The Patient Will See You Now
Just a few years ago, pharmaceutical companies got wise to the fact that there was an amazing amount of health information on the Web and that patients were increasingly using it in preference to traditional media. They responded by making a Web presence part of the basic marketing strategy of virtually every pharma product.
Peephole and Public Library
On a recent visit to YouTube, I saw plenty of commercials. Much like iTunes before it, YouTube is a perfect place to host commercials. The ads have already aired for millions of dollars on television—why not take advantage of the free server space and post them on the Web for more people to see? But there was much, much more:
A rep for an antipsychotic medication talked about how he couched side effect information when talking to doctors: "A professor of mine said statistics are like prisoners of war," he announced. "You torture them long enough and they will say anything."
A pudgy, pasty guy sat in front of his computer talking about his Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (Not to play amateur doctor, but judging from his skin tone, I'd bet that one of his symptoms is agoraphobia.)
A well-coiffed woman in a tailored suit said she was a former rep and discussed how she both detailed an antianxiety medication and got hooked on it herself.
You may not like all the messages these folks are sending. But they've become part of the way health information is spread. It's time you joined the party.
Med School in My Pocket
One leader in health-related video is the Cleveland Clinic. When it first started uploading video podcasts in November 2005, the fear was that the technology skewed so young that the audience would be interested only in stories about skateboarding injuries.
Things turned out a bit better than that. The number of subscribers to the Cleveland Clinic Health Edge video podcast went from 3,000 in early 2006 to 8,000 by the beginning of 2007. The more than doubling of the audience happened without any promotion, according to Glenn Bieler of the Cleveland Clinic's marketing and education department. "I think it shows the power of video podcasting just from the fact that we got so many hits without doing much other than simply putting them out," Bieler says.
The Cleveland Clinic isn't sure how many people are watching its video podcasts at their computer and how many are taking the extra step of downloading it to their portable video devices. "As long as they watched it, I don't care if they watched it on their iPod, their TV, or their computer.... They clicked on it and watched it and got the message," says John Cantanese, director of interactive marketing for the Cleveland Clinic.
The Cleveland Clinic was especially well-suited for the move into portable video because it already had a robust newsroom on campus that was feeding fresh medical news to TV stations around the country on a daily basis. It was just a matter of repurposing the material from the small screen (TV) to the tiny screen (iPod).
Interestingly, the Cleveland Clinic says its video podcasts are much more popular than its audio-only podcasts. Their theory is that actually seeing the videos helps to "humanize" the doctors and make it easier for patients to relate to the story.
Lisa Adler of Millennium Pharmaceuticals explains that when using video podcasting to communicate with patients, it's important to write clearly and not to sound as if you are reading product information into the camera: "From a healthcare-literacy standpoint, it's important because it can make information accessible to a wide variety of patients—if done correctly," says Adler. "In other words, if you do a video podcast in 'medicalese' that only doctors will understand, you may be missing an important group of patients who could potentially benefit from your message."
Video podcasting has other applications as well. "I think that it's good not only from an external standpoint but also internal-communications standpoint," Adler says. Some companies are even giving their employees video iPods so that they can watch training videos and corporate webcasts at their leisure. Another advantage of video podcasting is that it reduces the need to reprint durable materials every time you have new information.
Also, marketers shouldn't get too caught up in terminology. What's the difference between streaming video and a video podcast? Is it a video podcast if I watch it on my Archos instead of an iPod? Is it still a video podcast if I watch it on my LG cell phone that also gets live TV? The simple answer is: It doesn't matter. (See "Building a Better Podcast")
Finally, in the event that you are a reading this and thinking, "It's just a fad; I'm not doing anything until I have metrics and a firm way of measuring ROI," you might want to start waving good-bye to your career. By the time someone does a scholarly review of these tools and teaches a Harvard Business School class on video podcasting, your competition will be breaking sales records and you'll be sitting at a Starbucks crying into your half-caf latte trying to figure out what happened.
"When Time magazine puts 'You' on the cover as Man of the Year, you know that times have changed," says Susan Bang of Susan Bang public relations in New York. I would second Susan's statement by saying that when YouTube sponsored a presidential debate, it officially stopped being a fad.
Grant Winter is president of Manhattan Bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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