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Smart Thinking blog

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

Pharma marketers’ blog: How to prioritise, perform and prevail

How to perform at a high level while still keeping healthy and happy

The global pandemic has caused us all to be working longer hours and more continuously at our computers than ever before.

We have had to ‘pivot’, ‘flex’ and demonstrate ‘agility’ in order to amend our strategies and investments, switch tactics, implement new systems and much more! It’s been exciting to see different teams tackling this with positivity and patient focus in recent months.

Equally, I’ve seen pharma marketers struggling with complexity, workload and competing priorities across different countries, companies and therapy areas over the last few months. So this month’s blog is all about how to prioritise successfully to perform at an excellent level and keep healthy and happy.

The first thing I would say is that this is easier said than done. There are lots of great books, articles and resources on prioritisation: four box matrices on important vs urgent, value to the customer vs effort...

There are productivity journals with daily, weekly and monthly prioritised lists – check out which has some fantastic journals and planners.

  • Here are a few questions that may help with your prioritisation discussions with your cross- functional brand teams and management: Are the priorities (ie, Critical Success Factors, Strategic Imperatives, Growth Drivers) for your brand or portfolio clearly defined and aligned to key tactical projects?
  • Are there owners/leaders for each key tactical project across your cross-functional brand team?
  • Do you have monthly check-ins with your line management and your cross-functional brand team members to track progress vs plans and identify issues and ‘pinch points’?
  • Have you agreed with your line management and cross-functional brand team which tasks, tactics or projects are not a priority
    in the coming month/quarter/half year?
  • If your team is falling behind on progress vs plan, have you identified additional resources (people, financial) or different ways of working that could accelerate the team’s progress?
  • Or, in the current environment, do you need to adjust the goals, expectations and workload of the entire team?

As a pharma marketer, if you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked and dispirited, don’t despair! Many other people and professions are feeling the same and when I think of the great work we are doing as an industry for patients and healthcare professionals, this gives me a much needed boost.

So let’s talk about some practical ways to prioritise your marketing workload:

  • What are the most important strategic decisions for your brand or portfolio? Consider if pricing/value/access or segmentation/technology skills/ promotional mix are most important.
  • How effective is your cross-functional brand team in making decisions, tackling workloads together, communicating, resolving disagreements? If not great, it may be time to bring in some AGILE methods of working.
  • How have you prioritised the tactical programmes in your brand plan? Are the owners, timings, key tactics defined clearly so that the team members know exactly what they need to do, how and when? If not, regroup!
  • Have you created a ‘not now’ list of things that you cannot realistically address but should review each month or quarter? It feels good to have this list so that you know things won’t be lost forever.
  • Does your brand team have regular check points on brand performance, key decisions, progress vs plan with laser discipline on preparation, team review and follow-up to support brand planning, prioritisation and performance?
  • And, of course, for these regular brand team checkpoints, you will need a strong set of brand KPIs to support your performance meetings.

And now for a different perspective on prioritisation. From my experience in different pharma companies and from my consulting work, the skill of prioritisation is a tough one to master. There are some real emotional challenges:

  • Will my boss think less of me? (Answer: No, not generally, if he/she is a good boss and respects your confidence and skill in managing your workload.)
  • Does this mean I am not committed? (Answer: Of course you are... you are committed to delivering great outcomes and work on the priority issues for your brand.)
  • Can’t I manage this myself? (Answer: No, in order to prioritise successfully, your cross-functional brand team and line management need to be on board.)

But there are a few caveats: do tackle a few things that you love as a pharma marketer – whatever they may be. These things will give you energy and happiness for the tougher stuff. If you love working with the sales/customer-facing teams, do some of that.

If you love working on the medical initiatives and immersing yourself in the clinical data, do that. If you love working with your agency partners for research, strategy, planning or events, keep going. These things are likely to give you energy and enthusiasm too.

Stephanie Hall is MD of the award-winning brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

29th March 2021

From: Marketing


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