Content Marketing: Too Big for Pharma to Ignore


It’s safe to say content marketing is here to stay, writes Peter Houston. So what is pharma doing with it?

Peter Houston

I just finished up a survey of the publishing community ahead of a report I’m writing on the outlook for the media markets in 2017. I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences if I share that, of 10 top publishing formats, content marketing is getting a lot of attention.

Publishers are eyeing the delivery of services associated with content marketing - from sponsored content and native advertising to white papers and branded publications - as a real opportunity… one worth investing in.

Magazine companies and news organizations are setting up or acquiring content creation studios to produce and promote content on behalf of advertising clients.

Conde Nast has 23 stories telling premium tales about brands like Cadillac. In the UK, the Guardian launched Guardian labs to create ‘unstoppable stories’ across multiple platforms for a client list that includes Unilever, GE, UPS and Ben & Jerrys. And in the US, the New York Times has the T Brand Studio making content for car companies, airlines, technology firms and consultants.

And content marketing must be a real opportunity, because the consultants themselves are getting in on the act.

Accenture Interactive is a $600-million content practice sitting inside the business that you know better as a strategic consulting and enterprise technology firm. Accenture made the move into content off the back of a survey of more than 1,000 senior marketers across 14 industries and 17 countries.

The survey showed that 83 percent believed that they will produce more content globally over the next two years and, most interestingly, that 90 percent thought a company’s C-suite should own a company’s content – not agencies.

What is content marketing again?

If you’re not entirely up to speed on the content marketing trend, here’s a link to an explainer article I wrote for Pharmaceutical Executive a while ago. Basically it’s a soft-sell marketing technique that relies on informative, educational or entertaining content to get the consumers attention.

Since I wrote that piece, the challenge of getting, keeping and converting consumer attention has only gotten tougher, with two big drivers pushing content marketing as the solution.

The first is the never-ending quest to deliver relevancy to the consumer. Championed initially by Google and picked up more recently by Facebook, both platforms are now constantly refining their algorithms to deliver ‘quality content’ against various measures of ‘fresh and engaging’. Prominence in search results and the social stream now relies on dwell time and shares rather than clever keywords.

More recently, the meteoric rise of ad blocking has confirmed once and for all that banner ads are not the best way to reach customers online.

Both ad-blocking and relevancy have added to the old-school common sense notion that the best content marketing embodies - useful information presented well in the relevant context is a powerful way to engage consumers.

The phenomenal success of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and its flagship ‘Content Marketing World’ event illustrates the rise of the form wonderfully well. Opening next week in Cleveland, the conference will host more than 4,000 delegates for a line-up of more than 200 speakers, with the closing keynote given by Luke Skywalker, I mean Mark Hamill.

That’s pretty impressive for an event organized by a company that didn’t exist until 2010 and first held in 2011, attended by 600 people.

A more down-to-earth measure of the CMI’s success and content marketing’s place in the mainstream is its recent acquisition by Pharmaceutical Executive owners UBM – the world’s leading B2B events organizer.

Pharma and content marketing

It’s safe to say content marketing is here to stay. So what is pharma doing with it? Less than they should be as usual. It was two years behind everyone else according to the CMI when I wrote that first post and there are still articles out there asking ‘Who will lead healthcare marketing out of the dark ages?’.

The clearest focus of the content marketing being done in pharma is in influencing the opinions and behaviors of HCPs. Pharma has been using whitepapers and KOL content forever in this aspect. What’s changed is the increased reach possible with digital distribution, and the ability to control content release schedules.

On the consumer side, public confidence in pharma is less than inspiring. Telling some trust affirming stories about drug effectiveness, drug development and social responsibility efforts would appear to be shooting at an open goal. In a study by Kantar Media, 47 percent of patients said reading stories online from fellow patients made them feel better about their own treatment.

As Michael Maher, president at ID Health, put in a recent MM&M post: “…intense interest in health content is a rich opportunity to engage, inform, support, and motivate key customer constituencies”.

All pharma has to do is come up with some well-crafted content marketing strategies to engage a specific patient groups.

How hard can that be?







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