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Pharma Content Marketing: Five Timeless Questions For Driving Brand Success in 2017

In my overly simplified marketing model, there are only three user personas—those who can remember playing classic rock on vinyl records, those who grew up with earbuds attached to their heads, and those currently growing up with smartphones glued to their hands. For pharma content marketers, an even simpler subdivision exists—there are those who remember the days when the Core Visual Aid (CVA) reigned supreme, and those pharma marketers who wonder why the brand team does any print marketing at all.

Yes, believe it or not, there was a time not so very long ago when pharma content marketing was reliably predictable. Brands needed to fit all of their promotional information onto a two-sided detail aid (or sometimes even a four-sided detail aid!) made of paper, and then make sure that the regulatory team approved it. Television ads could complicate things, but as long as the actors didn’t show a lot of emotion and read all of the balance, things were fine—and the core message on TV really didn’t stray from the detail aid.

While those days seem rather simplistic as we head into 2017, the pharma content marketing system which operated in the pre-iPhone, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat era had some important strengths that are worth revisiting.

1). What Exactly Is Your Core Message?
Admittedly, from a design and user-experience perspective, the good old printed CVA was less than ideal. However, for brand teams, regulatory, sales reps, and even HCPs, the CVA provided a simple and distilled story about product efficacy, the target patient profile, and potential side effects. The process of creating the CVA also helped to drive clarity, alignment, and brevity. As the print CVA has dwindled in importance, for many brands the discipline of creating a succinct core message has fallen by the wayside as well. The branded website has often taken up the mantle as the repository of authoritative brand messaging, but with endless scrollable pages and frequent updates, the branded website is not a great platform for maintaining the core message. In fact, as anyone who’s ever tried to do version control on a branded site knows all too well, the dot com can actually become a nightmare for maintaining the core marketing message.

So although this might seem like old school advice, it’s critical that brand teams in today’s multichannel environment lock in on a core message that is clearly understood and embraced by all key stakeholders—whether it’s done via document sharing, content management software, or some other centralized repository. Maybe even produce a printed CVA and rename it the Brand Core Message Document (BCMD).

2). Once Clarified, Does Your Message Stay Consistent?
After investing months in getting the CVA produced, brand teams used to stop making new content and instead focused on making sure their message was distributed. Now, in a 24/7 news cycle, it is understandably tempting to constantly produce new content. However, having access to multiple channels is not an excuse for creating an inconsistent or confusing brand message. If you want to do a sobering test, take a moment and visit your brand’s website, Facebook page, and any other social channels. Then try that exercise from a tablet and iPhone. What about the print and convention experience? Is your brand story integrated across all of these channels? Is there a beginning, middle, and end to your story, or just a series of seemingly random messages and “customer experiences”?

3). For Your Brand, What Is the Ideal Customer Experience?
As marketers, we aspire to create an integrated customer experience, but that experience is all too easily lost and diluted across multiple channels and touchpoints. At the end of the day, our customers, and patients, in particular, want clarity, consistency, and peace of mind. That is the brand experience that pharma content needs to focus on delivering, regardless of the exciting new channel du jour. The voice of the patient and patient communities can be a critical component in shaping this experience, helping to keep messaging on track, clear, and ultimately, meaningful.

4). Is Your Regulatory Team “Content-ready”?
Educating the regulatory team about your content strategy and content tactics must be a strategic priority. Remember—what’s old is new again. For some reason there are regulatory teams that seem to have forgotten all of the hard-won lessons of web balance from the early 2000s, and need to be reminded about below the fold and page links, not to mention responsive web design, click-thrus, user-generated content, and social content marketing. (If anyone has dared to try and explain SnapChat at a regulatory meeting, please let me know how that went!) While it is tempting to blame the regulatory team for not becoming social media mavens, the true responsibility for this state of regulatory affairs lies squarely with marketing. Make the time to clearly explain to your regulatory team what you are doing with your content marketing and why. Maybe even ask them to approve your BCMD and then demonstrate how your brand message will travel consistently across various channels.

5). Which Content Marketing Metrics Really Matter?
The bridge from engaging content to commercial results can prove difficult to track in any industry, but especially so in healthcare. Marketing attribution models, stacked with assumptions, can help to provide budget justification but don’t necessarily show a clear link between cause and effect. Patient and HCP communities can be powerful resources in this regard, not only by helping to shape a meaningful customer experience, but also by qualitatively and quantitatively responding to specific marketing content in a controlled environment. This type of content market research, when linked with attribution models and actual sales data, can provide powerful insights into which types of content, in which channels, are driving commercial results.

Conclusion
The fundamentals of successful pharma content marketing might seem old fashioned, much like the printed CVA. But, regardless of what new channels crop up, or what new FDA guidelines are announced, these questions are sure to be the classics, helping to insure success in 2017 and beyond.

1). What Exactly Is Your Core Message?
2). Once Clarified, Does Your Message Stay Consistent?
3). For Your Brand, What Is the Ideal Customer Experience?
4). Is Your Regulatory Team “Content-Ready”?
5). Which Content Marketing Metrics Really Matter?

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Jim Walker

Jim Walker

Jim Walker is Director, Marketing Strategy at Cadient, a Cognizant Company. Jim provides innovative marketing insights for a wide range of clients, as well as leading Cadient’s content marketing strategy. He is particularly interested in helping brand teams effectively leverage their digital content. He can be reached at jim.walker@cadient.com.

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