Why pharma needs social media
The following is a reply posted in Ad Age in response to the article Big Pharma Finally Taking Big Steps to Reach Patients With Digital Medi...11 May 2009 2365 Views
The following is a reply posted in Ad Age in response to the article Big Pharma Finally Taking Big Steps to Reach Patients With Digital Media
I’ve always found it ironic that an industry that saves millions of lives each year is among the most mistrusted and despised by the public. But the pharma industry has only itself to blame.
In the past silence was the preferred strategy for pharma. It generated massive amounts of resentment towards the pharma industry, but heck, they still sold their pills. Today pharma is realizing that there is also profit in having strong brands (corporate and product) and silence is no longer a viable strategy. One reason is because if they do not tell their story there is a resentful public who is more than willing to tell it for them.
Most pharma companies do a lot of good and would benefit from more transparency. As jbernoff points out fear factor is one of the biggest obstacles pharma is dealing with. A tradition of silence, and in many cases corporate arrogance, is hard to break. I agree with Loreen Babcock. Pharma needs social media and those companies who embrace it will benefit as will their shareholders.
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I just attended a SocialPharmer conference in Boston where I had the pleasure of listing to Josh Bernoff present his findings. The regulatory hurdles are daunting, but I think sane solutions can be worked out if both sides come to the table (and the FDA loosens up the reins).
Thanks for the comment Stuart. Yes, the FDA seems to be asking pharma to apply the same spirit of the law that exists in print to the web although it has not published any web-specific guidelines. Like many aspects of web marketing these days – there is no rule book and often no precedent. So companies have to rely on trial and error, an approach which scares pharma. Pharma companies have been slow to adopt social media because of their low risk tolerance. But the FDA may not be as daunting as it may seem, particularly when compared to Europe. We find there is adequate space within FDA guidelines to successfully promote online – you just have to play by the same rules we’ve used in other media for years. We are working on social media programs for several pharma and medical companies right now — even in Europe where regulations on pharma marketing are much tougher than FDA regulations.