S What's the strategy? Your overall marketing strategy should determine whether a communications tactic is appropriate. For example, if you are
trying to reach people 65 years and older with new information about an arthritis medication, launching a social network is
not the best way to engage them. Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that only 31 percent of people in this age group
go online. In addition, few people over 70 are interested in using the Web. Let strategy be your guide.
T What's the time frame? Given the complexity of social media, the value of any communications tactic must be weighed against your time frame. Launching
a blog, for example, is no simple matter. It requires extensive discussion and planning. If you have limited time before a
launch, think twice about inserting a Weblog into your communications plan.
O What's the desired outcome? The purpose of communications has always been about getting people to pay attention and take action. Every tactic should
be evaluated against this yardstick. Ask: "What do I want the reaction to be?" and "How will I measure it?" Each social media
tool has a different purpose. Understand how each can help you meet your marketing objectives and you will be ahead of the
P What's the procedure? Social media is far from safe. Because you are dealing with people who have varying allegiances and motivations, you are
bound to experience something you did not plan for. Before engaging in social media communications, think about what could
go right (and wrong) and plan accordingly.
As scary as it may seem, practicing transparency is the only way that pharmaceutical companies will become credible citizens
of the online community. This means being courageous enough to tolerate negative commentary and having the flexibility to
Cephalon is one company that is transparently communicating with its stakeholders using social media. It has launched the
Web site ADHDbalance.net/, which features blogs written by parents, psychologists, and others who have tips for people caring for children with the
condition. Although the company does not publish commentary from visitors, it overcomes suspicion that content on the site
is biased by featuring information from accredited and citizen ADHD experts. For example, it has partnered with a respected
third-party organization called Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHAAD). The developers
of CHADD's new training program, Parent-to-Parent: Family Training on ADHD, have a blog on the Web site.
Flexibility Is a Virtue
Communicating with stakeholders via social media can be very difficult for a pharmaceutical company accustomed to carefully
crafting and vetting public statements. However, slow response times can doom a social media communications campaign because
events and perceptions change very quickly online.
Pharma can increase its flexibility by decreasing reaction times and content development cycles: For example, if a company
decides to launch a corporate blog, it can develop an in-house legal, regulatory, medical, and marketing team that will approve
posts before they appear. It also must be willing to change course. If a review of relevant online bulletin boards and blogs
reveals that your carefully developed message is not resonating with consumers, don't be afraid to shift gears if appropriate.
Companies can and should find ways to engage their stakeholders via social media. Success will require having the appropriate
mindset, managing expectations, and carefully linking tactics to business and corporate objectives.
Fard Johnmar is the founder of Envision Solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org