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?