Effective patient marketing campaigns utilize traditional DTC as well as social networks and other emerging media online. How do marketers find the right media balance?
Eileen O’Brien
Dir., online promotions, 
Compass Healthcare Communications
The real question is: how do I best reach and convert my target audiences? Interactive marketing, social networks and other emerging media just provide additional channels for marketers to accomplish their objectives. The right media balance is influenced by a variety of factors, including how niche the audience is, brand resources, and whether broad awareness or specific conversions are desired. For example, Lipitor with its need to reach a broad audience with simple brand messages would have a very different mix of media than a specialty drug looking to reach disparate patients with a complicated story. With specific regard to social media, it’s important to identify if your target audience is using these networks and receptive to hearing your message via these channels before embarking on a campaign.

Buddy Scalera, 
VP, interactive content & market research, 
Qi Interactive
There’s a high trust factor in peer networks, so communicating through word-of-mouth yields strong results. As marketers, we want our brand voice to be part of this dialogue, so dollars have moved to MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. Like websites, social networks are measurable and offer an attractive cost per acquisition. But remember; only a portion of life is spent online. People are still exposed to print, TV, radio and direct mail. It’s too early to abandon DTC because it still plays a powerful role in driving brand awareness and interest. Online competition has made DTC rates more competitive, lowering barriers for niche brands. Now we see integrated campaigns that work synergistically to maximize both social networks and DTC.

Brian Kaiser
VP, direct-to-patient,
Dialogue-intensive environments such as social media do not conform to traditional campaign architecture. Marketers are learning how to engage in an “always on” conversation with patients that lacks a beginning and end. Social networks should be approached as a form of 
relationship marketing. Finding the right balance begins with defining what type of relationship the brand wants to cultivate with a given audience, then supporting continuity of the experience as the patient moves channel to channel. The question mark for marketers is whether the brand is equipped with tools and strategies to rapidly interpret information shared by the patient and generate a relevant response. Effective patient marketing depends on this ability to communicate at relationship speed.

Michael Dennelly
VP, director of digital marketing, 
G2 direct & digital
We need to start by accepting some cold, hard facts that the industry is facing: patients increasingly don’t trust pharma DTC. DTC effectiveness is seriously under question and patients are now shaping the discussions around brands online. With this in mind, the key to finding the right media balance is to cast aside tradition, such as spending the lion’s share of media dollars on DTC and start understanding better how and when patients make their healthcare decisions. Then you can use these insights strategically as your guide. You need to engage your patients in an ongoing, valuable and credible dialogue. Believe me, they will let you know where to reach them—you just have to listen.