Brand Management

A course of digital treatment

How to innovate in healthcare marketing while remaining compliant

Every marketer is focussed on innovation. We exploit new digital marketing channels and develop creative content to engage and retain customers.

However, what makes it hard for healthcare marketers is the need to navigate complex and constantly changing regulations in the journey to new ways of communicating. As we know, failure to get marketing production processes and communications content to comply with the rules can result in fines, negative media coverage and damage to our brand. This regulation stranglehold can constrain marketers in healthcare, making it difficult to try new approaches.

So, how can we adopt the latest digital marketing methods within the framework of regulation? Here’s a three-way guide to promote innovation in healthcare marketing strategies while remaining within the rules.

 

1. Be informed

Doubtless your company has a compliance team charged with ensuring that all healthcare marketing and campaign materials follow internal and external regulations. But there are still ways to be innovative with your marketing – so long as you make sure you’re thoroughly informed.

  1. One way is to subscribe to newsletters and alerts put out by the regulatory bodies’; or to check out training courses that help to educate marketers on the various codes, regulations and enforcements.
  2. Your company might establish a centralised online library of internal regulatory guidelines. For example, Smith & Nephew has implemented a world-class global compliance programme for legal and regulatory issues. It includes a global intranet and website with resources and tools to guide employees.
  3. Some healthcare businesses use a password protected cloud-based brand management site. Here employees and external agencies can access positioning documents and brand guidelines alongside compliance policies and procedures, on-boarding and training materials.

Essentially, the better you are informed as a marketer, the better your chance of following the correct guidelines when designing and executing a campaign. And the compliance team will love you if, when you send your work to them, it’s already following the most up-to-date regulations, thus helping to speed up the compliance check process.

 

2. Apply the right tools

Everything these days is digital – there’s an app and software for pretty well everything and the number of digital marketing channels through which to interact with consumers is multiplying fast. Nevertheless, in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare, it can be difficult for marketers to adopt new ways of working.

Try starting with small incremental steps as wholesale change can be daunting. Identify a marketing issue that hampers your efficiency. Build a list of digital solutions that could help solve your problem. And test with a pilot project including a way of authenticating and monitoring to ensure levels of security.

For example, one of our clients is a financial services company and therefore also subject to rigorous regulation. Their problem was a human error prone, paper-based system for marketing production sign-off. The client ran a project to implement approval workflow software. They spent several months building workflows and testing the new automated process. This included compliance and legal teams, and the digitised process ensures no marketing materials can be used externally until they have been signed off by the necessary teams. Their pilot was successful, proved that working digitally can be highly compliant, and has paved the way for further digital transformation.

Marketing is changing rapidly and the use of technology isn’t going to slow down. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to champion and drive a change project for transformation to happen.

 

3. Exploit new marketing channels

Whether marketing direct to consumers, to physicians, hospitals, pharmacies or other retailers, marketers are exploring and using multiple digital channels. Indeed, if you want to be noticed by your target consumers and offer them a great brand experience, you simply have to be active in the digital channels they are using – from blogs and social media, to websites, forums and apps.

But how do you manage and distribute the large amount of content required across this wealth of channels?

Many healthcare marketers are using digital asset management platforms to centralise, manage and automate the sharing of brand content, while remaining within industry rules and regulations. A good system will provide a robust reporting feature, giving you a digital audit trail of activity within the platform.

Ensure your users will always require permission-based password access so they can access only what they are allowed to view.

In addition, ask whether the system offers a ‘download reason report’ for added transparency and auditing purposes. This enables administrators to track and manage where and why images, documents and campaigns are being downloaded and used.

Meanwhile you and your fellow marketers are freed up to innovate and engage customers in all the right digital channels.

Innovation in digital marketing can be a reality for healthcare marketers both as a means of communicating and interacting with customers as well as for managing internal processes, even within the constraints of regulation. A cautious approach may be required, but with the right mindset, processes and tools, anything is possible.

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