Globalization requires compromises. Reducing face-to-face interactions is one of those compromises. Business travel is part in depleting the globe’s resources and the environment; it is costly from a company perspective both in terms of the direct expenses connected to travel, the commute time as well as recovery time from travelling across geography and time. Among other things, the epidemic reminds us that future congresses in their current analogue format may no longer be a viable option from a legal, cost, practical and at the current point in time, from a health perspective.
Healthcare congresses and events gather thousands of participants to take part in information sharing and exploration in pursuit of improving healthcare. It remains an open question if and in what format the Healthcare congresses in 2020 are going to be held. Here are a few scenarios:
1. Event takes place as normal, but many stay away
2. Event takes place but in limited format (e.g. without exhibition, without attendees, etc)
3. Event cancelled
Independent of which scenario materializes, an efficient and intensified use of the multiple digital channels towards healthcare professionals, payers and governments is the solution to substitute the engagement and discussion which otherwise would have taken at a congress. Obviously, a digital dialogue has a different fabric to a face to face discussion as it lacks natural sensory and visual elements which help people connect in an analogue setting. However, to ensure business continuity we need to embrace digital with full force.
This year event organizers are prone to – as some already do today – offer transmission of seminars, interactive and educational sessions, poster presentation, etc. The organizers and pharmaceutical companies need to focus on providing the event content in formats and channels which are favored by different segments among the Healthcare stakeholders. This involves going beyond the standard presence on Third Party Portals for HCPs to activities such as:
At the core, the above activities are no different what the pharmaceutical company should already be doing in terms of leveraging digital channels around events. The difference is that digital should no longer be an "afterthought" and second priority as a touch point compared to the conventional event presence and sales rep visits. It is the time to build competence and learn quickly in order to excel in digital communication. And whereas, at one level, you are responding effectively to a tactical shorter-term challenge, you are also building muscle to excel in a reality where the bulk of customer decision journey and the majority of interactions between pharmaceutical companies and their stakeholders take place online.
To maximize the impact of the Digital Fall back strategy, it is critical NOT to implement the above activities in isolation. The notion of relative "channel effectiveness" is obsolete at a point in history where we live a seamless life online. Opinions, attitudes and the behaviors of the Healthcare Stakeholders change gradually, step by step, across channels and time. Thus, don't just do emails, be present on a Third Party portal only or run a webinar separately. These activities needs to orchestrated in a Customer Flows to ensure frequency of interactions and tailored to drive the stakeholder across the customer decision journey.
The time has come for the “digital teams” and multi-channel engagement departments of the pharmaceutical companies to step out of the shadows and come to the rescue of the brand teams and show the full potential of digital engagement to ensure business continuity.