Content marketing has grown tremendously over the last few years and it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored by pharma, let alone any industry.

What is content marketing?

Put simply, it is content that is relevant, consistent and valuable.

It is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of material (predominantly videos, blogs and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand, but it is intended to stimulate interest in the products or services. It is a savvy marketers response to a new, relationship-based, user-driven, digital marketplace.

…but the pharma industry is different.

Of course every industry is unique in its own way, but there are some key themes which remain consistent:

  • The need to differentiate a brand in a competitive marketplace 
  • Questions about how to align results to business goals 
  • Uncertainty about the best ways to attract and retain the attention of the right target audience at the right moment

However, there are tighter regulations in pharma as fundamentally there is human safety at play. Content needs to be thoroughly referenced, with multiple processes in place to ensure approval before it ever sees the light of day.

Also, unlike many other industries, the person who pharma engages with is never the end user of the product (unless it is a public disease awareness campaign or a patient support programme). This in itself provides many complexities as there are often multiple role types with multiple interests and drivers who make the decision on which product should be appropriately prescribed to which patient.

What is the ask though?

Content that is relevant, consistent and valuable! Remember that.

Healthcare professionals and patients, like us turn to online search for information on conditions and support at different stages of the journey, they don’t want to be ‘sold’ to!

Pharma content marketers have a responsibility to support healthcare professionals, carers and patients with useful information consistently across all channels.

Three simple rules

  1. Focus on the benefits – amplify powerful stories as to how the product impacts the lives of people affected by an illness 
  2. Have a plan – create a content plan to keep customers well informed throughout their treatment, communicating the benefits of remaining compliant, while encompassing and emphasising concern for real-life experiences 
  3. Don’t sell, educate – be helpful; understand the challenges and needs of the healthcare professional and look to address them with your content

All of the above can go some way towards creating value and trust, which in turn may allow the sales to follow. I’m not saying there isn’t still a place for core brand promotion, it’s just called advertising.

So why isn’t this happening already?

  • It takes time, skill and resource to implement a content marketing strategy. Many senior leaders are yet to be convinced on the value proposition of it and so often deprioritise efforts for more traditional and overtly promotional tactics.
  • There are often creative limitations due to the indirect nature of the messaging. If not appropriately explained and positioned correctly, ideas are often shot down early due to the perceived risk and intent. If one idea does get off the ground, then it is often isolated with limited reach because of a lack of traffic driving tactics. This is dangerous as the perception then leads towards a failure in the content itself.
  • Complex processes and the undefined areas of governance often deter people from challenging the status quo. There aren’t enough people willing to do what it takes to lead the change.
  • It takes time to see results; it could be anything from six months, one year or even longer. Building trust and engagement comes through doing, measuring and tweaking continuously, which means that you need room in your plan for agility and the support of continued resource. If the expectations are not set from the offset then it can lead to people stopping too early after they’ve already put in significant cost and effort, and it then being seen as a failure, leaving little room for future endeavours.

The time is now

If you take nothing else away, remember that content marketing is here and it’s not going away.

It can play a major role in differentiating one brand to a competitor by creating value and trust between the company, healthcare professionals and patients. However, the main challenge to overcome is the alignment and belief in the value of it across many functions at all levels of the business in order to fund, prioritise and allow sufficient time and resource to see it through.

A content marketing strategy requires the right coordination and someone willing to push through the barriers. It needs to be aligned to clear goals and fundamentally needs to be focused on quality, rather than quantity.

I’ve only touched on some of the key aspects here, with the hope it sparks a thought in your mind as it did mine.

This piece was originally published on Amish Patel’s blog, Five after now. Follow him on Linkedin