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Shaping the Industry Approach to the Patient Blogger and Online Brand Reputation

We know how influential the internet is in managing healthcare – but do you know how to respond? At eDTC Revolution, a panel of insiders took to the stage to share their advice on crafting a response strategy, including ways to counter the negative publicity that hurts a brand’s reputation and proactive tactics to create a positive effect.

The panel:

  • Stead Burwell, CEO, Alliance Health
  • Michael Spitz, SVP, Managing Director, Healthcare Interactive Technology, ZEMOGA
  • Dorothy Wetzel, Founding Partner & Chief Extrovert, Extrovertic
  • Moderator: Stu Klein, Healthcare Practice Lead, Interpublic

They point to some of the richest opportunities is to get involved:

Customer service: Answering the challenges and questions that people post online. It’s an opportunity to use what your company already knows (the tracking in IT, the content in patient services, the response in PR) to proactively serve patients. Great examples include how BI has answered patients (mostly overseas) and AZHelp’s response engine:

Stimulate the conversation: Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires daily, sometimes hourly, tweaking and it’s interwoven with devices.  Tens of millions of people with diabetes are engaged online – talking about managing the disease as well as the particular devices they use. Engaging the talk leaders in that community creates new opportunities to start conversations.

Ask for the review: See the blogger perspective and get the reader response to understand the real conversation around your product.

The panel also talked about some critical success factors:

How you treat your audience and your bloggers is extremely important. Both deserve respect and transparency. That means treating the blogger almost like a reporter – giving access, information, tools. Not expecting them to repeat or tote the brand line.  Just ask Samsung what happens when you don’t.

Rethink the role of the brand. Traditionally brands have been seen as something invincible and pure. Something to be protected. Now they’re organic, living creatures, evolving with their customers. That’s the approach to take with bloggers – open, not hidden; transparent, not controlled.

Know when to go offline. It’s common to give bloggers direction on what to do when a conversation gets too detailed into the prescribing information around a drug, but it’s important to have a plan for how the brand will respond, too. The FDA has given guidance on unsolicited requests for off-label information – both those that come directly (think email) and those that are posted in a public forum (think message board). Those guidelines are a clear blueprint for an internal plan.

Text isn’t enough: In the content you share and track–video, images and other media are critical. Many people start with video, not text – we have to make our content media agonistic.

Tips to get started:

  1. Listen first to determine what people will be interested in
  2. Create content and response strategies
  3. Get down to the details – boiler plate responses, get them approved
  4. Put resources and infrastructure around it. Make it prescriptive enough to avoid unnecessary risk, but native to how people are communicating today

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