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The Digital Pharma Revolution Was Definitely Twitterized!

Posted by | 11:01am on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the seeds of discontent with the status quo have been sown 

Okay, so I appropriated that line from someone on Twitter who, probably unknowingly, mangled the great ’70s spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron’s battle cry – but I digress.

Last week’s ExL Digital Pharma Conference was a blast because it was all about the possibilities that social media and other interactive tools offer for our industry in building customer relationships. It was a no-fear kind of environment and, importantly, participants walked the talk. You’ve got to step up your unconference, facilitating-the-conversation game when a significant number of people in the room are tweeting their questions and comments and the Twitter feed is projected in real time. No pressure!

The conference got off to a great start with Jonathan Richman (Dose of Digital) and Fard Johnmar’s (Envision Solutions) engaging and informative Social Media Boot Camp. The morning was well spent as teams competed to develop a social media plan for a specific therapy within all the process, budgetary, legal and regulatory constraints that we face on a daily basis. It was really interesting to see the range of solutions that emerged.

I have to admit that my basic strategy was to make sure I was on Cynthia North’s (Bayer) team. I’ve seen her in action and knew she could sell it through regulatory if anyone could. A key takeaway was that the tone of the conversation with the regulatory team has to be shifted from “no, because” to “yes, if.” Shwen Gwee (Vertex), our able chairman, and Heidi Youngkin (J&J) set an aspirational and adventurous tone for the general session that infused many of the interactive conversations over the next couple of days.

Most notably:

  • Cynthia North (Bayer) was a firecracker in presenting an engrossing integrated patient support/relationship marketing case study and engaging the audience throughout.
  • Craig DeLarge (Novo Nordisk), our spiritual guru, challenged us as marketers to examine our intentions, attention and faith in reciprocity to not just drive transactions but establish meaningful customer relationships.
  • Marc Monseau (J&J) spoke about the imperative of guidelines and “guardrails” as the all-important first steps in embarking on social networking.
  • Allison Blass (Lemonade Life), a patient blogger, brought the voice of the customer into the room
  • Xavier Petit (Shire) and Fabio Gratton (Ignite Health) provided a hilarious, France vs. Italy soccer hooligan debate on the ROI of social engagement.
  • Our own Wendy White’s (Siren Interactive) breakout on Health 2.0 and rare disease patient empowerment was attended by a small but engaged group due to its niche focus and she received her fair share of positive tweets.

Nothing is ever perfect and some stakeholders were underserved and/or underrepresented – the lack of living, breathing regulatory people in attendance being the most obvious. And one patient’s presence is not enough because, as an industry, we are still way too focused on what we want them to do rather than understanding how to meet their needs. The elephant in the room was, of course, the question of FDA guidance. We’ll be following how that plays out in the FDA’s public hearings in November. My take is that Pandora’s Box has been opened, the seeds of discontent with the status quo have been sown, and pharma’s social media engagement movement has the momentum of inevitability.

Your thoughts?

This post was contributed by Frieda Hernandez, Vice-President of Business Development for Siren Interactive. Follow me on Twitter @friedah03

About Frieda Hernandez

Frieda leads Siren’s business development, marketing and alliance activities. She has a reputation for developing innovative marketing strategies and building mutually beneficial client partnerships with biopharmaceutical executives. She advocates for authenticity and transparency in creating trust relationships online and is an avid participant in industry conferences and social networks to stay abreast of all the current issues.

View other posts from Frieda

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