As the pharmaceutical marketing industry continues to adapt to the many unprecedented impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many marketers are rethinking their roles and how they can better address the needs of their HCP audience in this new, ever-changing environment. 

To underscore the seismic impacts within pharmaceutical marketing, provide meaningful advice about how to best navigate their many twists and turns, and share valuable insights into how this shift in expectations and priorities affects the industry’s future, PDQ Communications collaborated with global pharma news site FirstWord to create an outstanding three-part podcast series ‘From Conference Rooms to Zooms: How Marketing Has Changed Since 2020.’ Featuring insightful interviews with three pharmaceutical marketing experts, it’s moderated by PDQ Communications VP of Marketing and New Business Development Kevin Kingree, and hosted by FirstWord Perspective’s Ashley Rapp. 

This second episode, “Reshaping the Role of the Pharma Marketer,” captures an informative and thought-provoking discussion with panelist Mary Andrews, Global Head of Channels and Operations for ViiV Healthcare, an independent and innovative pharmaceutical company specializing in the development of treatments and therapies for HIV infections.

She and Kingree consider how the expectations of HCPs have changed throughout the course of the pandemic, and weigh how the role of the pharma marketer should evolve to meet these changes. 

How U.S. Markets Compare to Global Markets 

PDQ’s Kingree kicks off this lively conversation by briefly reflecting on the podcast series and inaugural episode, and introducing ViiV Healthcare’s Mary Andrews.

“We are having a ton of fun with this, and really enjoyed putting the first episode together,” he shares. “I have been in the healthcare communications space for about two decades, and I’m feeling really enthusiastic about my still relatively new role here at PDQ, a nearly 20-year-old, women-owned healthcare communications company. 

“I have to tell you that with this being our first foray into the world of podcasting, we feel super-fortunate that three dynamic and seasoned industry professionals accepted our invitation to participate,” continues Kingree. “People like today’s expert, Mary Andrews, who for nearly 20 years has held a variety of important roles encompassing almost every aspect of U.S. and global pharma marketing. Welcome Mary, and please give us a quick introduction.” 

“I have been in the industry for almost 20 years,” says Andrews. “I’ve held roles in sales, marketing, and now my current role in operations. I’ve been fortunate enough to work a majority of my career in the U.S., but I’ve also had a couple of years in the U.K., and then now, currently, I’m working in a global world.”

Kingree thanked her for taking part in this important conversation, and wondered how her marketing roles have changed since the pandemic, based on her markets. 

“Speaking of those dual roles in both U.S. and global pharma marketing, what are the most significant differences in these two areas, and have these differences become even more pronounced during the pandemic?” he asks.

“I think one of the biggest differences is when you’re working in the United States, you’re focusing on one market,” Andrews replies. “It’s a big market and it’s a really important market, but it’s just one with one set of rules. So you’re able to identify what changes are needed, how you want to optimize and get on with making those changes.” 

“Working globally I’ve learned that you’re looking at quite a few different markets, and you have to make decisions that are going to benefit the business, while taking into account all the different guidelines that the different markets have,” she continues. “So you know you’re always going to make a couple of markets really happy, and probably disappoint a couple of others. Whereas you don’t have that in the U.S., which is really nice.”

Keeping Up & Keeping Track 

Andrews explains the relatively uniform response of the U.S. HCP market made it easier to adjust to the pandemic as the impacts were unfolding—while keeping track of the myriad changes across the global industry posed a much greater challenge. 

“As we look specifically over the last year, the U.S. has really been able to identify exact items to change, make those decisions, create the materials and then get on with the work,” she says. “Whereas globally, different countries have had different guidelines throughout the pandemic, so we’ve really had to be agile and respect where each market is, because it’s been a priority that we deliver the materials and technology a little more bespoke than we did before COVID so that we are meeting our HCP needs. That’s been the biggest driver of every decision that we’ve made.” 

Andrews describes the difference between the U.S. and global markets regarding data collection and tracking the success of your marketing campaigns: 

“I think another difference that has become pronounced through the pandemic is the different level in data,” she says. “In the U.S. we have HCP-level data, so you are really able to understand what your HCPs are doing, how they’re interacting with your different materials [and] sales representatives. While outside the U.S., we don’t have HCP-level data, so you really are reliant on the engagement metrics.”


“Is someone opening an email? Are they clicking? Are they responding on a website?” Andrews asks. “So when you pull back the face-to-face interactions, which are really able to pick up some nuances from your HCPs and you start being so heavily reliant on the data on the engagement with the different channels, you just have less confidence in how your messages are resonating. So it’s a real benefit that the U.S. has been able to capitalize on this last year.” 

Looking Ahead 

Pondering the future of the HCP marketing landscape, Kingree asks Andrews whether she believes the industry would ever return to its pre-pandemic state: 

“Based on early data suggesting that vaccines are over 90-percent effective, and assuming the distribution of vaccines continues to roll out and improve, when do you anticipate your role as a pharma marketer returning to some level of normalcy?” 

“We’re all anxious and ready to get back to normal, [but] I don’t think we’re going to return to how normal was before,” she responds. “I think that our role and what our HCPs and patients expect has evolved, the expectations are changing, and so I think we have to evolve with this and really honor the change of expectation that is coming on the backend of this pandemic.”

Andrews emphasizes the importance of personalized content in the wake of COVID-19 replacing in-person meetings and other face-to-face interactions with digital communication platforms. 

“I think we have to focus much of our energy and time on really delivering personalized content, really understanding what our HCPs need, and make sure we’re doing our best to deliver the right content to the right person,” she explains. “That personalized content is so critical when our communication is turned more virtual, and it’s really focused on more digital and print channels.”

Kingree closes out the episode by thanking Mary Andrews, Ashley Rapp, and FirstWord for collaborating on this extraordinary series, and reflecting on how advisors will need to continue to adapt and adjust as the HCP market continues to change. 

“My takeaway here is that term you used, ‘honoring the change in expectation,’” he tells Andrews. 

Be sure to tune in to our next and final episode: “Looking Ahead to a Post-COVID World,” wherein we’ll be discussing the future of HCP marketing and non-personal strategies with Wesley van den Heuvel, Senior Director of Omnichannel Engagement, Novo Nordisk.

Listen to All Three Episodes of the PDQ-FirstWord Podcast Series ‘From Conference Rooms to Zooms’ HERE

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