The end of 2009 and beginning of this year have been spent on determining how pharmaceutical companies in particular and corporations in general can engage effectively and appropriately with consumers and patients in online environments whether social media or static.
Lost in the conversation is that pharma has not yet perfected how to engage effectively and appropriately consistently in the real world with patient groups and communities. As my basketball coach/father would always say, “Never forget the fundamentals”.
I believe the fundamentals of working with patient groups and communities (as well as their physician counterparts) can be captured by my three R’s of strategic alliance development.
Strategic alliance development is the cultivation and active engagement with select stakeholders in a manner that is (1) relevant (2) respectful, and (3) recurrent.
Relevant – Engage in a fashion that reflects you understand what the mission, priorities, and capabilities of the organization. What are the needs, gaps, and concerns of that patient population? Make sure your science, messaging, and outreach meets those. Likewise, relevant organizations and opinion leaders will be those that have the visibility, credibility, and capacity to advance your specific business objectives. Every organization is not an appropriate partner for every objective.
Respectful – Patient groups are not waiting to do your bidding and patient advocates and association leaders are important players in healthcare. Organizations are often eager to co-create meaningful programs, events, and informational experiences when treated as full partners or leaders of the process. Also, don’t send junior marketing people or your agency minions to senior level meetings. Vice president-level or medical affairs participation may be necessary to demonstrate a serious commitment and substantive intent.
Recurrent – Frequent and consistent interactions and communications are valued by patient groups beyond financial contributions and differentiate mere corporate sponsors from true community members.
The ultimate goal in strategic alliance development is to be valued by the community as a member of the community. Membership validation translates into positive market share and share of voice.
Let’s get it right in the real world 1st.