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Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

The incredible journey: multichannel communications with HCPs

Management tools to optimise multichannel communications with HCPs

In this very competitive and ever more complex customer environment, it is becoming increasingly challenging to market and sell pharmaceutical and health products. At the same time, new and exciting opportunities have opened up for communicating and conversing with customers, patients and other stakeholders. 

Traditional communication is making way for interactive communication, which adds value for the marketer and consumer alike. This clearly changes the way we plan and execute our brand communications. The importance of developing the brand's identity through one big, over-arching creative idea hasn't changed; it's just that this now needs to be optimised to work across multiple channels and platforms.

Ultimately, success will be achieved through a number of changes within both pharma companies and agencies. These changes will need to take into account a whole new construct, or way of working, from brand planning and the creative development process through to market research and the medical-legal-regulatory sign-off process. 

A total rethink
Multichannel brand conversations are increasingly critical to maintaining and developing brand share of voice, customer brand recognition and loyalty. This brand conversation entails a rethink about the way brand communication is planned, executed and managed, giving the brand, its customers and prospects access to a multitude of opportunities to interact and have value-adding conversations. The multichannel approach can turn brand presentations into conversations.

In the old days, a physician participated in a face-to-face meeting with a representative, a specific product presentation was discussed and after the short meeting a printed leave-behind was handed over as a reminder of the brand key messages. If the physician was considered an important target, he or she might get an invitation to travel to a congress and participate in medical education events. And that was it.

The frequency of communication was scattered, and controlled and owned by the brand. The content was limited in format and complexity by what could be communicated through limited, traditional channels. Pharma brands were very successful in managing this communication mix and optimising messages and channels to build customer relationships.

Compare this with how much more the HCP is now in control of the communication mix. The innovative pharma brands now use multichannel planning and execution to reach and have optimal impact on the customers where they are. The rep prepares a customer call by using the customer relationship management (CRM) and uses closed loop marketing (CLM) platforms to personalise the face-to-face conversation. 

He uses a tablet device to show rich media content and engage the customer in a value-adding conversation, driven by the needs of the customer and by communicating the right use of the brand. The rep provides a web address with a PIN code as a leave-behind and the customer can log into a personalised website and review the conversation he has, along with additional material, again tailored to his specific needs. The customer then initiates a virtual call with a medical information resource on the website.

In our experience the brand and the company need to go through an organised change management process to adapt their capabilities, processes, organisation and technologies

The customer also brings the PIN code or personal customer card to an international congress where he or she can gain access to unique, tailored information and meet colleagues to exchange experiences. The card is used to add information to the customer's personal online account. This is all done using the brand's services and contact points and the customer's PIN code when accessing the information sources. 

Information 24/7
We know that brand communication is no longer a linear process with a standard set of tools, where customers are approached through a standard set of channels. A brand can no longer maintain its share of voice by fitting all targets into a 'one-size-fits-all' communication model. 

Representatives face challenges trying to deliver call goals and maintain customer relationships. Face-to-face appointments are increasingly managed via digital channels and many customers love the new opportunities to access information whenever and wherever it's convenient. Customers now expect information to be accessible 24 hours a day and always at their fingertips.  

So much are customers now driving the emerging dynamics of a new channel mix, that healthcare brands are desperately trying to meet expectations, but often lagging behind. The importance of adapting to the new communication environment is becoming increasingly apparent to healthcare brands and companies, and sometimes it is almost a competition to be the first to embrace and adapt to new channels, platforms and opportunities to interact with audiences.

In our experience, it is often very difficult for a traditional brand to run before it can walk. The brand and company need to go through an organised change management process to adapt their capabilities, processes, organisation and technologies to become active participants in the new multichannel communications universe.

Plan the change management process
Does all this sound overwhelming? You are not alone if you are thinking that it is difficult to know where to start, what to do and how to get the best bang for your buck.

A good way to initiate change is to ask for help from people who know how to align existing channel tactics with the new opportunities. A good multichannel agency can actively work with your brands to get the all-important change management process going, with or without getting into the actual strategy and tactics. Many, but by no means all, pharmaceutical companies now have internal experts who can set up multichannel activities and handle the tactical side, once this planning is set in place.

It is important to keep up with today's fast-moving customers, even if it is by taking small and gradual steps to get your multichannel communication started. Trying to make monumental changes quickly can make projects very complex. Rest assured, however, that with the right support, you'll find your multichannel communication journey refreshing and fun. Which is precisely what it should be.

Article by
Jon Clark and Per Hedman

Clark, managing director, and Hedman, digital director, at nitrogen. They can be contacted at and

9th April 2013

From: Marketing



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