The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly altered the face of the pharmaceutical marketing industry, forcing many agencies and teams to adopt new strategies to achieve their goals. With many face-to-face interactions replaced by virtual meetings and video calls, and HCP consumer sentiment and priorities likewise shifting, modifying your marketing strategy to reflect the new landscape is essential to ensuring your success.
To highlight this evolution, share useful tips on overcoming its many challenges, and provide insightful perspective on what lies ahead for the pharmaceutical marketing industry, PDQ Communications teamed up with global pharma news site FirstWord on an extraordinary, three-part podcast series titled ‘From Conference Rooms to Zooms: How Marketing Has Changed Since 2020.’ The series includes insightful interviews with three pharmaceutical marketing experts, and is moderated by PDQ Communications VP of Marketing and New Business Development Kevin Kingree. It’s hosted by FirstWord Perspective’s Ashley Rapp.
The inaugural episode, titled “The Initial Marketing Impact,” features a lively and enlightening conversation with panelist Nicole Woodland-DeVan, president of Cherry Hill, NJ-based marketing and advertising firm Compas, Inc. She and Kingree explore the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the pharma industry, and discuss what initial steps the pharmaceutical marketing industry took as it attempted to navigate the first half of 2020.
Transition to Digital Channels
Kingree began the exchange with a question about the pandemic’s initial challenges and how Compas adjusted to overcome them.
“On the topic of changes to pharma marketing over the past year, after the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear to you, what did you see as the initial challenges to your business and how did you and your organization adapt to them?” he asks.
“I’ve spent my whole career here at Compas in healthcare,” responds Woodland-DeVan. “As the chief operational effectiveness officer, it’s my job to see to the effective and efficient rollout and pull-through of our agency initiatives, as well as oversee the Compas supplier partnership team.”
She and her team had to pivot quickly, she explains, to keep their business running and help their marketing clients.
“When it became apparent that we were going to have to close our offices and begin working 100-percent remotely, our initial challenge was around how to communicate that to our staff and to our clients without creating any fear or uncertainty,” shares Woodland-DeVan.“So our market research team conducted some rapid surveys of the physician marketplace, and as a result recommended several shifts to our clients media plans. They involved either switching out of their out-of-home convention tactics to those that were more digital in nature, particularly for conferences, that shifted to a 100-percent virtual format.”
“Pharma marketing has weathered the crisis in better shape than many industries, obviously,” continues Kingree, “like travel, live conferences and entertainment, and restaurants, of course—but certainly has been impacted.”
Pharmaceutical marketers experienced profound alterations to their day-to-day businesses, the two explain. From the phasing out of face-to-face communications almost overnight to the shift toward unbranded messaging, healthcare marketers have had to adjust quickly to provide solutions to their healthcare audience—with transitioning from in-person interactions to virtual platforms one of the biggest challenges for the industry, as a whole.
“We wasted no time jumping in to figure out for our clients what, if any, adjustments they need to make to their marketing strategies, given the abrupt change to in-office visits and lack of access for sales reps,” explains Woodland-DeVan. “There’s definitely been an allocation change of tactics this past year—for instance, convention media channels took a pretty hard hit, being that most medical conferences were cancelled immediately, or converted to all digital.
“So we shifted to digitally focused tactics for those conventions,” she adds.
Modifying Clients’ Messaging
In addition to embracing digital channels as the primary means of communication, the messaging and content pharma marketers produced needed to change as well, to better reflect what their HCP audience were feeling.
“We had to help our clients make some quick adjustments to our media plan recommendations to accommodate for the lockdown of HCP offices, cancelling of medical conferences, as well as the sensitivity of the messaging they had out in the marketplace,” explains Woodland-DeVan. “More importantly, looking at the messaging of the ads that our clients were running across our campaigns to make sure they were culturally and politically sensitive during these difficult times.
“In many cases, clients heeded our recommendations to shift messaging to an unbranded or a public service announcement-type ad, to show their care, concern, and compassion for their patients who were fearful of, or dealing with many of the COVID impacts that people were facing at the time in lieu of the typical branded messaging,” she continues.
Woodland-DeVan applauds how the industry, and her company in particular, were able to effectively provide solutions for their healthcare audience, despite the profound and unforeseen challenges.
“Like the pharma [industry] as a whole, Compas, I’m proud to say, has actually weathered this crisis pretty well,” she explains. “We’ve actually won several new business accounts since the lockdown, and have onboarded more than 150 employees who’ve never seen the inside of our offices or met their managers face to face. It’s been a very interesting and unique situation, particularly from a human resources perspective.
“I think the area where we had to adjust the most was our employee development and training, continues Woodland-DeVan. “We have a pretty serious focus on employee development and having to adjust to maintaining this remotely on a dime was not easy, but we’ve adjusted and continue to work on ways to improve this process.”
Kingree wrapped up this very special premiere episode of ‘From Conference Rooms to Zooms’ with a sincere thank you to Compas, Inc.’s Woodland-DeVan and FirstWord’s Ashley Rapp, who teased the podcast’s next installment, “Reshaping the Role of the Pharma Marketer.”
Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected by Working With PDQ
From helping you modify your content and messaging campaigns to sending out follow-up emails or direct mailings to maximizing the marketing effectiveness of your video conferencing—PDQ Communications has everything you need to help your organization achieve success, no matter what the future brings.