I’m a big believer in connections. The Web is opening up novel ways of connecting machines with machines and people with people. Networks that used to take months or years to create can now be established in days or even hours. For Life Sciences industries, this means that biologists, engineers, doctors, consumers, government agencies and marketers can connect and interact within minutes – and they can do this via multiple media, from text to video.
Of course the flip side of instant connection include numerous dangers: security breaches, privacy violations, spam, flawed information, process hurdles, cultural clashes, etc.
PHARMA’S ENTERPRISE ONION
In order for an industry like Pharmaceuticals to be successful in online community engagement, it has to be able to peel away – like a giant onion – many many layers:
- Cultural sludge
- Resistant political domains
- Organizational fears
- Local and federal regulations (including interpretational ambiguity)
- Resource allocation
- Talent acquisition and training
- Process planning, design, implementation and evaluation
- Ethical awareness and discipline
- Content creation abilities
- Conversational skills – including a profound understanding of diverse cultures
- Documentation management (e.g. Adverse Events require consistent documentation procedures)
- Establishing a consistent and unifying online “voice”
- Cross-departmental and talent osmosis (e.g. Communications staff need to understand clinical processes, while clinical staff need to understand communications)
- Competing philosophies and ideologies and departmental directives
- Actual and public perception of engagement independence.
- A clear understanding of the difference between instant and real-time communications.
- Investor obligations (e.g. Investors demand rates of return in accordance with risk preferences – any process which adds another layer of risk with little perceived return is harder to advance)
Pretty daunting, yes? And this is the abridged list. Here’s what’s more: each layer that has to be examined and peeled away adds an additional order of complexity. The mathematics of this is not linear – that is, the aggregate order of complexity is not the simple sum of all the layers. I don’t know if it’s geometric or exponential, but it’s daunting.
BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS
It’s easy for advocates of social media and engaging with customers (be they consumers or doctors or the public at large). The reality, however, is that the order of complexity for Pharma to be safe and effective (so-to-speak) is high. That doesn’t mean at all that Pharma should sit in the sidelines.
But it does mean that Pharma will have to devote extensive care, attention, labor time, hard work, courage, creativity and supple musculature in order to be remarkable. Online, if you’re not remarkable, you’re nothing. There’s no return on mediocrity.
Anyone who has had to peel away an onion (either a real one, or a psychological one) knows the tears that can flow. It’s not as easy as it looks.
And yet…we all need to break-through difficult times. We all need to peel away layers of the onion.
The Web is making clear that organizations simply won’t be successful in community management and leadership unless they do the hard work of re-thinking and re-envisioning a simpler way of doing business.
What I’m saying is this: the “social media” challenge for Life Sciences isn’t social media. It’s all those layers of the onion.
Of course, once you’ve peeled away those layers, you find yourself confronted with a fresh view of the world. One you get through those layers, the world doesn’t seem so complicated. In fact, you start to see opportunities where you once saw danger.
By Phil Baumann
*Editor’s Note: At Digital Pharma East on October 19 there will be a panel that explores the role of Social Media within the context of the overall marketing plan.
From Hype to Substance:
Social Media as Just One Component of an Integrative Digital Marketing Plan
Discuss how social media is often not the focal point of the marketing strategy, but rather only a supporting tool
Has the social media groundswell actually impacted allocation of budgets?
Are there instances where social media has been scaled back? If so, why?
Associate Director, Interactive Media
Director, Corporate Digital Marketing Strategy
Consumer Marketing Manager