Digital health perspectives: Francesco Raimo

pharmaphorum’s Rebecca Aris caught up with the Digital Director of Life Healthcare Communications, Francesco Raimo, to hear his views on digital in healthcare.

Francesco Raimo comes from a technical background, as a software engineer, beginning his career in 1999 as a software analyst and developer. He has gained a wealth of business experience during the years, and moved into pharma agencies five years ago.

The last five years offered him a good insight into digital marketing for pharma. Here he speaks with pharmaphorum on digital within healthcare and the declining use of channels such as Facebook.

Interview summary

RA: Francesco, you joined Life Healthcare Communications last year as the Digital Director, could you explain what this role entails?

FR: I look after everything that’s digital – strategy, research and development, innovation for clients and for Life, management of the digital department and of the digital portfolio. It’s a very interesting challenge…

Today, digital is a big part of any marketing campaign and agencies acknowledge this, whatever their business model. Technology is not just a by-product of a campaign, but the factor that can make you competitive in this market.

 

“Today, digital is a big part of marketing campaigns and agencies acknowledge this, whatever their business model.”

 

RA: What do you see to be the biggest challenge to digital marketing in the pharma healthcare space?

FR: It depends on whom you are dealing with. Some companies are ready to see digital not as a challenge but as an opportunity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In some cases the issue is that people in marketing teams are not really digital savvy, they don’t think digital. So really the challenge is that you need to explain the value of digital and which solution will meet their marketing needs.

Another problem can be the regulatory system. Some legal teams are not aware that the communication paradigm has changed. The rules that were written for traditional marketing cannot always apply to digital marketing.

Agencies like us need to help legal teams to understand this change and what is the real impact of the new communication channels. It is a new world and you need to acknowledge it before embracing it. New rules will have to be written.

Many times you sit in front of a marketing team and they will see your point, they will share your vision, but they will say “I would love to but I’m not allowed”, and that is a big challenge.

RA: What considerations do you take when choosing the social media channel?

FR: For me social media is just another marketing channel. So basically the considerations are the same that you need to take when you choose marketing channels. For example, what do I want to achieve, what is my target audience,, how does this particular channel fit in my overall campaign?

It’s all about integration for me. You cannot rely on a single channel hoping that it will do the job for you. You have to integrate the channels that you’re using and the way you’re using them in your overall marketing campaign. The message needs to be consistent across every platform although the execution might need to change from channel to channel.

Sometimes it’s worth putting in the equation the availability of resources. Some social media channels have hard real-time response, so timing is important, as is how much time you can allocate to manage a particular channel.

One element that social media channels have definitely changed is the response time. If you have a traditional campaign how long is it before you can really know if it has worked or not? Social media allows you to have a real time response.

 

“The rules that were written for traditional marketing cannot always apply to digital marketing.”

 

RA: What emerging digital channels do you find to be of most interest?

FR: It’s important how you define “emerging”. There are channels that are becoming relevant and interesting now and others that have been available for a long time but haven’t really been used by pharma marketers. I am very interested in mHealth at the moment and how it can improve the sustainability of the health care system, and how the internet of things (wifi scales, wearable devices) can support this process. From a marketing perspective I am more focused on changing the perception of established channels which very few are using properly and many are not using at all. Take social media for example, among those who have some sort a social media presence, how many are utilising those channels as a way of engaging in a two-way communication with their audience, rather than as just another platform to broadcast their marketing message? And many pharma companies in the UK are not even considering social media in 2013.

RA: There was a recent report of a huge decline in Facebook users in the US and Canada, why do you think this is and do you think we’re going to see an ongoing decline in the use of channels that we currently take for granted?

FR: I think it is a matter of saturation. Facebook has experienced a general change of attitude from the average user, from content creation to content sharing, which can be an opportunity for marketers, if the right type of content is created. It is also a natural phenomenon of digital evolution. Every platform has a lifecycle depending on market trends, people’s tastes and habits, introduction of new channels, and how the platform adapts to all these factors. I don’t believe Facebook is declining, but the rate of adoption is slowing because more and more platforms will appear on the horizon, offering alternatives that will attract attention and curiosity.

You will see the decline of channels that you take for granted today, and you will see new channels rising. It’s the nature of digital, it’s very quick evolution.

 

“If you have a standard traditional campaign how long is it before you can really know if it has worked or not? Social media allows you to have a real time response.”

 

RA: How do you think pharma will be using social media in say 10 years’ time?

FR: 10 years is a long time in digital terms, but in the distant future, I must say I would not be too surprised if for example pharmacovigilance would impose some social media engagement with patients.

For the foreseeable future I see that some companies will create more engagement with the healthcare professional community, using social media to create a direct connection between them and their audience.

Also they will understand the power of social media as a source of big data which hopefully will lead to the implementation of more data-driven activities.

Social media can actually be a really powerful tool to collect big data and there is an issue in the amount of resources that are available to many pharma companies today to analyse that data, but this is a completely different problem.

Using social media to collect big data is actually a very clever idea. Many companies are doing it in the consumer market, and I would expect this to happen in our industry as well.
At the moment I see many players still using social media channels just as another broadcasting platform, others understanding how powerful these channels can be in clinical trial recruitment and follow up, or in social initiatives. Some good things are happening now, and we will see more at the end of 2013.

RA: Great, well Francesco thank you very much for your time.

 

 

About the interviewee:

Francesco Raimo is the Director of Digital for Life Healthcare Communications. He is in charge of leading digital strategy, implementation of digital solutions and research and development for the agency and for their clients.

Francesco comes from a technical background, starting his career many years ago as a software analyst and developer across different industries. He has been involved in pharma marketing for around five years now and before his role at Life Healthcare Communications, was the Director of Digital for Advents Health.

You can contact Francesco at francesco.raimo@life-healthcare.com.

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