Global versus local: Mind the content gap

In the race to provide timely, tailored content for HCPs, pharma is rethinking its approach to how global and local content functions interact

Balancing global perspectives and messaging with the need for local customization while providing high-quality content that meets HCPs’ needs is not a new challenge for pharma but the omnichannel era has made this an even more pressing issue. 

Timely relevant and tailored content is becoming an ever more important competitive differentiator for pharma. Improving the speed with which such content is originated, approved and distributed is vital. How much of this should be done at a global or a local level and how pharma speed up the global and local content handoffs?  

These are questions that Michael Kurr, Global Head of Human Pharma Services at Boehringer Ingelheim is working hard to address. “Customization of content enables us to address recipients in a way that is meaningful and appealing to them [but] this is not speeding up the content delivery process, so to mitigate this dilemma is one of our top priorities,” says Kurr. 

“You need to have control over the content journey from the global end to the local end to maintain a global vision while allowing for local customization.” 

One of the fundamental ways Boehringer Ingelheim is tackling this issue is via a centralized global digital content ‘factory’, explains Kurr.  “Any big company that needs to maintain a globally harmonized identity while not compromising on the local nuances needs to run an infrastructure that is able to manage both: the global identity and the localization.”  

And this is exactly what Boehringer Ingelheim’s digital factory aims to achieve by centrally managing and facilitating transparent global frameworks and guidelines for all entities worldwide to follow. Frameworks include clear outlines for options for localization that will still resonate with regional HCPs.  

It is leaning on new technological tools to help, adds Kurr. “We intensively explore the possibilities of technology to take out as much manual work of the process as possible. This starts with content automation, followed by the MLR approval process and continues with the delivery of content across all channels globally.” 

Going modular 

Another way to help create content that can be more swiftly repurposed, tailored and deployed across regions is via a modular content approach. Modular content is amenable to delivery across multiple channels. Reusing and reconfiguring these building blocks, which have already been given medical, legal and regulatory (MLR) approval, shaves significant time off of content delivery.  

Although modular content must go through a lengthy process, once it’s approved, it provides great value in its flexibility and cost efficiency. The ready-to-use, pre-approved content modules can be leveraged across multiple initiatives. This promotes efficiency in content creation, as modules can be repurposed, updated, and combined to meet specific communication needs and speed up time-to-market. 

Local markets are always going to require some changes but these can be planned for in the content creation and approval process. “One approach to reducing delays in getting content mobilized would be to reduce the level of review at global level given the content will always need to be approved through local processes,” says Vanessa Ohlmeyer, Head of Medical Affairs Oncology, Takeda UK. “Locally we would prefer to have something faster that is 90% there, allowing for the 10% local customization.” 

Closer collaboration between global and local colleagues from the ground up is also vital in speeding content delivery from creation to where it is needed.  

The traditional industry content supply chain with a global, top-down approach that has typically been slow, inefficient and costly, using material often made in isolation, needs to change, explains Kishan Rees, Senior Director CKD (chronic kidney disease) & Digital Global Medical Affairs at Bayer.  

Bayer’s goal is to create more of a bottom-up input into global material creation, emphasising early collaboration and enabling local market to shape materials, says Rees. Content is no longer made in isolation. Colleagues across the globe have the opportunity to participate in content creation virtually in the beginning stages and provide feedback immediately. 

Co-creation for the win 

But for this to work well, local teams need to understand global principles early on so that they don’t create brand propositions and material that are not approvable. Another valuable factor in the co-creation process is seeking input from representatives of distinct local HCP ‘archetypes’, explains Ohlmeyer.  

These new ways of working are already working well, she adds “I've been involved in projects where I've been able to work on it from the ground up with the regional and global teams to co-produce content. It then meant that I was part of that creation process and approval process in parallel, such that we could engage local speakers and invite our local customers to the meeting, which was a virtual event. It worked incredibly well because there was a co-creation mindset.”   

If co-creating isn’t a routine practice, it can lead to obstacles when rolling out the content later. Making swift progress becomes hindered every time there is a new set of content that needs to be adapted, she adds. Co-creation needs to be an embedded part of the process to avoid these stumbling blocks. 

One promising approach to streamlining the process is to reconsider and reconfigure the way content is created internally, says Rees: “The team here is introducing a medical publisher mindset to medical affairs. And there are elements of that where we outsource to agencies, but equally, building in-house capability, so we create content as well.” 

Taking in-house capability to the next level includes bringing colleagues together on the same page, from medical writers to video editors. “We had our own member of the Bayer team who is a professional video editor and not from a medical background. He was already there on set learning, working with the crew, understanding what the content is, knowing what the setup is. So, we're building that development in.” says Rees. 

Building development in from the ground up allows everyone to have a clear understanding of the broader message and ensure it is applied to the content they are creating, with the aim of speeding up the process and avoiding miscommunications and speed bumps further down the line.  

Colleagues can start working on content from the get-go with a cohesive understanding of global principles. This was just the case using audio transcript from a recent content creation filming session, says Rees. Once the rough transcript is in hand, you can begin content creation immediately. “You’ve got medical writers looking at it, you've got the medical team internally looking at it, and you've got the video editors looking at it. So, it's about how do we find little innovative ways to speed up the process to start making compelling content useful to clinicians.” 

This requires new thinking and upskilling of content teams. “I think many of us who've been in the pharma industry a long time are still adapting to more digital ways of working and using modular content, which requires an upskilling and mindset shift in ourselves and our teams. Ensuring that our teams internally are able to benefit from further training, learning through engagement with external vendors and seeing what other Pharma industry partners are doing is really critically important,” says Ohlmeyer. 

Global support of local efforts 

Internal training and support include masterclass-style programs which bring in expert insights from the world of broadcast media with the purpose of enhancing medical communication in the medical affairs setting. “We’ve got a broad team of people with broadcast experience that come in and give people specialized training to do interviews. So, there's a whole wraparound process as well of helping put our people in a position to use digital and help pioneer patient care.” 

This extends to helping local colleagues with a keen grasp of regional needs create their own content using their local thought leaders. Rees explains that it’s important to look for ways that global entities can support local efforts by providing colleagues with training and support every step of the way. “It's not just about mass-market digital media, it's also supporting MSLs on the ground, on those impactful point-to-point interactions.”  

Providing active support to local colleagues is critical to success says Kurr. “A key enabler here is what we call the service layer organization, that mainly consists of our service account leaders. Those colleagues are co-located in the markets and make sure that the local nuances, as well as the global requirements, are well understood and balanced. Alongside the service account leaders there are delivery managers that are accountable to provide all the requested content in time and in quality. This tandem approach is at the heart of the model’s success. It is bridging the gap between the globally centralized approach and the local realities on the ground.”