I read blogs in my Google Reader most days to learn new things, get smarter and share interesting items with other people. Often, blog posts written about something completely different inspires me to apply it to my own field by dint of cross fertlisation of ideas. Three of my favourite blogs are written by either finance guys or venture capitalists. One of them, A VC by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, had an interesting post about KogiBBQ and earned media the other day, which got me thinking about Pharma and how companies could learn from this innovative approach.
How many Pharma companies have blogs, share pictures on Flickr, engage in a dialogue with patients or even listen to what patients are thinking about their company, product and services? Pharma loves push marketing. This takes several different forms – sales reps telling doctors about drugs, CME and medical education where key opinion leaders tell doctors about drugs, ads in journals, press releases on websites etc etc etc. Nowhere in all this push marketing is any sign of the pull effect and actively listening outside of the usual traditional market research.
Earned media is interesting because it speaks to the effort that people put in to share, build and listen. A great example of the old and new ways of communicating was given by Dave Armano in his Logic and Emotion blog in a post about Skittles, of all things:
Dave Armano also went onto to say:
Oddly, this concept exactly what I was thinking about yesterday while writing some slides on how we (my company) could help Pharma could embrace and use social media more effectively to listen, engage and earn new media. Except that I didn't put it so elegantly in words, choosing to use pictures to try and get my message across.
The Pharma industry often gets a bad rap for selling drugs that don't work as well as people would like, lacking a holistic approach to medicine and pushing their messages rather than listening to consumers. Granted they are all things it could better, but sometimes just beginning with simple things such as actively listening is a good starting point. Once Pharma companies feel more comfortable, engagement is more likely to follow.
As Fred Wilson put it: