4 ways to stay nimble amid digital disruption

The digital landscape is rapidly transforming. Hear from industry experts about how to pivot quickly to stay best positioned for success.

The digital landscape is rapidly transforming. Tactics and platforms that have long been cornerstones of digital patient engagement are being shaken by major changes, forcing teams to rethink their strategies monthly. Amid this upheaval, brands that deploy a range of tactics—and can switch quickly between those tactics based on results and the evolution of the digital world—are best-positioned to succeed. 

At Digital Pharma East 2023, Phreesia’s Director of Analytics, Amy Patel, spoke to leaders from Alkermes, IPG Health, Blueprint Medicines and UCB about how the industry is responding to the tumult. Patel set the scene. “We’ve seen so many digital disruptions lately, including chaos at Twitter/X, changes and challenges around privacy and tracking concerns on major social media platforms, new channels, new things to do within those channels,” she said.  

These shifts have required a response from the industry. Here, we look at four essential tips for staying nimble amid digital disruption. 

1. Stay up to date

Lisa Frankina, Director of Digital Marketing for VIVITROL® at Alkermes, shared how she and her team are adapting to the fact that “social media platforms are just a moving target,” explaining that they keep up with platform updates, compliance and more by checking for changes at least once a month. At UCB, Grace Rodriguez, Head of DTC Portfolio Marketing, iPVU, said her company forges close ties with agencies to keep up to date on all things digital. 

“In pharma, very politely, we’re almost always a half step behind, because it just takes us that little bit longer to get things through or get them approved or get an understanding of how it impacts us,” Rodriguez explained. 

In addition to paying close attention to what she sees in the media, as a member of a smaller company, Natalie Wills, Associate Director of Marketing with Blueprint Medicines, said she also watches what other players in the industry are doing.

2. Monitor what works

Brands that switch to a more flexible approach can best support their efforts by sharpening their focus on measurable outcomes and return on investment. Jack Vance, Managing Director of Data and Activation at SOLVE(D), An IPG Health Company, explained why campaign-measurement data is essential for effective decision-making in today’s environment. 

“Defining success early allows us to be more nimble,” Vance said. “If you can get aligned with your clients on how you are going to evaluate every one of these platforms, it takes away some of the subjectivity around what’s working and what’s not. We’re all in agreement that we need to reach the right patients or the right HCPs. If a platform is not doing that anymore, we’re going to pull it off the media plan.” 

The panelists agreed on the importance of constantly evaluating what is working and being ready to act, either by optimizing an initiative or dropping it altogether. “We’ve built more flexibility into our media plans this year than in any year I ever have worked in this space,” Vance affirmed. 

At UCB, Rodriguez often allocates more of her budget to the first few months of the year, enabling the team to gather data to inform program optimization later in the year. That analysis can result in ending projects in some cases, so being aware of a program’s cancellation terms is key, she cautioned.

3. Educate leaders on new tactics

Shifting to a more flexible approach requires buy-in from other staff, particularly senior leaders. There can be resistance to spending money outside of traditional channels, but the pace of change demands adaptability and going where the patients are. Rodriguez’s agency experience informs how she works to bring her UCB colleagues on board.  

“I literally prep for every leadership meeting and every [medical, legal and regulatory] meeting as if I’m back on the agency side going to present to my client,” she said. ‘How do I bring them along on this journey? Why is it important for them to understand?’ It’s really setting up that story and bringing them along to ensure they understand exactly why we have to be there, and what happens if we’re not.”  

Educating fellow stakeholders early on about new and emerging platforms and tactics also ensures that reviews can proceed in a timely manner, allowing brand teams to pivot quickly if necessary. Frankina explained that she’s part of a digital steering committee at Alkermes that creates corporate guidelines for every social-media platform the company currently uses or is considering—and how those guidelines simplify the approvals process. 

“You’re much more collaborative, you’re having more productive discussions,” Frankina said. “It’s not about going in and understanding what that functionality is and how that really works, so it’s a much smoother process when it comes to approvals if you’ve got those things prepared, and everybody understands what they’re dealing with.” 

4. Build trust with patients

With privacy concerns bringing the era of the third-party cookie to a close, brands are paying more attention to how they can safely and consensually collect information themselves. “If you want to be able to talk to the right people, collecting your own data and understanding who the people are who are consuming your content or using your product is a really great way to hedge that,” Vance recommended.  

That growing focus on first-party data also is changing how brands engage with patients. “We’re going to where patients are searching for information, and then trying to get them to our website so they can learn more,” Wills explained. “We’re building a meaningful relationship with them, so that as they go from consideration to treatment to adherence, we now own that relationship, and I’m not relying on trying to find them again.”  

Critically, the pathway sketched out by Wills only works if patients see value in sharing their data and provide their consent. Frankina detailed how Alkermes works to build trust with patients, explaining the roles that video and patient testimonials play in forging interpersonal connections.  

“You build that trust through your ad units, your storytelling, your patient testimonials, along with providing something of value, and then, at that point, they’re willing to engage,” Frankina said. “From there, you’re able to provide that personalized experience, which then hopefully leads to higher conversion.”

Learn more about how Phreesia can help you connect with key patients amid the changing digital landscape.

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