This article is the 14th in a series produced by the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society’s Digital Interest Group to address some of the industry’s most pressing challenges in the digital space. They have been designed and written to inform and share good practice, but most importantly to generate discussion and collaboration. #PMSocDIG
This article provided an overview of various thought-provoking articles published by the PM Society Digital Interest Group (DIG) throughout 2023. The articles covered a range of topics related to digital customer engagement and omnichannel marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. Highlights included discussions on achieving omnichannel excellence, implementing programmatic marketing, navigating compliance challenges, adopting a modular content strategy, leveraging generative AI, bridging global-local content divides, and shaping the future engagement model of pharmaceutical field teams. Each article offered insights, strategies, and real-world examples to help industry professionals navigate the evolving digital landscape and improve customer engagement outcomes.
The PM Society Digital Interest Group (DIG) is a subset of the PM Society that operates within a broader network of Interest Groups, all of which contribute to advancing the goals of the PM Society. The PM Society is a not-for-profit organisation that believes excellent healthcare communications leads to better outcomes for patients and the DIG specifically focuses on driving conversations and initiatives related to the use of digital tools for customer engagement excellence and improving patient outcomes. The group takes an active role in promoting the adoption and integration of digital solutions within the healthcare industry.
To accomplish this objective, the DIG has adopted a specific approach to engage with professionals, practitioners, and experts involved in “digital” customer engagement. They have harnessed the power of the LinkedIn platform and the collective expertise of their group members to create a series of thought-provoking articles on various topics, all connected to the overarching theme of omnichannel marketing.
By leveraging the reach and interactivity of LinkedIn, the DIG continues to aim to foster meaningful discussions, share insights, and showcase thought leadership within the field of digital customer engagement in healthcare and Life Sciences.
In 2023, we continued a focused strategy that we began in 2023 of implementing our focus through effective leveraging of LinkedIn as a platform to drive thought leadership in omnichannel customer engagement.
All of the articles are linked separately below or you can head to the Digital Interest Group page on the PM Society’s website to see all of our past articles.
Thought Leadership highlights of the year
The year began with an interesting article on Omnichannel Excellence by Chris Bartley. The article focused on the pursuit of omnichannel excellence in the life sciences industry. It highlighted the gap between the desire and the reality of achieving omnichannel excellence, noting that internal problem-solving and technology often took priority over considering the customer experience. The article emphasised the importance of flipping the focus to prioritise the customer’s current experience and working back to find solutions. It discussed the challenges faced by life science companies in engaging and impressing doctors and the limitations of traditional omnichannel approaches in meeting their needs. The article suggested starting with the customer’s experience and offered insights on the value that doctors derived from pharmaceutical companies, such as the preference for conversation-led engagement rather than content delivery. It also explored the role of third-party platforms in providing information to doctors and the challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies in competing with them. The article concluded that a deep-dive, highly specialised approach focused on the specific needs of expert audiences could be more effective in engaging doctors. It also highlighted the importance of having a single customer ID to achieve consistent experiences across all touchpoints and improve engagement around events and deep-dive content. The article encouraged thinking backwards, starting with the customer’s current experiences and finding practical ways to enhance them with the support of technology, ultimately bringing life science companies closer to the people who could benefit from their medicines.
Moving into February, Gareth Shaw threw down the gauntlet with his challenged article entitled “Why you’re wasting money with digital marketing in Pharma”! The article explored the importance of incorporating programmatic marketing into the omnichannel experience of pharmaceutical marketing. It explained that programmatic marketing automated the process of digital advertising purchasing using software, resulting in greater efficiency and improved performance. The article highlighted how programmatic marketing utilised artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to determine optimal allocation of marketing budgets in real-time. The programmatic ecosystem consisted of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs), Supply Side Platforms (SSPs), and Data Providers. Programmatic marketing offered advantages for HCP marketing, such as targeted reach, reduced wastage, enhanced audience experience, and efficient campaign management. The article emphasised the need to centralise campaigns within a DSP, leverage consistent audience targeting, and optimise campaign delivery through machine learning. It noted the growth of programmatic marketing in other industries and the potential benefits it could bring to the pharmaceutical industry. The article also provided best practices for implementing programmatic marketing, such as finding the right partner, adopting a continuous learning and optimization cycle, and considering programmatic as a vehicle for efficiency and performance rather than cost reduction. In conclusion, the article encouraged pharmaceutical marketers to embrace programmatic marketing to increase efficiency, gain insights, and improve the overall experience for HCP audiences.
In April, Paul Dixey , Debbie Young and Aristides Grau explored the topic of Compliance as it relates to Omnichannel marketing in an article entitled “It’s not you – Compliance – It’s Me”. The article discussed the role of compliance in hindering the adoption of digital channels within the pharma industry. It examined the reasons behind compliance being cited as a common obstacle in project delays or changes. The article suggested that the delay in engaging the right people and a lack of knowledge about compliance topics were the main issues at play. It emphasised the importance of early stakeholder engagement and understanding the intricacies of the ABPI Code and other compliance regulations. The article highlighted the need for compliance teams to shift from a reactive “policing” role to an enabling and proactive position. It suggested that compliance teams should become co-creators of content and assets, rather than simply being the ones to say no. The article provided an example of creating a Digital Compliance Champions group within an organisation to increase knowledge, understanding, and consistency in digital compliance. It encouraged compliance professionals to take a greater interest in digital channels and increase their understanding to support teams in delivering valuable content that aligned with business objectives. The article concluded by emphasising that compliance was a team effort and everyone had a role to play in ensuring success.
Also in April, Ben Keppie and James Harper proposed “Without buy-in from field teams and integration across functions, omnichannel will fail”. The article focused on the concept of omnichannel and its implementation within the pharmaceutical industry. It defined and aligned on what omnichannel means and its importance in providing a seamless, integrated experience across all customer channels. The article emphasised the role of field teams, including sales and medical personnel, as orchestrators of customer experience in an omnichannel environment. It discussed the need for cross-functional collaboration, the challenges of incorporating medical teams into the omnichannel approach, and the importance of a mindset, skillset, and toolset approach in driving successful omnichannel experiences. The article provided quick wins and advice for adopting an omnichannel mindset, enhancing skillsets through training and development, and leveraging appropriate tools and technology. It concluded by highlighting the significance of field teams adapting to new technologies and customer expectations to remain effective and competitive in the evolving pharmaceutical landscape.
In June, Emma Hyland explored the critical concept of Modular Content. This article discussed the rise of modular content in the pharmaceutical industry and its benefits in delivering speed, scale, and engagement. It explained how modular content breaks down content into smaller, reusable components or modules, which can be combined on templates and used across different channels and platforms. The article highlighted that modular content enabled greater content output with less time, money, and effort, resulting in high-impact, engaging content for field teams. It emphasised the need for a deliberate strategy and foundational definitions when transitioning to modular content. The article provided insights from pioneering companies like Novo Nordisk and Boehringer Ingelheim, who had implemented modular content strategies and achieved positive results. It advised companies to align Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with goals and vision, start small and scale gradually, focus on genuine pain points, establish realistic timelines, and communicate the benefits of modular content to gain buy-in from stakeholders. The article also emphasised the importance of using a data-driven approach, leveraging automation, and improving accessibility. It concluded by highlighting that modular content was an ongoing journey, with the future focus being on fine-tuning data for hyper-personalization and optimising content operations at scale.
July saw a highly topical article on Generative AI by Chris Finch and Brian Norman. The article explored the impact of generative AI on the pharmaceutical marketing and medical communications fields. It highlighted ChatGPT as one of the AI tools that was being developed and discussed its features, including the quantity and quality of training data, context and refinement, and accessibility. The article emphasised the importance of critical thinking and considering factors such as accuracy, ethics, and copyright compliance when using AI-generated content in the heavily regulated pharmaceutical communications industry. It suggested practical applications of generative AI, such as generating creative ideas, simplifying complex language, gaining perspective on patient experiences, improving efficiency, and gaining market insights. The article concluded that while AI was not poised to replace human jobs, it could serve as a valuable tool to enhance performance, streamline tasks, and elevate quality and creativity in conjunction with human expertise. It encouraged embracing AI as a workplace assistant and leveraging its potential to flourish in an AI-enabled world.
November saw the publication Bridging the Global-Local Divide: Achieving Content Excellence in Pharma by Amish Patel, James Harper and Ben Keppie . This thought provoking article addressed the challenges of delivering relevant, valuable, and timely content at scale to healthcare professionals (HCPs). The challenges can be categorised into three key areas: mindset, skillset, and toolset. The article emphasised the importance of a collaborative mindset, where global and local teams work together towards a shared goal. It highlights the need for global teams to understand and meet the needs of local teams, and for local teams to adapt global content to make it relevant for their specific markets. The article also stressed the significance of having the right tools and systems in place to enable efficient content planning, production, and distribution. It concluded that successful collaboration between global and local teams can lead to the creation of valuable content that resonates with HCPs and achieves desired outcomes. The article recommended regular needs assessment surveys, co-creation sessions, clear timelines and milestones, effective communication, and feedback loops to foster a thriving global-local partnership.
The penultimate article of the year was a thought provoking piece by Mehrnaz Campbell on the Pharma Field Team HCP Engagement model of the future. The article focused on the future engagement model of pharmaceutical field teams. It introduced the concept of the 9 Cs—Connect, Close, Collect (Insights), (Be) Credible, Crunch (Data), Collaborate, (Be) Curious, Competent (At Prioritisation), and Confident (In Tech)—as essential skills and habits for field teams to engage effectively with healthcare professionals (HCPs). The article emphasised the need for field teams to prioritise customer experiences, develop deep listening skills, build credibility through clinical knowledge, analyse data for effective targeting, and collaborate with internal and external stakeholders. It also highlighted the importance of cultivating a curious and proactive mindset, competency in prioritisation, and confidence in utilising digital tools and technology. The article concluded that embracing these skills and habits could enable field teams to become trusted advisors for HCPs and deliver meaningful outcomes in the ever-changing pharmaceutical landscape.
The final, festive article of the year, A Seasonal Tale of Forgotten Marketing Toys, by Paul Dixey, Chris Wade and Debbie Young, cautioned marketers against getting swept up in shiny new marketing technologies without considering if they will actually help achieve goals. It advised resisting the allure of AI, ML, VR, ChatGPT and other innovations that may not integrate well or provide real value. The article stressed revisiting existing tools and customer data first to optimise current capabilities and ensure an understanding of customer needs. It emphasised omnichannel marketing fundamentals, like developing personas, mapping content to the HCP journey and providing a consistent experience across channels. The article recommended evaluating whether new technologies will seamlessly integrate before pursuing them. It concluded by advising a focus on improving marketing fundamentals rather than assuming the next shiny tech solution will be a silver bullet.
The key takeaways from the series of articles published by the PM Society Digital Interest Group include:
• Omnichannel Excellence: Prioritise customer experiences and work backward to find solutions that meet their needs. Deep-dive, highly specialised approaches can be more effective in engaging healthcare professionals (HCPs). Consider conversation-led engagement rather than content delivery.
• Programmatic Marketing: Embrace programmatic marketing to increase efficiency, gain insights, and improve the overall experience for HCPs. Centralise campaigns within a Demand Side Platform (DSP), leverage consistent audience targeting, and optimise campaign delivery through machine learning.
• Compliance Challenges: Shift compliance teams from reactive “policing” roles to enabling and proactive positions. Become co-creators of content and assets. Engage early with external stakeholders and adapt to changes in field resourcing.
• Modular Content Strategy: Implement a deliberate strategy and foundational definitions to transition to modular content. Break down content into smaller, reusable modules for speed, scale, and engagement. Establish a claims and reference library, digital asset management, and connected content ecosystem.
• Generative AI: Explore the impact of generative AI on pharmaceutical marketing and medical communications. Consider factors such as accuracy, ethics, and copyright compliance. Leverage AI as a tool to enhance performance, streamline tasks, and elevate quality and creativity alongside human expertise.
• Bridging Global-Local Content Divide: Foster collaboration between global and local teams to deliver relevant, valuable, and timely content at scale to HCPs. Understand and meet the needs of local teams, adapt global content to local markets, and utilise the right tools and systems for efficient content planning, production, and distribution.
• Future Field Team Engagement Model: Develop essential skills and habits for field teams to engage effectively with HCPs. Prioritise customer experiences, build credibility through clinical knowledge, analyse data for effective targeting, and collaborate with stakeholders. Cultivate a curious mindset, competency in prioritisation, and confidence in utilising digital tools and technology.
• A Seasonal Tale of Forgotten Marketing Toys: Don’t get swept up in marketing tech trends; first optimise existing tools and focus on fundamentals like understanding customers, mapping content to HCP journeys, and providing consistent omnichannel experiences. Shiny new tools often require work to implement and do not always provide real value after all the effort.
Samuel Pygall – Regional IT Lead at MSD
James Harper – Founder & Managing Director at 28b
Editors: Ben Keppie – Consultant at 28b
The PM Society is a not-for-profit organisation that believes excellent healthcare communications lead to better outcomes for patients.
The PM Society aims to:
• Support organisations and people in healthcare
• Recognise excellence and promote best practice
• Provide education and development
The PM Society Digital Interest Group is made up of passionate pharma digital experts who volunteer their time to:
• Lead the conversations in the use of digital for customer engagement excellence and enabling better patient outcomes
• Promote digital best practices across pharma marketing and the wider commercial organisation
• Explore and share an understanding of what digital strategies and tactics marketers in the life sciences sector can employ effectively to support their brand, business and customers.