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4 Takeaways from the Bio-Pharma Corporate Communications Conference

Communication, both internal and external, are key in maintaining the health of any organization. This is particularly relevant for the pharmaceutical and health industry. Beyond working to maintain their public image, they also have to gain the trust of billions of patients that are using their products. Therefore, having solid communications and brand marketing is paramount for pharma companies.

Last week New Knowledge was on the ground at the annual Bio/Pharm Corporate Communications conference, to learn about the current brand challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces and new tactics and trends being used throughout corporate communications teams. Here are our key takeaways.

1. Reputation is king

Reputation was the central theme of the two day conference, and that isn’t without reason. Amid controversies of price inflation, the opioid crisis, and the overall public questioning of the ethical integrity of the industry, pharmaceutical companies have faced their share of reputation tarnishing in recent years. Yet, beyond having traditional crisis communications protocols in place, and issuing press releases, little is being done beyond to preserve the integrity of pharma brands.

30% of health and pharma companies say that 50-75% of their market value is attributed to reputation, making it clear that pharma companies need to be doing more. Reputation threats are taking on new forms and digital outlets have given these threats a longer lifeline. In a presentation done by Abbvie, Director of Communications Mary Kathryn Steel said that protecting reputation and building a reliable crisis management solution in today’s digital age requires empathy and thinking about who the target audience is that will be impacted and focusing remediation on that. All in all, pharma companies should be thinking outside of the box when it comes to preserving their reputation.

2. Bio and Pharm companies need to adjust their comms strategy to include disinformation defense

At this year’s event New Knowledge’s Director of Research Renee DiResta presented on how disinformation and information warfare is becoming a growing problem for pharmaceutical brands and the health industry as a whole.

Pharmaceutical companies are not unfamiliar with negative coverage in the media. However the difference with disinformation is that it is false information that has a goal of being intentionally damaging. New Knowledge was able to detect disinformation surrounding the controversial anti-vaccination movement, and presented the findings during our presentation.

Disinformation at the core is a brand problem, and it can greatly impact the reputation of an organization. But in the pharmaceutical and health industry the impact of disinformation can be more severe. Coordinated accounts pushing false narratives forward surrounding vaccines, medications, and wellness have the ability to undermine the health industry and put populations at risk. Immunization rates decline and the possibility of infectious disease outbreaks increase. It’s up to pharma companies to take action and prioritize reputation protection in the age of digital manipulation, to protect their communities and brand integrity.

Vaccine graph

3. The role of social media in evolving in this space

When you think of memorable social media, typically pharma marketing is not at the forefront. However pharma companies are beginning to adopt new marketing strategies like social media and influencer marketing to invest more in their social strategies. What this means is a shift in the matrix of tried and true marketing efforts that pharmaceutical companies have utilized for years. With consumers shifting their digital consumption habits from television to digital.

Pharma comms departments are beginning to explore new social media technology, like social listening, to help them to better connect with their end customers. The challenge with social media, since many users use it as a means to communicate sentiment or feedback, is cutting through the noise to get to what your target audience actually cares about. Leveraging social media technology can help brands better connect and understand an audience that they have traditionally been out of sync with.

4. Patients are more than just patients, they are also customers

At the end of the day patients are buying customers and they need to be treated as such. The same challenges that CPG brands, and retailers face in customer retention, brand loyalty, and new customer acquisition are all challenges that pharmaceutical companies need to prioritize to maintain and keep their customer base.

One way in which pharma companies are beginning to do this is by looking at their brand’s analytics relevant to customer activity and engagement. Beyond just looking at what medications/prescriptions customers are purchasing, they can dive into user journey data that can actually push the needle. Using this type of data helps to overall create greater relevance for the customer by helping to put messages in front of them that are more timely, in content forms that are more aligned with certain demographics, and for organizations to make more informed communications decisions. Patients are customers, and they need to be educated and engaged with in the same way that they would with any other brand.

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