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Pfizer’s Approach to Corporate Content Marketing

Wendy Blackburn

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At the inaugural Pharma Content Marketing conference, hosted by ExL Pharma in Philadelphia, Sherry Pudloski, vice president of external communications at Pfizer discussed the company’s “Get Old” social media campaign.

“Get Old” was launched in mid-2012 and is a broad effort that incorporates a social website, as well as Facebook and Twitter presences. Its goal is to engage consumers in our aging population in a positive conversation about what it means to be growing older. Individuals can share their stories and hopes and discuss what aging has meant — and will mean — to them.

In It for the Long Haul
Pudloski said that the effort was guided by Pfizer’s corporate imperatives and priorities. What I found particularly inspiring and refreshing about “Get Old” was that it was approached as much more than a short-term campaign. Instead, it has been treated from the beginning as a long-term content marketing effort.

I particularly appreciated this honest and transparent insight that Pudloski shared in her presentation: “The conversation about getting older is one people were eager to have with Pfizer — as opposed to talking about our medicines.”

Pfizer’s Corporate Affairs Chief Sally Susman agrees. She was quoted in Adweek as saying, “…we needed to step out a little bit into a new way of engaging people. Listening more and talking less.”

It’s true; while pharma companies love to talk about their brands, that’s not always what audiences want. Pfizer’s market research showed that consumers expected companies like Pfizer to provide credible health information, but their focus group work and their guts told them that they needed to listen and provide a place for a conversation, too.

As an industry, we must think about all of the different ways in which we can become resources for our patients — even at the corporate level.

Involvement Throughout the Company
Another pleasant surprise was learning about the involvement of a variety of Pfizer employees throughout the project. They formed internal focus groups and had involvement at the highest level — including the CEO, chief scientist and chief medical officer, individuals that Susman calls “very pragmatic people who understand that we needed to do something different.” Specifically, she explains that CMO Freda Lewis-Hall is “the personification of these characteristics we’re talking about: warm, inclusive, humble, funny, irreverent and caring.” In her presentation, Pudloski echoed a similar sentiment about Lewis-Hall, who was the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Woman of the Year in 2011. It’s a nice reminder of how important it is to have the right kinds of people involved in your content marketing efforts.

I found Pudloski’s presentation to be a relevant example of how the discipline of content marketing — listening to what our audience needs, wants, and is already discussing and structuring our content around that — fits neatly within the realm of corporate reputation management.

With pharma industry’s reputation low, we could benefit from more efforts like this. It’s incumbent upon the industry — upon all of us — to rebuild our reputation as a helpful force in the lives of patients. Content marketing is a great place to start.



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