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Staying Creative in the Face of "No"

Sarah Morgan

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How can you stay effective, and motivated, in a restricted, regulated industry that – let’s face it – doesn’t have a reputation for being a hotbed of edgy ingenuity?  

Being a pharma marketer can be a bit like walking on a tightrope. On either side of your balancing pole are two considerable burdens.

On one side, you must carry the complexities of marketing a prescription drug or device. In addition to the rules, regulations and guidelines are the financial and interpersonal challenges any marketer faces.

On the other side, you must carry the weight of regularly – sometimes urgently – working with your team to create inventive marketing concepts that are memorable and engaging, setting your brand apart.

As you walk your tightrope, with these challenges on both sides, you have one mission: to address the goals of your brand. It’s a balancing act of epic proportions. And you can count on one thing to try to push you off: the word “no.” But just like your pair of challenges, you have a pair of defenses to help you stay creative and on track, even when it feels like your progress is slowing, halting or even reversing.

The creative professional in you has to develop thick skin and a strong sense of perspective. Taking “no” personally is the fastest way to fall off that pharma-marketing tightrope.

Rather than treating a “no” as a roadblock, treat it as an opportunity. Seek every opportunity to better understand your brand and the position of each member of the team. Learning what’s behind “no” helps you avoid the next one.

Whenever you can spend time listening to patients, healthcare professionals, or brand colleagues, prioritize those moments.

And when you’re stuck, get a new perspective. I’m sure you’ve been surprised by the brainstorming power of a walk in the fresh air – or explained a situation to a friend, only to hear the solution come out of your mouth before they’ve had a chance to say a word! Trust your abilities – learn from “no,” but don’t let it shake your confidence.

Finally, consider how you present your ideas. If you address a cautious MLR committee with overconfidence, you could predispose them to a negative mindset. If you haven’t convinced your brand that your concepts are grounded, fully thought through, and relevant to the challenges that concern them, you aren’t setting your ideas up for success.

Learning what’s behind “no” helps you avoid the next one.

The pharmaceutical professional in you has to remember that everyone is on the same side. Whether you’re a creative or a techie, a brand manager or a lawyer, everyone involved is trying to do what’s best for the brand.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re one team because your work can be so separate. Consider where you can make new connections. Can you bring an extra member of your team into an MRL meeting? Can you include your legal or regulatory contacts in an innovation lab? Help everyone feel involved and not only will the process work more smoothly, but the ideas will be better.

The minute you lose track and start dreaming about winning an award, you take your eye off what matters. Hit it out of the park for the patients and healthcare professionals affected by your brands, and awards will come.

Make sure your brand goals are always front and center – from the beginning of an idea and the pitch, throughout development and implementation.

If you keep your creative abilities strong, and keep your brand goals and challenges in mind, hearing “no” doesn’t have to throw you off your tightrope.

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