The Battle for the Inbox: Giving Your Email Campaign a Fighting Chance

Inbox_OverflowI don’t know about you, but my inbox is a war zone. I’m fighting a losing battle daily.

It is under constant barrage from companies, organizations, and campaigns that at one point I trusted enough to exchange my email address for a ride through their marketing funnel. However, for some of these companies, that trust was quickly eroded once I became bombarded by an endless barrage of uninteresting updates, overly aggressive offers, and endless e-begging for change. By the way, if anyone needs a coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond, let me know. I can make it rain coupons.

But seriously, as a marketer, I understand and appreciate the ease in which email allows my brand message to be crafted, targeted, and scheduled exactly how I want and to whomever I want for only pennies a send. It’s magical. However, marketers also have to understand that our job is far from over once we hit send. Our email is now just one drop in a tidal wave of emails, making it look less like the carefully crafted brand message chocked full of utility that we intended it to be, and more like a groaning zombie in a mob of other groaning zombies with one single-minded purpose, to eat your brains. And by brains, I mean your attention.

Earlier this year, a study released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information noted that the average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015, which as the study noted, is 1 second shorter than that of a goldfish. No shock there. Humans have a lot going on. We have emails to delete, zombies to kill, etc. What do goldfish have going on? Exactly.

As marketers, we know that we have a fraction of a second to pique our audience’s interest before our email’s fate is determined with a single swipe (no pressure). With so many messages competing for those 8 seconds of attention, your email is going to need a little help.

To give our email campaign a fighting chance at relevancy, we need to ensure we’re effectively communicating our brand’s value to our audience. We must first ensure that we’ve employed a sound segmentation methodology that groups targets by quantifiable value metrics. Depending on campaign objectives and visibility into the audience data, we may determine that value is measured by the audience’s likeliness to respond, say from previous responses, or their projected business impact.

We also want to ensure that we’re measuring success with metrics that actually matter. Oh sure, we might glance over our post-campaign email report to see some double-digit open rate and some non-zero click-through rate and conclude that we just did marketing. But why stop there? Email open and click-through rates alone only provide clues, not insights. In addition, these metrics can be misleading, as they are often over- or under-reported due to different email settings. For example, aggressive spam filters may activate links within an email prior to it reaching an inbox to determine if the links contain malicious content, which is usually reported as an email open.

So instead of just scratching the surface, why not look to understand how well your campaign did at driving the desired on-site responses that it intended? By designating a hierarchy of desired on-site actions and tracking our campaign to those actions, we can begin to see a much clearer picture. From here we should be able to make some strong assumptions about why actions were taken or not taken on our site and prioritize areas of focus in order to get better results in future iterations. Did our message properly communicate utility? Was there enough of a value tradeoff for our audience to take a desired action? Was the right message targeting the right people?

Now we’re getting somewhere. We now know that we sent this message to these people and this percent performed at least one of our desired actions on the site. Knowing things is cool. But as we are reminded by the great philosopher, GI Joe, this is only half the battle. Although I can’t recall GI Joe ever actually revealing what the other half of the battle was, I think it’s safe to assume that the other half of the battle is “doing.”

So what actions can we take to bring our performance to the next level? Based on what we know about how our segmented email audience responded to our recent email, we can begin to formulate and test some additional hypotheses using A/B split testing. One thing to note here is that we must ensure that we have a cohesive testing framework in place where our tests are driven by our hypotheses about our audience segments and those tests must prove or disprove those hypotheses.

After the conclusion of our tests, we should have answered some of our burning questions about our audience, which we will then use as insights we can apply in other areas of the campaign in future communications. Insights such as: people may not want to be e-stalked with daily branded emails. Who knew?

At the end of the day, we’re seeking to change behavior by providing value to our audience in the quality and relevance of our communications. Force-feeding our brand’s message will likely end with a quick swipe to the Deleted folder, or worse, on the unsubscribe list. Your campaign deserves better than that.

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Social media: does it affect our mental health?

Social media does it affect our mental health 195x130Can you remember the days before DM, hashtags and emojis? When we had to call our friends on their landlines to arrange when and where to meet, hoping they would arrive at the right time and right place?

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago Facebook had only just been founded and Twitter hadn’t even launched, and yet social media is now an established phenomenon that most of us can’t imagine living without.

The wonder of social media has benefited modern society greatly and revolutionised the way we communicate. On the surface, these platforms may seem harmless but in reality, some research has found that they may actually be detrimental to our mental wellbeing. On the flip side, social media can provide people living with mental health problems a platform to communicate freely and connect with others who can provide support.

So should we be limiting our use of social media for a better quality of life, or is it actually providing some with a much-needed outlet? We hosted a panel discussion at Social Media Week in London, where experts shared their insights on this very topic.

An interesting theme that was raised during the discussion was personal identity and the effect that social media has on how people regard their place in the world and define themselves. Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist, revealed that nowadays it’s not just the people we know who help to shape our identity—having an online profile means that validation can come from complete strangers with no real vested interest in us. This constant feeling of being assessed by others can have a negative effect on our mental health and make us want to always make a good impression, even to those who don’t know us.

Another thought-provoking point that was highlighted, by the panellist and blogger Mark Brown, was that having immediate access to carefully crafted selfies means that we are the first generation to know exactly what we look like and how we come across to strangers at all times. More and more we are presenting ourselves as near to perfect as possible, but the truth is that we don’t always know what’s going on behind a filtered online persona. Stories that we see in the media about suicide that link to the use of social media highlight that a self-curated online identity can so easily conceal the saddening reality.

While there were discussions around the negative effects that social media can have on our lives, Chris Cox, Communications Director at Mind, emphasised how social media forums, such as Elefriends, provide platforms for people to communicate freely about their condition. They also give people an opportunity to connect with others who can relate to them or who can provide comfort and counsel.

So is social media a good or bad thing for mental health? Because social media is such a new and emerging area, it’s difficult to say at this point, but what is clear is that, used in the right way, it can be a valuable resource that exposes us to information and people who we would have never been able to access before. As our panel concluded, social media is neither good nor bad; it’s a tool to amplify the voice of the people.

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I’m excited about the new Facebook Search!

Facebook Search

The new Facebook Search feature is a pretty robust tool that we should be excited about as both marketers and users. Here are a few thoughts, as well as a few predictions around where Facebook might be going with this.

As a regular Facebook user, I was really impressed by the amount of content I was served up when I did a simple search for “cough.” The results were divided into three buckets: Pages, Friends and Groups, and Public Posts – and the keyword was highlighted in each of the posts. There is also a sub-navigation that lets users filter results by Top, Latest, Photos, Videos, Places, and even Apps and Events. Having immediate access to relevant posts that were outside my network was really refreshing, and it was cool to see who was talking about coughs within my network specifically. It will be interesting to see how the results will update during a political event or a big game. In many ways, it reminds me of the way current events can be followed on Twitter.

For users who have privacy concerns, this new feature should raise red flags. Facebook provides users with privacy settings in the actual post window that allow them to choose who can view their post. Those rules will continue to hold true within the search results. If your post is only visible to your friends, then it would only appear in the search results of users in your immediate network. If it is a public post, it will be visible outside of your network. The same applies to comments on posts, as well.

As marketers, we should be excited about the role that brands can play within this new space. Since this is new to all of us, we don’t yet understand the rhyme or reason behind the order of the posts that are displayed when a user searches. That being said, this is a great opportunity for brands to ensure their social engagement strategy is buttoned up. Brands need to be ultra-focused on creating relevant content on their feeds that is keyword-rich, and that includes image and video descriptions.

It will be a matter of time before we are able to advertise in this space. Like Google, media buys will likely dictate your brand’s rank within the search results in the Pages section, with native advertising appearing throughout the Public Posts. When we factor in the Buy Products feature, it’s easy to see how Facebook can begin to position itself as a direct competitor to Google and Amazon, although I think that’s still some ways away.

Visit to hear all about it from the proverbial horse’s mouth.

This article was originally posted on Ivan Ruiz Graphic & Web Design.

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Analytics, With a Side of Bacon

Bacon BlogKnowledge is power. We’ve all heard it. Maybe we’ve heard it too much, to the point where the message, the value and…well, the power of that statement is not truly appreciated, especially in the data-rich world we live in today.

While variations of the expression above have been around for thousands of years, the core message is most often attributed to Francis Bacon, an English philosopher born in the 16th century.1 Bacon’s use of the phrase was actually in an essay on religion; however, the saying has since been adopted as a motivational and inspirational catchphrase for parents, teachers, and, of course, business professionals. Specific to our cause, we will address marketing professionals.

In today’s marketing environment, knowledge—and the subsequent power that’s derived from it—are rooted in analytics and data-driven decision-making. You might say the message has evolved to:

data=knowledge,  knowledge=power, DATA=POWER

Successful decision-makers and key influencers—strategists, account leads, media planners, CMOs, CADs (Chief Acronym DuJour)—embody the spirit of that data-to-power relationship. These stakeholders work hand in hand with analytics folks and embrace the culture of utilizing the vast amount of data that’s available today toward making smarter marketing decisions. We need to constantly evaluate key business questions using supporting data to shape those decisions—questions such as:

  • What does my audience look like? (target size, buying habits, demographic)
  • Where is my audience? (channel preference, geo-targeting)
  • How much of my audience can I expect to convert? (predictive analysis)
  • What content is resonating with my audience? (path flow, engagement analysis, social shares)
  • What is the relevant message for my audience? (media performance analysis
  • & optimization)
    When are the best times to communicate with my audience? (dayparting implementation & analysis)
  • Why is Bacon so awesome? (no analysis required; some things we just accept)

So we’re back to the bacon? Sort of, but before we get to the food product, let’s jump back to Francis and his statement. Knowledge is definitely power, and data can drive that knowledge. Analytics should be the fuel constantly feeding the marketing engine.

Yes, you can make the case that Mr. Bacon’s expression has been overcooked (and who likes their bacon overcooked?). You can also make the case that data analysis can be overcooked as well. Let’s be honest, either too much data analysis or too much bacon can produce undesirable intestinal reactions. But with the right amount at the right time? It’s a home run.

To take it a step further, you can go to Denny’s and order pancakes, hash browns and eggs—but to truly make it a Grand Slam, you need the bacon! Just ask your friendly analytics server; they’ll set you up.

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1. David Simpson, DePaul University; “Francis Bacon (1561-1626)”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – A Peer Reviewed Academic Resource [n.d]; viewed 8/28/2015;


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Helping Clients Navigate Compliant Communications for FDA-regulated Products

Helping Clients Navigate Compliant Communications for FDA-regulated Products IMAGE_EDVANITY URLS: Google Paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Changes
• Redirecting ad changes effective January 12, 2016
• Prohibiting ads where vanity URLs are utilized and dramatically different from the destination URL

Google has announced significant changes in their paid search engine advertising policies with regard to pharmaceutical products. The change that we are addressing here deals with vanity URLs, and their respective redirecting ads, that will take place in January 2016. The bottom line is that Google will no longer allow vanity URLs in an effort to provide consumers with more “clarity and transparency.”

Google has a long-standing policy prohibiting any ads where the destination URL differs dramatically from the display URL. Please note, this prohibition is not exclusively for pharmaceutical products—it has been Google’s practice across the board. Up until now, the pharmaceutical industry had been the exception to the rule. The reason for the exception was because in many cases, information seekers will not know the name of a drug, but will understand and know the symptoms/disease state information.

FDA background information
Previously, the FDA never objected to marketers utilizing vanity URLs and/or redirecting ads. These URLs/ads typically do not directly promote the name of a prescription product. Instead they lend themselves more to a disease state or descriptive nature, and then redirect users to another location or URL where they will see branded information specific to the prescription drug and/or disease state. Vanity URLs/redirecting ads are not exclusive to online SEM use, and are also used in print ads, television commercials, billboards, postcards, and more.
In March 2009, the FDA sent out 14 violation letters regarding search engine marketing practices of 48 brands. Thirteen of those violations referred to SEM ads running on Google. The FDA noted four types of violations in 2009:

  1. Omission of risk information, failure to meet requirements of 21 CRF 202.1(e)(5)(ii)
  2. Inadequate communication of indication
  3. Overstatement of efficacy
  4. Failure to use the required established name

Google’s reaction—what exactly is Google implementing?
Beginning in January 2016, Google will not permit pharmaceutical advertisers to have vanity URLs (such as “”) that redirect users to a website.

Pharmaceutical marketers will have the following options for vanity URLs:
Option 1


Sample ad showing company name as URL

Option 2
They can add “.com” to the company name.


Sample ad showing company name plus .com as URL

Option 3a (for prescription drugs, biologics, and vaccines)
They can display the phrase “Prescription treatment website” as the display URL.


Sample ad showing prescription treatment display URL

Option 3b (for medical devices)
They can display the phrase “Prescription device website” as the display URL.


Sample ad showing device display URL

All of these ads will be able to drive to pages on the or website.

At the present time, this change has been instituted by Google only, and doesn’t lend itself to print, television, or other advertising mediums.

What does this mean for our clients?
Review and reassessment of live and proposed Google SEM campaigns where clients utilize vanity URLs need to be completed as soon as possible. New campaigns need to take these new rules into consideration during the tactical planning phase. Funds can be shifted to Yahoo and Bing, however there is the possibility that they may also follow suit.

Google has indicated a willingness to work with pharmaceutical clients to minimize potential negative impact to paid search campaign performance. Testing of the new formats will determine which type of units work best with various campaigns.

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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

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Google Changes Search Ad Format For Pharma Brands

Search-For-PharmaGoogle has announced that it will be updating the Google Search ad format it offers to healthcare and pharmaceutical brands. This change affects support for pharmaceutical brands with black box warnings and those that require adverse event information as part of the ad.

URL architecture for black box brands

As of July 20, 2015, Google will be moving to a common AdWords format that no longer supports an additional line of copy and additional URL for black box brands and those requiring adverse event language. This is an evolution that is optimized for its paid search marketing solution that has been available to pharmaceutical advertisers for the last five years.

An example of how a brand might be using search engine marketing in Google AdWords before and after the July 20th update:

Pre-July 20th AdWords Example:
Brand Ad 1
Post-July 20th AdWords Example:
Brand Ad 2




What does this change mean for pharma brands?
Brands that are currently using Google AdWords for marketing will need to consider a rewrite of existing creative and landing pages. The pages that the new AdWords ad links to will need to prominently feature adverse events information for the product. This will require revisiting of search marketing strategies as well as potential user experience and design changes to optimize inbound traffic from paid search campaigns.

Brands currently using paid search programs with Google should leverage Google’s Sitelinks feature, which provides several links to content within a product website within the AdWords format. Product managers and agencies should also reinvest in paid mobile search with this change, as there is a broader efficiency with this change in having a single ad format for all platforms (desktop and mobile search).

Post-July 20th AdWords Example with Sitelinks:
Brand Ad 3

The changes to Google’s AdWords program will have a significant impact on pharma brand website marketing performance as well as the cost of paid search solutions currently used for search engine marketing programs. Expect to see changes in your category as well as behavioral changes for your paid and organic search performance.

Next steps
The changes to Google’s AdWords program will affect every brand using paid search for healthcare professional and consumer engagement. Work with your agency partner to identify the best counter-measures for these changes and how to recalculate your performance metrics.

Ogilvy CommonHealth offers digital strategy, content strategy, creative development, and analytics services for all of our clients to guide brand leadership through these and any future changes to search engine marketing and market changes in digital and traditional media.

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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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Isn’t Patient Centricity What Pharma Has Been Doing for Years?

TinaWoodsGraphic2Patient centricity is the new buzzword. Most of our pharma clients have patients at the heart of their corporate vision and mission, and say that the patient voice drives everything that they do. But what does it really mean to be truly patient centric?

At the recent EyeforPharma Patient Summit in London, there was a lot of talk on organising companies around patients rather than brands. And this is not surprising given that a true understanding of patients’ day-to-day needs and how they behave in the real world, as opposed to trial conditions, is critical to developing successful new products over the long term.

As digital channels, including mobile and social media, continue to democratise communication networks, pharma cannot afford to pay lip service to the increasingly powerful patient voice. They need to get used to the idea of patient opinion leaders shaping the future via patient-driven networks. For example, developing patient champions who will talk about their illness will be essential in establishing disease awareness.

The notion of supported self-management and how pharma should/could be involved is a hot topic. It is important to develop integrated, personalised patient support programmes to facilitate quality interaction between patients and stakeholders (including caregivers and family members) along the patient journey. The goal should be to provide innovative solutions around patient needs and wants—to deliver an improved patient experience, addressing patients’ individual beliefs, behaviours and goals as they are on their personal and emotional journey.

Meaningful patient insight is at the heart of any patient-centric strategy. Understanding the lived patient experience, “walking in the patients’ shoes,” is the key to deriving these insights. Anything else is just observation. Unless they have been patients themselves, even healthcare professionals are merely observers and cannot truly understand the lived patient experience.

True patient centricity is in the process of being defined, not by pharma, nor by healthcare professionals, but by the patients themselves. Is it any wonder that people are saying that “true patient engagement is the blockbuster drug of the century”?

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Numbers Don’t Lie—But They Could Be Trying to Tell You More

data tabletAn advantage of analytics that is often extolled or capitalized on is the sleek, easily consumed result at the end of miles and miles of data. It is an alluring power, to be sure, and the ability to see past the noise to extract core performance metrics is certainly foundational. Practically, however, these extractions may lull one into seemingly natural simplifications of data in order to provide neat, packaged numbers.

Analytics is not merely a mass of raw data; it is the underlying story being told by the data and it is the story that is meaningful. In essence, context imbues the easy and commonplace metrics we use and rely on with impact and meaning. Merely looking at just one aspect of performance can even be detrimental, as it blinds us from other motivating factors.

In fact, in an increasingly digital HCP world where 98% of physicians use the Internet for professional purposes [1], the task of understanding and connecting with this audience has grown more and more complex.

Specifically, with regard to digital web analytics, some of the primary and day-to-day concerns revolve around site performance and content engagement. What many of these issues generally boil down to are fairly straightforward answers—number of site visits and interest in specific site content.

Volume of site traffic is, independently, a rather inert number that can be incredibly misleading. High numbers one month followed by a much lower volume the next would assert that website performance has declined in terms of site traffic—but placing these numbers in context of another metric could change the view entirely. Looking at visits in light of bounce rates could inform us that a far smaller percentage of visits bounced in the latter month. Time on site might stay the same from month to month, but if page views per visit decrease, then more time is being spent consuming content on each individual page (on average), delivering an entirely different message once a corollary metric is introduced. The goal, after all, is to deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time. A larger audience might not necessarily be the right audience, and so the quality of a site visit or a digital imprint is affected by and affects a multitude of other elements.

The benefits of exploring the connection between metrics are the models that emerge from the analysis, which in turn allow us to make more surprising and valuable insights. A top-line glance may miss or overlook these connections in its urgency to survey surface-level movements or trends; breaking down site referrals by traffic drivers might display which sources of site visits are the most prominent, but aligning these sources with other factors could reveal that certain segments are more likely to convert (download materials, sign up for accounts, order samples, etc.) and thus lead to immediately effective and actionable conversations.

At any point in a venture where data is generated, or can be generated, analytics can explain, evaluate, and optimize. No one part of it should be taken in isolation from the others, and this is no less relevant to the practice of analytics itself.

It is imperative that analytics never be stripped down to mere metrics, but live and thrive in a much larger framework.

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