Do you have trouble communicating the benefits your business provides in terms that the government will allow and that consumers can relate to? Do you feel constrained in your ability to creatively communicate meaningful stories due to the complex and highly regulated nature of your products and processes? When communicating with their target, marketers need to exercise greater caution and sensitivity when it comes to finding the right stories to tell – and the right way to tell them. B2C messaging in a B2B world: An additional complication for pharma and life science companies is that their sales processes are more B2B than B2C: While their products are used by consumers in need of medical treatment, companies are legally prohibited from selling directly to the patients themselves. Reputation issues: Finally, there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: public perception. That means developing core content, and then repurposing it across multiple channels, for different reading levels and different stages of a user’s informational journey. Buddy points out that pharmaceutical marketers can tell powerful stories by focusing on how their companies’ efforts impact the lives of the people affected by the illnesses they treat rather than on the treatments themselves. Don’t be afraid to tackle the taboos: Social media presents an ideal opportunity for pharma marketers to help patients overcome the stigmas associated with personal health issues, while dispelling the myth that facilitating open, honest discussions on these issues is too risky an endeavor for this industry to take on. Want more insights, ideas, and examples on how pharmaceutical companies can leverage content marketing to their best advantage? As a content strategy consultant, Jodi helps businesses evaluate their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create compelling stories to be delivered across multiple media channels and platforms.
Do you have trouble communicating the benefits your business provides in terms that the government will allow and that consumers can relate to? Have you experienced problems with public perception that hinder your ability to earn trust and foster greater support in the marketplace? Do you feel constrained in your ability to creatively communicate meaningful stories due to the complex and highly regulated nature of your products and processes?
If you commonly experience the symptoms described, you may be suffering from a condition called “being a pharmaceutical industry marketer.” Thankfully, content marketing can help you address and overcome these issues – and you don’t even have to talk to your primary care physician to get started.
Pharma’s complex marketing landscape
The pharmaceutical industry faces all of the standard concerns that typically impact modern content marketers – including the need to differentiate in a competitive marketplace, questions about how to align results with business goals, and uncertainty about the best ways to attract and retain the attention of the right target audience at the right moment.
Yet, additional layers of complexity are at play for pharma and life science marketers given the unique considerations that come with caring for people with illnesses or injuries and communicating about life-saving therapies and technologies manufactured by their companies. Not to mention that there’s no room for factual errors or marketing missteps in an industry where human lives can hang in the balance.
Regulations and accountability: One of the biggest challenges is that pharmaceutical marketers operate in a highly regulated industry monitored not only for product safety and efficacy but also labeling and messaging practices. Content needs to be precise, credible, well vetted, and go through strict validation and approval processes. This makes it exponentially more challenging to efficiently source, produce, and publish meaningful, useful stories than most other industries.
Consumer privacy and information sensitivity: Unlike companies that market less-regulated products and programs that promote better health and wellness (like fitness devices, nutrition supplements, or diet and exercise programs), pharmaceutical companies are focused on treating and managing illnesses with FDA-approved products. This comes with an added responsibility to communicate messages consistent with their FDA-approved indication.
Pharma marketers also must transcend the social stigmas that surround certain health conditions. People are protective when it comes to disclosing details of their personal health, and may even be reluctant to engage in conversations with fellow sufferers, let alone drug companies – especially when they are affected by a rare or misunderstood disorder. When communicating with their target, marketers need to exercise greater caution and sensitivity when it comes to finding the right stories to tell – and the right way to tell them.
B2C messaging in a B2B world: An additional complication for pharma and life science companies is that their sales processes are more B2B than B2C: While their products are used by consumers in need of medical treatment, companies are legally prohibited from selling directly to the patients themselves. Licensed health-care professionals determine what types of treatments will be best for their patients.
Creative limitations: Both regulatory-compliance issues and the indirect nature of pharmaceutical messaging can make it more difficult for content marketers in this space to explore new creative territories or embrace open platforms like social media. While they may understand the need to be “where the audience is,” they also live in fear that the uncontrolled nature of the channel might give their detractors free reign for public criticism, bringing issues to light before the company is prepared to respond to them. And no company in any industry wants to find itself dealing with a communication crisis without warning (Am I right, United Airlines?).
Reputation issues: Finally, there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: public perception. Pharmaceutical companies have a pressing need to overcome the perception that they have little regard for human suffering when there are profits to be made. While this reputation may have been based on some legitimate concerns and has been highlighted in some well-publicized stories of executive greed and questionable ethics (think “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli and Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos) – there are other sides to the story that don’t get the same level of attention, and content marketers are often challenged by how to bring them to light.
According to government estimates, 845,000 people work in the pharmaceutical industry in the United States. Yet the high-profile antics of any industry will get the most attention from the media. Shkreli and Holmes have become poster children for drug-pricing increases and shady practices, but the reality is that they only represent a…