For many of those in constantly “parsing” the digital pharma headlines for cutting-edge news, there was a moment (about 1.5 year ago) when it seemed that “digital disruption” had become an overused buzzword. Overused and perhaps starting to wane. After all, a doctor using the Internet (wow…) is no longer a sensation, is it? Then, the invasion of VR, AR, AI, etc. occurred, and it provided quite a lot of food for thought.

On the one hand, even as it seemed that digital had already disrupted the quiet, traditional world of healthcare at least in several places, the newcomer technologies have shown their potential to alter the spheres previously hardly touched, including clinical trials. On the other, the recent developments have altered the way in which the whole digital world functions.

Digital has not only continued disrupting healthcare. Digital has started disrupting itself.

While the “classic” definition of digital disruption involved IT changing the way certain activity is performed (take life sciences communications, for example), the current stage also affects the way existing digital processes are managed. Indeed, a silent revolution is happening in the world of agencies supplying content for pharma, even those of them who choose to stay away from the new-gen wonders like VR. Standards have risen concerning eDetailing presentations, emails, portals and landing pages, etc. Collaborations have become much tighter. As for now, not everyone has properly grasped the meaning of these developments, but it’s commonly noticed that marketing has become more demanding.

What has happened to pharma content marketing?

If you try to analyze the life sciences content landscape, especially “from within” (i.e. from the point of view of those creating and managing it), you will detect some common trends that ultimately emerge from the depths of 2017. We can name three of them playing the most substantial roles:

1. New content types are emerging – but they will not extinguish the already preferred ones

One could imagine that the new and exciting trends like VR would “kill” the more habitual communications like email. However, this is not what’s happening. The truth is, multichannel is all about convenience (obviously enough), so that an existing channel gets superseded only by one doing its job more efficiently. In reality, the channels’ functions are simply redistributed in the way most pleasing to the audience. Doctors who like non-intrusive emails will still want to get them. Which explains why, for example, Veeva Approved Email service counted about 3.5 million emails sent in Europe last year, representing an exponential increase. At the same time, AI tech is expected to boost emailing by means of enhanced personalization.

There are also things that only reps can do for both pharma and audience; so eDetailing is not going anywhere, either. It may move further into remote communications, which is likely enough, but the overall landscape just becomes wider. No radical channel substitutions are happening. However, this doesn’t mean those who work with eDetailers and email templates may sigh relieved.

2. Further development of digital (more engagement) is raising the plank

In brief, what is the most general tendency in digital content? If you omit all details and specific technology definitions, it boils down to engaging the audience more than ever on every step, whenever they have time. This was first remarked in entertainment, but holds true for educational resources, as well. Information has become more available, and content providers are competing in ways to deliver it engagingly. Digital per se is no longer a marvel as it is; doctors have seen the benefits and heard the promises – they are waiting for them to be fulfilled. About 75% of HCPs agree they couldn’t even do their job without any digital materials, according to surveys.

This means that if a pharma marketer wants to succeed in engaging the audience, they will have to provide actual value, not just nice imagery. So the plank is rising for eDetailing presentations – and those pharmas putting effort into studying physician’s preferences will not fail to control agencies more tightly.

3. Accessibility triggers personalization

This, at the same time, means more personalized and customizable content. If the doctor can get the information online, what is the use of pharma’s promo materials? On the other hand, even when the information provided is not unique and hardly accessible elsewhere, there still is value to provide: convenience. By personalizing the approach and crafting customized content, marketers can do a favor to the medical circles.

Customized content for everyone? The type of approach that could make the amount of content produced skyrocket (and budget as well) – however, there already are smarter approaches to supplying both bulk and quality with content reuse.

Is the organization responding fast enough?

So here we have it: higher expectations, increased bulk of content, more control from pharma over agency activities. How is the content supply chain reacting to these challenges?

On the first glance, it may seem that the principal issue is supplying the amount necessary. Outsourcing and in-house production are two common answers; however, none of these actually solves the problem all on its own. With in-house content development, moods are shifting – at one time, pharmas consider it a priority, at another, only 7% appear to believe leveraging in-house talent is the cure. Outsourcing, too, is not a universally recognized panacea: throughout B2B sector, 56% companies outsource some content marketing activities, whereas 44% don’t. It appears that for each enterprise, the true solution is finding a sort of balance between the two.

This is where brand consistency starts to matter enormously. If your content suppliers are scattered around the globe, you will want to provide them with a kind of common ground to be aware of (at least) the general branding guidelines. According to research by Accenture, only 29% companies view their content as consistent enough in style.

This is why systems like those provided by Veeva flourish under such circumstances. Having a “single source of truth” on the global level is what makes it possible to orchestrate the efforts of different content vendors into a well-arranged symphony. Outcome? Pharmas that use such systems will naturally look to certified agencies – these are able to comply with branding guidelines and are more easily controlled.

There is always room for improvement, though. If you look at the way organizations assess their content marketing performance, it’s 1/3 saying “Excellent”, another one-third, “Just good”, and the rest are not too enthusiastic. These figures are actually rather good, but something is still missing from the puzzle.

Sewing together content production, management, and distribution

The success of content management is in its potential to unite different vendors on a single platform. Most commonly, the workflow is that content is created based on previous digital assets (obtained via the common platform), but quite autonomously, using whatever tools the agency (or in-house team) is wont to use. Then the content is uploaded onto the global platform to be validated in some intermediate service before being given free pass to circulate.

The growth area here is where the workflow temporarily escapes the global platform. Time is being lost while content is uploaded for validation/approval/review, time is lost on reviews and rounds of approval. The more times an asset is uploaded for these purposes, the more time is sacrificed for the sake of compliance and quality, and vice versa. The way to improve the situation is to combine the tool used for content production (say, interactive HTML editor) with the system already in place on the interface fall-through (a.k.a. deep-dive) basis.

What content developers need is a handy platform to reuse the existing assets; preferably without having to download/upload countless times. In addition, this tool would be even more useful when accessed directly from systems like Veeva – for example, by pressing a button to start editing content. This approach would provide instantaneous fixes for content that needs just a few alterations to be reused for a different audience – solving the bulk problem. Also, the review and control processes could get disentangled if there was a kind of intermediate environment in between creation and final validation, where the content can be observed closely by the customer when needed (and without disrupting the work on it).

These solutions exist already: content reuse is becoming the new norm, and content review and validation are implemented and perfected by Veeva; what we suggest is a solution that sews these possibilities together and integrates them into your global system. You can access a free demo of eWizard platform to see how it works in detail; also, our specialists will be discussing the most efficient practices at a workshop at 16th Annual Eyeforpharma in Barcelona, Spain – assisting the stakeholders in pharma-agency collaborations to define the most efficient ways of organizing the content supply chain. The plank has risen for pharma content, but you can always raise it even higher by your own example.