Tunnah’s musings: bandwagons and soapboxes

Paul Tunnah


Last month I wrote about how we are all faced with many distractions in today’s connected world, especially from social media, which can easily distance us from the really important tasks. However, this month you have probably noticed the banners on our site for a social media workshop I will be running in about ten days’ time. So have I jumped on the social media bandwagon and become a total and utter hypocrite?

Obviously, I like to think not and here is my rationale.

As pharmaphorum has developed, it has taught me a lot about communicating ideas and this is something that has become the core proposition of what we do. Ultimately, our raison d’etre is to help share good thought leadership and innovation within the pharma space, which hopefully drives new ways of working and, somewhere down the line, will yield benefits to the industry, healthcare providers and the patients.


“…have I jumped on the social media bandwagon and become a total and utter hypocrite?”


And there is a lot of fresh thinking and innovative ideas spinning around out there, both within pharma companies and beyond. The challenge is that these ideas are worth nothing if they cannot be effectively communicated and lead to action, so there are two key skills at play here – creating innovative approaches and effectively conveying them to others. The two don’t always go hand in hand either – I am sure we can all think of fantastically gifted academics who struggle to communicate their genius and the same is completely true in the corporate world.

We are certainly blessed with all kinds of dynamic media now with which to effectively communicate ideas, but again you need to know how to use them. One of my current favourites is video, because you can pick up a lot more nuances from the interviewee, not to mention their passion, through being able to see and hear them, which goes way above and beyond written communication. I am extremely pleased to see that pharma is experimenting with these routes too. Just take a look at the Genentech ‘patients’ video or the recent animation that Boehringer US made as a guideline for employees on social media use (what a great way to explain the rules!), both of which I have pinned. In fact, Boehringer in general has been pretty good at using dynamic, interactive media to communicate ideas and I cannot wait to see how their attempt at gamification to explain how pharma works, called Syrum, turns out.

I also see a lot of bright thinking on the service side. It is here that smart people who are working with many different pharma companies see common challenges and needs arising across many different clients, fuelling new solutions. Some of these solutions emerging from the service sector could really revolutionise the way pharma operates and they certainly need to be shouting about them.


“Some of these solutions emerging from the service sector could really revolutionise the way pharma operates …”


Herein lies the challenge though. When smart people start communicating smart ideas that come with a (justifiable) price tag, very often the ‘sales’ part of the brain takes over and they start moving into the push-selling mode, which just turns everyone off, and it’s often most noticeable through social media channels. In fact, I should say ‘we’ rather than they, because we’re all guilty of it from time to time. But it frustrates me beyond belief to see pharma, emerging biotechs and service companies struggling to convey the great technology, products and ideas they have, especially when these could make a real difference to healthcare.

By way of a real example, I recently came across a service company that’s doing some great stuff but had dismissed social media as a communication channel because it had not delivered any results. A quick inspection revealed a two year old Twitter page with nine posts on it, all of them didactic push selling, and a LinkedIn page that was just as desolate. That’s like picking someone off the street to be your sales person, giving them no training and then dismissing the whole notion of a sales force when they don’t deliver anything.

The truth is that, when used properly, social media is incredibly powerful for communicating ideas, connecting people and giving your business credibility. You cannot always measure it through ‘clicks’ either – it all forms part of conveying the right brand image and positioning you as a thought leader in amongst the general marketing and PR mix. Compare it to print or billboard advertising – QR codes / augmented reality aside people cannot click on those but they have demonstrated a valuable return for many years. It’s about making people remember who you are when they are choosing who to approach for a project, or forming a more immediate connection when you do pitch.


“…social media is incredibly powerful for communicating ideas, connecting people and giving your business credibility.”


Whilst I know we have not always got it spot on at pharmaphorum, social media has definitely been pivotal for us in reaching more people, getting our brand out there and connecting with some interesting folks. So by offering a social media workshop I’m simply responding to an increasing volume of inbound requests for advice on how to use social media effectively in the B2B space to communicate ideas, connect with people and establish credibility. All of this leads to commercial growth over time, that much I know for sure.

As I am always the first to say, I do not have all the answers and I am certainly no ‘guru’ or expert, but it’s been a fascinating journey so far getting to grips with how to communicate what a business is about through social media and other channels. I simply want to share some of what I have learned – isn’t that the very essence of social business?

So it’s not about me jumping on the social media bandwagon, it’s about helping anyone out there with great ideas more effectively employ their digital soapbox, because some ideas are worth listening to.

If you are interested in coming along, we can still squeeze a few more in on the 26th April (see our services page for details and the agenda) otherwise, until next month, stay well.

pharmaphorum social media workshop

About the author:

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of www.pharmaphorum.com, the dynamic online information and discussion portal for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

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