In the international world of healthcare communications, Europe, with its many different languages and regulatory frameworks, has become a melting pot for innovation that places it in a unique position in healthcare digital engagement worldwide.
Amongst this landscape of innovation are some exciting examples of digital engagement focused on regional or national stakeholders.
Take for example ansvarsblogg.se, Pfizer’s corporate social responsibility blog in Sweden. It’s in Swedish language so if you do not speak Swedish, Google Translate will enable you to read the essence of the blog in your local language.
Ansvarsblogg.se: open for engagement
The blog is a still-rare example of a pharmaceutical company blogging in an informal tone, and inviting comments from Internet users. Outside of heathcare, this would not be unusual. But in the highly regulated world of the pharmaceutical industry, it is still only the pioneers who are creating platforms for open engagement.
I asked Bengt Mattson, CSR and Environmental Manager at Pfizer AB in Sweden and the creator of the blog, about the vision behind setting it up. He said that it was all about two-way communication:
“The driver for us to start the blog was that we felt we needed to find a more interactive form of communication. Most of the web-based communication, and other types of information channels we have historically used, are more one-way information than a real stakeholder dialogue. But due to the very regulated environment concerning pharmaceutical communication (just see how complicated it is to take the Information to Patient proposal to a final decision within EU) we decided to start up our Corporate blogging initiative in a ‘not so touchy’ environment, i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Affairs. We plan to evaluate this initiative and see how to take the next step utilizing web 2.0 opportunities.”
Avoiding lengthy content approvals
Mattson says that he has been able to take advantage of the blog’s interactive communication platform by focusing on the kind of content that avoids lengthy approval processes:
“As long as I stay out of ‘touchy areas’ like products, pharma policy issues etc, my posts do not need ‘pre-approval’ internally. Hence it’s a much faster way to act and react to incidents, actions and news articles that come to my notice.”
Pfizer Sweden’s experience with Ansvarsblogg.se illustrates how a digital engagement channel such as a blog can benefit stakeholder engagement. I asked Bengt about the impact that the blog has had on engagement.
“We have managed to reach stakeholders that we did not reach before, but also, which is equally important, have a more regular interaction with some of the folks that we have met in different forum before. And due to the fact that I try to be very open and transparent, both telling the good side of the story and the not-so-good side, it has really built credibility.”
He went on to say that the blog has achieved recognition from local media:
“A year ago when a Swedish on-line news media within the CSR area rated Corporate CSR blogs (mine was the only one from the Life Sciences sector) they were really impressed by my blog. They felt it was open and honest, which they thought was uncommon in other blogs ‘green washed by a Communication department’ before publishing.”
Dare to be personal
Mattson says that the blog has had an impact on how he works but that the basic rules of communication remain unchanged:
“It is a great tool, but it does take time from your ordinary work schedule of course. You have to be out there quite regularly and frequently. Do not believe that the common rules of communication are worthless – if you do not have something ‘of interest’ to tell, no-one will listen!”
An important aspect of the most successful corporate blogs is their personal communication style, and this is where a blog can be most effective at removing some of the corporate facade often encountered amongst pharmaceutical companies’ communications. Mattson is aware of this powerful aspect of Ansvarsblogg:
“You have to dare to be personal – that adds an extra dimension to ‘corporate communication’. I believe we made the right choice that we do review all comments to my blog before they go public. It is a great log tool for myself. I can always go back and see what I did and how the discussions went. And not least important – it is great fun!”
A journey of learning and improvement
As anybody exploring new horizons of digital engagement in healthcare and pharmaceutical companies will testify, every step is an opportunity to learn new things about what works and what does not. It’s a constant journey of learning and improvement. When I asked Bengt what he would do differently next time given what he has learned so far, he explained that applying the lessons learned is a work in progress:
“I would probably ‘launch’ the blog more actively. Although it is easily found through the www.pfizer.se webpage and we utilize different search engine tools to get it identified in Google search, it seems that people have problems finding it on their own. There is just so much out there already. Hence I would develop a strategy for the launch. I would also ensure that within communications through other channels we should always ‘promote’ the blog. We are still not there today…”
As Ansvarsblogg says, “Efforts in responsible business can only succeed if they work in dialogue with all stakeholders in society”. Mattson says that Pfizer’s experience with Ansvarsblogg.se will contribute to an evaluation of opportunities for a wider corporate blog and that he is considering other web 2.0 tools including Twitter to open up further interactive engagement.
If you would like to engage health stakeholders more effectively online, Creation Interactive’s Discovery Methodology will help you to define, implementing and measure a successful strategy. Our international team of Digital Strategy Consultants can help you achieve the results you want. Why not contact us now for an initial discussion?