Introduction to Digital Governance

In the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, control of digital activities – including social media – is paramount to avoid fines and ensure that proper strategies and structures are in place to maximise commercial opportunities. A four-step approach that is easily implemented, yet robust enough to help companies address the dual goals of reducing risk and increasing the return on their investments, must drive online marketing and communication activities.

The Future is Now: Take Control

The fastest-growing digital area is social media, where an estimated 400 million people participate. It is worth noting that 86% of business-to-business companies are conducting social media programs, yet 46% of B2B executives still describe social media as ‘irrelevant’ to their business, AND 56% admit to not knowing how to measure return on investment for their spending. Finally, companies are taking expensive risks online, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration handing out more than $500 million (£310 million) in fines in the last year alone for digital violations.

These statistics show that many, many people are using social media, and many more will use them in the future. Also, individuals at most pharmaceutical and device companies are engaged personally with social media, undoubtedly with the best of intentions. Yet they are doing so ‘under the radar,’ without the necessary approvals and record-keeping in place. In highly regulated industries, companies must understand everything their employees are doing to promote their brand and their products.

In addition, team members may be doing things in the digital space ‘just to do something,’ without measurable goals. A related implication is that company representatives do not know how to understand what’s working and what’s not, and how effective their online spending is.

That’s why it is critical for individuals in Marketing, Communications and Digital Business, as well as in Compliance, Legal, Product Development/Management, Regulatory Affairs, Quality Assurance, Human Resources, and Training and Development to embrace proper Digital Governance.

A Four-Step Approach to Digital Governance

Companies undertake online promotion and communication campaigns to inform target audiences about the company, increase internal or external engagement, and/or promote products directly.

Such online campaigns are appropriate and, more and more, essential to marketing success. And the foundation of any effective digital program is maintaining control of these activities. The best way to do so is by building a comprehensive Digital Governance approach that is driven throughout an organization, and which includes the following elements.

  • Policies are meant to foster understanding of digital activities, educate and engage employees, align key business partners, and ensure compliance.
  • Digital Councils enable high-level understanding and agreement about online activities, ensure alignment of activities across the enterprise, and foster organizational engagement.
  • Strategies and Structure drive change throughout an organization via digital marketing, digital communication and eCommerce. This is a critical phase, especially in the highly regulated healthcare industry, to help companies avoid the paralysis that can be caused by concerns about risk, and the serious consequences associated with overly aggressive digital activities.
  • Change Management ensures that digital governance becomes a way of doing business and not an afterthought, and includes activities such as training, workshops, supporting materials and relentless communication.

By embracing this robust, yet flexible, approach to Digital Governance, pharmaceutical and medical device companies can harness the power of online education and promotion to improve bottom-line results, while engaging employees, customers, patients and caregivers.

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