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The Three Ingredient Engagement Recipe

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

Words by Isabel O’Brien

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned engagement patterns on their head, with pharmaceutical companies needing to adapt their strategies to attract healthcare professionals to their content. We uncover the three main ingredients that will ensure that engagement continues, thrives, and prospers in this new and saturated environment.

Celebrated chef Samin Nosrat promotes four pillars of great cooking: salt, fat, acid, and heat, proclaiming that if you master these, you will have mastered the kitchen. The ideology rattles the notion that a positive outcome is complicated to reach, a fallacy attempting to entangle pharmaceutical marketers. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the heat in the kitchen, and marketers have been thrust into an unfamiliar, digital landscape, with a range of strategies and tools at their fingertips to keep healthcare professionals engaged with their products. But at Reuters Events Pharma Marketing Europe 2020, a call to focus on HCPs’ needs surfaced: before launching a circus of virtual campaigns or events, why not build a strategy using their top three ingredients?

COVID-19 is the nucleus of the HCP universe, therefore a digital strategy, particularly for products that are not directly related to the coronavirus, must be underpinned with an awareness of the pandemic and its impact on the medical community. “The traditional approach to medical communication needs to be challenged as attention spans are shorter,” says Karina Morley, Global Head of External Scientific Affairs, AstraZeneca. Just as ‘Mastering Meals for Two’ would sell many more copies than ‘Party-sized Portions’ in the current climate, marketers must create empathetic campaigns attuned to the reality of their customers.

The traditional approach to medical communication needs to be challenged as attention spans are shorter

CSL Behring demonstrated this cognisance with their campaign for World Haemophilia Day: “We decided that instead of just celebrating World Haemophilia Day, we would use this time to kick off a broader campaign that would allow us to really be more involved in the haemophilia community,” says Miguel Pedro, Senior Product Manager, Iberia, CSL Behring. They devised the tagline ‘We Live in Exceptional Times’, capturing the moment and positioning themselves as an ally to HCPs. “Our goals for the campaign were national stimulation and total dedication to patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals who, at this point, want to feel supported and seen,” says Pedro. This is a valuable rhetoric, as it can alleviate feelings of isolation and lead to deeper campaign engagement.

Likewise, Sanofi’s 4th Global Microbiota Summit this April accounted for HCPs’ reduced availability and created multiple pathways to access conference resources, talks, and information. “For the Global Microbiota Summit, we developed a data-driven customer experience; one where HCPs could engage with the contents of the event before, during, and after, through their preferred channels,” says José Maria Guido Avila, Global Lead, HCP Marketing, Sanofi. Creating multiple touchpoints for HCPs is imperative for intuitive digital event design, enabling them to engage when it is appropriate and convenient.

While understanding and accommodating the customer is important, meaningful digital strategies will also deliver relevant, diverse, and evidence-based content, from which HCPs can easily extract clinical conclusions. “Our content strategy needs to focus more on the narrative: what is the story? The data then needs to support that story. Finally, the content should be clearly structured to help an HCP to say: how does this help me manage a specific disease?” continues Morley. Just as Chef Nosrat carefully selects and justifies her elements of great cooking, content must be carefully chosen, contextualised, and corroborated for HCPs to garner reliable learnings that will impact their practice.

CSL Behring’s ‘We Live in Exceptional Times’ engaged visitors with a ‘turn on a light’ feature on the campaign’s homepage, a symbolic nod to the initiative’s narrative. They then populated the site with five different types of resources, including “our manifesto, disease awareness, hints and tips, a social challenge, and patient testimonials,” says Pedro. Since April, 6,700 people have ‘turned on a light’, the campaign hashtag has featured in 1,000 Instagram posts, and their Facebook following has almost doubled, revealing how this approach can bolster a brand community.

For Sanofi’s 4th Global Microbiota Summit, the multi-channel engagement strategy drove >1,600 physicians to their website. When they arrived, they could either sign up to the event or browse a range of relevant content: “They were visiting our explainer videos of our scientific publications, infographics, or scientific posters,” says Guido Avila. On average, HCPs visited 3.4 pages, which is higher than the industry benchmark, and “89% of the attendees reported a positive impact in their clinical practice after attending the event,” adds Guido Avila. The event and web content synergised to have a direct influence on healthcare decision-making.

Finally, a digital strategy cannot operate in isolation: marketers must ensure every venture is tracked and analysed as an opportunity for learning and growth. “We do have a limited set of resources, and analytics are important because they help us to elevate and build confidence so that when we deploy those resources, we’re doing it in the right way,” says Blake Leitch, Global Head of Marketing, Biosimilars, Biogen. Just as publishers will analyse the success of book cover fonts, colours, and quotes, pharma marketers must drill down into the detail to understand whether a project was a success, decide next steps, and formulate plans for the future.

CSL Behring’s engagement analytics allowed them to pinpoint what worked about the campaign and when it was ready to be elevated. “Now we know we are no longer running a pilot, as the acceptance of the campaign was very high and above our initial expectations, we have decided to give it further colour. The next step will be to include influencers to help us to gain relevance and to increase the reach of the campaign,” outlines Pedro. Knowing when to scale is vital to ensure that an impactful campaign reaches as many HCPs as possible and delivers a high return on investment.

Similarly, engagement data from Sanofi’s summit revealed some interesting HCP content consumption patterns: “Some doctors prefer to consume their content in their own time, other doctors prefer to come to webinars, while some doctors prefer to initiate face-to-face. These insights are how we further refined our segmentation and our digital personal development,” shares Guido Avila. This serves as a prudent reminder that while digital is surging, marketers must maintain a multi-pronged strategy to serve the entire medical community’s needs.

COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily changed what we needed to do; what it has done is force us to evaluate

“COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily changed what we needed to do; what it has done is force us to evaluate how we engage with the external world. There are huge gaps in how we communicate from a digital perspective, and how we are measuring this, and these needed to be addressed,” says Morley. There may be four pillars of great cooking, but only three to serving the needs of HCPs in the pandemic era: acknowledge COVID-19, provide varied and clinically impactful information, and like any skilled chef, ensure every great dish surpasses the last.

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