Archive | Why RSS for this section

An Open Letter to IIR and ePharma

Editors note: On March 11th, I received a notification that a new comment was posted to one of my podcast pages. Upon reading the content, I was quite surprised at the request and the spirit in which it was intended. I attempted to contact the person who posted this via the supplied phone number the following day, but my call was not returned. For context, I’ve posted the request below, along with my response. You can listen to the podcast in question here.

The comment:

[Redacted] alerted me to your very negative comments on ePharma.
It would be greatly appreciated if you could remove it. I understand your podcasts frequently criticize various aspects of everything. I’d like for us to work together in the future, not against each other. We are planning to grow our digital marketing community and think we can provide each other support.

I’m happy to discuss further. [Redacted].

To IIR, ePharma and the redacted parties mentioned in the original comment:

It is true that my perception of the ePharma conference has not been great for many years now. I’ve been in digital marketing for 20 years and have found that the quality of the content presented at ePharma has seen a noticeable decline, especially in the last 5 years or so. I was not going to attend this year (as I have skipped the event the past few years) but after discussing my concerns with a member of your advisory board (ironically on my very first podcast) I decided to give it another go. Needless to say that, despite coming to the event with the spirit of hoping to see improvement or a measure of value equivalent to the price tag most attendees pay, I was left even more dismayed by the event and more convinced that my original assumptions and assessment held true. (Full disclosure, I attended ePharma via a press badge for Dose of Digital). Read More…

Is It Time For Pharma To Give Up The Social Media Ghost?


Social media has been a big focus for pharma marketers for a while now. By my count, at least 30-45% of ePharma’s agenda from the 2014 NY conference was focused on the subject, and there is a whole cottage industry of other conferences specifically for social media fin the pharma industry. If you spend any time following pharma folks on Twitter, you can find tons of tweets on the subject and create whole feeds for hashtags like #socpharm, #hcsm, #pharmsm, etc.

I say it’s time to move on.

You read correctly. Before some of you go indiscriminately crazy and lambaste me in the comments for the mere suggestions that social isn’t important, let me offer some points of clarification. As it relates to corporate communications, I think using social media is a no brainer. For J&J, Pfizer, AZ, et. al., using social channels effectively is essential for reputation management, stockholder news, crisis management, etc. It’s the cost of doing business in the digital world we live in. Additionally, using social platforms to seed content is just fine, as long as you’re not expecting huge results. I’m a firm believer in a distributed content strategy, but 99% of the time, pharm brands place content in social platforms with the comments sections (or anything else even remotely ‘social’) disabled.

I believe the whole use of the medium needs to be seriously rethought. Simply put, there are serious challenges for using (and I mean really using) social media for a pharma brand. For instance:

  • Fostering dialogue and conversations isn’t the business that pharma brands are in
  • The marketing teams assigned to those brands aren’t built to sustain the kinds of relationships necessary to succeed
  • PR and marketing rarely coordinate within a given brand
  • The regulatory organizations (FDA or otherwise) will only let you discuss what’s exactly in the product’s label, and
  • Users, by all indications, aren’t interested in pharma infringing on their timelines and feeds

Defining social media
The term “social media” has been hijacked by the pharma industry, and thus, needs to be properly re-defined in order to better comprehend my argument. Social media, as defined by Wikipedia, is “…interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.” If you read this carefully, you begin to understand my point. Pharma does almost none of these things. While the creation of content is part and parcel to the pharma marketing regimen, I would argue that the minute your regulatory team requires you shut off sharing or comments features, the social media aspects of your programs cease to exist. If social media is about the collaboration of ideas and the sharing of communication, is it really a social program any more if the direction of those communications is entirely one-way? Read More…

For Pharma, All Of This Has Happened Before


As someone who grew up with the internet and made it my career I can tell you, the era we’re in right now looks and smells oddly familiar. How? Well ‘back in my day’ the Internet was just a thing. Conceptual. New. No one understood it but everyone was talking about it. Consumers played with it. Brands tried to use it. The media talked about it endlessly. Like with most new things, objectives for success were often poorly defined, but money, gobs and gobs of money were thrown at it.

Strategies evolved that more or less correlated to success. People got smarter. The tools got cheaper and easier to use while the barriers to working the on net got smaller and easier to manage.

Inside of pharma, regulators and brand managers alike struggled to define how to use the internet properly. Adoption happened slowly. Things seemed risky. Hands were wrung, and decisions delayed until others took the lead.

More case studies were needed.

Soon everyone was an internet ‘expert’ and the scrum began. Every agency, freelancer, and Johnny-come-lately tried to get digital work. Innovation was sought at the expense of meaningful results. Things had to be new. They had to be shiny. And they had to have lots and lots of Flash.

Prices fell. The talent pool swelled. Expertise was defined by what you’d just launched. The noise level rose. Soon it became hard to tell what was great from what was working. Flashy was the new good.

Now, reread the previous paragraphs and replace the word ‘internet’ with the words ‘social media’ or ‘mobile’.  All of this has happened before.

Then, terrible things happened. The economy tanked. 9/11 occurred. The dot–conomy imploded. All those people dreaming of their internet riches and piles of stock options e-lost all their virtual iDollars and ended up in

The party was over.

Read More…

The 10 Commandments of Digital Marketing

ItMoses of Digital’s that time again. Brands are starting their annual cycle of planning for the coming year. One of the quirks of pharma, that I haven’t experienced when working with other industries, is that brand managers responsible for digital turn over (through promotion or responsibility change) at an alarmingly high rate. As such, the institutional knowledge and learning for the role gets easily lost. Since a decent portion of pharma marketers enter a digital management role with little or no actual digital marketing experience, I thought it would be helpful to provide some edicts to ensure fruitful digital marketing campaigns for the years to come. Enjoy.

1. Thou shalt put no other strategy before thy brand strategy.
Too often for brands, digital strategies are created in a complete vacuum from the overall brand strategy, or worse, no digital strategy is crafted at all. Since digital is the glue that ties the entirety of a marketing plan and tactics together, anything that happens online needs to ladder up to the higher objectives of the brand. An effective digital strategy is typically composed of a group of sub strategies to effectively plan and account for owned, earned, shared, and paid assets. Take a look at your plan. If you can’t clearly articulate how your digital strategy (or objectives) ladder up in the overall brand, you need to rethink your approach.

2. Thou shalt not make for yourselves any shiny idols.
Most brands have some form of goal around innovation. And that’s important because innovations drive the business forward. But innovation doesn’t mean new, it means better. Your strategy should help you select your tactics, not the other way around. If you are seeking to use a tool or platform because you think it’s cool or innovative, and can’t identify how or why it works for your audience, you’re worshipping the shiny object and are destined to fail.

3. Thou shalt remember thy user and put no interests before theirs.
I can’t stress this enough. Too often marketers approach digital from the mindset of their own (or their brand) objectives. Users crave value, utility, and having their needs met. This is especially true online where fractions of a second can make or break a potential engagement. Instead of focusing on your needs, try and determine what your users want and how you can insert your brand or your content into their lives in a way that makes sense. It may mean you have to produce less banner ads and create more of something else. Read More…