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Five Reasons Your Pharmaceutical Brand Content Model Might Not Be Optimised and What You Can Do About It

Posted By: SGK May 16, 2019

This blog post has been contributed by Stephen Marshman, business development director, SGK.

Changing market conditions is not new news to the Pharmaceutical industry. Over the last decade, and against a background of regulatory changes, serialisation, merger and acquisition activity and the growth of generics, perhaps the most critical shift of all has been the transformation of patients into consumers.

For Pharma companies, this change has demanded they find new ways of connecting with their audience, through different channels and with meaningful, relevant and compelling content.

WATCH: Why Empathy-Driven Marketing Works in a Changing Healthcare Marketplace

We should guard against thinking of the ‘consumerisation of healthcare’ as a recent occurrence. I am sure that as long ago as 1998, when Google first arrived in our world, it wasn’t long before people were frustrating their doctor by arriving at the surgery with a printout that offered various diagnoses of the symptoms they were displaying.

What is perhaps surprising, and for some Pharma companies concerning, is that in this period — one in which patients have become well-informed consumers with a world of data at their fingertips — many organisations have been slow to change their engagement models to adapt to this new world order.

There are multiple reasons for this apparent lag. Not least, there is the industry’s natural aversion to risk and an associated reluctance to make sweeping changes. This effect has been heightened in a sphere where digital communications play such a major role, itself a subject that has a famously complex relationship with regulation.

However, the area I would like to focus on here is that of branded content and, more specifically, the content generation models Pharma organisations have in place to ensure they are successfully engaging with their consumers.

SGK is a supply chain partner, helping healthcare organisations create, manage and distribute content that will deliver the right outcomes for their consumers. Frequently, when we initially engage with a company, we encounter models, systems and processes that are not fit for purpose.

So why isn’t it working?

1. Decentralised Content Creation Models

All too often the process framework that exists for generating content has not been designed in a planful way, rather it has evolved incrementally over an extended period. This is not surprising, any process that has been put in place to deliver a newly emergent need – in this case the delivery of new types of content and messaging to patient-consumers – often does so reactively, as the need itself is constantly evolving and being re-defined.

The frustration is that this leads to a lack of commonality across brands, markets and content channels with a disproportionate effort often required to get any content from concept to delivery. The model needs re-designing but there is often no true process owner (or stakeholders with sufficient bandwidth) to drive this change.

2. Multiple Content Touch-Points (Lack of Roles and Responsibilities)

This same theme of ownership can cause headaches across the process. The roles and functions that would typically deliver an optimised content delivery process simply didn’t exist in most Pharma companies a decade ago, and in many businesses they still don't today.

Again, we don’t have to look too hard to understand why this is. No organisation could have anticipated the full impact of the transformation that has placed the patient at the centre of the healthcare landscape and demanded Pharma companies find and master different ways of communicating. The organisational structures required to effectively deliver this did not arrive ready-formed.

In many businesses, the way in which content is created and delivered is clunky and inefficient. There is often a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities:

  • Who generates data, branding and messaging?
  • Who reviews and approves?
  • What are the roles played by legal and regulatory teams and what are our partners responsible for?

I suspect these questions would be answered very differently from company to company, sometimes even within the same organisation too. If it’s not clear and consistent, it’s almost certainly an area that’s holding you back.

3. Lack of Visibility, Access and Version Control of Assets

When invited to carry out a diagnostic audit of one Pharma company recently, our team posed a series of questions, aimed at understanding how the company managed their digital assets. The answers may sound surprising but in fact the picture they painted is not that uncommon. No central databases were in place to house image assets, though some markets kept folders and files on intranet sites. There was a heavy reliance on agencies to provide the latest files, based on individual requests. This caused significant problems when they changed suppliers.

A recent cross-market line-up of the imagery used on one product web-site highlighted major inconsistencies in terms of product and lifestyle visuals. The messaging also differed widely across markets with no centrally managed translation process in place.

4. Lack of Compliance

The above scenario is not one that sounds like it should be prevalent within the highly regulated pharmaceutical world, yet this is often the case. Compared to a more well-established area such as packaging, for example, where heavily documented regulations are embedded within robust processes, the comparative “newness” of managing content in a digital environment seems to be far less stringently controlled.

READ: 7 Challenges Facing Pharmaceutical Packaging Today

I think in the early years there was a feeling that within the online environment at least, the reluctance of authorities (and even the FDA) to publish rules or guidelines meant that organisations found it more difficult to implement a structured way of working in this space. I don’t think the same can be said today; producing meaningful digital content for patients is here to stay and the processes and systems that govern how it is done need to be as buttoned down and effective as those we would use to generate packaging and labelling.

5. Opportunities to Leverage Additional Content Channels are not Fulfilled

The areas already described undoubtedly contribute to significant duplication of effort, costs and frustrations for a lot of organisations. In many cases, while there is rarely a quick fix, a lot of these inefficiencies are at least already evident to the stakeholders engaged in the process. Perhaps less easy for everyone to see but potentially an area where a change in ways of working can deliver even more significant benefits, is the realisation that with the right operational model in place, an organisation can make far less content go a lot further.

WATCH: SGK Content Solutions

Typically, an unoptimized content delivery process will be stretched to the limits just to deliver basic requirements. Through a process of reengineering your design operations, one of the most wide-reaching benefits will be that through the massively increased availability and visibility of assets and the reduction of end to end lead-times, users will be in a position to broaden the number of content touchpoints they can exploit, with richer content that is being consistently and cost-effectively repurposed, rather than being created from scratch each time.

None of these factors exists in isolation. There is significant interdependency between having the right process, systems, tools, people and partners. I’m not sure many companies have optimised all of these elements but those that have recognised the importance of having an operational model that supports the creation of meaningful and compelling content are certainly reaping the rewards in terms of consumer engagement levels.

If some of the above sounds familiar and you recognise that the most successful healthcare companies are those with strategies that build a clear focus on ensuring their brands make a strong emotional connection with their consumers, what can you do about it?

At SGK Health we certainly don’t believe that the answer is a quick fix; an out of the box model that will operate in the same way for every organisation. In fact, our starting point is to listen and to ask questions.

“Our approach is to consult with you to understand how you are working today. Typically, in this diagnostic phase, we will work with you to map current workflows and understand roles and responsibilities.” – Vince Schaller, managing director, SGK Health

We’ll audit the systems and tools you’re using, interview a range of stakeholders and collect baseline performance data. Only at this point will we start to look at developing solutions and working with you to design the right combination of workflows, technology, resource models and partners that will deliver success.

What makes us confident we’ll succeed?

Put simply, our track record. Drawing on decades working with Pharma companies, coupled with a proud heritage working with the world’s biggest consumer brands, we are uniquely placed to help Pharma companies make this powerful transformation. We’ll work with you to optimise your content generation ecosystem, delivering measurable improvements in terms of cost and time savings, improved quality and consistency across a robust, transparent and compliant process.

Expect greater clarity and governance around roles and responsibilities and a platform from which new and additional content channels can be explored. Most importantly, all of this will support the overarching goal – enabling your branded content to connect effectively with your consumers.

About Stephen Marshman: Stephen has over twenty years’ experience in branding and graphics having begun his career with SGK in 1997. Today he works as a Business Development Director, focused on helping pharmaceutical companies implement best practice processes for the development of packaging and branded content.

Stephen played a pioneering role in the development of SGK’s unique approach to working with pharmaceutical clients more than fifteen years ago and remains a key part of the global team today. Earlier in his career he enjoyed a range of client-facing roles, including working on-site at pharmaceutical clients’ facilities, providing him with valuable first-hand insights into the specific requirements of the sector.