Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Everyone Wins when Pharma Includes Guest Bloggers

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Guest blogging is powerful. It's especially powerful in the pharma industry.

As the founder and president of a Social Media agency called Woodhouse, I often talk with clients about the importance of blogging for pharma. My company is passionate about this topic. Asking for and receiving content from people actively blogging in your therapeutic areas, but not involved in your organization, results in several key benefits: increased trust for the pharma company; new exposure for the guest blogger; and an authentic experience for the community. For these reasons, thought leaders need to be active in the conversation.

Donna Sullivan, Director of Community Management at Woodhouse Agency has led the Community Management and Content efforts for large scale pharma and life science Social Media efforts over the last five years—about as long as social media marketing has been relevant.

I posed five questions to Donna, and she provided five answers.

1) Who should pharma companies ask to guest blog? How do you find people that will provide value to the target audience?
Hands down, guest blogging is one of the most effective ways to identify, capture and share information, issues and talking points that are important to your community. There are so many important stakeholders to reach out to, ranging from physicians, patients, caregivers, medical staff, researchers, advocacy groups, etc.  Each can offer a uniquely different perspective. However, it is important to evaluate potential bloggers carefully to make sure that they also are good communicators who can offer value, and understand any specific guidelines or industry regulations that need to be adhered to. Honest communication and transparency are critical to building trust with your community, and most people can see through content that has been white-washed.

2) How does guest blogging add value to pharma Social Media and digital marketing efforts?
 It is one thing to talk about medical conditions, disease symptoms and quality of life issues - it is another thing to live it.  Sharing daily life and work challenges, or perhaps talking about symptom strategies that you offer to your patients is an authentic way to demonstrate understanding. Guest bloggers can help pharma to better support and educate the community in a more personalized and often more useful way. Guest bloggers are people. They put a face on the topics and issues that matter. They are relatable, but even more importantly, they can add value by sharing their take or lessons they have learned along the way. Personal experience is a great conversation starter and can often be an effective way to gain insights, gauge sentiment or obtain feedback.

3) Can you provide examples of both success and mistakes from your history of working with guest bloggers as a community manager for pharma companies?
How much time do you have? LOL! This is a bit of a loaded question, because it depends on your measure for success.  I can tell you that some companies do a great job recruiting the high profile, in some cases “professional patient bloggers” in their specific disease or therapeutic category. They are out there. Patients who play more professional role as advocates, consultants, or writers, versed in pharma guidelines and practices. These bloggers have often already established themselves online and offer instant credibility with the community. Then you have other companies that work with maybe younger or less experienced bloggers. Often, these guest bloggers bring a fresh voice, interesting insights and new angles, but may require additional editorial assistance or guidance. In my mind, the most successful efforts are the ones that strive to develop unique, honest and energetic content. Some examples of unsuccessful efforts that I have seen include bloggers who do not understand cultural differences, who dive too deep into their own personal issues or vent without offering useful learnings, or who come off as generic because they do not offer that balance between personal information to engage you and useful information that could help you.

4) How do you draw a line with relationships that are formed through guest blogging?
Like any business relationship, there is often a need for boundaries. The very essence of blogging is somewhat intimate as it often involves sharing personal information, so these lines can be slightly blurred when it comes to pharma. If you are working with patient bloggers, for example, who are living with degenerative or terminal conditions, the emotion and the human element is clearly part of it. Blogger toolkits can help establish guidelines, and it is important to maintain professionalism, but at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the pharma employees to use discretion and manage the relationships accordingly.

5) What advice do you have for pharma companies and the people in charge of community management for pharma efforts?  
Do not operate in a bubble. Pharma has a tremendous amount of research and useful information to offer, but it is important to maintain honest dialogue with members of your community to make sure you are genuinely meeting their needs in the best way possible. “Think like the patient” can only get you so far.  You have to talk to them and be willing to accept their feedback in a non-defensive way.

Editor’s Note: This post was created by Greg Wood and Donna Sullivan from Woodhouse, a Social Media Agency with a focus on the pharma and life science industries.  Woodhouse clients include Merck Serono, Novartis, ARIAD Pharmaceuticals and Medtronic among others.  To see more Woodhouse posts and conversations click over to the Woodhouse LinkedIn page or call (+1) 617-306-2739 to learn more.

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