our pockets with ResearchKit, the open-source software framework designed for medical and health research. It will help doctors and scientists gather data more frequently and more accurately from clinical research participants using iPhone apps, enabling faster insights at lower cost.

ResearchKit leverages the sensors and other capabilities of the iPhone to track movement, take measurements and record data. When granted permission from the user, ResearchKit can access data from Apple’s HealthKit app such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels, which are measured by third-party devices and apps. ResearchKit can also request access from the user to access the accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors to gain insight into a user’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

Several world-class research institutions have already developed apps with ResearchKit for studies on asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Using the built-in templates for informed consent, users decide if they want to participate in a study and how their data—and which parts of their data—is shared. Participants can perform activities and generate data wherever they are, providing more objective information than simply filling out forms for their activities.

More data will be generated through these apps for researchers to analyze than ever before. For example, just four days after its release, Stanford University School of Medicine’s MyHeart Counts app was downloaded 52,900 times, with over 22,000 users consenting to the study. But more data isn’t necessarily better data.

On the surface, ResearchKit sounds like the long-awaited answer to ongoing issues in traditional clinical trial processes, including limited participation due to proximity to institutions running trials, frequent data entry and the integrity of that data and limited data collection.

Apple has created three customizable modules to address the most common elements across different types of clinical studies: surveys, informed consent and active tasks. Programmers can use these modules as they are, build upon them or even create new modules of their own.

ResearchKit initially includes five active task modules that invite users to perform activities under semi-controlled conditions, while iPhone sensors actively collect data. The tasks can be a simple ordered sequence of steps or dynamic, with previous results informing what is presented. In this way, researchers and programmers can create custom apps for their relevant disease states. These modules simply record the data and pass it on to the researchers; Apple does not store it or track it in any way.

Since ResearchKit resides on the iPhone, it will be easier to recruit participants for large-scale studies, accessing a broad cross-section of the population. The data that it collects mostly comes from sensors and other apps; there is little chance of error in the measurements as compared to patients recording their data in paper-based diaries. Even the data that patients will enter themselves into ResearchKit apps will be more accurate: programmers can put limits on that data so that it fits within proper parameters.

Although ResearchKit solves many issues with clinical trials, it also creates some of its own.

Patient population

Apple promises access to a diverse, global population through ResearchKit, but that population might not represent the population as a whole.

IPhone users are more wealthy and educated than the general population, and minority groups are underrepresented in its user base. Additionally, ResearchKit is only available on iPhone 5 and newer models and the latest generation of iPod touch, which excludes a large segment of iPhone users.

On top of that, the patient populations for ResearchKit apps will be largely self-selected: those using the apps are already likely to be interested in their own health. So can the results generated from this narrowly defined population be extrapolated to the population as a whole?

Another point to consider with the self-selected patient population is that app desertion rate can be high, so researchers won’t have complete data from those who don’t finish the trial. This will also bias the data toward better outcomes since those who actually finish the trials are more motivated to see a positive outcome.

Data Validation

There is no validation that participants have a specific condition before they can enter a trial. This lack of verification can further skew the results of the trials. Going forward, tighter controls on who can enroll in each trial by verifying their basic information will lead to better qualified participants and more robust trial data.

Secure Communication

Verifying participants’ information might be hampered by the current lack of secure communication mechanisms between ResearchKit apps and their researchers’ servers.

This is up to the app developers to implement, as is HIPAA compliance and compliance with international research regulations. Even if secure communications are implemented properly by app developers, sharing personal medical information is a sensitive subject—especially with current data breaches. There will likely always be privacy concerns, especially in participants who don’t fully understand how their health data will be used.

Big Data

ResearchKit trials could potentially have hundreds of thousands of participants, each one with the potential to have inaccurate data. How will researchers separate the signal from the noise with such large amounts of data?

Cleaning that data will be a huge job, and further making inferences from that data to the general population could be difficult. Building trust in the trial results in light of the challenges listed here could be an uphill battle with the general public. More thought needed here.

Going forward, simple improvements such as data validation will go a long way toward more qualified patient populations and more robust trial outcomes. But how can ResearchKit be made available to a more representative patient population?

The answer could lie in the open source framework of ResearchKit. Researchers will have the ability to contribute to specific activity modules in the framework, like memory or gait testing, and share them with the global research community to further advance what we know about disease. And since it’s open source, there is the opportunity to expand into the Android realm as well.

On a global scale, Android is the far more popular operating system, and its user base is more representative of the population as a whole. It would benefit these clinical studies if users across platforms could use these apps.

That said, Android has a fragmented operating system with disparate hardware platforms that have differences in their sensors (accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes), and even in chipsets from device to device. Researchers would have to account for all of these differences and build and test apps across platforms, which is nearly impossible on their limited budgets.

While ResearchKit is not the perfect solution for clinical trials research, it is a good first step, especially when it comes to to clinical trial recruitment, which has been the bane of the healthcare industry for far too long. Results of the pioneering ResearchKit apps—for asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease—will reveal the true utility of such a mobile, global medical research solution.

This article was originally published in Medical Marketing & Media.

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Feb12

So What’s Your EHR Strategy?

EMR Blog Image2As pharmaceutical marketers, we no longer live in a world of traditional marketing where we can cast a wide net and hope we’re engaging with the right customers. We need to move communications to where our physicians are. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from traditional face-to-face tactics to more digital interactions, spending 25% of their marketing budgets on websites and online media.

“Unlike traditional forms of advertising, digital technologies enable tailoring of advertisements to individual physicians on the basis of data from clinical encounters,” according to Christopher Manz, MD, and David Grande, MD, MPA, from Penn Medicine, who recently gave a point of view on electronic health records (EHRs) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Digital marketing provides us with tools to communicate more effectively with our customer through more individualized and personalized engagements, ensuring that the correct message is being delivered at the appropriate time. With new tools coming out weekly, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. Choosing a tactic simply because it’s the “newest” or “coolest” option will not guarantee success. Without the right strategy, we are just wasting time and resources. A strong digital marketing strategy is essential for communicating with our customers and staying ahead of our competition. The key is understanding our customers as well as a brand’s overall strategic and marketing objectives and then selecting the appropriate digital channel(s) that will help reach our target audience and goals.

As brands fight for share of voice in an overcrowded digital space, it’s time for companies to stop looking at the traditional online engagements as the cornerstone of HCP engagement and focus more on targeted engagements within electronic medical records (EMRs). According to market leaders, EMRs will become the dominant communications stream for physicians, and pharma has been slow to engage in the EMR format.

There has been tremendous growth of the EMR marketplace over the last few years. According to the latest government statistics, 72% of office-based physicians are using an EMR or EHR system, up from 48% in 2009, driven by meaningful use, which provided incentive payments for physicians and hospitals to implement them. EMR is now the center of physician workflow, and its data offers valuable insights into practice management and the physician-patient dynamic. This data can be leveraged to better serve patients and physicians by providing the tools that they need, such as patient education or reimbursement support. To that end, aligning with the right EMR solution should increase HCP engagement. What is encouraging, according to Manhattan Research’s latest Taking the Pulse survey, is that 71% of physicians are interested in interacting with pharmaceutical companies in this way, so we as pharmaceutical marketers need to capitalize on this channel in a strategic way that brings value to both providers and patients.

Integrating With the HCP Workflow

So how can we leverage the use of EMRs to benefit healthcare providers, patients and payers? With the demands placed on them today, physicians have less time for each patient, pharmaceutical reps, and for searching for information between appointments. Marketing to HCPs through EMRs will better integrate with a physician’s daily workflow and shift the mindset from disruptive marketing to a partnership. Physicians use EMRs for their tools, and the more information physicians are getting through these systems, the more opportunity for marketers to provide value. Leveraging EMRs to deliver meaningful assets to physicians when they are with patients represents a prime opportunity to change the behavior of our physicians.

There are several ways to reach physicians through EMRs. One obvious component is providing information about a brand at the point-of-prescribing that is of high clinical value to physicians. Additionally, according to Taking the Pulse, at least 40% of HCPs say patient education, samples, vouchers, patient financial support and product information are features they are most interested in seeing in EMRs. Other examples include formulary data and safety updates. EMRs can also be used for direct marketing to physicians through banner ads, industry-sponsored clinical resources and emerging solutions.

Marketing to HCPs through EMRs is not without its obstacles. There are approximately 600 EMR system vendors with only a handful offering partnerships with pharma companies. Therefore using EMRs is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, and it might be required to customize materials for each platform. There are also concerns about privacy, interruption of the HCP process by forcing information during a clinical decision, and the intricacies of integration with EMRs. These all need to be considered when determining if and how an EMR plan and roll-out is right for your brand.

Looking to the Future

EMRs represent an opportunity for marketers to communicate to physician throughout a product life cycle—from clinical trial recruitment to workflow “interventions.” The opportunity for marketers in EMRs is here, and physicians want pharma involvement. But it’s imperative that a brand has a clear EMR strategy to capitalize on this channel opportunity and ensure we are providing a fully integrated communications plan.

 

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Feb6

Expensive medicines and where it’s all going?

Aussie Blog Image2The Australian Commonwealth spending on PBS drugs is currently around $9 billion AUD per annum.  It is forecast to be over $15 billion by 2023. We are seeing this upward trend due to the increasing incidence of chronic illnesses and conditions, the ageing population of Australia and the cost of new PBS medications.

We know the hurdle to getting drugs listed on the PBS is higher than ever.  But when they get listed why are these medications so expensive for governments and should we listen to those criticising the Pharmaceutical Companies who discover, commercialise and manufacturer these medications?

Bruce Booth wrote an interesting article recently on Forbes.com where he looked at two very different calculations around the total cost of drug development.  All things equal, and dipping into a Tufts Centre for the Study for Drug Development, it looks like the cost is now upwards on $2 billion USD per drug.  That’s huge by anyones standards.  But consider the journey to approval.

  • It takes an average of 10 years to bring a discovery to the approval stage.
  • Only 8% of drug candidates make it from discovery to the market – and that’s regulatory approval not reimbursement.  Reimbursement is a further stumbling block.
  • The cost of failures is the largest part of the overall cost in this analysis.

70% of the calculated cost of developing a new drug is that cost associated with the failures along the way. In a good article, Booth suggests we need to do things better, faster and cheaper.

I tend to agree. New technologies and the digital world we live in should mean we can share new information, new clinical data and new treatments more rapidly. Most products in the drug-pipeline are now complex, highly technical and often target new pathways and therefor HCPs will need to have a more in-depth understanding of the mechanism of action and science behind these innovative compounds and classes of drugs.

The other question is how can the ‘Big Data’ we keep reading about help us develop the right products for the right patients in a healthcare landscape that is constantly changing and evolving?  A load of patient, HCP and product data itself won’t help us.  We need to be able to analyse and sift through it to find meaningful truths and insights that change the way we develop and commercialise new medicines.  This will make a difference.

 

Originally published on Ogilvy CommonHealth Australia’s blog: http://www.ogilvycommonhealth.com.au/blog

 

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Jan21

How to Have Your Digital Gadgets and Sleep Too

Haley Dix Blog Thumbnail SmallI am not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I thought maybe I should go back to using a regular alarm clock and turn my digital devices off an hour before going to bed. Recent studies have proven that our beloved electronics may hinder sleep.

Although this resolution could be quite beneficial, I couldn’t help thinking about the following:

“What if I miss a breaking news alert from CNN?”
“What if I don’t respond to a time-sensitive text?”
“What if Beyoncé releases another album on Instagram at midnight?

I guess you can say I have a slight case of “Fear of Missing Out,” popularly known as FOMO. Aside from these hypothetical scenarios, you may find yourself experiencing work-related FOMO. It’s no secret that many of us use electronics to sift through emails or work-related checklists one last time before turning off the lights. Although those 30 minutes at 10 PM on Microsoft Outlook seem harmless, your production of melatonin can be effected. The blue light within electronics can increase brain activity and prevent the pineal gland from releasing melatonin hours before bedtime. This results in your body fighting off the feeling of being tired. While it is advantageous to have your devices on at work to increase alertness, if your goal is rest, blue lights can become the enemy.

So how can we enjoy technology and still gain quality rest?

The idea is gaining momentum worldwide—in 2013, Germany implemented a new practice, discouraging employees from sending work emails after hours, except in cases of emergencies. In 2014, France took to the trend, encouraging employees to turn off their phones and refrain from checking email after their work is complete. Companies such as Volkswagen, Google and Facebook have also made efforts in discouraging late-night email correspondence.

Perhaps we can impose some discipline on our social interactions, but it could be hard to enforce digital abstinence, for example, when you are working on a pitch. But we can still make an effort to promote more healthful digital habits for our teams and ourselves. Perhaps you can set an “email silence” time with your team after jobs are no longer routing for the night. Or insist on a phone call if an emergency arises, rather than constantly trading email. Anything to avoid staring at the blue light into the late hours of the night.

So whether your FOMO is attributed to social or work activities, making a few minor changes can help you enjoy your device and not compromise resting. You may even fall in love with, dare I say, paperback books again in the quest to take small breaks from your gadgets. If so, author Ann Droyd offers a humorous quick read titled Goodnight iPad that could bring a chuckle the next time you see one of your blue-light glowing friends.

If you’re not ready to go cold turkey and find yourself having a hard time being pried away from the phone or tablet, try f.lux. This program can be downloaded to your electronic devices and uses warmer lights instead of blue lights, to help the production of melatonin remain uninterrupted. With this work-around, you may be able to watch episodes of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, sift through the week’s sports rankings, meander through Pinterest recipes for quinoa, and even pay Microsoft Outlook a visit. Just make sure you and your digital gadgets can say, “Good night.”

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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 agency life, Clients, Culture, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Networking, Public Relations | 2 Responses
Oct22

Epic Tales of Marketing Storytelling

Story Telling BLOGStorytelling in marketing isn’t new. In fact, brand stories have anchored some of the best marketing, advertising, and public relations campaigns since the invention of, well, brands.

Marketers love stories, and not just because stories position their brand in a positive scenario. Us marketing types are creative and want to express ideas and touch emotions. We want to motivate and inspire and engage on a level that transcends a sale. We want to be storytellers.

There’s that, and then there’s what we actually end up doing.

Look, we love our brands. Really and truly. We spend hours thinking about how to get other people to love them the way we do. We get mugs and t-shirts printed that feature our logos.

So why do we end up telling such lame marketing stories? Maybe it’s because we’re not thinking about what makes a great story.

Let’s consider two important points about storytelling, one about marketing stories, and analyze them all through the lens of a blockbuster movie.

  1. Stories are about people, not events, or objects.
  2. Stories are about people’s problems and how those problems get resolved.
  3. Marketing stories should be about solving people’s problems.

Let’s unpack these three simple points and talk about what they mean for us as healthcare communicators.

 

Stories Are About People

You can tell a story about an unsinkable ship that sinks, and it’s very interesting and ironic. Or you can tell a story about Rose and Jack and their tragic love affair, and you have Titanic.

The first one is an interesting historical story, but the second one is about storytelling. Titanic took an epic event (with an ending we already knew) and made it about people. There were 2,223 passengers on the Titanic, but in the end, we cared about two people. Two.

Titanic worked because it established the main characters as people. You cared about them deeply. And when the inevitable end approached, you hoped for their safety, since you knew that at least some people survived the Titanic.

Highly simplified? Sure, but you know that a story about a ship that sinks is only as interesting as the people who survived and those who perished. It’s a people story, not a boat story.

 

Stories Are About People’s Problems

Jack and Rose clearly have a few problems, which is important. Without conflict, there’s really no story. Conflict raises the stakes and makes a story interesting.

Once we’re invested in the characters, we’re rooting for their survival. We care about the people and want them to survive, fall in love, and share this epic story. For a while there, we think they might just make it.

We know what happens to the ship, which is historically significant. We care about the people on the ship, but not the wealthy investors who made it.

The only stories that matter are about the people trying to survive. Once the characters are established, then the conflicts and resolution matter. If you set up a character, establish what they want, and create conflict, you have the basic building blocks of a story. Your reader or viewer will want to know how they resolve the conflicts. This creates tension and interest.

 

Marketing Stories Should Be About Solving People’s Problems

Titanic could have been a fictional film about an epic rescue. A modern Hollywood version might have featured a dramatic, climactic scene where Jack and Rose escape just as the Titanic sinks to a watery grave. With explosions, a smart-aleck kid, and a dog. And more explosions.

Audiences are wired for happy endings. We want the hero to survive. We want to see the villain get proper comeuppance. We want all of the loose ends to be tied up. We like to release endorphins.

In an ultramodern version, the hero might save the day in a Dodge Hellcat. We’d be okay with that and would even forgive the product placement if it worked for the story.

 

What It Means for Pharma Marketers

If Titanic teaches us anything, it’s that you can find a compelling, relatable story almost anywhere. Great writing, acting, and directing made you care about the people and their problems. You knew exactly what happened with the Titanic voyage, and yet you stuck around for 194 minutes to see how the STORY ended.

In pharma, we are dealing with life and death and health and conflict and resolution and hope and everything else that makes a great story. It’s all right there. From the scientist who toiled in a lab to create a new molecule to the patient with an untreatable disease. The clinical trials and the brave patients with nothing to lose. It’s the doctor willing to try a new drug on a desperate patient. Every step of the process has a dramatic story about people who overcome challenges to reach a goal.

It makes that little pill sitting in the palm of your hand more than just a brand. It highlights will, determination, and effort to bring this pill to market—something of a modern miracle.

Pharma marketers who want to tell a compelling marketing story are often skipping over the really interesting parts of storytelling. We spend so much time talking about the facts that we forget sometimes to talk about what it means to people. Behind every treatment, there are hundreds of amazing human stories that will never be told.

We are fortunate to be in a business where we actually get to help people. The products and solutions that we represent can change lives or even save lives. You are part of a chain of important people who are aligned to get the right treatments in the hands of someone very important. Every patient matters to someone, and we’re part of a treatment that matters deeply to them personally.

We have a responsibility to accurately explain how our drugs work, how they are dosed, and what kinds of side effects patients can expect. We’re very good at fact-based communications. There’s always a need for clear articulation of features and benefits, and we’ll never stop doing that.

But we are in the health-behavior business. We’re in an industry where early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. We can tell stories that will help motivate people to talk to a healthcare professional, learn about their treatments, and be compliant with their doctors’ recommendations. Facts and figures may work for some patients, but for others, not so much. If straight ol’ facts motivated people, we’d have 100% compliance.

Storytelling is the bridge from understanding to motivation. It’s the missing link between feeling a lump and seeing a doctor. It’s the difference between taking medication as prescribed and taking a drug holiday.

We know great stories and can learn how to be more effective storytellers. But we need to go beyond the label…to dig deeper to show how real people with real problems are being helped by our brands. We don’t even need to create fictional characters. We have patients, caregivers, doctors, researchers right in front of us, ready to tell their story.

Not too long ago, our team had the opportunity to interview the scientists who have dedicated their careers to cure cancer. These are top researchers with multiple degrees, and they could work anywhere in the world. Yet, they have devoted their considerable brain power to looking for a cure to cancer. It was amazing to sit with them and hear their personal stories. These scientists could do almost anything with their careers, yet something deeply personal brought them to the research bench in an attempt to cure cancer.

Every one of those scientists has a fascinating personal story that fuels their professional passion. As readers and viewers, we love stories about dedication, focus, and vision. We devour these “genius who changed the world” stories, yet we rarely articulate them as part of the brand story. These behind-the-scenes stories should be part of the unique brand narrative.

If you love your brand, and you know that you do, find the stories that matter. There are amazing, true stories on both sides of the exam table. Introduce the world to these people and help them tell their stories. If they are alive today because of your brand, let them tell their own story. We will care, we will be motivated, and we will take action.

Great stories have started revolutions and toppled governments. Stories have inspired people to take action, to pursue their dreams, or to just improve their own lives. Storytelling is at the root of our human experience.

Behavior is not static. It can be changed, but we need to give people motivation. Great storytellers know how to create characters, articulate their motivation, and put them into a conflict where they must make a decision.

Health behavior is not static either. We can find the stories that will touch people on an emotional level, engage them, and get them to take action. And that may be something as simple as taking your prescription every day.

It’s time to start telling better stories. Lives depend on it.

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