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Nuggets, Snippets, and Salient Sound Bites from Digital Pharma East 2010

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I spent the last couple of days (Oct. 19-20) in Philadelphia at the Digital Pharma East conference [you can find the agenda here]. I always like to do conference wrap-ups on this blog when I can, because it provides a service to readers that weren’t able to attend (and it’s a nice review for me).

But the idea of a comprehensive wrap-up can been daunting. With the volume of presentations I attended, its difficult to give every presenter the credit they deserve. Facing 27 pages of typed notes and an infinite number of tweets to review, (not to mention expectations of several other excellent conference wrap-ups from other bloggers), I wanted to do something different.

There were many sessions and streams from which to choose, and sometimes I didn’t choose wisely. But I did pick up some salient sound bites and nuggets. So instead of writing a full blog post, I’m posting a series of what I’m calling "nuggets, snippets, and salient sound bites" to tell the Digital Pharma East 2010 story. This first post features the first three.

Speakers and presentations are listed with my favorite snippets. I sincerely hope the series helps capture what I felt was generally a good conference and informational exchange.


Ian Talmage, SVP Marketing,

Bayer Schering Pharma "Lessons from My Journey: From Marketer to Patient and Back Again"

As the "Patient as Marketer" keynote, Ian Talmage shared some powerful lessons learned when he was a marketer diagnosed with colon cancer and survived to share his story.

  • "Coming out the other side, I came out different -- and better. … It forever changed the way I think as a communicator."
  • "Today, a pharma brand managers’ diverse strategic arena is impacted by many distractions (channels, politics, regulations, etc.) that take them away from their primary role. … Diversity and distractions are not always a good thing."
  • As he reached out to talk to people online, Talmage gathered information and feedback. He heard from MDs, friends, and patient organizations. These resources gave him an anchor again. The only avenue that never answered was pharma.
  • "When people are ill, it’s not a transaction. We must create much more of a relationship, build trust, and be part of the solution."
  • "People, even if they work for pharma, are more trustworthy than anonymous ads."
Talmage went on to offer more digital/social advice, but I found his patient story to be infinitely more interesting and unique. As a "patient as marketer," Talmage offered an honest, thoughtful perspective of a cancer survivor that is also a pharma "market-teer" (as I learned they say in the UK). Well done.

Doc Searls

Co-Author,The Cluetrain Manifesto

To be honest. I didn’t know a whole lot about the Cluetrain Manifesto before I heard Doc speak, and I hadn’t ever read it. That probably automatically boots me out of any techy-geek cult or club I might have otherwise been a member of. But now I know the story — and I’m an enlightened person as a result.

  • The manifesto consisted of 95 theses (John Mack touched on a few of them on his blog last week.)
  • The name came from the comment: "The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years, but they never took delivery"
  • Google Books reports that 5,220 books mention Cluetrain, and that number goes up every day.
  • "Markets are conversations. Conversations are fire. Marketing is arson."
  • Here’s the interesting thing: The Cluetrain Manifesto wasn’t about marketing. It was about markets. It spoke in the voice of the customer, not of the seller.
  • Customers are not "seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. They are human beings."
  • "Social media unlocks the awesome potential of behavioral disorders." ADHD, narcissism ... so true. Not Doc’s idea, but I loved this statement and accompanying graphic and am even more thrilled to learn I can purchase the T-shirt!
  • The goal is to try to break down the walls of the web so it answers to consumers, not corporations
His parting advice to pharma marketers in social media? "Come from yourselves, not from the organization."

Bryan Vartabedian, MD,

Pediatric Gastroenterologist, Texas Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine

An avid blogger (http://www.33charts.com/) and all-around proponent of physicians using social media, "Dr. V" (a.k.a. @Doctor_V) presented "Twitter MD — What You Need to Know about Doctors and Social Media."

  • "Patients used to search for information online, then they searched for each other online. Now, information is searching for — and finding — them."
  • What are Drs doing in social? We don’t really know. He warned us to not pay too much attention to privately generated stats. But there is some work afoot to quantify this in a peer-reviewed way, which will give us some good data in the next year or two. (Interesting! Will be tough to wait that long)
  • What are the reasons Drs don’t use SM? Late adopters, time/impatience, social needs passion, issues w/ privacy, liability, image.
  • The best drug reps are the ones that spend a long time getting to know him. The relationships are the most powerful connections.
  • See Dr. V’s review of Doximity on his blog. With it’s LinkedIn-like profiles, encrypted text messaging, and ability to connect long-lost med school buddies, he felt it’s a site "worth keeping an eye on."
  • Marc Monseau (of @JNJComm fame) knows Doctor V — "that’s his job and should be yours too." Monseau brought them all to Vegas and sponsored the Blogworld expo. "Building relationships — that’s what its about."
  • A look into the future: How will things be diff. in 10 years? Platforms will be different but conversation is conversation. The doctors will be here. Mobile will ultimately rule.
  • The integration of EMR and social communication is coming. EMR & social dashboards will be side by side on physicians’ screen at point-of-care.
  • Doctor V’s favorite sources for content? MedPage Today, ePocrates, and the "incredible content" on the NEJM app.

Joan Mikardos,

Senior Director, Business Innovation, Sanofi-Aventis

Joan Mikardos (@jmikardos) heads up Sanofi Aventis’ social media practice on their corporate innovation team. As a sit-in for colleague Dennis Urbaniak (@durbaniak), Joan wanted to share with us something that was "fresh and different than what everyone else is saying." So she shared the story of her mission to understand how "pharma companies can use social media meaningfully."

  • The mission was to understand social media and how a pharma co. can use it meaningfully and participate. "We’re chipping away with baby steps — is it worth it?"
  • They started with education and immersion. They educated legal, regulatory, marketing, medical with basic 101s and were actually even doing basic digital 101s.
  • While participation is important for social media … Listen first, and never stop listening. (We definitely heard this a lot over the several days of the conference.)
  • Once they were educated and listening, they setup internal experiences with a yammer feed (twitter in a closed network = safer). They have an acronym wiki and other internal wikis too.
  • They also opened up access to external social media and started some internal blogs.
  • Roadmap to a strategy: immersion, customer landscape/map, identify business objectives, define voice/reason for being, strategic framework/scorecard and implementation, evaluation and refinement.
  • She admitted they’d come a long way since "the moratorium that they couldn’t listen."
  • Social media can go a long way beyond marketing. Lots of opportunity: customer service, organizational, sales, R&D, procurement.
  • There is a new role at SA: A Community Business Manager who is listening and bringing back feedback to the team. So who at SA has the "keys to the car" to speak in social media? She reported there are a handful of people. They are designated and get trained to participate on behalf of the company.
  • Everything you do should be grounded in insight. What are the gaps and what can you do to fill them?
  • Principles: Social media efforts are not campaigns. Ground efforts in customer insights. Be committed (if nothing else, be committed to figuring it out). Be transparent. Be nimble. Listen. Learn. Refine.

The path is not easy or straight, but the opportunity to foster meaningful dialogue to improve patient outcomes is great." Well said, Joan!

Stay tuned for more snippets and sound bites from #digpharm soon!

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