A Blueprint for Building Audience and Engagement in Healthcare PR: What Pharma and Biotech can Learn from Digital Health

As the digital health sector has begun to mature, its approach to marketing and communications has evolved in unison. As part of the maturation process, leading digital health organizations have (thankfully) begun to move beyond the tried and true “one-two punch” of a press release and proactive media strategy.

While it can be argued that the digital health sector has more flexibility when it comes to communications in comparison to the pharma and biotech, there are undoubtedly opportunities for more integrated and creative approaches to communications that present themselves for all of the various sectors within healthcare.

With this in mind, there are three key areas of opportunity that we see for pharma and biotech when it comes to an integrated communications strategy aimed at building both audience and engagement:

If you build it, they will come

Increasingly, digital health organizations have taken a liking to content marketing. Many of these same organizations have invested time and resources in their company blog, infographics, whitepapers and the like. More advanced organizations, like athenahealth, are taking content marketing to a new level and essentially acting as their own media entity. Most recently, the company launched athenaInsight – a “news hub” aimed at providing visibility into America’s healthcare system. What is most intriguing about athenaInsight is how they are leveraging their own data to identify clinical trends and shine a light on the problems that continue to vex healthcare.

The Takeaway: There is an opportunity for pharma and biotech to take current content marketing efforts up a notch and develop a media-like mindset in order to position their organization as a thought leader with key audiences. More so, if you have data insights to share – make them public!

Be seen and be heard

The manner by which people consume content has and will continue to morph. This is true for the digital health sector and across all industries for that matter. With that in mind, organizations that fall under the digital health umbrella have adopted a multi-faceted approach to audience engagement. As such, we’ve seen more and more branded podcast series popping up. StartUp Health is one organization that has adopted this approach by creating a branded podcast series. In addition to traditional audio format, StartUp Health also offers the Q&A focused podcasts in video format via their YouTube channel. The Q&A interviews feature conversations with industry leaders within healthcare on trending topics of interest from tackling cancer to patient engagement.

The Takeaway: There is an opportunity for pharma and biotech to position themselves as “evangelists” within their industry and help shine a light on the topics, trends and people that are driving a particular shared mission forward.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Nearly all digital health brands have a social presence at the corporate level. The mistake many continue to make is that they focus more on pushing content instead of engaging and also miss the boat when it comes to activating their established followers and communities. Organizations, such as HIMSS*, have followed this same model of corporate social engagement but, in tandem, have tapped active social influencers in their space to act as brand ambassadors. For example, HIMSS established a Social Media Ambassador program as part of their annual conference. The program allowed for a limited number of social media experts to be credentialed to attend the healthcare technology focused conference for free. As part of their acceptance, SMAs agreed to help champion events, content and social gatherings leading into, at and post-conference.

The Takeaway: There is an opportunity for pharma and biotech to tap social media as a tool for like-minded community building, and to then leverage that community to help amplify critical industry-related conversations.

In order to grab and keep the attention of their key audiences, many of the digital health organizations outlined above have gone back to the drawing board and invested in the creation of more comprehensive and integrated approach to building audience and encouraging long-term engagement. As the pharma and biotech industries look to compete for resources during a time of economic uncertainty, an increased focus – mirroring that which we’re seeing within the digital health sector – on building audience and engagement presents an opportunity to establish a competitive edge.

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