In Sickness or in Wellness?

Surely the more sick people in the world the better, well for pharmaceutical companies at least?

But do Pharma companies really need to rely on people being ill to make money?

I’ll answer this but first some background.

As part of their strategic process, Pharma companies describe the journey of a patient through the healthcare system, as a series of steps.

A very simple example is illustrated below, however this could be much more complicated with various referral, assessment and follow up stages.


For the patient to present to the doctor we need them to get sick first? I never see Pharma marketing strategists focusing on what happens before the patient gets sick. (unless they are in the Vaccines market)

But there is a big opportunity prior to patients getting sick

How about infecting people or at least forming strategic alliances with fast food or tobacco companies to ensure a throughput of sick people?

OK that is not what I am talking about, the big opportunity is actually around prevention.

Prevention is the ‘missing link’ of the patient journey


But if we prevent people getting ill, they won’t go on this ‘sickness’ journey and thus won’t require Pharma medicines?!

I agree keeping people healthy goes against the traditional pharma business model.  It is easy to understand why Pharmacos are not spending lots of money to prevent people ever needing their medicines.

When I suggest during Pharma meetings, that their business models need to change, and we have to stop people getting sick, there are some forward thinking people who agree, but mostly I end up grabbing my coat and sprinting for the nearest exit.

But done in the right way disease prevention can make very good commercial sense rather than being a purely altruistic deed.

Consider the current landscape, health systems around the world are at crisis point, with an aging population, many of whom are sick.  The costs of drugs are spiraling out of control.

Economics, Healthcare systems, Technology and our expectations are bringing the wellness and prevention agenda sharply into focus.

Imagine you sell a diabetes drug, but you can actually help well-people manage their lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet, and if they are on preventative medicines, help ensure they take these as required.

(I call them well-people to make the point, some may be patients in the traditional sense having other issues such as high blood pressure or obesity, but are not yet and hopefully never will be diabetes patients)

The support given could be in the form of a wellness application and professional interventions, e.g. coaching to empower the well-people to focus on wellness goals, thus reducing their risks of developing diabetes.

Imagine, if this wellness effort is done in a measurable way with a specific set of well-people,  and the incidence of diabetes is significantly reduced, in this population, compared to a matched set of well-people without this additional support.

This will be worth a significant amount of money to any health system, therefore profits are there to be made.  You don’t even need a diabetes drug to make money, and if you do happen to have an effective one, it can be used on appropriate patients who unfortunately do develop diabetes.

Pharma companies are living proof there is money to be made from sickness but can they demonstrate there is money to be made from wellness?

Well if they don’t someone else will.

The Rise of the Emotional Machines


Technology is getting emotional, thankfully not in a stroppy or petulant way.

It is not so much about computers expressing emotions, rather becoming more attuned to our own emotional states.

The Q sensor is one device that can monitor emotions and stress levels. An interesting application is in autism  where it has been able to monitor stress levels, that are not discernible from the child’s expressions or body language.

The child can appear to have a very sudden ‘meltdown’ where in reality the sensor shows a gradual build up of stress and frustration, culminating in a sudden emotional crunch point.

Smart cameras that recognise emotions via facial expressions have also been used in autism, in this case predicting other people’s emotions. Autistic children, often unable to discern moods and expressions of others, are given feedback from the device, helping them be more sensitive to other people’s emotions.


The Affectiva Q sensor
The Affectiva Q sensor – detecting our emotions


These emergent devices have also been used in market research, e.g. assessing the impact of advertising. Rather than gain participant feedback solely via questions and self reported feedback, a much richer and authentic picture can be gathered via biosensors and cameras that track facial expressions

 and emotional response.

These devices have been proven to work effectively in the research stage, yet are still costly.

It won’t be long before they become mainstream and we are all using these devices.

Consider a specific medical example where a doctor is interacting online with promotional or educational content from a pharma company.

The content should already be tailored to that doctor’s specific needs and situation. The beauty of this technology is that it can add another communication layer, tailoring the content to the doctor’s mood and needs at a specific moment in time.

A doctor who normally loves rich data and detail, but who is busy and tired will automatically be provided a shorter summary. A doctor who becomes distracted could be quickly re engaged with a timely question or request to input some information, or being served up some compelling and entertaining content.

Scary? Intrusive? Well who would have thought we would be where we are now, the privacy we have been prepared to trade for various online benefits.

The possibilities are immense for marketing across all sectors.

And it wont be long before our computers have more emotional intelligence than the average medical sales rep. (Although some may say that day arrived long ago)



Good or Bad Pharma?

Reading Bad Pharma was something I saw as a necessary but nasty task.  Admittedly, I had formed an opinion from the cover and hyperbole surrounding it.

After finishing the biography of Steve Jobs and intending to read one of Job’s favorite reads ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ Goldacres weighty tome, a ‘turgid 400 pages of vitriolic anti-pharma rant’ (my book review, admittedly before reading it) seemed to be a very anti-zen like interruption.

Goldacre’s central premise is that ‘Pharma companies should release all unpublished clinical data, as we currently have an incomplete picture of evidence based medicine, which in turn does harm to patients.’

As an ex pharma marketer I had encountered much anti-pharma sentiment but at least Goldacre’s book is informative, well referenced, constructive and not from the pseudo-science mould.

The thoughts of ‘bias’ I had embarking on this book did weave their way around me as I completed it, however ultimately, in a Jujutsu style manouevre, I felt, I myself was wearing a woven cloak of bias.

I believe the bias I recognized in myself as a pharma marketer did come from a good place.  I had a belief that the medicines I was working with had a great potential to help patients, this was reinforced by the data I had access to and the direct feedback I had from patients.  Patients and their carers, frequently remarked what a difference these medications had made to their lives.  This is all very nice stuff but these heartening anecdotes are of course not data and a seemingly obvious learning emerged, it is important to have the full set of data available as a pharma marketer or medic and to be as objective as possible.

I then watched the Pharma Times debate between Goldacre and Stephen Whitehead, an interesting spectacle to behold.  They started off trying to capture the ‘faux’ nice guy ground, which went along the lines of:

Goldacre: ‘I have come here for a constructive open debate and not for bickering, and I hope Stephen has too, although the fact he has not bothered to engage thus far, attempted to smear me and has been dismissive of all the points in my book makes me think he is not such a constructive guy etc etc….’

Whitehead: ‘Ben is a lovely guy, I have met him on a number of occasions, of course we should not forget he has his own agenda and this is purely driven out of him wanting to sell more copies of his book, and for this own personal PR etc etc…’

Disclaimer these are my summarized recollections from the speakers, in summary I did not find either of their pugilistic styles constructive but entertaining yes.

Neither of them would have recognized common ground if it opened up and swallowed them whole.

Common ground there was, as most of the panelists and audience seemed to agree on ‘If’ and ‘Why’ when it came to Pharma releasing its unpublished trial data.  The resulting focus of the debate was on ‘How’ this could be made to happen.

I did raise a point to the audience suggesting that for those that had not, they should read Bad Pharma and make their own informed decisions, and that it was indeed a worthwhile read.  I did make a quip that if this seemed like a plug, and if Goldacre wanted to give me an envelope stuffed with cash, then in the interests of transparency I would happily declare this on my blog.  Next time I will leave the jokes to the GP comic chair Dr Phil Hammond 


Bad Pharma
What will the title for Ben Goldacre’s sequel be? #evilpharma #worsepharma #jollynicepharma #notsobadpharma ….


So from the feedback in the debating room, Pharma seemed to be moving on the data transparency subject and making the right noises, albeit too slowly for Goldacre who no doubt fears another ‘false fix’ and all this being brushed under the  ‘dirty pharma carpet’

I actually think Pharma has no choice but to be on this accelerated journey towards ensuring the complete use of all data available, particularly in the ‘real world setting’ i.e. from patients who actually use their medicines in the community.  As we move to the much vaunted era of personalized medicine and self reported patient measures of effectiveness and side effects, there is a big opportunity for Pharma to use this complex data as a force for better patient outcomes.  There will be ‘many eyes’ on this ‘real world’ data and it will become apparent quickly, if it represents a ‘distorted picture’

Clinical trial data, in its idealistic setting, will become  increasingly meaningless and irrelevant.  If Pharma does not release this data soon then they might as well shred it, recycle the pulp and donate it to Goldacre’s publishers to print copies of his next book.

Pharma Social Media – Moving Forwards?

After recently blogging about the GSK FaceBook case, I decided to share this best practice at the recent SMi Social Media Conference in London.  The purpose of sharing this was to highlight how well GSK do, in both responding to comments and allowing ‘negative’ comments to stand on their FaceBook wall.

It clearly takes a significant effort to maintain this online presence, however they do this very well, particularly providing regular posts around positive new stories.  These create a feel good factor and dilute the comments made by ‘persistent detractors’

There was a moment of drama (not sure if we really have drama in Pharma) when an Adverse Event came to light during the presentation.

Rather than sharing the experience in a full blog post I have attached a link to the slides, with notes to signpost you through.  Hopefully a useful reference!


gary monk presentation
Presentation at SMI congress (Gary Monk)


Integration is the New Innovation

It seems i missed the season, where multiple predictions are made, on how technology will impact our lives in general and healthcare specifically.  These predictions range from the very optimistic to the very obvious. Now, I’m not knocking this sport – if I had dusted off my crystal ball in time I would certainly have given it a go.

Clearly hibernating and late out of the starting blocks I thought I would indulge myself with only 1 pharma 2013 prediction. In fact prediction is a little grandiose, it is more of an observation,

This year will be where ‘Pharma’ spends it’s energies integrating existing tactics rather than experimenting with new ones.

Several high profile clients I have worked with in 2012 are doing very little revolutionary in terms of individual tactics. The innovative bit, is actually joining the right old & new tactics together in a way that meets customer & business needs, in an efficient and measurable way.

Admittedly this may sound insipid and uninspiring, clearly less fun compared to say… developing a novel thought recognition health social media platform that is able to moderate comments and record Adverse Events before they are even written. etc. etc.

However, effective integration is the key to unlocking the business value from digital & social media and many pharma companies are starting to realise this.

Similar to me with this post, some of the companies I work with were late out of the starting blocks when it came to digital marketing. They let the pioneers take the arrows – learn from the early mistakes & successes and are now in a position to leapfrog their digital exploring rivals.

Some examples of this thinking are:-

  • Ensuring there are defined and accessible metrics for each and every tactic, from web portals to medical apps.  Based on customer behaviour and feedback the tactic can then be quickly optimised, scrapped or replaced.
  • Customer channel preferences should be captured, allowing them to select the channel and frequency of communication.
  • The entire customer journey needs to be mapped and relevant, engaging content served up at each stage. An easy truism to trot out, yet a significant challenge to make a reality.  An example, is if a customer completes an online learning module, their responses should be used to tailor future modules and inform the wider relationship with the company.
  • Strong behavioural calls to action need to be set up and monitored, i.e. number of Doctors reviewing a product administration video or number of patients downloading a symptom checking app or simple checklist, that recommends they see a doctor if required.
  • And of course ensuring a tighter integration with the sales force, if they are indeed a relevant part of the mix.

So then, is 2013 set to be a boring year for pharma?

Well I actually can’t see many (business!) things being more exciting than being able to deliver mutual customer & business value in a measurable way.

There will and should still be experimentation of course, primarily at a strategic level, where pharma examines suitable future business models and what services will be most relevant to consumers in the emerging landscape.

I’d be interested in hearing if this is reality, is the experimentation phase being replaced by one of more focussed integrated execution?  Or is my experience at odds with an ongoing digital wild west of pharma? Feel free to add your thoughts…

Pharma’s Shining Facebook Star


Malevolent, destructive, atrocious, money-hungry, child murderers, cure suppressors, evil cartels, fraudsters, criminals, sub-human scum….

These are just some of the descriptors of the pharma industry and its ‘brainwashed’ employees, as you trawl across various blogs and online forums.

OK, I have focused on the negative, but it is the fear of these negative adjectives, that often prevents pharma companies allowing public comments on their sites and engaging in social media.

It is not actually a fear of regulations.  These adjectives could legitimately appear on a pharma owned site, without any regulatory or legal issues.

It is just they are not very nice, so why would pharma want them posted on their online property?

If these, less than appealing, sentiments appear on sites not owned by a pharmaceutical company, they can simply bury their collective heads in the social media quick sand and pretend they don’t exist.

One company that has an interesting and forward-thinking approach to negative commentary, is GSK.  They have a corporate FaceBook page and are pretty laissez-faire in terms of what can be posted (as long as it does not breach healthcare regulations)

I was speaking at a congress in the summer, highlighting the GSK Facebook page, which was taking a verbal assault at the time.

GSK had posted a link highlighting the need to ensure access to medicines for all children, regardless of 1st,2nd or 3rd world status.  A pretty reasonable aspiration you may think, well here are some of the negative comments that fed through to their page.

That is fairly strong language to allow on your own site.  It is interesting over 3 months later and the above comments are still resident in the GSK space.

The abuse went on, turning even nastier…

After a recent review I could not find the ‘M Kumar’ comment.  It may have been deleted, the user retracted it (maybe unlikely) or I somehow missed it.

If it was deleted by GSK, I don’t know the why, maybe a legal reason or the fact it was more vitriolic than most.   It may have been too much, even for GSKs Social Media liberal stomach.

Actually with the amount of positive news on the FaceBook page, they need not have worried.

GSK are so effective at posting new content (either daily or several times a week) this toxic post would have been buried, like a virtual ‘dirty fish & chip wrapper’ under the torrent of significant ‘new news’ and positive comments.

Positive comments you may ask?! Well yes things got better…

In fact the above comments are a one sided selection, at the time GSK also had many defenders, most either current or past employees.

The summer followed with GSK leveraging its Olympic Sponsorship to surf on a wave of public goodwill.  The vast majority of comments were positive, both to the Team GB Olympians and GSK.

There were a few cynics (one responding to a GSK post on Team GB Bronze Medal Gymnast – Beth Tweddle, one of the anti-doping ambassadors)

GSK elected to respond selectively to negative comments, they tended to ignore those who just wanted to attack.  The example below shows some advice offered to a ‘negative commentator’ (or in more human language a ‘frustrated patient’)

GSK also have responded to comments on the thorny subject of animal testing meaning they can put the GSK & wider industry point of view, across to the public.

Recently comments have been largely positive.

The key take home message is that if you cultivate a positive & supportive community, it can overcome negative online comments and outright attacks.

Actually having a mix of detractors and defenders, with suitable & timely responses from the company intermingled, gives a more realistic view and actually allows the company to show its human face.  It shows a company proud of what it does and prepared to embrace opinion from all sides of the argument.

If all negative comments were to be deleted, this would be weaker, showing a Stalinistic veneer of positivity.  A corporate machine tries to mask criticism, human beings channel it, and where appropriate respond.

Note that a 2011 survey shows GSK’s reputation is improving, while the Pharma Industry’s is falling.  GSK’s approach to online engagement can surely only enhance that standing.

Not having spoken to GSK about this project, I don’t know what their objectives were.  I would speculate they were indeed around building trust and engagement, and that GSK are probably happy with the results.

Individual Pharma companies have to decide, if there is indeed, a business case for social media engagement.

If there is, then the required action, is to be brave and go for it. As GSK have demonstrated, with the right planning and approach, there is nothing to be scared of.

Gary Monk and 2Rs SEO war

I Googled my name recently.

Almost immediately I felt a slight sense of frustration and embarrassment.

These feelings were not evoked by the ‘egocentric’ act of ‘Self Googling’ (honest), I mean everyone does that…don’t they?

The frustration was that Google perpetually (ahem yes I checked repeatedly) self corrected, assuming I was actually searching for another Gary Monk, (actually spelt with 2r’s and captain of Premier League football team Swansea City)

Gary Monk
I don’t even play football!


This meant I had to click through to the ‘right’ Gary Monk every time.

The acute embarrassment was not created, by finding something I would rather not see about myself online, rather by noticing that once I had clicked through to the ‘real’ Gary Monk, my most recent blog post was August last year.

Gary Monk

Well I have been busy etc etc, but still my gut reaction was that I needed to post something, anything.  Just write absolutely anything, at least with a revised date it will look more current!

The goal (no footy pun intended) I immediately set myself was for this blog site to be number 1 in Google and of course for Google to no longer assume ‘gary monk’ was a typo in favour of the 2R version.

I have cheekily employed some immediate tactics in this post. Not wanting to help the other Gary Monk (with 2Rs) in the search engine stakes I have refused to write his name correctly anywhere in this blog, referring to him henceforth as 2Rs.  I have ‘generously’ used the name Gary Monk throughout this post, even in the blog title and alt tags of the images (in case you didn’t notice) in the hope that this increased ‘keyword density’ might appeal to Google when Gary Monk (1R) is typed into the search field (most likely by Gary Monk himself)

Maybe my blog will not have the gravity to usurp the captain of a mid-table premiership footy team, but it will make this Gary Monk feel like he is doing something positive towards his goal.  Also I am not against 2Rs owning his 2R space but would prefer his gets his online hands off the 1R territory.

Now I am not entirely comfortable with peppering Gary Monk throughout this blog post especially resorting to speaking about myself (that’s Gary Monk to be clear) in the 3rd person in order to shoehorn a few more gratuitous Gary Monks in there, but it is a means to an end.  (although I am not sure which of the 50 shades of Grey Hat SEO this falls under)

Longer term I have also committed to writing regular blog posts to meet my objectives of being Google’s preferred Gary Monk and getting this site to the top of the rankings.

After some reflection, I realised I have a goal of personal Google domination and at least the semblance of a plan to get there (admittedly it may need some work!) but I have not explored my purpose for doing this?

Is it ego driven? to generate some discussion and debate? provide useful content to the relevant online communities? for fun? to generate leads for my business? to increase my online presence and impact?

Any one of these is ok, if I am clear about it.  I should of course establish success metrics where appropriate, for example being able to quantify business leads gained (or possibly increase in head circumference size for the more self-indulgent purposes)

However this quick fire reaction, actually means I am actually guilty of what I often challenge Pharma on, in the course of my work.  The knee-jerk “We need to do this now and this is how we will do it” without exploring the purpose and what real success actually looks like.

‘Let us try to optimise our websites for search’ without considering whether any of our target patients or doctors will actually go there.

If we do get them to our website, what will they actually do differently as a result, what call to actions are in place to both drive and measure these behavioural shifts?

The list goes on… ‘we need to ‘do a social media campaign’, create a series of mobile apps, maximise hits on our site…’

These objectives are often formed without understanding how our audience or company will actually benefit as a result.

So then, I need to go back to defining my purpose, or simply wait for 2Rs to retire from professional football.

Jumping on the Pharma Facebook Deathwagon

August 15th 2011 has passed, the day Facebook policy forced Pharma to activate its ‘Wall’ and allow people to write comments.

The build up to this ‘monumental’ event involved significant speculation – at least from online commentators (I didn’t catch it on the BBC but may have missed it)

Who would brave the storm of actually interacting with human beings online?

Who would choose the latter option of the cliché , ‘Engage or Die’

The majority of the online industry commentary was unsympathetic to Pharma’s dilemma.  The contrarian viewpoint was to defend those Pharma Facebook pages with wall comments switched off.  Everyone else just ‘laid the boot in’ to those pages about to draw their last breaths.  I was quick, to jump in with the majority and suggest :-

‘Voluntary euthanasia is the best thing for these Facebook pages allowing only a one way flow of information’

From a practical perspective, Jonathan Richman has a very strong argument why it is pointless having such a page.  Due to Facebook’s social algorithm, if you don’t allow comments, your Facebook page is effectively invisible.  It won’t appear in your ‘Fans’ newsfeed and no one will ever visit.

However this ‘crowing’ by myself and others, about the death of this ‘unengaging’ media risks missing an important point.

If we then agree, all Pharma facebook pages with disabled comments were bad, do we by inductive reasoning conclude, all such pages that have an open wall and commenting policy are good?

I won’t elaborate on the small number, of brave existing sites, who are staying ‘in business’ with largely laudable aims of developing a human face for pharma.  I am talking about the future Pharma-Zuckerberg spawn we have yet to witness.

My upbeat prediction, is that this watershed will actually embolden Pharma and spawn-a-plenty there will be.  The industry will rapidly note the world does not end, and the companies that allow comments won’t be run out of business.  We will then see a quick increase of Pharma Facebook 2.0 projects.

My downbeat prediction, many of these pages will be created with little or no regard to strategy – the questions below, will go largely unanswered.

–       Who are the people we should be communicating with?

–       Where are they online?

–       What do they want from us?

–       What are our business objectives?

–       What ‘behavioural’ objectives do we have for our target group?

–       What does ‘good’ look like and how do we measure it?

–       What is our long term strategy?

If you set up a Facebook page and people actually want to interact with it and comment then, you will, get noticed.

Without critical strategic thinking you may ‘get lucky’ and provide value for the community but not for your business.  Maybe at a future point in time, the page has served its business objectives but is still providing value to patients – what do you do?

The big problem for Pharma Facebook 1.0 pages was that they were invisible.  The big problem Pharma Facebook 2.0 pages may face is that they are not.


The Holy Grail of Digital Marketing


Often we overcomplicate things, in marketing generally and specifically in our approach to all things digital.

A recent survey uncovered the top 10 barriers to ‘digital’ within Pharma.

The list below may look daunting however, when you put your energy and focus into solving just one of these barriers, you make it a lot easier to alleviate the other 9.

The most common barriers to digital are:-

1) Regulatory and Legal issues

2) No clear (e)business strategy

3) Return on investment questions

4) Not enough internal knowledge

5) Healthcare compliance issues

6) No headcount to support digital

7) Pharmacovigilance concerns

8) No budget

9) No senior management support

10) Customers are not ready


So which barrier is the master key to unlock the others?

Surely the answer is #1 regulation, we first get clarity on what we can or can’t do under the ABPI code / FDA guidelines? We can then focus on what is clearly permissible and build our approach around that?

Actually the answer has to be #2 – No clear business strategy.  (Forget the ‘e’ prefix)


  • Understand where your customers are online and offline
  • Refine your business objectives in terms of what you specifically want to achieve with your stakeholders.
  • Define how you plan to achieve this and what a good result will look like.


You may have the skills in house or require external support.  Either way this step will take time, commitment and effort, I do not promise this one barrier is easy but do it and see for yourself, how the rest of the barriers will tumble like dominoes.

Twitter challenge

There are 9 barriers to cover, so I will have to save the detail for future postings. In the meantime, I have set myself a challenge to demonstrate, how a clear strategy overcomes these obstacles, in no more than a 140 character tweet (with in most cases some room for hash tags and a short link)


#1 Regulatory and Legal issues

Clear strategy = embracing word and spirit of external regulations + crushing false internal arguments


#2  No clear (e)business strategy

Clear strategy = the pharma digital silver bullet…well almost


#3  Return on investment questions

Clear strategy = clear metrics = clear ROI


#4   Not enough internal knowledge

Clear strategy = prioritised areas of focus = identified internal training needs


#5   Healthcare compliance issues

Clear strategy + senior management support = breakdown of false internal barriers


#6   No headcount to support digital

Clear strategy = understanding resource gaps  = hiring + internal restructure


#7  Pharmacovigilance concerns

Clear strategy + a little research = an understanding pharmacovigilance is NOT an issue


#8  No budget

Clear strategy = a clear understanding where to invest the cash (digital or not)


#9  No senior management support

Clear strategy + early involvement of key stakeholders = the right senior management support


#10 Customers are not ready

Clear strategy = objective understanding of customers needs + NOT subjective decisions based on fear


Focusing on the strategy will prove invaluable, in overcoming all of these potential blocks.  Where I have personally used it and seen it employed to best effect, is overcoming the #1 challenge ‘perceived’ regulatory and legal issues.  I have added in ‘perceived’ here as often these barriers are all the mind of the medical & compliance guys.  That has to be the subject of another blog post, however if you are faced with these spurious arguments, there is no better way to crush them, than with a solid well articulated business strategy.

The corollary of this, if you don’t focus massively on defining a clear strategy, regardless of the above barriers, you are set to fail.  This means, you ultimately deserve all the slings and arrows thrown your way.   Regarding ill thought out projects, digital or otherwise, the best result for all concerned is a rapid demise to the cutting room floor.


Is tweeting the C word bad PR or does bad PR deserve it?

After tweeting the word ‘crap’ last Friday and finding it quoted on the popular pharma marketing blog, I wondered if I was in danger of literally soiling my digital footprint.

The Tweet

‘I generally find pharma #PR agencies utter crap when it comes to SocMed. Better trust it to a gorilla in a wet suit’

The Context

The blog and twitter discussion was whether Pharma co’s should outsource their soc med campaigns to PR companies, after their alledged failure and lack of competence in this area.

It also asked whether interactive marketing agencies would be best placed to fill this social media competency void.

Actually in this context, and with hindsight I feel the language in my tweet was rather weak.

My opinion was formed from my time in pharma marketing, rather than having some inter-agency axe to grind. (which i don’t)

If pharma wants to become trusted it needs to paradoxically let people express their lack of trust, and take part in the conversation.  To illustrate i have highlighted negative comments out of the ADHD You tube project I lead while at Janssen.


‘DRUG PUSHERS. Dont pretend to try to help when all you want to do is advertise your name so people stuff your drugs down their necks’

‘Support groups that are not propped up by drug companies are where people should go for help. Not drug dealers’


‘Drug company propoganda posing as information video’

Now these are out of context and the beauty is these comments are balanced by opposing view points.  Without this open dialogue we don’t go anywhere apart from fostering anti-pharma extremism over the web.  The thing is allowing these type of comments is anathema to most ‘traditional’ PR agencies.

When I try to explain to PR folk, this concept of allowing people to express opinions unfavourable to the industry on pharma’s digital real estate, they laugh like its some sick joke.  When they realise I’m serious their expression moves quickly to one of disdain, a visual cue  that confirms they categorise me as an ueber idiot.  They politely excuse themselves and tootle off to a fluffier place with canapes, champagne and some journalists willing to seed their sugar coated one way messages.

My tweet was never going to offend.  Most pharma PR guys have either buried their head in the Twitter sand or have mal adopted Twitter as a shouting platform.  Busy broadcasting their own messages, my tweet would not have penetrated their sealed off ear canals.  The PR guys that saw it are the good guys who are engaging and trying to move their industry forward and clearly not my target.

I have made the point that we need open dialogue in pharma and my view that most PR agencies are poor at this.  Their is another important overarching point to close on.

Before you decide whether to hire a PR agency, interactive digital agency or implement your social media campaign in house, take a step back to look at your objectives and strategy.

Your shortlisted agency PR or otherwise, may end up being great tactically and really understand the need for open and transparent dialogue.  However if the strategy is absent or wrong then the end result of your social media campaign is likely to be….. utter crap.