What makes a good client?

I posted this blog about a year ago, it seems to have got lost in a botched wordpress back up

This post relates to the previous post, but from the opposite perspective.  I have not amended it to include the last 14 months I have spent in the US (a separate post is required) but a key observed difference is the business culture here is more straightforward and frank discussions are more welcome.  That can only be a positive in enhancing the client agency relationship.

There is a clear paradox, an agency has to extend a certain amount of respect to clients as without them we no longer exist. Yet if we are too deferential then we move from the role of trusted partner to humble acolyte, which serves neither party in the long run.   So actually candour is very important in the agency-client relationship.

I should stress these are my views; this is less of a disclaimer, more recognition that those in the agency I work for and other agencies are likely to have different opinions and experiences. I will be interested to hear those.

So in no particular order:

Be open and transparent

After signing the required paperwork and being a supposed trusted partner I have had some strange experiences where the client in question must have been working for the FBI or MI5. Everything is on a ‘need to know basis’ Other agencies are working on the project / brand, yet what their role is, is made deliberately unclear. Even the project objectives appear top secret. These are extreme cases, however the more a client can open up about their business & personal goals, and overall approach, the more value a good agency can add!

Be honest

I am not accusing clients of lying here. The damning charge I cite is that they are often too nice! If a client has even the slightest concerns about the project delivery, approach, team chemistry or anything seemingly trivial, then it helps immensely to raise this up front before it festers into a bigger issue. As a client I was fairly candid to my agency partners, in hindsight I could have been even more so!

Be bold

A good agency will respond well to a client who has big ideas and is willing to disrupt the ‘usual’ way of doing things. As a client I found most agencies responded positively to being pushed. And if they don’t, give them some sharp feedback, if that still does not work then just fire them.

Be accountable

There will be times when a client screws up, missing key deadlines or actions. The agency is usually easy fodder for the blame even in a public forum. An agency may be prepared to take the ‘bollix bullet’ on behalf of the client but it is likely to be detrimental to the partnership

Be understanding

Agency folk are human, yet they will work with superhuman tenacity when it is required. The challenge back to the client is ‘does this absolutely have to be delivered by 9am in the morning?’. I have seen thankfully only a few cases where clients have demanded something at short notice, as a way of asserting their power over the agency. Often it is an internal miscommunication on the clients side that leads to an agency team working needlessly through the night. Clearly this can lead to some ill feeling.

Be responsive

Ok I used this one in my previous post as an essential agency quality. It applies equally on the other side. As a client, in the throes of business planning the last thing I wanted was to be ‘disturbed’ by my agencies. I have to admit deadlines sometimes suffered as a result of my tunnel vision.

Be clear

I am hoping as we reach #7 that this list does not already smack of pretentiousness. If any one of the number risks being labeled patronising and high-handed, it is this one, yet too many client briefs are either vague, unclear or contradictory.

From the busy perspective of the client side I have seen the pressures of time lead to incomplete briefs (Note: I chose not to use the word skimpy here) with the assumption that a good agency would ‘figure it out’. An agency’s creative talent should be unleashed on a clear brief rather than channeled into second guessing a clients desires.

Good brief + Good agency = Good result.

Hold your agency to account

This is not meant to sound one sided, rather using a mutually agreed metrics framework to assess project and agency success. This will help frame discussions re: point #2 above.

In the unfortunate event that it is not working out after sustained bilateral effort then it is better for both sides to go their separate ways

I hope the above list was useful and did not engender too much client hatred towards me. Any feedback or thoughts from client and agency persons would be most interesting.

A Wikipedia Week

Wikipedia seems to be attracting even more Pharma interest in recent weeks, particularly as a recent IMS report highlighted how much doctors and patients rely on its content.

It was a pretty immersive week for me last week regarding Wikipedia:

  • A breakfast meeting on the subject
  • Meeting up with some devout Wikipedians over Sunday lunch
  • Finding a little time to make some edits of my own (non pharma related of course)
  • Personally fielding some professional questions about this fascinating community of knowledge

I saw an excellent presentation from, Paul W , a veteran Wikipedian, with 10 years tenure, over 10,000 edits and nearly 400 articles to his name.  He is also a professional PR guy.  You could be forgiven for thinking that these 2 personas would not sit comfortably in the same room, let alone in one human shell.

Paul shared some valuable Wikipedia guidance for PR agencies, that demonstrate PR & Wikipedia are not incompatible entities, as long as the right approach is taken.

These guidelines actually make very useful reading for those in Pharma.  Page 10 is particularly interesting as it outlines the steps required when editing.  There is also a nice summary of Do’s and Don’ts.

These guidelines were created collaboratively on an open Wikipedia page, with input from the community.

Meeting ‘real life’ Wikipedians was an interesting experience.  My discussions with them reinforced the need that anyone with a conflict of interest needs to work with the community to make edits.   I met an administrator who proudly declared he had deleted over 100,000 pages.  While this deletion count seems to be a badge of honour, the motivation behind this, is ensuring Wikipedia, is of a high quality and authored from a neutral point of view.  So any ill advised attempts by Pharma to blunder in and start editing drug or disease pages will inevitably backfire.

Some of my Wikipedia recommendations:

  • Work with the community.  Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view (one of its five pillars ) The premise is that if you work for a Pharma company, then your opinion about that company, one of its drugs or disease areas, will be biased.  The solution is to work with the community to develop content, identify suitable editors who have contributed good quality articles on similar subjects, suggest articles for creation, use forms to request an edit or use the talk pages.
  • Be transparent and declare conflicts of interest  If you try to contribute under XPharmaCo it won’t work and rightly so.  Corporate or group accounts are not allowed on Wikipedia. It should be, for example, Rebecca, who, on her user page, clearly states she works for XPharmaCo, outlines her conflicts of interest and intent.
  • Be human  You need to speak like a person not a corporation.  Any attempts at corporate speak or a heavy handed approach will simply be met with contempt.  Wikipedia is not a corporation rather a community of dedicated volunteers.
  • Be bold Industry regulations are unclear when it comes to Wikipedia.  Take a clear ethical and considered standpoint.  You will need to have a plan however don’t expect clear regulatory guidance. The UK PMCPA digital guidance spectacularly misses the point, suggesting if a company starts editing Wikipedia it should ensure everything is correct.  I am afraid the community and consensual nature of Wikipedia makes this impossible to guarantee.
  • Have a go If you think Wikipedia is of interest why not try editing it yourself!  You may also want to look for volunteers in your organisation to start making edits.  Clearly these edits need to be outside of any conflicted area and the above bullet points still apply!

I look forward to hearing your opinions or examples where Pharma is currently or is planning to get involved with the Wikipedia community.  And if you have any suggested edits for this blog just let me know…

 

 

Social Media in Pharma – Making it Happen

Last week I presented at the SMI Social Media in Pharma meeting in London.  I got some nice positive feedback that the cases I presented were both practical and useful.

So I have embedded the slideshare deck below complete with speaker call outs.  Feel free to comment on this post or on slideshare.  Happy viewing 🙂

 

 

 

Those were the days…?!

‘What sort of sandwiches do you call these?  Uuurrrgghh they are from Tesco! With all the money Pharma is making can’t you at least get lunch from Waitrose or M&S.  And where the hell are the prawns?’

These are some specific memories from a hospital lunch meeting over 10 years ago with a group of doctors from the Elderly Medicine department at a Birmingham hospital, however it was typical of such events.

I was a medical representative at the time, bringing the departmental staff a lunch in exchange for a miniscule amount of time to talk about my drug.

There clearly IS such thing as a free lunch as many of the doctors used to take a sandwich and walk off before the talk, I recall one of them muttering about the the quality of the mayonnaise and how the rep from Pfizer at least puts on a decent lunch (I wondered if she stayed for the Pfizer talk – probably not)

I started the talk, with such a dismal time allocation, that even if my pharmaceutical treatment was for premature ejaculation I would have struggled to reach a conclusion.  (Nothing so exciting unfortunately – Gastric reflux)

If it was not bad enough that my words were smashing down on the stony ground of disinterest, one doctor began talking loudly on his mobile phone, I forced myself uncomfortably on, trying to explain to the group with something approaching passion that all Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are not the same.

The doctor continued to talk on his mobile, then a loud interruption from the chair ‘I will only allow one conversation at a time here’ he boomed.

At last I thought, a return to some decorum.  I carried on talking but so did Nokia doctor.  The chair interceded again, even more forcefully ‘ I have told you only one conversation at a time!’ and it was then I realized he was talking to me.   ‘A doctor is on the phone this could be a life or death situation’

‘Fair enough but can’t he just cart his sandwich laden girth out of the room to check’ were the, thankfully,  unspoken words of my l’esprit d’escalier.

Anyway Nokia doctor soon concluded the conversation, his wife now clear what he was having for his tea that evening.  I was allowed to continue.

In the dying seconds I waffled something about how they should consider my PPI due to the low interactions with Warfarin in elderly patients.  The short discussion resulted with unanimous agreement from the doctors all PPI’s are the same and that they will continue to use the competitor product (Did I mention to them apparently it causes terrible diarrhea? – probably a bit late now…)

As I hurriedly grabbed my case and coat a few of the more helpful Doctors enthusiastically explained where the nearest Waitrose was for next time.

The reason for the anecdote is not to mock doctors or the pharma industry but rather highlight and contrast an historic unhealthy working or rather not-working relationship between the 2 parties.

Fortunately things are different now. The feedback via projects I work on and the forward thinking clinicians I speak to, is that there is an appetite to work with Pharma as equal partners to solve some of the challenges in the NHS.  Providing value, increasing efficiencies, improving patient outcomes, reducing hospital bed days through the use of innovative services and technology are just some examples.

The health service is moving on, but is the Pharmaceutical industry?

Will pharma seize this opportunity or will it be just another trip to Waitrose to stock up on the prawn sandwiches?

 

 

Zen and the Art of Body Hacking

Most of the efforts and experiments I see in self-measurement, quantified self, body hacking or whatever you choose to call it, tend to be focused on physical health and fitness.  Fitbit and Jawbone are the obvious hardware embodiments of these endeavours.

Clearly there is value in this, yet I see relatively few experiments in the measurement and improvement of psychological health.  The mental Yin to the physical Yang.

I have long had an (until now unpublished) interest in using self-measurement and biofeedback to increase focus and reduce stress in a business environment.

The goal of my experimentation is to keep the business success, even improve on it through increased focus and at the same time reduce the negative effects of stress when delivering these results.

I have been using the HeartMath Inner Balance device that connects to my iPhone and measures Heart Rate Variability (HRV).  Low levels of HRV indicate stress and higher levels relaxation.  There are plenty of articles that provide more detail however I like this recent one, that both explains HRV and highlights its potential value from a business perspective.

There is a lot of work going on in this area but most of it (including the above article) centres on dedicating a specific time during the day to improve your HRV score…

..In my experimentation I had another idea as outlined in the video below…. 

 

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…