Rules of Engagement: 7 Tips for Successful Pharma Content Marketing

Deirdre Coleman examines the in-vogue trend of "content marketing", and asks the experts how this sales-shy strategy can help pharma build brand trust and reputation.

Content marketing - a tool for generating inbound leads and building brand - has enjoyed a phenominal rise in popularity in recent years. As such it's the phrase now on everyone’s lips, but the successful execution of a content marketing strategy often eludes companies keen to get in on the action.

The website “WhatIs” defines Content Marketing succinctly as follows:

“Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”

The key to good content is that it avoids being overtly promotional and that it is useful or valuable to the consumer. “Creating valuable, relevant content with a seasoned editor who knows quality and understands distribution is key to succeeding as a content marketer,” according to Carwyn Jones, MD of digital marketing and communications agency, The Earthworks. “If it’s not valuable to the consumer whether it be the patient or the HCP, they will go elsewhere. They are looking to understand the condition and the treatment options available to them. My advice is to give them the information they need to make a decision, couched in language they fully understand through a medium they want, when they want it. Quality content is crucial to engaging the patient on their terms”.

Jones explains that as far as the HCP is concerned, it is not the source of the information but the quality of the content that matters most with a huge demand for interesting, high quality medical information that educates and informs decision making when it comes to prescribing. The right content can speak volumes when it comes to building a lasting mutually beneficial relationship between HCP or patient and pharma brand. “In essence, aim to create two-way engagement, rather than delivering a one-way sales pitch.”

Building Relationships

Building the case for content marketing is an ongoing battle and while a huge number of companies haven’t gotten on board with “brand as publisher” just yet, many others are. Some companies “get it” but are still in search of more practical advice on the implementation.

Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute and co-author with Joe Pulizzi of “Managing Content Marketing” is an expert on the implementation of content marketing and he asserts that the key to approaching a successful and sustainable healthcare content strategy hinges on developing a trusted relationship using content. “Trust is an emotion based on credibility, but it's also one built on aligned values.  So, content providers HAVE to take a point of view on their content, otherwise it's a series of facts that anyone can find with a Google search. And this is where the balance is really critical for those that are establishing relationships that focus on health.”

“Content Providers must come to their own decision about how strong this point of view will be - and how "objective" they need to be in order to balance grabbing attention vs. developing credibility.  In short, content marketers have to start thinking of themselves as media companies - with a distinct point of view.  Their goal is to develop an audience for that content.  But they have to balance that with how, when and where they will show their distinct and unique point of view”.

Consumers need to feel like the pharmaceutical company understands their values and beliefs - rather than just educating them to a prescriptive solution

Rose claims that the pharmaceutical companies that develop programs where they start highlighting the approach, or point of view - rather than a "solution" type of perspective will be the ultimate winners.  “Consumers need to feel like the pharmaceutical company understands their values and beliefs - rather than just educating them to a prescriptive solution. Look at what Pfizer is doing with the "Get Old" site and that really begins to do that.  It's content that makes us re-think what it means to be old, rather than prescribe ways to manage it”.

He believes that once that trust is achieved, there can be many benefits for the company, including more sales.  “Brand loyalty is where marketers in Pharma can really benefit. Ultimately the company is likely to want to engage the same consumer over and over again for different types of applications.  Every content marketing campaign won't always affect direct sales of any one product - but it can certainly affect the likelihood that a patient will stay loyal to a brand when offered alternative medications”.

“I think the biggest thing I see (and this is true in most content marketing) is trying to be the solver of the problem right away.  It's not always about being the teacher and providing a lecture on how to do something, or how to do something better.  Rather, it can be much more collaborative, in essence a friendship - where the brand acts as a place that the consumer can feel safe and trusts. The brand's content platforms can be a place where the consumer feels a respite from the lecture, and just wants to talk and understand the approach that the company believes in”.

Key Lessons for Deeper Engagement

If we look to other successful content providers such as SAP and Coca Cola, there are key lessons that can assist pharma companies looking to take their content campaigns to a new level. According to Rose, it’s about striking a balance of intellect and emotions. “SAP does a great job of building wonderful arguments that appeal to the intellect of taking a particular approach. Coca Cola on the other hand does an amazing job of appealing to our emotion, to wanting to spread that message.  Pharmaceutical companies that are looking for deeper engagement on interests and passions can really focus on that intellect; teaching the consumer about alternatives.  Companies that are looking for aligning values can use content to appeal to the emotion of the consumer - in order to change or enhance a value or belief. In short, if I'm trying to get into the head of my consumer and change their belief about something (maybe a prejudice to a certain drug or skepticism) I'm not going to fight it with facts, I'm going to counter with emotion and beliefs.  If I'm trying to sway a passionate interest my way, to someone who's familiar with all the various approaches, I'm going to teach with facts”.

Rules of Engagement

So how do you go about developing the right content at the right time to the right consumer? What are the rules of engagement when it comes to developing a content marketing strategy that works?

#1 Put Your Customers First

 Nobody cares about your products and services (except you)

Obsessive self-orientation is a big mistake companies make with their marketing communications. Refocus your attitude with the customer as core, what problem have they that you could help solve. “Don’t be egotistical. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). What people care about are themselves and solving their problems”. David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.

#2 Planning

Before you begin working on a specific piece of content, it is important to define and communicate your goals. This is particularly important if you need to justify your budget investment to your company’s executives, as it will help you quantify your results later on. You can also build your content strategy with specific goals in mind — for example, increasing your number of Facebook “likes” or growing your database of email addresses. By setting your goals right from the start, you can then focus on building your content in a way that will increase the chances of meeting those benchmarks.

#3 Help, Don’t Sell

Content marketing requires a shift in your thinking, from “all about us” to “all about the reader.” Being a successful publisher – and now, content marketer — means delivering content that genuinely serves your readers’ needs, not your brand’s. In return, you gain their trust and their attention. That’s a great deal. The purpose of your marketing is to build relationships – to get people to know like and trust you and consider you when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

#4 Slow Burn

Don’t expect results after one or two months. Businesses often give up just as they’re starting to gain influence with their audience. Content marketing is a long-term investment. There are no quick wins.

#5 It’s Not All about SEO

Making content discoverable to Google is often as important as the substance of the content itself – whether it’s a piece of service journalism, a data-driven infographic, or something else. Content producers need to incorporate basic SEO 101 into their daily routines.  At the same time, getting too religious about the latest page-rank formulas and other requirements can work against the most powerful variables of quality content – narrative, voice, credibility, trust, humor – and turn a creative process robotic.

#6 Commit to Quality

Make it fascinating, says Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “entertaining beautiful, fun.”

It’s not enough to publish a well-written article; it has to be valuable, useful, fulfilling a need. Make it fascinating, says Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “entertaining beautiful, fun.” It needs to be styled to attract and retain the focus of the reader. Use good quality photos and illustrations, clear text styling and design elements that compliment the look and feel of your website.

#7 Continuous Effort

The key to good content marketing is understanding that it is a continuous effort to come up with new, engaging content targeted to your audience, and requires research, thought, and a long-term plan to all be documented in an editorial calendar.

The bottom line for the pharmaceutical marketer: Words matter. Content matters. Your brand’s personality, its tone of voice are all communicated through content. Content strategy is indeed a largely untapped yet powerful marketing tool to forge a distinctive brand identity that resonates with the patient/HCP, engendering trust and allowing for relationship building and collaboration to the benefit of all stakeholders.

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