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The power of the patient influencer

by Lorraine Walters

While the use of influencers is now an established part of the communications mix, the role of the patient influencer is assuming growing importance in healthcare campaigns.

However, unlike influencers in other fields, being a patient influencer is not just about gathering likes. Nor are they interested in increasing the number of followers they have on social channels. Their motivation is somewhat different: a desire to support others and ‘influence’ on their behalf to make a real difference to patients’ lives.

True patient influencers may not even use social channels at all. They may be advocating for their fellow patients behind the scenes, lobbying NICE for access to medicines, or publicising fundraising efforts via their local media.

Increasingly, however, patient influencers are sharing their personal experiences of living with chronic illness on the internet, creating and sharing content via their own blogs and social media.

As people take greater control of their own health and seek information from non-healthcare professional sources, influencers can offer an alternative way of providing or signposting relevant and trusted information and advice for other patients.

For those looking for authentic, unbiased opinions on treatment, the views of patient influencers on what worked for them are an invaluable source of information.

For some patients, following and engaging with an influencer they trust can help them feel less isolated. For others, patient influencers can inspire change, leading to their followers seeking help and advice.

Authentic patient influencers engage with comms activities because of their passion for a topic and belief in the importance of sharing a message. We should be wary of those with ‘paid partnerships’ with healthcare companies and question whether their loyalty still lies with the community they are supposed to empower.

The pharmaceutical industry can certainly benefit from identifying patients with influence and working compliantly with them. Many influencers are willing
to support pharmaceutical companies by creating or signposting content suitable for their peers and helping them reach patient communities.

But listening to how they engage with their community can be key to creating communication campaigns that meet patients’ real needs, desires and motivations.

Lorraine Walters is Practice Lead, Say Communications

In association with

30th June 2021

From: Marketing

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