Alternative Media: Mastering Social Media - Pharmaceutical Executive


Alternative Media: Mastering Social Media
Online communication tools work only if you know how to use them

Pharmaceutical Executive

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 game.

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.

Be Transparent

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 respond quickly.

Cephalon is one company that is transparently communicating with its stakeholders using social media. It has launched the Web site, 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


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