Our thinking

Content marketing and its impact on pharma

Regardless of how healthcare reform shakes out this year, there is one fact that is unlikely to change. All major stakeholders find agreement around the role of value-based care. The alignment of incentives is too compelling to change now.

For pharma, this focus on value has many implications. Value will come from the combination of improved health outcomes, new product development and pricing. For marketers, adding value starts with content—more relevant content for both physicians and patients.

Physicians need more medical content on the mechanism of disease, therapy options and the patient experience. This suggests that marketers embrace the practice of “content marketing.” Content marketing is one of the most practical ways that a brand can engage its audience and provide value on a regular basis.

The value of non-promotional content

Content marketing, or as we call it at closerlook, brand journalism, is the practice of publishing content that will be valuable to a brand’s audience, even if it isn’t promotional in nature.

Unbranded content is not new to pharma. However, its use beyond the 12- to 24-month pre-launch period is generally considered less “strategic.” The regular practice of content marketing represents a change in thinking for many in pharma.

“Old-school” pharma sales and marketing has always focused on promotional content. This includes the “verbatims” that are on-label and approved for use by the sales force. This content often then is repurposed through various marketing channels. The philosophy has always been that if a sales rep has only 30 or 60 seconds with a doctor, the rep needs to stay on message.

But physicians and patients aren’t looking for promotional content. They want content that they can use—content that’s not perceived as marketing. This provides a fresh opportunity to create value and build a better brand.

For example, physicians are often asked to consider a product that may be in a class of drugs they didn’t study in med school. This can represent a big hurdle for a busy physician. They have to do a fair amount of personal research to get comfortable writing a new class of drugs. This represents a meaningful opportunity for pharma. A detailed medical animation on a new class of drugs and how they work would provide value and fast-track the consideration process.

Thought leadership

A commitment to content marketing also represents an opportunity for thought leadership. Physicians and patients are skeptical of purely promotional content. This leads to an opportunity to build trust and differentiation through unbranded content.

A sales rep can personally deliver the information, or a physician can review it on a website or brochure. Regardless, the unbranded content should never be considered “off-message” by sales management. It’s just not “on-message” by traditional promotional standards.

If the information is about disease awareness or a new class of drugs, it will educate and engage the physician. This will meet the goal of delivering value. Regardless of form (mobile, website, email, rep-delivered content), if it is clinical or presented in video or print by a respected thought leader, the information will be valuable to physicians, staff and patients.

Those who embrace content marketing will do their brands a great deal of good. They will build a reputation for adding value to both physicians and patients.

Getting to market faster

Finally, agencies can develop and deploy unbranded content much faster than branded content. Branded content must jump through the normal internal approval hurdles with medical, legal and regulatory review. It’s not unusual for branded content to takes weeks—even months—to get approved. This makes it very difficult for a brand to refresh its content on its websites on a frequent basis.

But unbranded content marketing opens up a whole new world of content creation opportunities. A commitment to content marketing can lead to new and valuable interactions with both physicians and patients. For marketers, this is now a critical part of value-based care.

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