S&R Blog

It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile!

In its heyday, GM developed an advertising campaign for their Oldsmobile brand in an attempt to sway younger buyers.  Oldsmobile had been a long standing success for GM among middle-aged and older buyers, but they wanted younger customers. So they came up with a new campaign, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile”, which spoke to the innovation, sleek styling and sex-appeal that an Oldsmobile could provide.

At the risk of sounding like my own father, I have concluded that doing business today is a lot like that now-famous Oldsmobile campaign.  Doing business today is not based on the practices I was taught to honor, respect and hold sacred.  In fact, today’s business world is quite like the Wild West—plenty of outlaws, snake-oil peddlers and people looking to be the “biggest gun in town”.

The first difference I find is the ability to take people at their word.  With all the muttered promises, downright lies and “handshake” deals that frankly are not worth a damn, you simply can’t do that anymore.  Could it be a generational gap? New generational values? Or am I becoming an old fart?  It almost doesn’t matter, because when you are unable to trust people to do what they say, something is wrong.  Taking people at their word should mean that there is an understanding between two people that certain expectations will be met.

The second difference is a growing inability to conduct business on a face-to-face basis.  As I compose this blog on my computer, check my smart phone for text, e-mail messages, check my voice-mail and find comfort and safety behind my computer screen, I understand where some of the problem resides.  The ability to engage people in a “live conversation”, either face-to-face, via the phone or via virtual meeting technology is increasingly more difficult.  But I simply can’t think of many successful personal or business relationships I have had where I wasn’t able to interact with people “live”.  Really, how can you build trust and understanding when you have to submit proposals and information via a “blinded web portal”?

The final difference is the “it ain’t grown here” mentality.  My business, in great part, depends on selling ideas, creativity and high-quality implementation of those ideas.  Yet it often feels like that is not what our clients really want.  The typical interaction with our clients is often very one-sided: the client says, “We want an electronic sales program that looks like this and says this, and we need a price for that by tomorrow afternoon.”  Now, some of you reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong is that it may not be true that an electronic sales program is the correct solution to the problem they are trying to solve.  What has been lost is the long-term strategy (translation: today’s stock share-price) that’s critical to the process and driven by the following key questions: What do your client’s customers really want?  How should you create messages and images that ensure your customers understand and accept your brand?  What media will best reach the demographics of your target audience?

If the above are, in fact, the hallmarks of business practices in the future, so be it.  I personally don’t agree with doing business in these ways—but then everyone has their own opinion (and orifice).  It’s just that when you can’t trust people, interact with them on a face-to-face basis and expect them to have an open mind on how they manage their business, it, doesn’t bode well for the future.

So, with that in mind and that said, I think I will change my Depends, wipe the drool from my chin, sit on the front porch of the assisted-living center and try to find some Oldsmobile ads in the magazine I am reading.

David H. Recht

CEO North State Resources
Holding company for S+R Medical Communications


New study reveals 77.5% of physicians use social media professionally

This blog is full of information about social media, including SmartPhone apps, Twitter, and others, and S&R decided to take this topic to the physicians to find out their thoughts on social media.

The S&R Communications Group Social Media Survey was conducted on July 20, 2009, via SermoTM, an online community for physicians. The purpose of this survey was to gather information about the personal and professional use of social media by physicians. The survey was administered to 102 physicians and was directed at physicians in the specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. The survey contained 18 questions on various topics that ranged from basic demographics to use of specific social media sites.

One of the most important pieces of information gathered with this survey was not a surprise: Some physicians do use social media professionally.

Who uses it?

Of the 79 respondents (77.5%) who reported using social media professionally, 72.2% were 25 to 35 years in age. (The other 27.8% were 36 to 55. No one over the age of 55 participated in this survey.)

How do they use it?

Like any other tactical tool, social media will not be effective for every physician or every situation. The majority of respondents reported using social media to connect with physicians within their specialty (87.3%), to connect with physicians outside of their specialty (64.6%), to connect with colleagues they trained with (54.4%), to connect with medical school alumni (53.2%), and to connect with key opinion leaders (21.5%).

Interestingly, only 2.5% reported using social media to connect with patients, which suggests that physicians do not see social media as a viable means of communicating with patients. Why is this?

Perhaps the answer lies in the benefits respondents see in or their reasons for using social media professionally. Because the majority of physicians see social media as a means of gaining professional information, it is reasonable to expect that very few respondents would use social media as a means of communicating with patients. Plus, respondents, even those who reported not using social media professionally, reported that the 2 largest downsides to using social media professionally were issues of privacy (69.6%) and legal concerns (52%). Other downsides included concerns over credibility, time requirements, the impersonal nature of social media, and incongruence with their ideals of being professional.

At the moment, physicians must be careful about interacting with patients via social media. However, social media presents the opportunity to satisfy the demand for more immediate information and to correct mistakes quickly. Doctors already use non–face-to-face methods like letters, phone calls, etc. It may only be a matter of time before social media falls into this same category.

What can we learn from this survey?

As the world of pharmaceutical advertising is changing, we have to change with it. This survey confirms what we already knew: Social media will play an important part in pharmaceutical advertising. This survey indicates that social media is a source for information for physicians, so we know that we have the opportunity to create a place where we can build relationships with physicians while rapidly providing education, information, and the ability to interact with KOLs and other physicians.

In fact, more than 50% of respondents reported that they would be in favor of additional social media designed for better professional interaction with patients and other healthcare professionals.

As they always have, physicians are turning to their colleagues for information, and you have a responsibility to your product to participate in this conversation and ensure that accurate, factual, and complete information is being presented to the physicians who are seeking out that information.

Contact Wayne Dunlap (wayned@srcomgroup.com) for a full report.

Is pharma ready for the biggest shift since the industrial revolution?

I think so. Welcome to the world of socialnomics.

The patient-physician social media triangle

There is an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere surrounding a New York Times piece from last month titled, “Medicine in the age of Twitter.” It talks about the time constraints of physicians and how in the world of the internet and instantaneous media, a physician can provide offline consultation to patients when time is at a premium.

The piece was written by Dr. Pauline Chen, who is a proponent of social media interaction with patients. She states,

There continues to be anecdotal evidence regarding social media’s potential to strengthen the patient-doctor relationship. “One way I see that power is through education,” said Dr. Christian Sinclair, a physician for Kansas City Hospice who has created a palliative care network through his blog and Twitter. “I can help to inform the public, I can put the knowledge I have out there. And if there are patients or families who need this knowledge, I can help them because of this network.” Dr. Sinclair has, for example, helped individuals he has met through Twitter connect with local hospices, a process he believes was expedited by Twitter’s particular platform.

Obviously there are numerous positives and negatives to taking the patient-doctor relationship offline. But it would be interesting to see which type of physicians and patients were pro or against. You would assume that early-adopting or younger physicians and patients would be more in-tune with the changing outlets to medical information (61% of patients go online for health information). But the conversation developing at the Well Blog begs to differ. Some of the highlights are below.

“I am a physician and find the concept of augmenting patient care through social networking idiotic. Facebook, Twitter and similar venues are not an appropriate place for the sensitive nature of a patient physician encounter.”

“My doctor is not on Twitter (but he is on e-mail with me) but I do see a huge value in social media–as a rare disease patient, I’ve learned a lot from other patients and their lived experiences, and sometimes taking that knowledge into the exam room (or an e-mail) can really help us sort through decisions about treatments.”

“Initially, I was reluctant to communicate via email with patients; being an old-school internist it was seen as too impersonal. I’ve since changed my mind, and now wholeheartedly endorse electronic communications.”

“Outrageous. I can’t get my doctor to return a phone call, and yet he has time on his hands to gossip on the Internet and exchange tweets.”

“This piece and the MD postings are excellent testimonials confirming the 2006 WSJ HarrisInteractive research showing that 75% of patients want more access to their doctor online, while 75% of physicians don’t. What is missing from this commentary is that the options are not limited to Twitter or Email or Facebook.”

What do you think? Weigh in on the NYT or here.

Are social aggregators the disease awareness portals of the future?

The use of social media in the pharma world (and marketing world in general) has been a hot topic over the past year. And in the pharma world, one of the biggest roadblocks has been where the FDA stands on this issue. The list of potential problems with pharma and social media could be numerous (eg., fair balance, moderation, negative experiences, transparency issue, brand hijacking). But what if Big Pharma used social media for strictly disease awareness through the use of unbranded aggregators (a tool that pulls content and the latest posts from the sources of your choice and presents it in a consistent, easily digested form)?

Obviously, dedicating a whole site to content created by others involves a  leap of faith for pharma companies, but  housing all pertinent conversations, news, postings, and pictures about a certain disease state could be truly beneficial to all those involved (less worry about regulatory issues, timely and relevant disease specific information, unlimited content, community and social aspect, etc.). Aggregators like Netvibes and Pageflakes provide a good foundation on how powerful an aggregator can be for related content. And traditional brands (Skittles) and agencies (CPB) have already started to build their current sites around aggregator technology. So where does that leave pharma? One step behind.

Want to see how a social aggregator can change the way you view the news? See a sample of a crohn’s disease lifestream below (via Netvibes).

Picture 3

Do you remember life before Twitter?

OK, so I will start with a hint about my age: Do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon? (We are approaching the 40th anniversary of the date, July 21, 1969.) I was on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey with my then girlfriend, now wife. She was incredible and so was the idea of a man on the moon. It was wondrous to look at the moon and realize that we were able to send someone so far away and then bring him back. Space launches are so matter-of-fact today, but it was such an accomplishment then, something that our country was so proud of. (Remember the Cold War?)

Something more recent and not nearly as memorable: Can you remember where you were when someone first described Twitter to you?

I was having lunch with an account executive and a client in Boston, and the client was tweeted. He went on to tell me about Twitter, what he tweets about, and who he follows. He was so into it, so excited about this new communication, this ability to have conversations with people that he did not know. The account executive got really engaged in the conversation, but frankly I did not get it. As a matter of fact, I am certain that the face I had on that day, as much as I tried to hide it, is the face that I still have today when someone talks about Twitter. You know… squint a bit, furrow your brow, and non-verbally say, “What? Why would anyone want to do this?”

So how did your face look (not Facebook) when you first heard about Twitter? What was your expression?

What did you think? What does it say about us if I think WITFITS about Twitter and you think 2G2BT? Do you think this difference is age? An ability to two-thumb type 200 words a minute on our Blackberries or iPhones? I never thought the Internet provided too much information. I don’t know how we conducted business without it. But Twitter, I don’t know. TMI with too little value to be sure.

So now Novo Nordisk has jumped into Twitter with Charlie Kimball.

Take a look at some comments here. I am sure that following Charlie on Twitter is a small part of a much bigger idea, but this use of Twitter seems forced to me. (I can read it now: CSA, we can use Twitter, millions will follow Charlie!) IDTS (or IBTD for the polite types). Here we have a paid spokesperson who is an open-wheel racecar driver, diabetic, and racing while on Levemir® (insulin determir [rDNAorigin] injection). Twitter is filled with abbreviations, not registered marks. Does anyone know how to make a registered mark on a Blackberry? When does Charlie get a chance to Twitter during a race? During a pit stop?

And what’s the point?

A diabetes patient reads this and says, “Gee, I want to be just like Charlie, and I will use Levemir! Let me click on the full prescribing information!” Maybe the more likely response is, “Even though I am a diabetic, I can still live a fun life filled with occasional episodes of terror as I am passing on a curve at 200 mph! Let me follow Charlie as I find out how he does it.” IDGI!

I also want to get the medical regulatory review process of this. So Charlie wants to tweet (and 200 followers can’t wait to read it.) “At the Dodger game! Beautiful day for the All American game.” As Charlie can elect to tweet at anytime during the day, there is an on-call group to review the statements. In the review meeting, someone points out that this comment could be seen by the FDA as a quality of life claim. Does the labeling for Levemir include “more beautiful days” or is this claim not supported by two controlled trials? So it gets changed to “At the Dodger game! Baseball is the All American game.” But wait! Novo Nordisk is a Danish company, and the Dodgers are hardly all American. They have players from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Taiwan. So it gets changed to “At the Dodger game!” But wait! When did Charlie take his Levemir? We want to ensure compliance here. So “Just took Levemir®” (note the trademark) is added, and the link to full prescribing information is included. OK Charlie, go ahead and send this spur-of-the-moment tweet out to your followers. Whew!

Let’s think about this for a minute: Long, long ago, Boots ran the first DTC ad to support their ibuprofen product Rufen.

The campaign involved regional TV and national print, including an ad with a $1.50-off coupon. ($1.50. Times have really changed!) The ad claimed Rufen was the same as Motrin but less expensive. (Motrin was one of the first Rx-to-OTC switches, but this campaign came out while Motrin was an Rx drug.) At the time, all hell broke loose, the FDA put a moratorium on DTC ads, and it was years until the next ad for a prescription drug was seen. Who would have thought at the time that this ad would lead to the $5 billion DTC environment that we are seeing today?

So who is to say that Charlie Kimball won’t be the start to a Twitter cacophony of pharmaceutical tweets?

NIMY! Look, I don’t want to come across here as an e-anderthal. Or Twitter-dumb. In fact, I believe that there are lots of situations where social media, particularly social media with an invited community, could be a great communication solution. I believe an agency has to look at each situation and recommend solutions to clients that solve their problems and meet their needs. Just like any other media, social media is not the solution for every situation, so we should not try to apply it everywhere. But at least for now, I don’t see Twitter as a rich enough communication vehicle to carry the complex messaging of healthcare. ICBW, but I don’t see Twitter lasting. I certainly don’t see it being as memorable as the first man on the moon.

If you are as confused by the acronyms as I was, visit NetLingo for a list of commonly used acronyms and shorthand.

-Paul Dreyer

Is this the future of patient education?

It seems like new boundaries are being broken everyday in the ever evolving world of engaging users through different mediums. Whether it be a technological advance (crohn’s app) or a new way to use a traditional medium (visual dictionary), marketers are finding new ways to deliver relevant content to consumers. So what’s next?

YouTube has provided fertile ground for Pharma and patient education (JNJ, Sanofi, GSK, Astra Zeneca) but they have only tapped the surface with this platform (videos). Enter BooneOakley (Charlotte agency). Their new website using YouTube as a platform brilliantly shows how you can apply the annotations and hyperlink features of YouTube for narrative purposes. Additionally, it brings life to video and introduces an unlimited amount of possibilities for patient education. What do you think? (you have to visit YouTube to get full experience)