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Digital should not be the headline

Digital media needs to be seamlessly incorporated into marketing strategy to improve communication
business news

A legitimate concern in the industry is that with all this hype, digital becomes the headline and the original message is diluted or lost. Digital media, especially at the cutting edge, can be costly and if it does not meet the objectives of a campaign or marketing strategy, what is the point? Are we simply magpies enticed by the new, the shiny and the unfamiliar?

But let us remind ourselves that there is a reason behind the hype, 80 per cent of those on the web are seeking healthcare information. Doctors are early innovators, more than two-thirds of European doctors own a smartphone and nine out of 10 doctors access the internet for health information in an office/clinical setting.

Data and content are created at a rate faster than ever before and the potential can be seen in well-known examples, such as Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. Where would the modern healthcare professional be without PubMed, or the payer without the Cochrane database?

Digital media is transforming human existence at a rate faster than any other period of history. Radio reached 50 million listeners after 38 years of growth; television took 13 years and the internet just four years to reach the 50 million user benchmark. Facebook had 200 million users in its first year and Google+ had 25 million users in its first month. The pharmaceutical industry has belatedly joined the party. As the behaviour of healthcare professionals and patients changes, so do their expectations. Pharmaceutical marketing has a responsibility to keep up or will cease to be relevant.

Ahead of the game
Facebook is not a strategy, neither are iPads. Digital and social media are simply communication platforms. Importantly we need to remember that without a decent communications strategy the message is lost. The best campaigns use digital strategically, understanding fully the people they are communicating with. A Twitter-based campaign aimed at teens may miss the mark as much as a smartphone app targeted towards pensioners.

Recently there has been much discussion and tension surrounding the pharmaceutical industry and social media, epitomised by a fundamental discordance between the industry regulations and Facebook that has resulted in several companies considering leaving the site altogether.

While social media may be getting the lion's share of attention, there are other benefits from digital that can be overlooked. For example, we can learn from e-commerce: ensuring websites are search engine optimised; good user experience will help drive traffic and ensure the objectives of the site are met. New technology can enhance how we communicate at congresses and meetings – ensuring interactivity, evaluation and presentation is easier and more engaging.

Value for money
Finally, it is worth noting digital does not have to be expensive. If integrated across marketing franchises and throughout campaigns digital can be economical and drive efficiency, important in an age where austerity is at the forefront of everybody's mind. Virtual meetings can break down geographical barriers when travel is too expensive. Online hubs can consolidate marketing and educational materials, reaching more for less. Enabling congress materials to be loaded on to smartphones or tablets eliminates the need for the overwhelming piles of printed material heaped on attendees at conferences.

Digital media should not be the headline, it should be seamlessly incorporated into marketing initiatives to improve communication, create or curate existing content and enhance marketing initiatives.

James HadfieldLitmus logo

The Author

James Hadfield is digital consultant at Litmus-MME, a Chandler Chicco Company





7th September 2011


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