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How pharma can unlock the potential of influencer marketing

Building a successful campaign around influencer marketing

By Beth Whitworth

Beth WhitworthIn this digital age, where the patient is increasingly at the centre of our campaigns, influencer marketing feels like a natural next step for healthcare communications. It seems obvious when we see that this strategy is working very well for so many brands and businesses. However, we work in a highly regulated and traditionally risk-averse environment, so there’s a lot to be mindful about. This may explain why healthcare is rather late to the party, but if you choose the right influencer, work with them compliantly and build the right team internally, it can be a highly effective way of communicating directly with patients and other key stakeholders.

So, what exactly is ‘influencer marketing’? It is essentially the ability of one or more people to sway the opinion of a target audience, ultimately convincing them to change their behaviour. While healthcare may not be as straightforward as a new beauty product or footwear brand, the approach is just as relevant.

The statistics are pretty compelling. According to Pew Research Centre and PwC Health Research:

  • 35% of adults in the US go online specifically to ‘figure out’ a medical condition
  • 16% of internet users went online in the last year to find others who might share the same health concerns
  • Nearly 90% of people aged 18-24 trust health information or engage in health activities found on social media.

Working in conjunction with an agency or in-house digital specialist and involving legal, medical and the brand or communications teams from the very beginning will be vital to ensuring all risk and stakeholder concerns are identified and prepared for. The programme will simply not be robust enough to be digital industry standard without the combined sum of all of your parts.

Look to identify celebrities or high-profile medical professionals who are passionate about your disease awareness campaign or patients with the condition, and collaborate with them to reach and engage other patients with your message. The proof is there: the public put more trust in user-generated content than content created by a company or brand.

Choosing the right influencer(s) is critical to the success of your campaign. It’s not all about the number of Twitter followers someone has or what their ‘reach’ is. Select someone whose content people engage with. This can be hard to measure, so it’s worth investing in specialised tools to gauge the quality of their content and the response it evokes. Most importantly, they must be aligned to your brand and values.

It is important to take a strategic view and set clear KPIs from the outset, too. Think about the outcome you want to achieve. Is it to drive awareness, increase engagement or persuade people to visit a doctor? Again, this will be a factor in whom you select as your ambassador.

Once you’ve identified your influencer, it’s important to check they understand that we work in a highly regulated environment and must comply with the ABPI code, which will impact how we do things. For example, many influencers like the freedom to write their own social media posts and publish at a time that suits them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way in healthcare. Content needs to be planned with great precision and authorised by several people. Be honest from the outset about how the partnership will work and put agreements in place to ensure your influencer will always act compliantly. Being transparent is key as you look to establish and build long-term relationships.

In terms of the content, I recommend this is developed collaboratively to ensure it remains authentic. While initially it should be generated by the influencer, it’s up to the communications lead to be the gatekeeper.

You’ll need to assess whether you push out the content from the influencer’s channels, a corporate account or a bespoke campaign platform. Either way, ensure you have a social playbook in place outlining who is responsible for social media monitoring and how you will respond should any adverse events or inappropriate comments occur in response to your content.

Finally, let’s not forget the importance of measurement. As with every social media campaign, the proof comes in the numbers and it’s vital for planning future activity. Whether you measure reach, engagements, clicks or all three will depend on the objectives you set from the outset.

There are some pharma companies who have already started to work with influencers with great success, such as J&J’s HealtheVoices, which has grown from an online community for patient advocates to an annual conference. The advocates have proven to be critical to both patients who are facing a serious diagnosis and doctors who want to better understand and appreciate the patient perspective. However, influencer marketing broadly remains an area of immense, untapped potential within healthcare.

Start small, test, learn and refine your campaigns. The rewards could be considerable.

Beth Whitworth is a Director at Virgo Health

In association with

Virgo Health

6th August 2018

From: Marketing



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