New Jobs in Pharma: Interactive New Media Social Web Guru


By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Which came first the Pixel or the Pill? Thats what were often asked when people talk to us about our media and marketing efforts. Of course, the real question theyre often asking us is “Do you guys know anything about Pharma or are you just winging it?

Luckily for us, we can always answer yes (thanks to the extensive industry experience of many of our team members). But it does raise the question, when creating digital innovation in the Pharma space what is more important? Bleeding edge knowledge of the latest developments in technology? Or a deep and comprehensive awareness of the unique challenges (regulatory and otherwise) that the Pharma industry must meet when communicating with clients and consumers?

As the industry becomes more immersed in digital and social media, this question looms ever larger. When we look at the job ads for many media positions, the titles would be unrecognizable to a marketer or salesperson from the “Golden Age of Pharma Advertising (whenever you believe that to be). “Interactive Media Planner. “Social Networking Media Guru. “Digital Metrics Analyst. These are actual positions listed on one prominent media/advertising job search site. How many of the candidates for positions like these have deep healthcare or Pharma backgrounds as well? Our guess is pretty few of them.

So whats the answer? Retrain our aging sales forces for these new roles? Hire staff from the existing tech/digital space and try and train them to understand regulatory compliance and approval guidelines? Hire students right out of college and train them from scratch?

Were not sure if any of those solutions will work. Technology shifts so rapidly that it may be hard to get sales force members up to speed if theyre starting with little or no experience. Hiring digital staffers from other industries presents its own challenges. The Pharma space has not traditionally been first choice for design and creative professionals and big incentives (e.g. high salaries) may be required to get them to “come over. The same type of incentives may be required for talented college students who have dreamed of working at Google or Apple not Bayer or Merck (even though those may be great places to work).

The solution to our need for “talented schizophrenics may lie in the emergence of the digital media industry. Back in the Web 1.0 days, no one had experience as a “webmaster or “new media professional. Instead, people with a passion for technology and the possibilities of the digital media realm emerged from the rank and file of their companies to lead the charge.

Maybe its time for the same thing to happen again. Who in your company wants to manage an online community? Or blog and tweet everyday? Or even optimize your SEO? Chances are there are staffers within your organization who are already doing this on their personal time (and would relish the opportunity to make it their full time job).

Best Buy created their “Twelpforce, a team dedicated to responding to customer service requests on Twitter by asking their employees for volunteers for the project. The response from within the company was overwhelming.

Could you unleash the same kind of knowledge and talent in your company? Could that be the answer to the Pharma/digital divide so many organizations are suffering from today?

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4 Responses to New Jobs in Pharma: Interactive New Media Social Web Guru

  1. Phil Baumann says:


    This is perhaps closest to the root problem of implementing solutions to the problems raised by contemporary communications.

    I raised similar concerns here yesterday:

    There’s a talent gap which emerging media have been creating:

    On one hand, there are the deeply experienced professionals who understand the nuances and needs and challenges of in life science. But many of them simply haven’t kept up with the Web’s evolution.

    On the other, are the early adopters who know how to blog and tweet and otherwise understand how these media work.

    But in between? Not too many.

    You can’t lord over the responsibilities of a regulated industry to an intern. But you can’t just let marketers with no rudimentary understanding of today’s communications lead online efforts.

    What to do?

    Well, I think the focus has to shift from “How can Marketers integrate social media” to “What does all this mean from the Investor’s point of view?”

    What I mean is: if an enterprise’s internal business design can’t handle its own social needs (e.g. streamlined business intelligence gathering & networking), how in the world will it do much of anything notable on the outside?

    I think one way to solve this problem is to roll out training programs on Web literacy.

    That may seem like an expensive option – but so is having a workforce that is effectively illiterate in the modern sense of the word.


  2. Sven Larsen says:

    Excellent points, Phil. I’m a big believer that knowledge management and unleashing organizations cognitive surpluses are keys to success in the new economy. Teaching workers to unleash all the information and experience they’ve acquired using digital tools should provide a massive return on investment for any company that is far sighted enough to do it.

  3. Phil Baumann says:

    Agree – most of this is really about learning (and some un-learning too).