How to avoid the pitfalls of digital channels

User research informs education website

This week the PMCPA, the organization responsible for effectively policing the pharmaceutical industry’s Code of Practice in the UK, ruled that Bayer should be cited for promoting prescription-only medicines  to the public via social media earlier this year.

The case highlights the complexity of communication in today’s world of emerging channels, where regulated pharmaceutical companies walk a thin line between the opportunities of compliant innovation and the dangers of inappropriate engagement.

I was recently asked which business area in a pharmaceutical company should take responsibility for social media: should it be IT, marketing, communications, legal, or perhaps medical? I have spoken with pharmaceutical professionals in each of these business areas who believe their department should ‘own’ their company’s social media activity. Yet to even ask which department should own social media is to use an inappropriate paradigm in today’s instant communications world.

It is not enough for a pharmaceutical company to simply develop a new communication strategy that embraces emerging digital channels such as social media; rather, the corporate culture of the whole company must be transformed. In the hands of any business area, digital channels are tools that can help the company to operate more effectively – to carry out research more efficiently; to raise awareness of disease; to educate doctors; to provide medical information; to protect the corporate brand; to recruit and support staff; to protect the company’s intellectual property. The list of business functions that digital channels add value to is virtually endless.

And yet, the number of business areas that are at increased risk thanks to emerging digital channels is equally long.

Achieving the kind of cultural transformation that allows a pharmaceutical company to innovate in this new world without putting the business at risk starts with Digital Governance. Effective digital governance provides a safe framework for innovation, where everybody in the business knows their role in protecting the company amidst emerging digital communication channels. In this way, a robust digital governance programme also provides the benefit of increasing the return on your investment in digital marketing and communication.

And this starts at the top. Senior executives who wish to protect their companies from inappropriate engagement provide clarity to their business area heads by taking a lead in digital governance. Creation Healthcare is working with executives in some of the world’s largest healthcare organizations to help them do just that.

At e-Patient Connections conference in Philadelphia, 20-21 September 2011, I will be leading a workshop that will give delegates the tools to avoid a social media crisis. If you come along, you’ll get to analyse some recent social media disasters including one that knocked 20% off a pharmaceutical company’s share price earlier this year. Together we’ll take a practical look at how to use social media safely and effectively.

If you would like to put your digital governance in safe hands, we can help. Talk with us about our steps to digital governance.

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