This NPR story about a doctor struggling with the true challenges and definition of "Meaningful Use"…this should remind us all, especially those who are Digital Change Agents, that technology is about engaging humans in human activities and in human context of the moment. This article is a poignant reminder of the human aspect of meaning and its use.

Is it possible for brand advocates to create your brand content? Yes.

After ten years of seeing the slow progression of embracing "customer-centricity" in Pharma marketing, as things have sped up, the breakthroughs in how brands and patients interact have not evolved very much (if at all); Pharma has yet to cross the consumer marketing divide to more emotional brand marketing and activate its customer base. My thinking is stirred by two disparate research studies about who really wants to engage with Pharma Brands and the development of more authentic content to help drive the Brand "story" and sales.

And let me be clear: I do not mean create more phony-looking and MLR scripted "patient testimonials". Nor, more unbranded education programs. I mean talking the real deal: give the brand over to those who believe. Efficacy is believing in what a treatment can do; passion is expressing what a treatment does do.

The two inputs for this blog post are: Richard Meyer's post on "Would patients follow a Pharma brand on Social Media?" (http://worldofdtcmarketing.com/would-patients-follow-a-pharma-brand-on-social-media-research/social-media-and-healthcare/) and a Social Chorus Inc., "Leveraging your advocates to create brand content." (http://socialmediatoday.com/1851896/your-advocates-content-outperforms-your-own-learn-leverage-advocates-create-brand-content-we). 

My end goal for this mash-up of ideas is simple but powerful: since human authenticity is the truest form of communication that a Pharma brand needs, how can we help clients and patients provide that authenticity through content? The fact is, the world has shifted to where you want to have as many relationships with your customers/patients as possible — for many self-serving reasons. Just for launch, competitive and formulary reasons, you want to "know" your brand advocates; they can impact every stage of your product lifecycle; they can bring credibility and authenticity to your brand when you cannot. To get patients to provide that voice to your brand, you must provide value-added services ("Beyond The Pill") and co-opt as many as possible into your brand planning and execution. If done right, pulling down the walls between brand and patient could make your patients your sales force. 

In Richard Meyer's post he states that 4% of patients would engage with a Pharma brand and another 4% would be "interested" (Follow, Like, etc.) I think this 4% could be incredibly influential (if found) and activated into telling their stories within the umbrella of your brand. So, while he focused on the over 90% that did NOT want to engage with a Pharma brand, give those left reason to justify their interest and you might find 

The authors of the Social Chorus posit that leveraging your advocates to do content for you is a winning strategy.Here are some relevant stats they served up: 

Social Chorus advocates deck 1

 

True, while these stats as for mass market brands, we need to realize the patient is constantly being trained by the mass market world and having their expectations raised. And the type of influential content they can provide? 

Social chorus advocate stats 2

One specific area where this Advocate/authenticity could be done is in the rare and chronic/progressive disease space (MS, diabetes, cancer); these Pharma brands have yet to cross the consumer marketing divide to more emotional brand marketing and activate its customer base but could be the incubators for these ideas. 

So, the end goal is finding your patients, real people, that potential 4% and help them tell their stories, aligning their passions with your brand. 

Step 1: Find them and draw them in. (Social Listening and outreach.)

Step 2: Do the foot work, meet them and form a true person-to-person relationship.

Step 3: Open the door to you, the company, the science and scientists with complete transparency. 

Step 4: Create a content process inside the Brand Team. Have an assigned Patient Advocate who is an employee to serve as the bridge between Brand Objectives and Advocate content.  

While the MLR process is daunting, it is not impossible to work with the team and create a "beta" of rules of engagement on how to enable this strategy — and imagine someday a brand turing over its whole story to its advocates, employees, scientists, caregivers, patients…