Learning to Speak Agency

Learning to speak agency Thumbnail 130x130When I started at my first agency, after 10 years at a medical journal, I knew there would be things I would need to learn. I knew the work would have a different focus, and there would be more people and more steps involved in going from manuscript to finished product. But I was not prepared for the flood of unfamiliar acronyms and jargon I encountered. Sure, I understood what a word-for-word (aka WFW or W4W) was, I knew that “stet” meant I had been overruled, and I could expand NCCN without even looking it up. But what in the world did “PRC,” “AFP,” or “CTA” mean?

Fortunately, I had extremely helpful team members and colleagues who got me up to speed on all the new terminology, and within a month or two I was rattling off cryptic acronyms with the best of them. But as I gained more experience in the agency setting, with different accounts, different clients, and eventually different agencies, I realized that even within the insular world of agency life, there was incredible variation. It’s only been five years (and three different clients) for me so far, but I’ve already heard more than six different terms used to describe the committee each client has to review work for medical accuracy, legal risk, and regulatory compliance. And what do we call those hardworking folks who take our beautifully constructed print and digital pieces out into the field? No, not “reps”—they’re COSs, FMLs, TBMs, AEs, ARMs, and probably hundreds of other titles I’ve yet to come across.

There’s not much we can do to stem the tide of terminology that comes at us from clients, regulatory bodies, professional associations, and our own organizations. Each agency, each client, each branch of healthcare, each disease state, comes with its own lexicon that we must master. We are in the business of communication, and so it falls to us to absorb the unique language we find ourselves awash in, and learn to harness its power and beauty to shape our clients’ messages in a way that will captivate, educate, and effect change.

Still, language doesn’t need to be an impenetrable barrier, keeping out the uninitiated and insulating the inner circle from the rest of the world. Let’s make sure we’re taking the time to explain unfamiliar terms to new team members, keeping tools like style guides and cheat sheets up to date and easily accessible, and above all, talking to each other—across accounts, departments, and disciplines—about what has worked for us, what our challenges are, and what opportunities we have to explore new paths and keep growing as creative entities. And don’t be afraid to ask questions—especially if you’re new. We promise, we won’t laugh when you ask what a “job bag” is.

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Do we need a healthcare awards show?

Health_AwardsWith all but one or two award shows done and dusted for the year, I can honestly say that I have been delighted to see the standard of creativity in healthcare grow from strength to strength. It’s been inspiring, but at the same time it’s been frustrating.

Recently I judged at one of the major healthcare award shows along with some of the industry’s best—people I respect deeply.

We had some interesting conversations around a few of the entries. The main discussion point being, is this really health?

Saving dogs, a hashtag for mums about how amazing their child is, helping hungry people or recruiting medical staff for the armed forces—for me seems broader than health or not even health at all.

We did discuss the fact that it lifted the game in terms of thinking and execution, but it was acting as a guide stick of where we need to be rather than being a true health entry.

But do these types of entries make the interactive visual aid that has been under the red pen of medical advisors feel boring? Does it make the print ad idea that has made it through the treacherous journey of a pharmaceutical marketing department and research group feel flat? Does it make the medical education program that the regulatory body has scrutinised to the inch of its life look dull?
The answer is yes.

There is no place for pharmaceutical work in a current healthcare awards show. If it isn’t bringing you on the brink of tears or changing the world as we know it, it won’t get a real look in. It will be blindsided.

So should we have a healthcare awards show? Why not simply have a health category in the mainstream shows?

Think we know the answer to that one.

The bigger question is (and part of the reason why award shows were there in the first place), how are we going to lift pharmaceutical communications to a better standard? How are we going to inspire true healthcare agencies that live and breathe health every day?

I believe they deserve to be judged in a very different way.
The idea and great execution, without a doubt should be there. But pharmaceutical communications goes deeper than that. It’s the strategy that creatively and intelligently weaves its way through the minefield of regulations and treatment indications. The medical writing that’s taken highly scientific information and made it code-compliant yet highly persuasive to a cynical physician.

So with all this in mind, I believe we do need an awards show for healthcare, but it has to be very different from the shows we currently have. They are mostly celebrating work that’s for the good of man (or animal) kind and I believe you could tack anything to that and call it health.

Pharma is a weird and wonderful world and a very specialised one, so when it comes to judging creativity, should it not be seen through a slightly different lens?

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Pitch Perfect?

Pitching Blog Image 170x127“Teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another.”

-Vince Lombardi


Well, it’s football season, so what better way to start things off than with a coach who understood the roots of winning.

While football season is only with us when the air cools and the kids put on their backpacks to return to school, pitch season is always upon us.

For those of us who are pitch junkies, it is an amazing blend of S&M-brink-of-pleasure-and-pain that makes the experience so fulfilling. There is a magnificent energy that, if harvested correctly, can have your team humming along towards a victory at the finish line.

Recently, I was part of a winning team that came together perfectly, so I thought it would be interesting to showcase what went right and provide a few guideposts to follow on your next pitch adventure.

1. Don’t Check Your Ego at the Door

We always hear that to work as a team, you need to tone the ego down a bit. I’m not so sure this is true. Keeping your ego in place can elevate the work and push others on your team to do the same. Challenging each other while still respecting team members can make all the horrible ideas fall by the wayside. Remember, ego doesn’t mean you’re always right. It just means you are confident in yourself. If everyone’s feeling the confidence and not being threatened by it, victory shall be had.

2. Account People Are Creative

Creative doesn’t just mean fancy words and amazing visuals. In our industry, it calls for a deep understanding of what the client is looking to do with their product: Do they want to create a new category or separate it from their competitors? What impact can they make and what space do they want to play in? This is creative thinking, so if you see it this way, if you make the Account lead’s brain part of this process, your creative will be elevated with a strong reasoning behind it. Remember, our Account friends don’t live to fill in boxes of spreadsheets. They’re here to be part of the fun. Let them play!

3. Digital Is Not Separate From Creative

We have a strong tendency on pitches to not bring Digital in until the last minute. At this point, they are usually asked to produce a few “tactics” to help elevate the overall big idea. This is like constructing a building and then asking someone to come in and give their advice on how to decorate the lobby. They won’t have a vested interest in the finished product. Digital folks are up on the latest technology trends, so there their tactics greatly help to push the creative to a higher level. If they understand the science and are part of the medical download, their chops will be even more valuable. Bring them in early.

4. Your Medical Director Should Be Along for the Whole Ride

The science leads on your project are not just people clicking through PowerPoint slides, explaining disease-state information. Understand that they are an integral part of this industry because they bring what they’ve learned in the lab to the people. We, the pitch team, are their first point of contact, so embrace their information. Ask questions. Probe. It will come through to the client. Medical Directors have tremendous minds to explore, so if you make them your partner instead of just your teacher, you’ll find the relationship to be a boost to all. When it comes to pitch time, they are going to be the ones answering the client’s most challenging questions, so it’s best they feel like they have contributed to all aspects of what’s being presented.

5. Your Creative Team Is Always Listening

This is where all of the science, strategy and direction comes together as an idea. Good creative is the combination of thoughts into a beautiful idea that has a life of its own. While embracing an idea is important, it’s essential that the ownership of the idea go to the pitch, not the creative team. Beautiful creative is an offering to the greater good of the team. It’s a manifestation of everyone’s hard work. To perform at a heightened level, the creative team needs to have all the possible information available to them. Invite them to meetings and let them hear your internal debates. You never know where a creative idea is going to come from.

There you have it. The quote at the top by Lombardi is the overarching theme that can guide your pitch. There is that intangible bond that all pitch team members feel with each other that comes through to the client. Remember, they want to have confidence in the team that will be carrying out their vision for their products.

Nothing is more potent than the fuel of love. And perhaps a drink or two along the way to help get you across the goal line.

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At the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing

2015 Marketing Summit Template_BLOGIt was a privilege to attend the 2015 Marketing Summit hosted by Ogilvy CommonHealth and eConsultancy. As the producer at the event, I was able to spend some time with each of the presenters. I was also able to hit the 10,000-step mark on my Fitbit by 3 pm—I’ll circle back to wearables later. I was most impressed by the diversity of speakers who are playing at the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing. The people I met and the messages I heard made me extremely excited on two different fronts: as a human being, and as a marketer.

As a human being, I was excited about the ideas surrounding personalized health that we heard throughout the day—especially since I moonlight as a fitness instructor.

Among them was Jeff Arnold from Sharecare, who is empowering consumers to take charge of their health by delivering personalized resources and expert advice through their online health profiles. Melissa Bojorquez of Physicians Interactive talked to us about technology’s unique power to help people connect with each other, and in doing so, defying the isolation and fear that accompany serious health conditions. Bill Evans from Watson Health showed us how Watson is changing the face of medical research with its ability to “read” thousands of medical journals and white papers in unimaginable speeds in an effort to increase the safety and efficacy of clinical trials drugs.

Our Healthcare Startup Sharktank brought innovative thinking to the forefront of consumer health. Movi Interactive is incentivizing fitness tracker users in unique ways by gamifying their experiences to drive usage. Through their platform, Medprowellness is connecting consumers with clinicians, nutritionists, and personal trainers to provide a personalized layer of accountability to their 360-degree approach to health and wellness.

The marketer in me was excited about all the new ways data will continue to fuel our insights. Finding new ways to visualize data is critical, according to David Davenport Firth, particularly since 75% of physicians admit to not understanding the statistics in journals. Back to the topic of wearables… For a while now, marketers have been talking about the endless data streams being collected from wearables. Patrick Henshaw and his startup, Strap, can aggregate data from wearables, smartphones, and other apps, allowing marketers to draw insights from real-time human data. On a similar note, there was Pranav Yadav, whose company Neuro-Insight can help marketers and brands optimize their creative by analyzing the neuro-responses of their consumers.

We are at the crossroads of health, wellness, technology, and marketing. Ryan Olohan from Google reinforced the fact that like all successful companies, healthcare brands need to innovate or die. Companies like Kodak and Blockbuster didn’t, while companies like Uber and Expedia have changed their respective industries forever. As marketers in the healthcare space, we all need to look beyond our comfort zones. We need to encourage our brands to look beyond, as well.

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

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4 Key Takeaways From the OCHWW Marketing Summit 2015

Martha CMO Blog2_ED

Behind the scenes look at OCHWW’s Innovation Lab

The OCHWW Marketing Summit took place on September 24, when attendees from all over the world came together to discuss marketing in the age of person-centric healthcare. Throughout the day, speakers from the pharmaceutical and technology industries echoed four main themes surrounding the state of healthcare today: innovation, personalized medicine, social healthcare, and the vast amounts of health data being generated every day.

Innovation must play a larger role in healthcare organizations going forward. According to Chris Halsall of OgilvyRED, it cannot just be a hobby of an organization, it must be the core. As Ryan Olohan from Google Health puts it, “Technology comes at us like a train—you’ve got to innovate or get run over.” Innovation in healthcare comes down to courage, and we must change the culture of healthcare organizations to embrace digital innovation.

Personalized medicine
Personalized medicine is the intersection between biology and technology. With today’s technology, we have the tools to get the full picture of the patient—molecular, clinical, and demographic, according to Niven Narain of Berg Health. With that, we can deliver personalized precision medicine, giving the right patient the right drug at the right time to lead to better health outcomes. Jeff Arnold of Sharecare states that this ultra-personalization of healthcare will empower consumers to take control of their own health.

Social healthcare
Health is the most personal thing there is, but as it stands today, healthcare is the least personal. One of the most significant benefits of technology is facilitating human connection in healthcare. Health is now social, and patients are talking about your pharma brand whether you are part of the conversation or not. Be part of the conversation.

Health data
Vast amounts of health data are being generated every day, and we need a system to parse it to make it useful, according to Bill Evans of IBM Watson Health. David Davenport-Firth of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide states that patients can’t make health decisions if they don’t understand their health data. Cognitive systems like Watson can democratize health insights to better patients’ lives, and responsive and dynamic representations of health data can personalize and humanize patients, leading to better health outcomes.

Healthcare is undergoing a transformation unlike any it’s seen before. Looking to the future, healthcare organizations must be disruptive by embracing innovation and putting patients at the center of everything that they do.

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Wait Up!

Karen Rose Redworks Blog Image_EDCycling down the Greenway in NYC, I became separated from my friends and lost sight of them. I stopped and called my boyfriend from my cell phone but wasn’t entirely certain he had brought his phone with him on his bike. I figured, nothing to do but keep cycling and hopefully catch up with them.

Then my chain broke. Geez! I made another call, then sat down and thought, “Now what?”

Three options came to mind: 1) Find a bicycle store and get the chain repaired; 2) Walk my bike to the Port Authority and take a train home; or 3) Stay on the Greenway and wait in the hopes that my cycling friends would come back and find me.

I dismissed Option 1 quickly: If I left the Greenway, I wouldn’t know if they came by while I was gone. I wasn’t keen on Option 3: Wait?! For how long? No guarantee they’re coming back the same way. My impulse reaction was Option 2: Take a train home and catch up with my friends later.

And I almost went with Option 2. But then I forced myself to slow down, resist a gut response for immediate action, and think it through. What if I walked all the way to the PA and found that I couldn’t take my bike on the train? Then I’d need to return to the Greenway and, well…same concerns as Option 1.

I reluctantly gave in and decided to wait. Not thirty minutes later, I saw my friends cycling toward me. My knights in shining Under Armour! They rigged my chain and got me back in the saddle in record time. And off we went. Problem solved! And all it took was the presence of mind to take a deep breath…and…wait.

On the ride back to the George Washington Bridge, I pondered how often at work we are presented with similar decision-making each and every day. We may not have all the information we need, yet we often need to “keep the job moving.”

But how often do we end up with redos? Or missing something? Or wasting precious time and resources moving something to the next step that would have been better to wait for clearer direction?

Sometimes pausing is the best action you can take.

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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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A Case Study: Unlearning

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“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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Idea Is King, Guard It With Your Life

OHW Blog Image 2.20.15“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king.” – Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94)

This fundamental concept also holds true in healthcare communications. All great work starts with a great idea. But arriving at a great idea is not enough. In our highly scrutinized and regulated world, a great idea is at risk of an untimely death at numerous points in its life. From internal creative reviews and client presentations to market research and medical/regulatory review, a great idea is often pushed aside because it looks and feels different than the status quo. A great idea makes people feel uncomfortable. But that is exactly what it should do: grab our attention and challenge our thinking.

Healthcare advertising is plagued with bad clichés, overused metaphors, and happy slice-of-life imagery. Contrast these campaigns to the quality of the work that many creatives in our industry include in their own portfolios. The difference is amazing. It’s an eye-opening experience to see the original idea that devolved to the happy couple sitting on a park bench with a benign, lackluster headline. We need to come together as a united community—creatives, account, planning, digital, and analytics —to courageously support great ideas, protecting their creative integrity all the way through final execution. Because in healthcare, great ideas can lead to more than awards; they can help save and improve lives.


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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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