The Importance of Thought Leadership in Healthcare
Fitting that W2O Group’s Chief Communications Officer Gary Grates led a powerhouse panel on thought leadership in healthcare. He started by setting the context. Many discussions at PreCommerce and SXSW focused on how digital and technology are disrupting healthcare. That ongoing disruption affects how healthcare companies tell their story and how they communicate with key audiences. Gary argued that thought leadership was a key part of many companies’ combination strategies. He kicked off discussions by asking each of the panelists how they define thought leadership.
Julissa Viana (Senior Director, Global Social Media, Celgene) said her company thinks about what’s our point of view on a given topic. They also think about what kind of story they want to tell and most importantly, how to advance the conversation. Those topics tend to be driven by research categories and policy discussions her company is currently involved in. Ellen Gerstein (Director, Digital Content, Pfizer) said her company started this year with a new CEO Dr. Albert Bourla. He’s unified the company behind one guiding principle: our mission is to focus on breakthroughs that impact patients’ lives. That guiding principle serves at the core to all Pfizer’s thought leadership efforts. Bethany Hale (Head of Marketing, Cedar) is six weeks into her marketing role at Cedar. She came from several years at IBM, most if that at IBM Health. While both are hugely different companies, she said the goals behind thought leadership efforts remained consistent: establish a clear point of view, to educate and to drive forward-looking conversations.
In terms of how analytics informs thought leadership efforts, Bethany said that Cedar’s starting by looking at traffic on their corporate website to get a sense for what’s resonating and augment that information with social listening. Ellen reiterated that W2O Group has been a strong partner to Pfizer helping them better understand their audiences and what content resonates with each of them. Helping customers understand the science has been a key bridge between Pfizer and its customers. That insight led to their Get Science initiative. Analytics made it clear that customers wanted to hear from everyday people in the company, not just the C-suite. Employee stories, stories about Pfizer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion like Pride Month stories and stories from Pfizer scientists are all examples of content that’s been welcomed by its customers. Julissa elaborated on how Celgene spends much of its analytics time on social listening, focusing on feedback from engagement. They examine comments and replies to examine word choice, signals of intent and sentiment with the goal of surfacing content that evokes emotion from customers. In terms of what to do when things aren’t working, Julissa offered this advice: stay true to your goals. Pay attention to your engagement and use it as an opportunity to build from.
Tips and Tricks on Hiring in a Tight Market
W2O Group’s Chief People Officer, Deborah Hankin took a few minutes in an interactive session to discuss details about hiring in a tight labor market.
- Check the sofa cushions for the “shiny pennies” – Remember candidates who made an impact in the interview process, but they were either too senior or too junior for a role. Or maybe they weren’t specialized enough for a specific role but were otherwise solid candidates. Those are candidates are worth following up for.
- Look for the big fish in a small pond who wants to be a big fish in a big pond – In roles for New York and San Francisco, W2O tends to hire candidates with great experience in those markets. However, we’ve hired lots of candidates looking for the next big thing from secondary markets like Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Minneapolis, etc.
- And they told their friends and so on and so on… – Great people know great people. When we check references, we see them as “someday” potential candidates.
- Treat your candidates like you treat your clients – Many times, star candidates have competing offers from other employers. If things are close, what makes a difference? Things like the interview experience matter.
- Longer-term plays—Bottoms up and teach a man to fish strategies – Unfortunately, sometimes there’s not enough senior talent to fill roles available in our healthcare marketing space, particularly when it comes to creatives, strategists and analysts. In those cases, we take a bottoms-up approach by recruiting diverse junior talent aggressively. Then, we take steps to cultivate that talent of those employees to develop them into senior-level talent over time.
- No magic bullets – Hiring talent effectively in a tight market may take a combination of the above steps. But remember, it’s a good thing to have to compete at the company level to hire and retain top talent. A tight hiring market usually translates into a really solid level of candidates competing for your open jobs.
Data, What Is It Good For?
W2O’s Chief Creative Officer Paulo Simas took the stage to explain how walk us through a presentation he had recently delivered to 200 CEOs and senior leaders in Medtech and healthcare. W2O works to blend data and analytics with creative work to inform projects we undertake on behalf of our clients. His goal today: Explain data in a way that discusses how those in healthcare can apply data, then to use it in a meaningful way.
Paulo has worked in the creative business for almost 30 years. While there’s been change over the course of that time, he argued that this current period is the time of biggest disruption and that data is at the core of that disruption. According to Paulo, creative executives who apply and use data effectively will create an unfair advantage in the market. That’s what he and W2O’s creative teams work to do on behalf of our clients.
We all know content continues to grow. Paulo reminded us that 400 hours of video uploaded every minute on YouTube. He also stressed that healthcare-related videos earned 200 million views every day on the platform. Almost 70 million people on Facebook today belong to a health-related group. And over 600,000 people follow the FDA on Facebook. Add it all up and it’s clear there are more healthcare-related opportunities for healthcare companies on social media platforms. And when you look at Google searches, about 78% of customers here in the United States begin their healthcare journey that way. That translates into about 175 million healthcare-related searches on Google every single day.
So how are companies supposed to make sense of all that data? Paulo referenced the 4 Ps: People, Positioning, Planning and Performance. They represent the framework on how we use data.
- People – Who are the audiences we’re trying to reach? And what do we know about them? Social media platforms give us insights into their conversations, language, behavior and more. The behavioral aspect is key. And understanding the affinities with the tribes or groups they engage with online also helps us understand audiences with much more depth. In healthcare, we use social data to map the patient or caregiver journey.
- Positioning – For us, it starts with identifying the white space. But that’s just the first step—our clear focus is identifying the white space where our clients’ companies can shine. That often means changing an audience’s perception or to get them to take an action. Paulo shared some details around our work with TUDORZA to illustrate how W2O applies our approach on behalf of clients.
- Planning – While social media combined with data and analytics set us up to understand audiences at completely new levels of depth, the idea still matters. Paulo stressed that’s exactly why the creative part of campaigns is so critical. It’s one thing to understand an audience and how they behave, but what you communicate must resonate with them. And many health-related campaigns, we have multiple audiences, it may be patients, caregivers, physicians or other HCPs. That means the planning piece is more complex than they’ve been in decades past.
- Performance – All of us are on the hook for producing results. How are we able to prove that campaigns and associated content is meeting or exceeding our goals? Historically, that meant looking at performance in a siloed way, traffic to a company website, earned media, social and paid advertising. Today, W2O creates data warehouses to aggregate that siloed data. We then can take that aggregated data look at it holistically as it relates to the goals of the campaign. We can use that aggregated data to learn from what’s working and what’s not working, then adjust from there.
Gene Editing, Illness Prevention and the “Appification” of Healthcare
David kicked off the discussion asking Jim why he started W2O Group nearly 20 years ago. Jim used his time at Genentech to explain. Back then, the company developed treatments for patients with cystic fibrosis. The nature of the genetic disorder meant that CF patients could not be near each other physically. Jim saw opportunity for CF patients and caregivers to engage with employees from Genentech directly online.
Several big events caused the healthcare industry to back away from the goal of having direct conversations. Jim cited the death of Jesse Gelsinger during a gene therapy trial as a clear example of this. Nearly 20 years later, even with the scrutiny that comes with the regulation of the healthcare industry, Jim’s starting to see an industry that’s getting closer to that goal.
Another aspect of the retreat came from tech companies. Jim reminded the audience that in the early 2000s, tech companies like Google, Intel and others established healthcare-related entities. Those companies quickly retreated from the space after realizing the healthcare part grew at a fraction of the pace of the tech side of their businesses.
Now, however many tech companies have re-entered the healthcare space as technologies like artificial intelligence, the huge proliferation of mobile devices, huge advances in fields like DNA screening, the explosion of wearable devices etc. are all converging to enable new possibilities in the space.
In terms of how all feeds into the future of healthcare, Jim expects that we’ll all be given the tools to manage our individual health overall. He referenced the Walgreens Boots Alliance and their partnerships with big tech players like Microsoft and Google’s Verily. The recent Aetna/ CVS merger is another example of this. Combining pharmacies with wellness options and other clinical offerings like blood tests and eventually advanced genetic screenings offers a glimpse into how much the healthcare space will change over the next several years. Amazon’s healthcare partnership with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway also stands to provide a big impact. Jim expects the patient-centric model to ultimately dictate how the industry evolves. And to that end, he’s trying out One Medical as an experiment.
As a person who tracks the tech industry closely, I came away this session and from the full day of discussions inspired. Just thinking about the accelerated rate of change on the tech side, and the sheer number of individuals and companies committed to transforming healthcare, it’s clear what we’re used to today won’t even resemble what will be the standard 10 years from now.
That’s wrap for #W2OSXSW, we’ll see y’all next year!