Content Marketing for the Pharma Industry


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The Internet is where much of today’s storytelling takes place, making it critical that website content meets an audience’s expectations. This is particularly delicate in pharma. This whitepaper authored by Justin Freid and Matt Howell of CMI/Compas looks at the expectations and challenges of content marketing in our industry and discusses how to achieve meaningful, compelling and impactful content.

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Content Marketing for the Pharma Industry

  1. 1. Page 1 People have been storytelling since the beginning of time, and intrinsically humans have a propensity to share information. Once upon a time these discussions might’ve taken place around a fire in a cave, but today many of these discussions occur across the internet. This is a place where the conversation can grow exponentially, and these stories are shared across multi-functional platforms with the potential to reach millions in seconds. The ultimate goal of content marketing is to connect your customers with the information they find most compelling. Due to many of the legal restrictions pharmaceutical companies face, they often struggle creating content that achieves the desired effect. If you’re developing a website for a drug that treats diabetes, and the content on your site speaks about the disease state, causes, and symptoms, this content is not going to be found compelling by someone who has had diabetes for 10 years, nor by a healthcare professional who treats the disease, because they will be looking for higher-level information. On top of developing content that has a limited connection to your target audience, you now have a webpage that has similar information to hundreds of millions of pages on the internet. Overview Content Marketing for the Pharmaceutical Industry: “By Changing Nothing, Nothing Changes” May 2014 Due to many of the legal restrictions pharmaceutical companies face, they often struggle creating content that achieves the desired effect. This approach makes it that much harder for your target audience to find you, connect with you, and for your voice to be heard. This approach is why pharmaceutical companies should consider alternative ways to sharing content with their audiences, as well as more innovative ways to create and distribute their content. WHITEPAPER Is My Content Solving Your Problem? “All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” ~Ernest Hemingway~
  2. 2. Page 2 The quote by Hemingway articulates the purpose your content is supposed to serve. You want your audience to feel as though you legitimately understand them. Is your content developed from the viewpoint that you understand what they care about, what they talk about, and what their issues are? This type of fluidity between brand and audience is not easily attained, and the first step to understanding your audience is do extensive research into their behavior. Begin by listening. Before you speak to your targeted audience, you should first listen, and you can do this by measuring audience sentiment online. What do they share, what do they not, how much time do they spend when exposed to our content? Once you’ve done some research, begin to segment your data. The segmentation of the data and user activity will help to create personas, just as is done in other marketing strategies. Creating personas is essential as the platforms and ways in which you’d market your content to a 24 year old woman with a 10-year history of diabetes should differ from how you’d market that same content to a 55 year old man newly diagnosed with the disease, and to the healthcare professionals that treat it. Once an idea of what matters to your audience has been established, begin to engender ways to connect them to one another. Most people are not seeking generic disease state information, and your goal should be to create a community where people can come to discuss their issues, support each other, etc. This approach ensures that you are connecting with people on how they are dealing with their diseases, issues, or treatment techniques. It is important to let the afflicted dictate the conversation, if you try and facilitate to them what matters they will not be as interested. Content Marketing is not solely about product advertising. It is marketing, public relations, and communication with your audience all rolled into one. It’s about promoting the ideals of your brand as well as the products. Starting to organize people allows brands to help shape how they’re perceived by their desired audience. Whenever a consumer feels as though a brand “gets them” they have a greater propensity to become a brand loyalist. By creating an environment where your audience can connect with each other on issues they care about, you’ve set the table for continuous engagements with them over time. These types of engagements are invaluable, and should always be tailored to their interests. They should not be campaign oriented, but ever evolving based upon your audience’s needs. Do you currently have content people want to share that drives customer actions? Auditing your content is essential to understand what assets you have, and to make your strategy more visionary. Digitally speaking, your content is your basis for making money, and it is the single greatest asset you have to leverage. Establish a Community
  3. 3. Page 3 The pharmaceutical industry should strongly consider a shift in their thinking, and begin to think/ promote their content as if they are publishers. Create an editorial calendar for a full year. Have your content, comments, and other language already submitted to MLR so you can be more nimble, but also realize that audience behavior may change, and that if this occurs so should your already approved content pieces. Disease education, for example, can become much more innovative when incorporating the insights, needs and wants of your core audience. Big emotions come from simplicity in the way people digest and relate to your content, and evoking these big emotions is the best way to promote the changes you desire in audience behavior. How exactly does one create compelling stories which compliment audience needs that are also memorable, personal, shareable and impactful? Moving Mountains How exactly does one create compelling stories which compliment audience needs that are also memorable, personal, shareable and impactful? It’s not an easy process, but it is achievable. Developing a great content marketing strategy takes careful planning and a long-range set of goals. Truly connecting with your audience to the point where they organically take the actions you desire can feel like moving mountains. You won’t achieve success overnight, and you will have to try and fail to perfect your craft as with anything. Ultimately the most important aspect of content marketing besides the actual content itself is to have your key stakeholders support your vision and buy in. Content marketing cannot be a commitment through a quarter, or through the end of the year. It should never end, because you will never adopt the belief that your audience stops needing your brand. Very few pharmaceutical brands are comfortable expressing themselves creatively. Content Marketing and Search Optimization Efforts Search engine optimization and content marketing used to be viewed as separate marketing tactics. They are increasingly becoming one in the same, as great content marketing is the best way to optimize your web property. A multitude of factors contribute to increasing a site’s rank within search engines, but the most effective is by acquiring links to your content. Each link to your content/ website serves as a vote of confidence for your web property over a particular subject matter.
  4. 4. Page 4 The more links you have the better, and who links to your content is also of great importance. Whether you are being endorsed by a trustworthy online source or a low security, spammy website play a role in determining the impact of said links. Link building is not only the most effective way to optimize your site, but also the most difficult. This is why content marketing plays such a vital role to your optimization efforts. Creating content your target audience wants to link to or share is quite difficult if done so without incentives. But if you have to incentivize your targeted audience then they aren’t truly connected to your brand. In the pharmaceutical industry, the acquiring of links is difficult due to FDA restrictions and conservative legal teams, but a large part of this also has to do with the amount of content online about disease states and treatment options. If you were trying to get your targeted audience to share/link to your sites content on “diabetes treatments,” you would have 131,000,000 other pages online to compete with. To be one of the best with that much competition, especially when your content is similar, is nearly impossible. This is what makes content marketing and the innovation of how it’s constructed vitally important to the pharmaceutical Industry. Content innovation is the key to getting your audience to share/link to your content. Sharing will drive volume, and that volume is the single greatest way to rank highly within a search engine. The type of content that pharmaceutical companies create has to change if the goal is to get people to share. Instead of creating a generic webpage about Parkinson’s titled “Symptoms of Parkinson’s,” create pages with titles that generate more interest. The more links you have the better, and who links to your content is also of great importance. Health Literacy is Difficult Without Visual Literacy To an individual with Parkinson’s, content titled “How to travel with Parkinson’s” or “10 things people with Parkinson’s need to know” would be much more appealing. And to a healthcare professional that treats Parkinson’s, content with a title such as, “Treatment Techniques every HCP Should Know” would have a higher propensity to be shared. You generate interest from your target audience by making them feel as though your content is unique; something they haven’t seen before. And when they arrive at your content make sure that their hunch is validated; you want to make them glad they came.
  5. 5. Page 5 Matthew Howell Senior Search Analyst Communications Media, Inc. Justin Freid Vice President, Search Engine Marketing & Emerging Media Communications Media, Inc. Analysts: Changing the way you portray your content, as well as how you create it, is essential to marketing your content effectively. Health literacy is extremely difficult without visual literacy. In order to make your content the most appealing (and shareable) pharmaceutical brands need to invest more in video, a best practice that is worth the investment. It is an excellent way to connect with people, and has the greatest propensity to be shared. Adopting video into your content marketing strategy can also be an excellent stepping stone into other innovative media. Consider turning your whitepapers into info graphics; contemplate whether utilizing augmenting reality can better market your content. You should be adopting routine brainstorming sessions, and beta testing your content across multiple platforms. You’ve achieved success when your target audience believes that your content makes them smarter, is aligned with their best interests, is convenient, and easy to access. When your audience believes this, they’ll be excited about sharing the wealth of knowledge you’ve bestowed upon them with others. When this effect is achieved not only have you opened a door you never knew existed, but you’ve moved a mountain.