Pharma's e-vangelists

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In some ways, last month's ePharma Summit in Philadelphia (the ninth one, can you believe?) felt a little like the one before it, and even one before that, come to think of it.

After all, the panel-heavy agenda followed a fairly familiar framework, with sessions covering all the essential touch points, like social media, regulations, ROI, social media, engaging patients, engaging physicians, engaging patients and physicians together, social media, technology, scale, meaningful conversations and, of course, social media.

And a lot of these sessions prompted a lot of the same questions: What guidelines should we follow for social media? How should we deal with adverse events? How can we demonstrate ROI across integrated campaigns? How do we achieve scale?

Not to criticize the ePharma Summit itself. It is, in fact, a well-run and well-attended event with generally impressive faculty of speakers and useful content. This speaks volumes for the interest in these issues and the thirst for information by the fiscally challenged traveling delegates. 

The trouble is, as everybody knows, pharma has not exactly been at the front of the line for interactive innovation over the past few years and the digital thought leaders at this gig often find themselves preaching to an audience of already-believers.

There were definitely some signs of evolution, however, albeit largely subtle ones. For example, this year, not only were a clutch of folks blogging along, but some were twittering too. No, this was not your bag-carrying father's pharmaceutical conference.

An increasingly well-known core of evangelists that has over the years formed a kind of “axis of advancement” in this field—you know, the usual suspects: Paul Ivans of Evolution Road, Jack Barrette of WEGO Health, Fabio Gratton of Ignite Health, Marc Monseau of Johnson & Johnson, Nancy Phelan and Joe Shields of Wyeth, Bob Harrell of Shire and many others. Every year, these folks lead the vocal charge. And while the tune may often sound the same, the message has gotten louder and louder. And you can almost feel the shift among marketing execs toward willful innovation and youthful exuberance.

We all knew that pharma's transformation to digital wasn't going to happen overnight, but it is happening. And while many of the same questions and roadblocks keep cropping up, virtually all of these have been answered. These days, the mantra really is “just do it.” 

Perhaps the biggest concern among the throngs of the converted is how to sell these online tools—how to convey the value of interactive initiatives and what they can do for the brand—to senior management. As Pfizer's VP, world communications, Ray Kerins, noted at an earlier conference in New York, “I'd like to move a lot faster [regarding Web 2.0] but we can only move as fast as I can allow my internal audience to understand us.”

Turning the page
Rather like our e-pharma KOLs, MM&M is not in the business of standing still. Look out for a number of improvements to the structure and content of the magazine next month along with enhancements to the searchability of our web site, mmm-online.com. Remember, too, that MM&M's readership is 100% qualified every year, so to ensure you continue to receive your copy of the magazine, please log on and renew at www.mmm-online.com/JamesSentMe.
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