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8 things to do now in social media – part 3

Stuck for ideas to reboot your social strategy? Here are two more things you can do right now, in the third part of my series:

5) Ideas win
There’s no point posting something if you wouldn’t share it. A post needs words but words alone don’t make a post. Everything you share should be an idea and make you want to talk about it. Sounds obvious but this is the most overlooked action point we see.

6) Go live, come alive
Algorithms are promoting brands that embrace live services like Facebook live. But live-streaming is the easy part – the hard bit is the change in mindset. You’ll need a production plan and workflow that allows for real-time content creation, approvals and community management.

In the next post: How to maximise reach and do less work!

Check out part 1 and part 2 of the series

Whatever stage you’re at with your social media marketing, get in touch to find out how I/we can help!

From Storytelling to Truthtelling

They say truth is the first casualty of war and similar accusations have been levelled at PR in an age of spin and spam. Selective presentation, murky off-the-record briefings and non-recollection are favourite spin doctor tactics. Meanwhile, the trouble with storytelling is that ‘stories’ can sound like they’ve been made up – fiction.

People have fallen on the sword of truth before but we‎ now know truth sells. Studies show authentic brands and businesses are enjoying greater levels of recommendation and ultimately sales. Even political party leaders have been holding their hands up to the truth in recent election debates.

We’re entering a new era of ‘truthtelling’‎, which is why the PR industry is its strongest ever position. We’ve always been experts in finding compelling and creative ways to make true stories contagious — truths that will earn their place in the cultural psyche. The truth is on our side.

Based on comments I made to PR Moment

Normal rules apply

I’ve written before about the ABPI digital guidelines. These kind of guidance updates are always helpful and interesting for those of us working in digital communications with the pharmaceutical industry. We all understand that social media is a challenging area for regulated pharma for a whole host of regulatory, business, ethical and other reasons. But is this situation sometimes made more complicated than it needs to be?

It’s quite right for pharma to expect a sound rationale and business case before embarking on a digital project. It’s important to be clear about ROI. We need messages and an informed understanding of our audience needs.  There’s no programme without a decent strategy and sound objectives. And it’s essential to comply with all the relevant regulations, be transparent and ethical in everything we do. But arguably every organisation ought to be taking this approach.

So to try and answer my question, it strikes me that concerns about “digital” might be primarily because it’s “digital” we’re talking about. Yes, there’s understandable concern about doing something new. But if something’s not appropriate offline then it’s fair to suspect it won’t be appropriate online either. Hopefully we can do digital if we take the view that normal rules apply.

33 and a Third — Issue 8

The latest collection of insights from Weber Shandwick leaders around the globe.

33 and a Third — Issue 8

ABPI Digital Update: Insider Reactions

Pharma marketers in the UK still feel their hands are tied when it comes to digital communications, despite recently updated guidance from the ABPI designed to clarify best practices. Two thirds of the front-line staff Weber Shandwick spoke to in an informal survey said the ABPI’s guidance has not clarified the dos and don’ts of social media in consumer-facing communications activities. What’s more, their feedback was that the ABPI and MHRA are failing to keep pace with developments in the digital space – and that this could ultimately put patients at risk from misinformation that goes unchallenged.

The regulator published its long-awaited digital update in June but there didn’t seem to be much open reaction at the time. We were fascinated to see what industry insiders made of the detail so ran a small straw poll of our own. The consensus among respondents was that lack of clarity is making it much harder for brand teams to secure funding for digital projects. Business sponsors, we’re told, are not committing to long term funding because of the uncertainty and this is creating a vicious cycle.

Disappointment – and danger

It’s no secret that health companies have been looking for guidance around the use of social media in a regulated communications environment. There’s a clear sense of disappointment from the marketers we spoke to that the ABPI’s updated guidance not only misses the mark but also misses an opportunity to redress the balance of inaccurate health information that exists online. It seems budget holders are finding it easier to say ‘no’ outright to digital, rather than focusing on what can be done, and patients will ultimately be the losers if the regulator doesn’t keep pace with technology.

There’s a vast amount of health-related information online and much will help rather than harm. But, just as forums and social networks can make everyone a journalist, so they empower everyone to offer a medical opinion, potentially to a large audience. Trouble is that internet users don’t necessarily have years of impartial scientific and evidence-based knowledge – and you certainly wouldn’t trust a GP who didn’t. It’s open season for anecdotal health information unless pharma (along with government and other relevant bodies) is prepared to enter online conversations in order to present reliable scientific facts. This is the integrity that the regulations are striving to protect.

Our survey respondents felt this situation would only become worse unless the regulator provided more guidance. I find GSK’s corporate approach interesting – they are trying to counter out-of-date or non-accurate third-party information by presenting factual, branded drug details via the health.gsk site By focussing on what can be done, rather than always worrying about what can’t, a company moves forward. There’s plenty of innovation. Pfizer’s online GP surgery is an example of how pharma is trying to embrace interactivity. Meanwhile, Amgen has 3D video to bring complex science to life in a new and engaging way; Genzyme uses augmented reality to demonstrate how calcium can build up in your heart. These are all innovative examples of digital storytelling and show it is possible to deploy the cutting-edge technologies more familiar from the FMCG space while still respecting the regulatory framework.

The digital dilemma

So what do pharma marketers want from the regulator—a list of everything they can and cannot do? I suspect there’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer here. It may be that extensive commentary on positive campaign elements would help mark the boundaries. However, rather than focus purely on the regulator our respondents said there needs to be internal change within their own organisations. Some pharma firms are trying to shape the broader discussion at corporate level and my feeling is this approach will then lead to developments at brand level. For example, Boehringer has published its Twitter strategy and contributes to blogger podcasts – actively working to be part of online discussion around innovation in digital pharma, and to be transparent about the challenges. Our survey has revealed that lack of business buy-in is not helping lower the barrier, so once the wider business sees the value of digital there will likely be greater willingness to try new things.

Innovation, along with genuine community interaction, will ultimately help pharmaceutical firms strengthen their reputations. Brand utility and patient support can show how pharma can be a genuine partner in the health of the general public. Innovative products, coupled with smart communications campaigns, help tell this story. The journey needs to be a step-by-step progression for each business. However, the real challenge is not the regulation but rather that ‘doing digital’ is a way to implement a commercial goal and not a strategy in itself.

Key Considerations for Digital Communications in Healthcare

  • Involve legal, regulatory and medical teams from day one in a collaborative experience which helps generates a positive outcome as all stakeholders understand the rationale behind an initiative.
  • Document project objectives, moderation and monitoring plans, review schedules, reporting procedures and training compliance in line with the latest ABPI oversight best practices.
  • Much online buzz around healthcare is originally inspired by news, so activate a strong digital news content programme and distribute through a dedicated website that is optimised for sharing.
  • Address topics of patient discussion and tap into trends by creating services like mobile apps which have a practical and functional use – the community will respond positively if you are create something that meets its needs rather than an organisation’s perceived marketing needs.
  • Be transparent with your audience, explaining why the regulatory and other issues you face make it harder to be interactive.