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Up close and personal

How the need for engagement and differentiation is helping pharma break down social barriers

Stefi RucciIn spite of the lingering concerns and uncertainty around adverse event reporting, even for the more cautious companies, being left out may well present a bigger risk than treading the unfamiliar digital and social waters. Healthcare communications are evolving to unlock these opportunities, and some of this evolution has made a substantial impact to our way of thinking.

Hearing patients’ unadulterated voices, as they share their experiences online, is a powerful experience that should sit at the heart of any engagement programme. Social listening provides an unmissable opportunity for pharma to gather insights, a way to tap into the world’s largest focus group without the knowledge bias, and really get to know an audience.

Health-specific social listening platforms have developed to support this growing fascination for deep listening: there are no more excuses for flying blind.

Moving away from a push strategy to educate and raise awareness, healthcare communicators have been developing ways to harness the power of sharing to draw people to useful and original content. Social endorsement has fuelled the potential for behaviour change, supported by powerful metrics. There are many great examples of campaigns that have succeeded in inspiring positive behaviours, reframing our thinking and driving us to do something worthwhile. Pharma has been behind some, showing growing confidence and a greater understanding of the value of unbranded, altruistic engagement.

Another critical pillar in healthcare communications has been the idea of co-creating ideas with very large groups of people through crowdsourcing, a powerful way of empowering the target audience, putting them at the heart of the decision process through direct interaction. Healthcare and pharma companies have been using crowdsourcing internally and externally to generate ideas to shape and reframe narratives and behaviours.

The need for insight to differentiate is getting ever greater and this is helping push the boundaries and lower the fear threshold. Often by harnessing small innovations from elsewhere and using them in a novel way, pharma is breaking down social barriers. Can we call this true innovation? Innovation in the real sense may not be here yet but there is definitely a growing appetite and a lust for what digital and social has to offer.

Stefi Rucci is joint managing director and head of healthcare at Say Communications

In association with


4th September 2017

From: Marketing



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