It was a longshot, but I decided, for my team, that it was worth the risk. How do we communicate, to pharma marketers buried in research data, the voice of the patient & caregiver. The result left some in tears, but brought a new understanding of what we do is so important.
“My name is Nora and within a year I will be dead” was her opening statement to a crowd of 110 pharma people. “I have stage 4 cancer and although my therapy has allowed me to live a bit longer, my body is losing the fight against cancer. In the process I have had to liquidate my life savings in my 401K and my family will be left in debt”.
We recruited Nora online and asked if she would be willing to talk to the very people who develop and market the drugs that helped her fight her battle. It required detailed clearance from Legal but after her talk there were many people in the audience who had tears in their eyes.
Nora talked about her battle with cancer, but she also talked about the things in life she really loved like hiking, fall weather and taking holidays in Europe with her husband. She said what really made her sad was that she “would not see her daughters grow up, marry and have kids of their own”.
Why did we recruit Nora? Because in working with the brand team, we noticed that there was too much emphasis on data and not enough emphasis on empathy for patients. Nora’s husband talked about the stress and sleepless nights of being married to someone “who was not going to be around for much longer”. He talked of the precious moments that would forever be ingrained in his memory and having to max out his vacation and sick time to take care of his wife.
When they took questions someone asked “what else can we do to help?” and Nora talked about what it was like to be diagnosed and overwhelmed with information. She said she often went online late at night to better understand her cancer and that she had to buy a medical dictionary because she couldn’t understand everything. She said that “pharma sites were of little use beyond medication information” and how she wanted to “connect with other patients who had through what she was going through” but mostly she said that she wanted “her voice to resonate that a lot more work needs to be done to really help patients online”
To say it went well was an understatement. The team is now asking questions that has less to do with ROI and more to do with “how can we reach these people and help them”.
My thanks to John in Legal who made it happen and the members of our consulting group who paid for Nora’s travel with her husband including hotel and airfare. If we could only listen more to the people we are trying to help…