Pixels & Pills Interviews Fard Johnmar

fardjohnmarphotowebPHOTO CREDIT: @fardj

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

When Fard Johnmar founded Enspektos, he set out to deliver innovative healthcare marketing solutions through focused strategy, research, and training. A recognized leader and author in the pharmaceutical industry, Fard observed the need for collaboration and knowledge sharing among healthcare marketing professionals. His response was the Path of the Blue Eye, an initiative that uses digital tools such as social networking, blogging, and even a graphic novel, to encourage meaningful interaction and information exchange among members of the healthcare marketing community.

Today, Fard shares he insight into why he launched the Path of the Blue Eye, what tools are being used to foster collaboration, and what we can expect further down “the Path.

1. When in your professional history did you start to observe a realneed for something like the Path of the Blue Eye initiative?

Throughout my career as a health marketing communications professional, I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse group of stakeholders in the health industry, including large non-profits, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies. During this time, I’ve witnessed the power of collaboration, as I’ve helped to build initiatives that relied on cooperation from people from diverse perspectives and backgrounds. I’ve also seen how a lack of knowledge about what people are doing in different parts of the health communications field has led to duplicative efforts and failed initiatives.

Rather than spending time lamenting this situation, I decided to do something about it. Last year about this time, I came up with the idea for the Path of the Blue Eye Project. It is designed to help bring health marketing communications professionals — across geographic regions and specializations — together so that they can educate each other and collaborate more frequently.

2. Explain the significance of transmedia storytelling, and what youare accomplishing with the Path of the Blue Eye comic.

As I thought about how I could launch and “brand” the Project, I decided that I needed to do something that would simultaneously attract a diverse audience to the initiative and communicate my ideas about the habits and mindsets (i.e., collaboration, curiosity, creativity) that help people become successful health marketing communications professionals. I decided to develop a comic and associated messaging/content that would – via transmedia storytelling – communicate different parts of the Path Project’s “story” to my intended audience through a variety of channels. What this enables me to do is to operate on a couple of different levels: conceptual and concrete. The comic works at the conceptual level, telling the overarching story of the Project via a fictional world. The Project communicates its concrete lessons of collaboration, education and creativity via our online properties, which include a wiki, blog online community and social news site.

Transmedia storytelling is all about telling a unified tale via different channels so that people can — by consuming content on different platforms — skim the surface of the story or dive much deeper. I feel the Path Project is very much in the spirit of a transmedia storytelling effort because it has many different layers and ways you can interact with it. For example, some people only interact with the Project at the concrete layer, by reading our newsletter or following our Twitter stream. Others come to the Project via the comic book and then go on to explore our other online properties. Ultimately, some decide to participate in the Project at its deepest level by joining and participating in our online community.

In addition, there are a few surprises associated with the Project that are there for people to explore — if they choose. The comic is embedded in a richer world that people can explore via their mobile devices and the comic — via some “Easter Eggs” we have embedded within it. I’m not sure how many people are aware of this deeper back story, but I’m sure some have gotten involved.

Overall, everything we have done with the Project is designed to engage people, to get them thinking, which will hopefully help them embrace innovation and creativity.

3. There are two ways for users to explore The Path of the Blue Eye:Living the Path and Walking the Path. What are the differencesbetween the two, and how do they interact?

Actually, there are more than six ways one can explore the project. The most significant include our blog, wiki, social news site, Twitter stream, Facebook page and online community. All of these content streams or channels are connected via educational content.

4. What are some of the current issues and topics that the Pathcommunity has been concerned about?

The community has discussed a number of issues, including collaboration and what it means to be transparent in social media. We hope to explore more topics in the future.

5. How has Path of the Blue Eye grown since its launch? What goalsdoyou have to expand the project?

I’m happy to say that the Path Project has been steadily growing since its launch. Our extended community now boasts over 1,000 members. This includes people who are receiving our newsletter, following us on Twitter and are in our online community, Living the Path. Traffic to the Project’s online properties is also growing.

Regarding my goals for the Project, the most important one is to really help people engage with others operating in areas that are outside their “comfort zones.” What I’m finding is that people are interacting with content published on our online properties and communicating with others operating within their established fields. That is, social marketers are still consuming content of interest to their field and communicating with others working in this career. This behavior is neither good nor bad, simply natural. So, even though the overall community is diverse, it is still highly fragmented.

The primary goal of the project is to get people working in diverse areas of the health marketing communications space to collaborate more frequently. It will take us a while to achieve this goal, but we have some initiatives planned that should move us closer to success in this area.

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