Oncology online engagement: ESMO

Rebecca Aris interviews Ronnie Lassiaille

The European Society for Medical Oncology

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is a professional organization, founded in 1975, which is committed to advancing cancer care and cure. ESMO helps oncology professionals by disseminating good science and offering support.

The objectives for ESMO’s involvement with social media are to get closer to oncology professionals, journalists, other oncology organisations and patient groups whilst putting a human face to ESMO.

We speak with Head of Web &amp, Data Services at ESMO, Ronnie Lassiaille, on its current online engagement strategy and its future plans.

Interview summary

RA: Hello, Ronnie could you please start by explaining your background and your role within ESMO?

RL: I have been working in the non-profit environment for almost 10 years now, and before moving to ESMO I was the head of the web department at the European Society of Cardiology, and that’s where I started with social media. At ESMO my team manages not only the website at esmo.org, but also the social media, all e-communication, and we’re also in charge of the central association management system, which is a transactional area where people apply to become members, register for events, and submit abstracts. We also have another website called oncologypro, which is a member-only website. I’ve been at ESMO now for a year and a half.

RA: What are the objectives of ESMO?

RL: ESMO’s objectives as a society are to advance cancer care and cure. ESMO was created in 1975 as a non-profit organisation, and we aim to support oncology professionals in providing people with cancer with the most effective treatments available. In our mission statement we state that we aim:-

• to improve the quality of care to advance oncology

• to disseminate knowledge

• to educate people

• to promote education oncology

• to facilitate equal access to cancer patients

• to maintain liaisons with other specialties multidisciplinary liaison, cancer leads, universities, patient groups, and of course the pharmaceutical industry.


“ESMO’s objective as a society is to advance cancer care and cure.”


RA: How does ESMO use different social media platforms?

RL: Social media is an absolutely fantastic platform, because it really allows an organisation like us to show its human face to people out there. Very often one can come across as very anonymous when you’re an association. As an organisation, social media allows us to get in touch, it allows people to speak to us directly, whether it’s because they need information about congresses or events or whether they are interested in us. It also allows journalists to reach out to us, and it allows us to perform customer service online, and to communicate what we are doing to the wider world. So it’s a very effective and relatively cheap way for us to communicate with people. Also, we know that the people linking to us, following us, and that like us on Facebook, are people that are genuinely interested in us. And the nice thing about it is that we can reach a far wider community than we would have reached three or four years ago. Social media is also particularly effective during events, in particular twitter, as well as YouTube, where we post filmed interviews with key opinion leaders.

RA: How does ESMO engage with pharma online?

RL: We have several pharmaceutical companies following us on Twitter, and also several people that work for pharma but have their own Twitter accounts. We also see very good participation from pharma in LinkedIn. Our relationship with pharma is very much a working relationship, and we are delighted when people that work in the pharmaceutical industry show the ESMO group on their professional profile, because it means that they are proud of their affiliation with us.

What we notice with Facebook is that it’s more for personal engagement – it’s in the person’s personal and private sphere. With Twitter very often people are tweeting as individuals, or they follow as individuals. But LinkedIn is a more public display of your professional interest in a particular group or topic.


“Social media is an absolutely fantastic platform, because it really allows an organisation like us to show its human face to people out there.”


RA: How do you interact with other cancer organisations?

RL: We follow ECCO, ASCO and many of the other main professional societies on Twitter, as well as many patient groups, and we’re very interested in everything they’re saying &amp, doing. We pay particular attention to other societies’ meetings as ESMO often attends the big global oncology meetings. We believe it’s important to have a strong presence at these events, so our stand travels to ASCO, and then we also go to the big national society meetings in Europe. We have a very good working relationship with the Japanese Society of Medical Oncology, and we’re trying to really extend the way that we work with national societies within Europe by setting up bilateral agreements with the main purpose of increasing communication exchanges between members. We also have regional representation in countries like India, China, etc. We really try and reach out because we believe that it’s not competition, but that we’re all working together, and for us these are sister societies. ASCO usually attend our meetings, and we attend theirs. We also re-tweet any interesting tweets from ASCO or other organisations, whether during their events or otherwise. Furthermore, ESMO organises several joint events with other organisations such as ECCO, IASLC, the EAU, BIG, etc.

We’re on LinkedIn and linked with ECCO and some other organisations, although many are not yet so involved in the LinkedIn scene.

We “like” organisations such as ECCO, ASCO, EORTC, Livestrong etc on Facebook. So when people come to our Facebook page they can immediately see which of these big organisations we like.


“Our relationship with pharma is very much a working relationship…”


RA: Finally what does the future hold for ESMO, both in general and online?

RL: In general we’re really ambitious, we want ESMO to become better known and we want to increase our presence. We’re also committed to the growth of our journal, the Annals of Oncology, which is going from strength to strength.

We’re currently doing a lot of outreach in the field of oncology. As a membership organisation, we are always interested in having more members, but we do believe its quality that counts and not quantity. The fact that we are smaller than certain other organisations for instance means that we can be more nimble, and get closer to the people and to our members.

Online we’re in a very busy phase at the moment, because a newer version of our association management system has gone live, which we hope will make it a lot easier for us to track the interaction that different people have with us.

We also hope to bring out, by the beginning of next year, a new version of our website, which we hope to focus more on scientific topics so that when people log into the site they can see content which is more tuned to their specific topic of interest. We’re also aiming to create a mobile version of the site post-launch of the new site.

In addition, oncologypro, which is our members-only website, keeps on growing. It features fabulous content for example biomarkers, clinical trial updates, targetscapes, news and monographs, as well as one stop access to over 100 scientific journals and it is constantly being updated. Content gets added after most events that ESMO organises or co-organises, in particular webcasts. This website has been created in partnership with Thomson Reuters, which is a very big provider of scientific content, to be able to feature some really unique content and we hope to further expand this. Although the content itself is not sponsored, the website itself is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. We work very closely with them on this website, and we’re very pleased, because the website is doing very well. Of course it’s directed at a niche audience, because it’s only for ESMO members, but we believe that it’s adding great value to our membership offering, and offers them from this website.

RA: Sounds like you’ve got a lot on, best of luck with everything, and thank you very much for your time today.

ESMO social media activities (at time of interview):

• Twitter: followers – organizations, patient advocacy groups, doctors, journalists, companies and individuals

• YouTube: videos – scientific content from events and congresses, or invitations to events, or messages from the President

• Facebook:– individuals and a few organizations

• Facebook Young Oncologists Group:– individuals, under 40, oncologists only

• LinkedIn: members – individuals only, many doctors, some nurses, industry, etc.



About the interviewee:

Ronnie Lassiaille has been working in the association environment for the past 10 years, 5 of which as the head of the Web Departments of two of Europe’s biggest medical associations, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). She initiated the use of social media at both of these associations and firmly believes in its value in building communities amongst people with common fields of interest, no matter where they are situated geographically.

Ronnie is multi-lingual, has lived and worked in three continents and is experienced in managing people of different nationalities and cultures. She is passionate about the web as a means of communication and her professional interests include website management, e-communication, social media, search engine optimisation and web analytics.

Ronnie lives with her husband and three children in the South of France, and commutes to ESMO headquarters in Switzerland on a regular basis. Her twitter ID is @ronnielass.

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