Corporate politics and eMarketing: Mismatched

SUMMARY: The biggest barrier to great healthcare marketing is corporate politics. As more companies merge or are bought out big bureaucratic processes run counter to what online marketing is all about. Those people who are willing to disrupt pharma cultures will have a great career but it takes time, effort, and empathy for patients to make changes.

Those of us who work with/in pharma are aware that corporate politics is a strong aspect of everything we do. From what we say to what we propose, many people are empire-building (read the BMS Cafe Pharma thread) or afraid that they are over their heads when it comes to digital marketing. Not many people have the courage to try and swim upstream against the political prevailing winds, but every once in a while, someone succeeds in doing what’s best for patients, not just the bottom line.

This morning one of my clients lost another talented emarketing person. She sent me a personal email where she said that the politics within her company were limiting her emarketing abilities and the brand’s ability to succeed online. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I received word that a talented emarketing person has quit. More and more people are leaving a potential career in big pharma because of a culture that rewards people who “fit in the mold” and stay quiet.

I have written that the biggest challenge for most pharma companies is their culture of slow decision and low-risk decision-making. I haven’t seen much change in the 10 years I’ve been consulting, and, if anything, it’s getting worse.

A great example is Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug. How could so many people within the company agree that the drug should be on the market? The answer is corporate politics. The executives at Biogen realize that they desperately needed that drug to save their floundering company. Pressure was brought on some key individuals, and those who thought more studies should be needed were obviously quieted through political pressure.

I’m not suggesting that pharma emarleters wear a tee shirt and jeans to work and act like they know it all. I am saying that unless senior executives take immediate steps to straighten out a culture that moves slower than a turtle trying to walk on ice, they are going to hurt efforts to become better at marketing to people who are confused about treatment options and health information itself.

I try and get close to company influencers and win them over, even if it takes a long time. I also understand that some people will never be won over because of personal agendas. One of the best qualities for companies looking to hire new emarketing people is “the ability to solve organizational problems. Too many come in with big ideas only to be turned away because managers see them as a threat or someone who might disrupt their plans. Compounding the problem are the worthless pharma trade magazine awards paraded around by agencies ignored by everyone else.

If I’m standing on my soapbox, I apologize. I love this industry too much and see too many good people leaving because they have had enough. Many years ago, PWC issued a report that said pharma organizational issues were the biggest challenge to the pharma industry. Obviously, that report was never taken to heart. Until it is, we will continue to see shitty DTC and awful websites while online health seekers are more confused than ever.