‘It’s opened my eyes to the possibilities of new diabetes treatments’ – Ed Snook on working for Kanga

Many of Kanga’s employees have health conditions themselves or are carers for those in their immediate families, and this helps us stay connected to what we do. Our Account Manager Ed Snook, who has Type I diabetes, has recently facilitated a number of patient co-creation workshops on the subject of diabetes. In honour of World Diabetes Day this 14th November, I had a chat with him to find out how it went.

What’s it like working for Kanga, as someone with diabetes?


It’s the 10th year since I was diagnosed with Type 1, and working for Kanga has opened up my eyes to the sheer amount of research going on in diabetes care, as well as the possibilities for new kinds of treatments that are potentially just years away!  It’s been exciting to work with a number of pharma companies who are leading the way in this research, but also beginning to involve patients at the heart of their digital strategy.

How have you been working with diabetes patients recently and what did you learn?

I was lucky enough to meet several patients on Insulin Pump Therapy (IPT) this year, to film their stories of diagnosis, living with diabetes, and their tips and tricks to successfully managing the disease through IPT. Those videos along with nutrition animations developed by our team will eventually sit on an IPT patient information app. I self-inject my insulin, but the patient and carer stories and the information they provided really made me consider whether IPT could be an alternative for me.

It was also terrific to work on a Twitter campaign covering a congress last year, where one company were informing HCPs about their new flash glucose monitoring device, a device that I use myself. We ran a Twitter ‘clinic’ for HCPs to help them join Twitter, follow the company’s handle, and therefore receive updates about the device.

I’m looking forward to what the next few years hold as we continue to partner with pharma companies working in diabetes.

Where would you point people who’d like to find out more about the future of diabetes treatment?

I urge you to check out Diabetes UK’s World Diabetes Day page for all the information you might want about the disease and research developments.

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eyeforpharma Barcelona 2019 -takeaways

Eyeforpharma Barcelona took place last month and was the biggest yet.  Here are some of my thoughts and observations, a few weeks later but that is because I’ve been busy with efp follow-up opportunities!

The exhibition hall was more vibrant than last year. Roundtable meetings taking place within the hall, together with ‘guided tours’ of the exhibition and a stage with presentations at one end made it a more lively and interesting place to be. Good job, eyeforpharma!

Here are my takeaways:

1. The next big healthcare leader may not be a pharma company 

Ordering drugs by Prime? Paul Simms boldly predicted in his opening address that ‘the fastest growing health company isn’t a health company’. He tapped into a big question on everyone’s mind: will pharma become irrelevant as an industry in the future? As you’d expect, this was a major topic of conversation running through the days.

efp image 1

Amazon’s business model is famously about customer service. In the early days, each new customer was not profitable for the company because they invested more in service than the initial customer purchase – but of course over time this investment has been a winning one. This is a mindset that applies equally to healthcare, and either pharma needs to get the ‘Amazon’ mindset, or Amazon Health might be the future.

2. Patients are experts in their long-term conditions

Patients live with their conditions every day. Involving them adds value from the earliest point of drug discovery to the ongoing support of therapy. It was great to see that this year patients were delegates alongside everyone else, integrated into the conference.

It was particularly refreshing to see a panel of young patient representatives, who spoke with vision and clarity – the voice of future patient advocacy.

efp image 2

Matt Eagles, who chaired the Patient Track, has young onset Parkinson’s. He read out his medical notes from the last 30 years or so, hilariously pointing out that, no matter why he’d gone to the doctor, the comment appeared each time like a diagnosis – ‘Parkinson’s’, as if this were new… ‘So apparently I still had Parkinson’s in 1998’ etc. He used this to make the point that he has Parkinson’s every single day, hour and minute – that is his experience, whereas the healthcare professionals only experience Matt’s Parkinson’s two or three times a year.

3. Big companies are making a strategic effort to transform

It’s a fun three days, but eyeforpharma is far from an industry ‘jolly’ nowadays. Some companies sent large cohorts this year and organised session attendance and ‘congress reporting’ back to colleagues.

They came to the ‘roundtables’ with notepads and devices at the ready, keen to learn from each other. Presentations, too, were focused on the practicalities of transformation, with top tips and to-do lists in abundance.


Companies know transformation is imperative for future survival and teams are eager to make this happen. But there is work to do – in one poll (IQVIA) only 7% of the pharma professionals said their customer experience is integrated across channels.

The presentation from Google highlighted that we still have much do. 86% of patients search for information after receiving a diagnosis. Both they and HCPs often look for ‘side effects’ relating to their medication, but companies do not always highlight this information in a useful and visible format. Ryan from Google also pointed out that social listening is helpful, but keyword analysis can give a different perspective on what users are really interested in:

efp image 4

4. Twitter conversation enriched the event (about time!)

Happily, more delegates were ‘walking the talk’ and engaging on Twitter this year. This fostered useful sharing at the conference – I chatted with a few industry colleagues in person and discovered new opportunities as a result of enlightening Twitter exchanges – our customers are, of course, doing the same.

EFP tweet cloud 2019 2 .png


5. The role of Big Data and AI

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare is growing up. Otsuka showed the impact of data collection through DigiMeds, wearables and patient apps, leading both to better patient management and accelerated drug discovery.

Watson Health has plenty of examples of what they refer to as ‘Narrow AI’ where a specific question is answered through use of big data.  They also introduced ‘Broad AI’ – in which multiple types of data are used – for example in diabetes using glucose levels, insulin dose, lifestyle factors, food consumed – different data types together can predict an outcome – such as a hypo – 4 hours in advance.


This is the shape of things to come as innovation becomes less about ‘what new shiny thing do I want to make?’ but more ‘how can I harness data to learn more about my customers and patients?’

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Build or Partner for Customer Relationships?

Develop your own website or connect via trusted 3rd party platforms?

This was a central theme at the recent eyeforpharma Marketing Customer Innovation Europe conference in London.

The round table I was chairing saw strong views for each ‘side’. Those representing platforms that offer third-party visibility for pharma were keen to point out the value in ‘fishing where the fish are’. On the other hand, some pharma folk felt clear that establishing leadership via owned assets was the way to go.

Really, the debate needs reframing. In most cases we should be doing both of these tactics. The balance we choose depends on our strategy: What are we trying to achieve? What does the customer need at different points in their journey, and what are the business objectives?

Why a combination? Because every strategy needs to combine reaching new customers with building sustained relationships over time.

Partnering with a third party is a great way reach new HCPs and build awareness –

A respected 3rd party platform may have a large membership and user base – check their statistics on your target audience. Partnerships enable you to offer up your content to as wide an audience as possible, demonstrating to relevant HCP groups that you are considered a trustworthy stakeholder in this area.

EPG Online, Univadis, Medscape, Doctors.net and DocCheck are among those offering 3rd-party opportunities for healthcare companies.

EPGOnline pic

EPG Online offers opportunities for companies to sponsor and syndicate content


– but a 3rd party partnership doesn’t cultivate lasting relationships

Every time you want to communicate with each customer, it costs the same as last time. There is a lack of economy of scale: as soon as you stop paying, your audience goes away.

Your own platforms are where you and your audience can commit to each other

If you want to be a therapy area leader, an owned platform is a likely necessity. First of all, this is how you will get those all-important search rankings and ensure that customers are coming to you, instead of your competitors, to get their questions answered.

Once on your website, customers will sign up to receive high-value content – if it’s compelling enough and meets their needs. This is how longer-term relationships are forged. Some companies are embracing this approach and building sustainable relationships, for example Sanofi with diabetes.sanofi.de, Lilly with LillyOncology.co.uk and Shire with the ADHD-Institute.

ADHD Institute pic

ADHD Institute – Shire’s international platform for specialists – was a finalist in this year’s eyeforpharma awards in the category Most Valuable HCP Initiative

Think you can’t form long-term relationships with customers in a digital-only setting? How about our relationships with Amazon, Google, or Apple – do we ever have a face-to-face meeting with them? Amazon has inspired loyalty in millions through its personalisation, effective search engine, breadth of product offering, and customer service.

Most industries take for granted that a combination is needed

If we see an emotive video about a new Apple product on one of our favourite news websites, we expect to be able to click through to the manufacturer’s website to find out the product specifications. We wouldn’t have made it to the site in the first place without the third-party video, but it is only once there that we will sign up for newsletters or register for an account, forming a relationship with Apple.

We use different types of websites for different reasons and our experience with a company in each type impacts our engagement in the others.

Proof that it works in pharma?

When developing LivingWithNets.com (Ipsen’s award-winning resource for people living with NETs, presented at the co-located eyeforpharma Patient Summit in London), we initially wondered whether a new web-based NETs resource would add any value for patients, and indeed whether patients would even visit a company-owned website. There was already the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation, a thriving US-based resource that meets patient needs on a global scale.

Ipsen’s approach? Partner with the Foundation itself as well as patient associations in other countries to gather insights. They helped us to connect with patients so we could better understand their needs. It turned out that many patients were keen on the idea of an additional NETs resource to support patients from symptoms through diagnosis and living with the condition.

Co-created with patients, LivingwithNETs.com has gone on to meet considerable unmet needs and to win an award at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018 for Most Valuable Patient Initiative. One of the first to congratulate the team was our 3rd-party partner, the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation:

CCF LWN tweet

This is an approach that applies for healthcare professionals too. If you want them to get to know you, customers first need to know you are there – so you must ‘fish where the fish are’. But once they have discovered you, the connection requires a space where you can deliver lasting value to the customer and get to know each other better.

This is a sound approach to all relationships, traditional, digital or multi-channel.

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Posted in pharma, Websites

Pharma is Ready to be ‘Human’ in Social Media – and how I got blocked by Twitter!

Report on Pharma Social Media Conference 2018

It would be an exaggeration to say we are already surrounded by brilliant examples of pharma using social media to meet patients’ needs. But at the international Pharma Social Media Conference last week in London, I could see that on the horizon.

This year’s conference had a hungry buzz about it, with our colleagues in pharma really wanting to grapple with the question of ‘how’ to engage with patients, rather than just, ‘Should we?’. Much like at eyeforpharma, the mix was filled with crucial ‘newer’ partners such as biotech and medical device firms. Collaboration, the key to pharma’s future, is now a given.

Co-creation with patients is the norm at Kanga. When I shared some examples in my talk (such as the MyFeelPlus app for prostate cancer patients), it sparked some great discussions – rather than merely the fear of regulatory constraints.

Leo Innovation Lab was created to put patients first and deliver digital solutions for patients, independent of Leo pharma and their products. Morten Remmer described how they built a community for Psoriasis patients to allow them to have a private discussion, as they often don’t want to share problems in front of loved ones in social media. Later, Maria de Freitas from the same organisation showcased an app that helps psoriasis patients track their condition:


Pharma delegates told us that they want to meet patients and doctors on their own terms. They are ready to get down to the ‘nitty gritty’ of governance issues. As Serli Çubukçu of Sanofi pointed out, we are all ‘prosumers’ now. We understand from our own experience the irrelevance of firms absent from social media. ‘No-one has 30 seconds for interruption, but we all have 30 minutes for stuff we like!’

Real, Relevant, Respect, Respond: the four Rs of social media that I outlined in my talk. Speakers gave solid presentations that touched on all of these. In a helpful case study, Sarah Holiday of Pfizer shared their strategy for congress tweeting for HCPs. Each team runs their own congress through the central @pfizercongress account. This makes the account a hub for SM-active doctors, while the posting is still done by teams with the most relevant knowledge.


Alex Saunders provided insight into GSK’s social media approach, noting that ‘the content has to be brilliant or we’re wasting our time’. He explained their aim of combining journalistic editorial leadership with a culture of creativity and an ‘outside-in’ mentality.

His presentation recognised that the most crucial information must be gleaned from those we are trying to engage with.  It’s refreshing to hear a presentation like this. It signals the sea-change in big pharma that can help patients the most – and, in turn, ensure the industry’s successful evolution.

There was discussion of the potential of LinkedIn, with an insightful talk from Cyril Mandry from MSD. He outlined the business opportunities of the channel for pharma:

FireShot Screen Capture #087 - 'Kay Wesley on Twitter_ _#pharmaconf Uses of LinkedIn by pharma… _' - twitter_com_KayWesley_status_1011967835478863872

Of course, LinkedIn does not allow drug promotion, including to HCPs. Engagement must take a different form and signpost to other assets. LinkedIn is an increasingly versatile channel. Its scope for connecting pharma with HCPs is considerable.

Facebook is a vital tool for engaging patients.  Maria outlined her top tips for getting the most out of it, in particular using FB’s Business Manager to run projects, which offers insights and functionality not available to an ordinary FB user.

I noted in my presentation that when Ipsen’s LivingwithNETs (developed by Kanga, co-created with patients) won the eyeforpharma award this year, Ipsen’s share price saw a notable increase. Delegates told me afterwards that this fact had helped to confirm what they already knew: that the winners in our industry are winning because of their close attention to patients’ needs.

I also learned the hard way how many times you can tweet in a day before Twitter thinks you are a bot and blocks you! – It’s around 100. My tweet behaviour probably also pushed the ‘regularity’ button – I was tweeting at a consistent rate as I do at all conferences. I had to ask for an ‘unlock’:Twitter block email

The conference chair commented I was ‘tweeting like a millennial’ (must tell my millennial children 🙂 ) But on a more serious note, we were surprised that only a few delegates were tweeting or using any SM to share conference content. Cyril pointed out that companies with socially-engaged employees perform better in SM, and Jannick Larsen of Teva encouraged everyone to ‘become a thought leader’ on SM and share great content.

We must all become participants in order to learn how to implement the key theme that emerged from the conference: Being human, treating people right in social media, is where patient, healthcare professional and business value are delivered.

Posted in Marketing, pharma, Social Media

My 10 key takeaways from eyeforpharma Barcelona 2018

I sensed an atmosphere of determined optimism mixed with uncertainty. I heard diverse speakers from industry and beyond. This year’s eyeforpharma heralded some deep shifts, bringing together those working to remodel the industry with patients at the centre. Here are my key takeaways:

1. Companies are now actively involving patients in decision-making

‘eyeforpharma has taught us that pharma is actually listening.’
Carole Sian and Sonia Hawkins, Patient Experts at eyeforpharma

Patient centricity has been on everyone’s lips for a while, but many companies are now putting it into action.

Finalists for the Most Valuable Patient Initiative were doing inspiring work:

  • Bayer’s Einstein Junior program empowers children on clinical trials with age-specific materials co-developed with them and their parents.
  • Sanofi’s Moski-Toon initiative seeds the spread of knowledge about malaria prevention in Africa using animation.
  • The winner was LivingwithNets, Ipsen’s resource developed with Kanga, co-created with patients living with neuroendocrine tumours.


As for the conference itself, the Patient Expert delegates fed back on a mostly positive experience. Still, I’d like to see more patients taking part in the presentations next time. At Kanga we think the patient voice should be ubiquitous.

2. True multichannel approaches are replacing the assumption that digital means ‘digitalising the rep’

A glance around the conference revealed a wide variety of vendors, from Trustrack (a scientific copyright tracking platform) to 60 seconds (an app for coaching in mobile sales). At one time, ‘digital’ in pharma meant ‘digitalising the rep’. Now, I’m glad to see, it’s an infinitely broad term signalling the central means for direct-to-customer engagement.

Roche have updated all job descriptions to include ‘insight-gathering’, demonstrating a commitment to providing the right kind of information to the right people at the right time. A platform at the conference was given to Share4Rare, an innovative project that uses social media to connect the stakeholders of rare diseases across Europe. True multichannel approaches are now valued and commonly known to be effective, driving value for patients.


 Takeda’s MOOVCARE program that improved survival of
lung cancer patients through symptom reporting

3. The industry is starting to explore the exponential power of embedded analytics

Companies are starting to realise that measuring digital activities is essential, as it provides the data they need to propel them into greater customer engagement and personalisation. Analytics and KPIs are a subject of concerted focus for most. Elena Bonfiglioli from Microsoft highlighted that, of all industries, pharma suffers the most from ‘pilotitis’. The accessibility of data is what can enable pharma to embark with real confidence on a broader range of projects to support patients and doctors.

4. Doctors are almost all digitally ‘naturalised’ and industry is catching up

With the concept of a ‘digital native’ almost a moot point now, all doctors are digitally ‘naturalised’. This means they use digital devices and applications as their main professional and personal tools for communication, research, and other activities.

We know that 99% of doctors are using Google for work. It was clear at the conference that the achievement of ‘owning Page 1’ with our brand – a basic brand hygiene factor in any other industry – was still not common, but the imperative to achieve this was stronger than in previous years – at last!

5. Digital is finally seen as a major imperative for strategic transformation rather than just a ‘tactic’

Voices at the conference reminded delegates that today’s customer needs operate in a different plane from the make-up of the industry. One was that of rheumatologist Dr Deepak Jadon (Cambridge University Hospitals), who highlighted that patients very often use ‘Dr Google’ for information on their condition, and HCPs want them to be able to find credible information this way.


The good news is that the transformation required to meet these needs is in progress. Pfizer, for example, have identified their 25 most time-consuming processes and made them more efficient, in order to make room for upskilling. Digital is finally being seen as a long-term reordering requiring strategic business transformation, not just a tactic.

6. AI and virtual reality are starting to be used as real business tools

Innovations that make use of AI and Virtual Reality are finally getting traction as real business tools that can support patients and doctors. Janssen won the Most Valuable HCP Initiative award with virtual reality training for cancer nurses in Multiple Myeloma.

The sheer amount of health data being collected – 90% of the world’s health data has been collected over the last 3 years – is too much for humans to make sense of. Enter AI and machine learning. Google has been rolling out voice-based symptom checkers. Merck is using holograms to help with surgery – the surgeon can call up any image or patient information as needed.


Merck’s use of holograms in surgery

7. Pharma’s future role lies in collaboration with tech and other partners in new collaborations

Google has developed scans of eyeballs to let you know if you might develop heart problems, and wearables predicting IBD flares and diabetes. With Google & co. stepping up to fill gaps in patient need, the question of pharma’s role hung in the air. Clearly, continued investment in research into Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and the 7500 rare diseases for which there is still no treatment, is critical. But how can pharma match what tech has to offer?

Most of us believe that partnership is the way forward


What delegates thought about pharma’s response to tech companies disrupting healthcare

Dr Wolfgang Lippert (Salesforce) spoke about ‘the rise of multi-stakeholder omni-channel engagement’ and ‘PRM (Partner Relationship Management) rather than CRM’. One outstanding example of this was Takeda’s sponsorship of the Cancer Alliance in sub-Saharan Africa, which led to a 70% increase in oncologists, 200% increase in oncology nurses, and more than 120 GPs being trained to spot early signs.

8. Segment-of-one communications will soon allow for better message sequencing and personalisation

Already, machine learning and big data analytics allow for automated segment-of-one communications. This means far better message sequencing and personalisation, and a view, said IQVIA’s John Procter, of patients as valuable ‘assets’ who need careful attention on an individual basis. Pharma will need to get much, much closer to patients. Though pharma is now doing plenty of patient engagement, these activities are too often a ‘point in time activity’ at times that are convenient for pharma, he said. Pharma should have activity with patients throughout the life cycle through a continuum of interactions.

9. Cutting time-to-market through end-to-end digitalisation is demonstrably achievable

An in-session poll of delegates revealed low confidence that technology could reduce time-to-market. Some companies are making headway here, though. Lilly, for example, reported having cut out five years of clinical trials through end-to-end digitalisation of the whole process.

There are many different ways that digitalisation can improve the efficiency of clinical trials. One example is harnessing real-time patient feedback to shape the way a trial progresses. The Christie is doing exactly that in their work supported by Kanga on the Digital Experimental Clinical Trials Team.

10. The future of pharma is as a lifestyle and wellness sector well beyond the pill

Attention is turning to behavioural medicine and lifestyle factors for illness prevention. The challenge before pharma to fulfil its potential as a partner in healthcare is stronger than ever before. Opportunities presented by cloud-based data management, AI, advanced diagnostics, and wearables are real. They mean that pharma’s continued ability to invest in R&D to develop lifesaving medications will require a concerted effort to broaden its role and become a key partner in lifestyle and wellness. It will no longer be simply providing support ‘beyond the pill’ but looking at health from the perspective of the whole person and recognising pharma’s role as a stakeholder in our overall wellbeing and ability to live in a way that prevents disease.

In summary, there’s a way to go – but the industry is changing. Historically slow to meet the needs of a digitally immersed world, pharma is now leading some pioneering collaborations, serving patients and, at last, beginning to disrupt itself from within. The sense of determination in the conference room was palpable, with glimpses of a twenty-first century driver of improved worldwide health.



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Posted in CRM, Marketing, pharma, Uncategorized, Websites

4 things I learnt at eyeforpharma Barcelona

Last month’s annual eyeforpharma Barcelona saw marketing and medical affairs leaders gather to discuss how they are engaging their customers. For me, the 4 themes of collaboration, patient centricity, ‘succeeding in failing’ and gender equality emerged. Here’s what I came away with:

1.  United we triumph #unitepharma

The theme of the conference this year, and the hashtag, was #unitepharma (although I find these special hashtags a challenge as everyone also uses #e4pbarca, so there’s 21 characters of your Tweet gone already).

Why? Because eyeforpharma recognises that solving healthcare problems is complex, requiring the skills and capabilities of many types of players in this interconnected network.

Some of the best examples shown in the three days involved collaboration and working together.

Leo Pharma won an eyeforpharma award for their Innovation Lab which partners with technology organisations world-wide to develop digital solutions to support patients with skin conditions.

Another award winner was also a collaborative project – Boehringer Ingelheim’s Angels initiative is working with the European Stroke Association to certify 1500 hospitals across Europe as specialist stroke treatment centres, in order to save more lives.

It is a bit of a myth that health professionals do not want to collaborate with pharma. We sometimes over-interpret surveys that say ‘doctors don’t trust pharma digital stuff’ or ‘doctors prefer 3rd party sources’. Sometimes this is because pharma hasn’t (yet) delivered what they want in these spaces. Alistair Grendell of QuintilesIMS pointed out that ‘85% of HCPs want more digital services from pharma’ and used clinical trial recruitment as an important opportunity area.

Ryan Olohan (@RyanGOOGHealth) of Google supported this with a case study – in one example a trial had recruited just 10 patients in 4 months with traditional methods, then got the other 90 in 10 days with a search-led campaign.

Collaborating with patients is also vital. A helpful patient panel (Marc Worthmann of Alzheimer’s International, Kawaldip Sehmi of IAPO, Ananda Plate of Myeloma Patients Europe and Natacha Bolandos of European Cancer Patient Coalition) had some advice for the delegates – they do want to work with industry, but expect to be involved from the start… ‘Don’t come to us and say “look what we built”’ was their message, also ‘a patient support programme is not a marketing campaign’. Which brings me to…

2. Patient-Centricity – mindset or a marketing tactic?

All companies have patient-centric straplines but only a handful are demonstrably putting them into practice. On a show of hands, only about 15% of delegates thought their own company was truly patient-centric today.

Google pointed out that of the estimated 165,000 health apps (mostly created by pharma), just 36 of them make up half the health app downloads.

Ian Talmage (Bayer), a pharma leader of many years and a cancer survivor, had a unique perspective. He talked movingly about his brain cancer, the depression and fear that accompanied it and the long-term disability it has left him with. He was very clear that there is lots of opportunity for the pharma industry to help patients. “I didn’t want shiny leaflets, I wanted trust and involvement, my way”.

Takeda won an award for delivering a service to patients, designed as a result of a direct patient need. A colleague with IBD had a long-haul flight in which the food served caused a flare-up, so Takeda created ‘FlyWithIBD’ a campaign to encourage airlines to support IBD patients by labelling food more clearly and making WC access easier.


Launched with a Thunderclap, this simple but effective campaign was worthy enough to win the eyeforpharma award for Most Valuable Patient Initiative.

Wendy Keyhoe of GSK described an enterprise-wide initiative to talk to patients with COPD and bring videos and images into the business for all colleagues to learn from, with a patient journey map aligned across the organisation and a ‘workshop in a box’ to help countries develop their own insights.

Hats off to Nestlé Nutrition who interviewed no less than 15,000 patients worldwide in building their new commercial model based on real insights.


3. How to Succeed in Failing

Bruno Villetelle (@BrVill), Chief Digital Officer (very good to see one of those), described the vision at Takeda as ‘how to transform a 237-year-old company into a 33,000 people startup’. They have implemented an internal ‘Dragon’s Den’ for entrepreneur colleagues to come and ‘pitch’ their ideas and win funding.

Bruno pointed out that the ‘early adopters’ can’t do it alone (I agree, see my post on Crossing the Chasm) and was challenging, saying “Pioneers do not let go. Failure does not deter them”. How many of us in pharma have succeeded in failing?

Here are Bruno’s 5 top tips:


GSK’s AJ Ploszay showed that to transform effectively for multichannel a pharma company needs to really change the business model. GSK does not pay doctors to speak for them and no longer rewards sales reps based on prescriptions but on customer satisfaction.

Their approach to digital assets is iterative: “get a minimum viable product to marketplace, see what customers think and build from there”.

Felix Jackson (@FelixJackson) also described an agile project approach in his talk about Dynamic Digital Content Development. His 4 principles were:

  1. Just do it
  2. Minimise production effort
  3. Get real-time insights
  4. Evolve

He pointed out that so many of our approvals processes were designed for print. Don’t try to fit into it, change the process, he said. I agree, an agile test-and-learn approach has been done in pharma and it works.

Fabian Mettes of Amgen showed the importance of consistent measurement in delivering transformational change. They are implementing a common KPI framework (‘Brand 360’) across the organisation and this is allowing the sharing of best practice and learning, and the linking of ‘multichannel performance’ with sales results.


4. #BeBoldForChange: Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor?

A disappointing observation at Barcelona was the very unbalanced nature of the speaker faculty. 80% were men and all opening and closing keynotes were male, as were all the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ finalists. It is a shame to learn from eyeforpharma that they tried really hard to get a more representative speaker list but companies overwhelmingly put forward men for the task. Why is this?

Even the session on gender parity, ably led by Magdalene Pederson of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association, was not as well attended as it might have been.


This is a productivity issue and men as well as women need to stand up and campaign for better diversity and equality in our organisations, particularly at a senior level. In an industry dominated by women (especially in commercial roles), whose customer-base is dominated by women (80% of healthcare decisions are made by women according to the HBA), women should have a fair share of leadership and decision-making. There is no lack of ambitious or able women in our industry. The problem goes deeper than that.

Magdalene pointed out that there is a glass ceiling for sure – the built-in unconscious bias on the part of male senior hiring managers that “she won’t want that more senior role because she has children and will not want to travel…” or “if I promote her she’ll just get pregnant and leave me in the lurch” – without actually asking the woman about her own ambitions and preferences. These doubts and questions do not apply to men! Companies must go beyond the letter of the law in having equality policies that address this very real bias.

In addition to this Magdalene told us, there is a ‘sticky floor’ – the women who get promoted, it seems, often get paid less than their male counterparts for the same job. With little pay transparency in industry this is often a hidden problem – but also needs addressing. Once again, unconscious bias rather than policy is the biggest problem in terms of the gender pay gap.

Paul Simms, CEO of eyeforpharma, has issued two newsletters on this topic and called for improved equality across our industry – “if we’re to fully deliver on patient outcomes, we must be representative of our patient population.” Interestingly the only negative feedback Paul’s had so far has been from a handful of men, illustrating, I think, that it is very difficult from a position of privilege to see the impact of prejudice.

I call on all women and men in our industry to call this out, challenge their organisation and show leadership in driving for better equality in the interests of our future and that of the patients we serve. Let us all #BeBoldForChange!





Posted in Uncategorized

Bring back the website

Check out the statements below.  Familiar?

  • We tried a website with brand <x>, and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to build another’.
  • ‘We have got too many websites; we need to reduce the number’.
  • ‘We created this website and it only had 10 visitors in the first 6 months – websites don’t work!’
  • ‘Why would we build our own website – customers prefer 3rd party ones don’t they?’

Have you ever heard comments like these?   Why is it, in pharma, we blame the channel for our shortcomings?

Think about it.  What if you substitute another, more traditional channel for these in the sentences above:

  • ‘We tried a sales rep with brand <x> and it didn’t work, so we’re not going to hire another’.
  • ‘We have got too many telephones, we need to reduce the number’.
  • ‘We had a stand-alone meeting and only 10 people turned up – meetings don’t work!’
  • ‘Why would we have our own congress symposium – customers prefer 3rd party seminars don’t they?’

Clearly in these last examples it is silly to blame the ‘channel’ for our own poor execution in it (and questioning the ‘number’ of assets alone is meaningless) – so why do we do this for websites?

My team and I do a lot of digital landscaping to find what customers are finding in certain therapy or disease areas, and we also do a good deal of insight research into the digital habits of patients, healthcare professionals, providers and consumers.  Generally-speaking, we observe this

  • Customers’ behaviour is universally search-led, with Google (a website) ubiquitous in most of the world. Google penetration amongst HCPs is 100%, most of them using it several times daily.
  • The most common things customers do on their smartphones is check email, text and yes – search the web and browse websites.
  • The most common needs are content driven – information, education, guidelines, FAQs, expert advice.
  • In almost all therapy areas the landscape is fairly barren. Customers are simply not finding the content and services about therapies and medicines that they are looking for, in formats they prefer.  In other words, there is a lack of good quality websites.

If we are going to meet customer needs with compelling content in formats convenient for them, this means the cornerstone of our digital investment should be – you guessed it – good quality websites.

This will likely be a combination of a presence on 3rd-party sites (where we will reach users interested in the topic and hopefully engage them with our content – this is like going to a congress and getting them to come to our symposium) and our own websites (this is like having a stand-alone meeting and inviting customers interested specifically in our TA or brand) – there is a place for both of these.

The key phrase here is ‘good quality’.  The difference online is that ‘your competitor is just a click away’ so we have to execute with excellence and deliver an outstanding user experience in order to provide what our digital-savvy customers need and expect. There is a lot to get right, and this requires work. Get it right, and you’ll be delivering what your customers want at the most crucial moment for them (when they are actively looking) and on their terms.

What could be better than that?

So our focus as pharma marketers, before we build that innovative adherence app or enjoy the excitement of crowdsourcing an awareness campaign or wow HCPs with our latest virtual-reality game – should be occupying that first page of Google with our content on our websites, serve their needs and make the most of the relationship that ensues.

That is how your own the digital landscape for your brand.  Bring back the website!

Posted in Marketing, Search, Websites
by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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