Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Communications: Creative, Complex, and in Need of Collaboration

"Health Communicators" have a tough job that must be "carefully nurtured," says Fard Johnmar of Envision Solutions. Johnmar has just pre-launched his "Path of the Blue Eye" project to help nurture health communicators via a collaborative community.

Johnmar decided to launch (er, I mean, pre-launch) the project "a bit differently" using a super hero comic strip featuring Specto Laurus who protects the "cverse" - the creative universe - which is the source of creativity and inspiration for health communicators. The villain is Davdos James, erstwhile friend of Specto, now an agent of the "enemy" who "lives only to suck the cverse dry."
[I wonder who, in the "reality universe" or "rverse," Johnmar has in mind as the enemy? This is just one of the questions I will ask him in an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk interview.]
Here's the first few panels of the comic (click for a more readable, enlarged view; go here to read the entire comic):


"Some may react negatively to the approach, while others will think it's interesting," said Johnmar.

I certainly think it's an interesting approach and that's why I have invited Johnmar to talk about it in an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk interview (go here for more information about joining in the discussion LIVE or listening to the podcast archive).

Here's another few panels from the comic strip showing desperate health communicators in need of nurturing (click for an enlarged view):

In the "rverse" there are many companies and consultants that help nurture pharmaceutical marketers, who I suppose could be called "health communicators." Johnmar's company, Envision Solutions, is one of them.

Another "nurturing" company is TNS Healthcare (a Kantar Health Company), which is an advertising client of mine. In the upcoming 2009 Summer (August) issue of Pharma Marketing News, I will publish a review of a recent TNS webinar entitled "Owning the Prescription Pad: Driving Brand Decisions in a Multi-Influence World."

TNS, like Johnmar, believes that health communications is a complex business.

“Brands face dynamic environments with many influencers," said Jonathan Kay, TNS's Global Practice Head, Brand and Communications at the close of the above-mentioned webinar. "Brand managers need to observe, gauge and seek to influence those influencers. Therefore, we need a new model that helps us make sense of a complex world of communications. In addition, we need some measurements. Before measuring, we need to take a holistic view of the market and consider the various influencers on prescribing, their direction, positive or negative, and their relative impact. Then we can examine them in depth. The 'ecosystem' varies over the course of the disease and there are varying points of impact and during a product’s lifecycle there are various ways to make an impact. Taking these points in mind will equip the brand manager to incorporate the 'art of influence' into the brand plan and help management make an optimized investment."

Kay is talking about influencers of physician prescribing, an all important concern of pharma marketing communicatiors.

One of the things that is making health communications so complex these days is the social media revolution, especially among patients who are now one of the major influencers of physician prescribing.

TNS has studied several factors influencing physician prescribing and created an index to measure the influence, positive and negative. This was done via a brief survey of primary care physicians in the US and other countries. The chart below shows results pertaining to influencers of diabetes drug prescribing by US physicians (click for an enlarged view).


What I find interesting is that "Social networks" are among the "negative" influencers, most of which are related to the cost of the product. In this context, social networks can be either patient or physician networks. TNS can break these out to determine how each kind of network might influence physicians (not in this chart, however).

All this complexity and need to pay attention to details is why companies like TNS and Envision Solutions thrive (that is, I assume they are thriving) within the pharma industry. Most pharma brand managers do not have the marketing expertise in house to deal with all this complexity much less measure the success or failure of their campaigns. They need "super heroes" - maybe a little less super than Specto, however.

3 comments:

  1. Regarding social networks being negative influencers. Could that simpy be down to physicians not being sure how to use them in this context? Or, again, beause of the healthcare industry not having produced any good ones?

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  2. Maria,

    Thanks for that question. Whichever it is, I think that for certain categories, pharma marketers must get into the social media conversation to influence the influencers. And by that I do not mean shouting out the brand name with links to the package insert! Here is a great opportunity to support the use of their product by responding to physician needs, IMHO.

    John

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  3. As a patient, I find category # 6, "Patient feedback," to be laughable. In my experience, very few doctors pay much attention to my reports of adverse side-effects. Typically, they ignore my complaints, call me non-compliant," and insist that I continue to take the medications that caused problems.

    I'm in the market for some good placebos. Maybe dihydrogen monoxide, which has a very long track record with almost no adverse effects. And it's cheap. In fact, it's free at water fountains everywhere..

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