Social media like any new trend has generated a plethora of experts providing advice on how to manage relationships online. Transparency, authenticity and connections are the new tenets for engaging with stakeholders through social media.
The use of social media can facilitate interaction with a variety of stakeholders and if managed appropriately can contribute to the building of strong, lasting relationships and sharing of opinions and knowledge.
But is this really new or have we been doing this for years before 'Yammering', 'Tweeting' and blogging?
Our approach to social media is no different from our our expertise in medical communications which focuses on connecting, sharing and building communities among specific groups of healthcare professionals.
The three 'R's of medical communications and social media
Much like reading, writing and arithmetic form the bedrock of early school education programmes; realisation, relationships and reputation, form the cornerstone of medical communications and social media.
Web 2.0 has revolutionised the way organisations communicate with the outside world. The publication of user-generated content facilitates a two-way conversation between manufacturers and the public. Not only does it support engagement so that consumers hear a brand's messages, it also enables organisations to listen to, and learn from, customers. From both sides it allows the realisation of each other's opinions and knowledge.
In a similar way, our medical communications programmes are designed to facilitate a two-way realisation. Advisory boards, audits and stakeholder mapping all help our clients understand more about their environment, while promotional meetings and non-promotional medical education allow the industry to share the realisation of knowledge with relevant stakeholders.
Such two-way conversations are the basis of strong, long-lasting relationships. An individual truly engaged with an organisation via social media becomes a stakeholder and potential advocate. Similarly, shared objectives and trusted collaborations evolve when healthcare professionals engage with industry through two-way discussion, medical education and service design.
Reputation is central to social media – whether it is an individual or an organisation. Similarly, reputation is an essential driver for our medical communications programmes – both to underpin credibility, but also to build and protect the role of an organisation in a therapeutic field or treatment category. An appreciation that an organisation is listening actively and responding to the needs of the other stakeholders in healthcare, rather than a transactional relationship as provider and customer is a key differentiator for reputation.
Realisation allows the industry to adapt to a rapidly changing industry, Relationships facilitate access in the short term, and Reputation ensures that this access is sustained.
Beyond an information transfer
Effective medical communications goes beyond information transfer and depends on our success in establishing enduring, two-way interaction with stakeholders. Our approach centres on establishing programmes based on shared objectives between industry and the healthcare community. This ensures our content and focus remain relevant and valuable. Rules for engaging in social media provide a welcome reminder of how we should interact with stakeholders in other methods of communication. Regardless of the method we employ to engage with healthcare stakeholders, our approach should be transparent, reflect shared goals and enhance the reputation of the company and industry.
inVentiv Medical Communications London and Litmus MME provide medical communications and medical education as part of iHCE