Those of you that have read this blog more than once know that I have been beating the Return on Health (ROH) mantra lately when it comes to pharmaceutical social media. The thought is that far too many social media programs start by considering how they will extract value and not how they can add value.
That’s a misaligned process. Instead, marketers need to start by focusing on the patient with an eye toward how their interactions will enable access to more information and better health outcomes. That’s the value you bring to the able as a pharma marketer. That doesn’t mean you ignore your ultimate goal of building a brand that drives more revenue. But instead of starting off with that at the forefront, you rely on a marketing principle that fosters long-term and authentic engagement. It’s a significant shift in thinking but one that is critical if social media ever hopes to gain widespread adoption by pharmaceutical companies.
That shift in thinking is needed across the board and includes things like our fixation with adverse events and off-label usage. I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to handle these very important issues in pharmaceutical marketing. And we should continue to give careful consideration to where they fit into a social engagement strategy. Dismissing AEs and off-label usage discussion as non issues demonstrates a clear lack of perspective. These topics remain at the forefront of every pharmaceutical legal, compliance and regulatory department, and thus should remain a part of our conversation.
But we shouldn’t limit our discussion to solely focus on how to navigate the issues of adverse events and off-label usage in social media. Why? Because focusing the conversation in this area relegates the patient to the sidelines. How many patients know what an adverse event is and even realize they are discussing off-label uses for a particular drug? I would venture to guess is it a very small minority. These types of issues, though important, are really geared at how a company can limit its liability with regulatory bodies. It’s a necessary step and a conversation that needs to occur, but perhaps not at “stage one.”
The better approach would be to work from the patient out. As pharmaceutical marketers, first ask yourself if there is a concrete reason for you to be engaged in social media. If the answer is no—stop there. Go no further. Starting off the discussion focused on adverse events and off-label usage reverse engineers the process. It starts with a company-centric point of view and eventually finds its way to the patient.
Successful engagements will start with the patient in mind and incorporate regulatory planning only if the first criterion is met.