I was invited to speak at a very interesting conference, Digisights 2013 , organized by MediaMedic Communication P Ltd on 15 Nov 2013. This was designed to allow pharma to explore marketing opportunities offered by Digital and Social media. As one of the speakers put it cleverly, “ Digital media is like teenage sex – everyone wants to do it, but does not know how to ! “
Why has pharma been such a laggard in using digital media ? In the past, pharma used to be knowledge partners for doctors. They developed new molecules using R&D and then educated doctors how to use these in their clinical practice, so they could help their patients to get better. Pharma was respected for its scientific prowess; and doctors trusted that the pharma sales force would help to keep them updated with the latest medical advances. This is why pharma depended upon on MRs to market their products; and they never needed to contact patients directly.
However, this model no longer works, primarily because most drugs today are “me-too” products, which are very similar to each other. This is why pharma needs to reinvent itself – and one way of doing so is to reach out to patients directly. The most effective way of doing so is by using social media.
Consumers have power today and its best to recognize this and give them even more by empowering them with information. After all, the drugs which pharma companies market are their molecules – they are the experts on them . They need to be generous and to share their expertise , so patients will appreciate this and be grateful !
However, it’s essential that the information the company provides is neutral and trustworthy. You cannot afford to put any spin on it – and you cannot use this for marketing purposes. If you try to do this, you will burn yoursel.
Pharma needs to have guts if they want to use social media to reach out to patients. Using social media means giving up control, because you cannot predict what your customers will say about you and you cannot manipulate your audience. The digital world is not a one way street ! You will get both bouquets and brickbats – but most executives would rather live in a fool’s paradise, rather than find out the truth about what the world thinks about them – and these will become extinct very soon.