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European Biopharmaceutical Review

App Potential

Prior to 2004, terms such as ‘social networking’ and ‘mobile marketing’ were relatively unheard of. Today, companies are forced to adapt to this new wave of communication.

New media has grown to have a universal presence throughout the marketing landscape, including in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries. While utilising this fast-paced, ever-changing means of communication may seem like a challenge, it is necessary in order to remain relevant in the minds of core audiences. So, how does new media provide a marketing advantage? What distinct benefits come from embracing new technologies and how can you get the most out of your budget and make a larger impact than with traditional media? This article will address what it takes to succeed in today’s digitally-driven marketing climate, with particular reference to utilising new media for its fullest advantage, as well as knowing where, when and how to use it.

Social Media

There was a time when public relations and marketing relied primarily on oneway communication; the ability to share news and messaging in real-time was practically non-existent. However, social media has brought with it a new age of real-time communication and consumer engagement.

Social media is perhaps the most prominent and widely used form of new media. It provides a wealth of opportunities for client involvement, principally across five categories:

  • Participation – encouraging contributions and feedback from users
  • Openness – encouraging voting, comments and the sharing of information
  • Conversation – traditional media (television, radio, newspaper) is about broadcasting a message; social media provides two-way conversation
  • Community – groups can come together and converse quickly and effectively
  • ‘Connectedness’ – social media thrives on networking by making use of links to other sites, resources and individuals

Social media has become so popular that it has evolved into a general communication function for individuals and businesses alike. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, most recently, Google+, have opened the door for unique, direct opportunities to reach potential clients, business partners and employees (1).

Major pharmaceutical companies have generally been resistant to social media. Although recently, companies have been using social media outlets to announce new products and drug treatments, as well as to develop improved relationships with their consumers.

The resistance began primarily due to the belief that effective marketing via social media was too difficult, given the legal and regulatory hurdles. There was also a lack of means to measure the success of using social media, which kept many pharmaceutical companies at bay. These limitations are less of an issue today, and more companies are learning to embrace the marketing potential of social media (2).

Social Media Policy

While social media should be considered as a discipline that permeates across all departments, a corporate social media policy is imperative for all organisations. Even if a company is not active in social media, its employees probably are. It is important to manage and monitor what employees are saying about the organisation on these networks. A social media policy outlines the corporate guidelines of communicating on the online world for employees.

To begin with, the organisation should look into its existing communications policy, confidentiality agreements, contract compliance and intellectual policy. Perhaps the language needed is right in all existing policies; however they might need to be modified to include communicating on blogs and social media sites, for example. If the organisation does not have an existing communications policy, the social media policy does not need to be complicated. It should simply state three major points:

  • What your business will and will not do online
  • What your employees can and cannot do online
  • What the public can and cannot do with your content

Creating a social media policy usually starts with some difficult conversations, so it is advisable to include a lawyer, the marketing team, senior staff and IT staff in the discussion. Determine what you do not want to happen and work backwards to the steps that need to be put in place to prevent those situations. Establish a chain of command and a response policy – who should respond to negative comments and how. Also remember that technology moves at a rapid pace so it is important to regularly review and update the policy (1).

Keyword Optimisation

In order to compete in today’s marketplace, it’s important to keep your web presence as comprehensive as possible, utilising various platforms and tools to offer interesting, helpful content. Yes, the main aim is to promote the organisation, but this should be done discreetly enough so that the content is not overshadowed by efforts to self-promote (2).

Even with a great website, major search engines may not recognise the value of a specific section or database, and searchers may never reach the area you want them to explore. By structuring a website with keyword research and content`available to individuals searching online and it also improves the company’s organic ranking in search engine results. It is important to know how people are searching for the pharmaceutical information relating to the company’s products and services, as well as the number of searches per month. While the website may offer the pharmaceutical information that online searchers want, if a different phrase or term is used to describe a drug or disease, search engines will not be able to provide your website to searchers. This optimisation process can be done in-house through a research firm who will examine keywords that pertain directly to the company’s pharmaceutical products, and those which will drive the largest amount of traffic to the website each month (3).

Online Distribution Services

News releases have come a long way. Traditionally, they were sent out via snail mail to a list of standard media outlets in hopes of catching the attention of an editor and having them published or aired. Today the paradigm has shifted. News releases are now intended to catch the attention of the customer, as much as that of the editor. The modern news release is interactive, searchable and integrated with social media outlets to extend its reach and encourage dialogue.

Optimising the value of news release begins with keyword research. Find terms individuals use to look for the information presented and embed them within the release – preferably in the subject line, headline and first sentence. Also use them throughout the body of the text and, where appropriate, include hyperlinks that will take the reader straight to a website that contains additional specific information on the topic. The decision of whether or not to click on a news release is made in the blink of an eye, so take particular care to make the subject and headline short, intriguing and compelling.

Distributing news online carries the obligation of quality writing distributed appropriately. It is best to aim for key media outlets in the industry and send news to them directly. Targeting is especially important when sending news to bloggers – if it’s not relevant to their blog topic, it will produce a decidedly negative impression.

Mobile Marketing

The growth of mobile marketing began when short message service (SMS) messaging started on mobile phones in the early 2000s. Today, marketing communications are widely accessed on smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry and Android, for example) or mobile devices (iPads and so on) with about 64 per cent of decision makers checking email on their devices. This number is expected to continue to grow in the future, and in three to five years mobile devices will be used as a first-screen internet device.

Quick response (QR) codes have become another phenomenon. A QR code is a 2D matrix barcode capable of storing up to 4,296 alphanumeric or 7,089 numeric characters. Denso Wave created QR codes in 1994 to track vehicle parts in Japan. QR codes can be scanned with a QR code reader on a smartphone to access more information on an online site.

QR codes bridge the gap between print and digital media. Scanning a QR code with a smartphone grants instant access to on-demand digital content such as articles, videos and more. It is an interactive and effective way to generate leads and build brand awareness, but its success is dependent upon a seamless interplay between the code and its online destination. The QR code needs to take the user to a mobile-friendly site that is easy to read on a mobile device (1).

Another phenomenon in mobile marketing is the thousands of physician- and consumer-focused health applications available. While the FDA regulates the use of apps as medical devices, there are many available that are used to log, record, track, evaluate or make decisions or suggestions regarding health and wellness. Examples of these apps include dietary tracking logs, appointment reminders, posture suggestions, exercise suggestions and other tools that relate to lifestyle and wellness (5).

Looking Ahead

There are sure to be new media trends on the horizon which will lead to new tactics. But one thing is certain: organisations are closer to their customers than ever before. These new opportunities for engagement are affordable and easy to manage, but utilising them requires strategy and awareness. Embracing this evolution in marketing and public relations can lead to an advantage among competitors and appear relevant in the eyes of its customers and prospective clients.


  1. B2B social media whitepaper, SCORR Marketing, www.scorrmarketing. com/newsletter/docs/white-papers/ SCORR_SM_Whitepaper.pdf, 2011
  2. Social media – how bioscience companies are using social media to reach key audiences, Leopard Marketing, http://leopardmarketing. com/socia-media-for-business/socialmedia- how-bioscience-companiesare- using-social-media-to-reach-keyaudiences, 13 June 2011
  3. Marketing and promotion for pharmaceutical companies, DDA Medical, medical/pharmaceutical-companies/ marketing-promotion-P.html, 2006
  4. SCORR marketing advice: optimizing your PR, SCORR Marketing, www., 17 June 2011
  5. Pharma marketing blog, http://, 20 July 2011

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Kelly Sladek holds the position of Director of Marketing Communications at SCORR Marketing. Kelly graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and completed British economic classes during a study abroad programme at Oxford University, UK. Kelly works with clients to determine the types and volume of media required to effectively and efficiently reach target audiences in client advertising campaigns. Email:
Kelly Sladek
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