When approaching digital strategy I always like to think of the guiding principle 'No man is an island'. Now you might be wondering how I'm going to weave metaphysical poet John Donne (yes it's him, not Hugh Grant in About A Boy) into an issue of Pharmaceutical Market Europe but I promised my mother that a degree in English and Classics wasn't a waste of time. So here goes…
Firstly the phrase 'digital strategy' scares me, indicating as it does, a divide between digital and other elements of the marketing mix. Or potentially, as the age of the digital native dawns, the prioritisation of digital as the sole marketing tactic worth creating a strategy for. Digital is undoubtedly a very powerful tool in the marketers' arsenal but one of many to be deployed as and when appropriate and rarely alone if maximum impact is desired.
But undeniably digital has changed our world. Our work as media planners and buyers focuses largely on paid media, but now this needs to form part of a coherent approach encompassing owned and earned channels and what drives those relationships. And that, in short, is content. The positive take is that digital has allowed us, as an agency, to engage with content in a way that didn't feel necessary when a media schedule was a series of advertising pages filled by a creative agency-executed campaign. And it's made our clients re-engage with content as a living, breathing, moveable feast.
Digital isn't so much space to be filled as an ever-changing window display of your products, thoughts, ideas and authenticity constantly open to all. That shop-front is no longer controllable and rationed, but laid bare to questioning, informed and hard-to-please audiences who will value and rate your information against other sources and very quickly vote with their traffic if they find you wanting. And these audiences are no longer just physicians or healthcare payers; if the pharma vox populi tells us anything it's that patients are customers too.
Digital strategy should be consistent with your overall marketing strategy and clearly reflect the business goals of the company
So our digital island is getting pretty crowded to say the least - a huge audience, lots of tactics and lots of content to be created. So how do we create a coherent strategy to make it all hang together? Fortunately this should be fairly simple, as digital strategy should be consistent with your overall marketing strategy and clearly reflect the business goals of the company. So far, so marketing 101. But where digital does differ is in how we can measure the success of the tactics that underpin and deliver on the strategy and how we can gear ourselves up to respond to them.
Knowing what good looks like depends both on internal drivers and goals for the business but also on benchmarks created by the wider industry. Work with digital partners, key digital platforms in your market, other company stakeholders and agencies to get an insight into what the range of responses to a digital campaign are and decide where you and your brand would sit. Know what can be measured; engagements, interactions, downloads, conversions, views, forwards and favourability and decide which are of value to you. Set a commercial value on that, compare it to other tactics. Create an index if that's more helpful for your business; ie that a digital download is 0.8 as effective for your brand as a pickup of a reprint at a conference, and buy and measure these tactics with that as a goal. Enshrine them in your strategy.
If you can, try to establish where you sit currently - how are you perceived digitally by your audience, how do your current campaigns perform, how efficiently do you buy and integrate digital activities? A digital audit and health check before you implement your new strategy is the ultimate benchmark and often reveals quick wins and potential synergies as well as revealing best practice which may already be at work within the organisation.
And then you are ready to start! But you don't have to do it alone. Partner with people who can help accelerate your learning. Work with agencies that will be able to measure and visualise your results in a way that will allow easy dissemination to all levels of your organisation. Pick best-in-class platforms that are willing to create bespoke solutions for your brand. Choose partners that are nimble, responsive and skilled and most importantly make sure they understand what your strategy is and how they can contribute to its success. Because as we all know, 'No man is an island'. Not even Ibiza. Sorry Hugh.
Emma Statham is managing director of Four MSA (part of Four Health). Four Health offers uniquely integrated solutions in UK and global communications aimed at healthcare professionals and patients - communications strategy and implementation delivered by one expert team, see www.fourcommunications.com/four-health