Transparency has become a fundamental expectation for business, especially in an industry as inherently personal as healthcare. What is a company doing, how, and why? From drug pricing, to personal data, to trial outcomes, the public is increasingly vocal about demanding answers to tough questions. And with social media, both the questions and the answers are easy to see.

In this climate, it’s imperative that companies demonstrate their willingness to be transparent. A brand must be the go-to source for its own information. If it isn’t, someone else online will be (regardless of whether they’re qualified).

This may sound self-evident, but the life sciences industry hasn’t been doing it well. In a 2017 Manhattan Research study, only 27% of physicians surveyed said that they trusted pharmaceutical websites as credible sources of professional information. Other surveys find that 74% of the public say that pharma companies regularly put profits before patients – and 45% believe healthcare to be corrupt.

It’s time to take some risks to try to make this better.

Every innovation, by definition, is a failure risk. As Jeff Bezos has said, “If you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments. And if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time if they’re going to work.”

And as pharma-data CEO Lawrence Ganti recently said in Pharmaphorum, “[I]n pharma a fear of failure too often kills creativity and prevents researchers from taking chances. Instead of regarding failure as the worst possible outcome, researchers need to give themselves permission to fail and to share their failures with others – as long as they are able to extract valuable lessons to learn from the experience.”

It’s ironic: both science and marketing are innovative at heart. Without a willingness to try new things, both disciplines fail. Yet you often hear people in pharma, and in pharma marketing, lament that they feel stuck with conservative constraints and creative stagnation.

It’s time to step up to the raised bar. Patients and professionals are crowdsourcing their information. They’re installing blockers to avoid ads. They’re skeptical of branded messaging. What’s a marketer to do?

To break through the technological and psychological roadblocks, we have to become more useful. We have to create hyper-relevant content. We have to start our thinking from their needs, not from our messaging.

It’s time to not only permit attempts at innovation, but reward them. It’s time to be honest about failure.

We have to be able to stand up to scrutiny – to welcome it as an opportunity to share our story. It’s not the traditional way. But it’s going to be necessary to survive.

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