Pause for thought

Since starting Salt with Kath over 3 years ago I continually ask the question ‘are we still striving for and achieving what we set out to do when we started?’ (Go on, ask Kath. she’ll tell you it’s my favourite question). The reason I do this is because we wanted to set up a business with different priorities to ones we’d previously been working within, and wanted to offer companies within health something different. And not just to be different for the sake of being able to say, ‘look at us, we are sooo different, isn’t that great’. But because we want to be able to make decisions based on our beliefs and mindsets, and based on being able to offer our clients something more, something deeper, to challenge them, and to be able to have an impact on both them and their brands.

These foundations are really important to us, and my worry is that it is all too easy to slip back into ‘how things are always done’. By continually asking my question I am sense checking that we are still on a path that we want to be on and if we are starting to veer off in a direction that doesn’t feel right, we can plot a better course, deciding together what that might be and where we want to go. Being in a partnership with someone who shares my outook, and in fact champions our joint aspirations (to greater effect than me) is refreshing and exciting. I like to think that we push each other in that way.

Although I am not currently having one of these freak outs, I find myself in a rare moment of contemplation. Not about whether our offering and set up is beneficial for our employees, our clients and the patients they support, but about our impact on the world. We have woken up in 2021 to a world on it’s knees. The global pandemic is ever present which, beyond the horrific death toll, will undoubtably result in profound long term effects for people both mentally and physically. Family pressures, isolation, job securities, people’s livelihoods, the economy and the future of business in general to name but a few. And that’s not even scratching the surface of the wider impact. What about the all the essential money the governments are injecting into supporting families out of work? What does that mean when they are tightening their belts after this? The continued and increased cuts to public services? Then the knock on effect of that! What about the world we live in, the environment, where do we start!? Well that’s a scary question.

In amongst the negativity and heart ache of the past year there have been some really warming moments. Community spirit, rallying together to support the less able, innovations to reach the more isolated and lonely, companies offering discounts to essential workers, a reduction in air pollution and the renewed understanding of the importance of personal hygiene. What I’ve really liked is how people have adapted and innovated using what they have available to make a difference. 

At Salt I’m pleased to say that we had started thinking and doing this already. We make sure that we think carefully about the travel we make and offset our carbon in order to be carbon neutral. We have joined onepercentfortheplanet.org, donating 1% of our gross income to environmental nonprofit organisations. We are actively using our expertise to offer pro bono support to people and charities we are passionate about to enable them to do more. We are also looking at ways we can credibly support people starting out on their career and have  interest in the area we work in. But like my continual question I opened this with, I’d like this to be one too that I regularly return to, to ensure we are giving back and investing in our planet and the people who live on it. This is something Kath and I, as well as our whole team, believe in whole heartedly, making sure we are responsible in our actions and continually looking for opportunities to actively make positive influences on our world.


Will the planet thank us for COVID-19?

It’s approaching the time of year where we offset Salt’s carbon emissions. Being a virtual agency our footprint has never been huge, but this year I am obviously expecting it to be lower than usual. The reduction in travel globally has clearly been good news for the planet, but it got me thinking about the wider environmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The early days of lockdown brought much needed good news of smog-free skies, wildlife running free in urban areas, the canals of Venice being the clearest they have been in 60 years, a reduction in intensive fishing and many other reported silver linings. They brought hope that our planet was getting a chance to come up for air, take a deep breath and go about its business without the incessant interference of human beings. It was heartening to believe that the pandemic, while clearly a disaster of great proportions for humanity, could become a trigger for more environmentally conscious behaviour after seeing what the world can do when the human race slows down for just a few months. Perhaps it could trigger the green movement to become more acutely urgent and motivating, encouraging everyone to treat the world with a little more care and consideration. I think most of us were left with the belief that at least the pandemic has been good for the environment.

But is it panning out this way? As the pandemic has progressed the environmental impact has already begun to shift. While a reduction in travel has been beneficial, now that restrictions are easing travel is rapidly creeping back up. Beyond travel, single-use plastic use has dramatically increased with gloves, masks, plastic screens and PPE, we are using more cleaning products (from harsh bleaches and household cleaners to laundry detergent and handwash), and of course with everyone at home domestic energy use is higher than usual. Illegal deforestation in the Amazon has been able to continue unchecked, and it’s likely that similar habitats around the world have suffered due to the lack of patrolling. Even areas where great progress had been made, like reusable coffee cups, have had to revert to single-use alternatives. For how long we can’t be sure, but possibly long enough to forget the habit of taking your own cup and re-learn the habit of using a disposable one.

It is well understood that behaviour change is likely to be more successful if the intervention is aligned to a moment when the existing behaviour is disrupted. In other words, being forced to break one habit is the perfect time to nudge us into establishing a new one. The average habit takes about 10 weeks to form, which makes lockdown the perfect opportunity for governments to intervene and encourage people to form new, lower carbon habits and prevent a default return to how things have always been. What we appear to be seeing, however, are economic recovery drives to get industries like construction and fossil fuels moving faster than ever, with payouts and the relaxing of regulations and royalties. To quote Tom Heap from BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth, we appear to be ‘taking the green handcuffs off business’.

The pandemic has clearly taken focus from the momentum the environmental movement was gaining. COVID-19 has naturally had to come first, but we need to make sure we don’t forget where we got to and can continue to move forward rather than taking a step back and starting again. It feels such a shame if we can’t at least grasp the opportunity to take stock and change our behaviour for the better. After all, our planet will be here a lot longer than we will.

But that’s exactly the problem. Environmental impact is a long-term issue, not urgent enough for us to change our behaviour now for the promise of a better future in the long-term. COVID-19 has given us the unique opportunity to see with our own eyes the impact our actions have on the planet, almost a brief window into a parallel world where the environment is higher up the agenda. It would be great if this realisation developed into a positive legacy of the pandemic, so at least some good comes of it.

“…As we recover, the decisions we make today will either lay the foundation for sound, sustainable and inclusive growth, or lock-in polluting emissions for decades, and in doing so make our society and the planet more vulnerable.”

Delivered by Justin Addison, Second Secretary at the UK Delegation to the OSCE, at the virtual OSCE Economic and Environmental Committee Meeting on 3 June 2020.

As we come out of lockdown (for now at least), maybe we should all consider which new habits we can keep, to be more conscious and mindful of our impact on the environment. Let’s celebrate re-gaining our freedom and being able to see friends and loved ones, but let’s not default to how things were just because that’s how they have always been.

A change in routine is a key opportunity to create lasting behaviour changing by forming new, long-lasting habits. Let’s make sure we take it.

 

covid19impact hashtagenvironment hashtagenvironmentalimpact hashtagcoronavirusimpact


A set up to fail

This blog covers a subject that has vexed me and that I’ve wanted to address for a long time. Certainly people that know me will have been subjected to some of the following in various incarnations over the last 5 years and are probably rolling their eyes right about now.

A companies’ branding needs to be more than just a façade, it needs to be seamlessly stitched into the fabric of every part of the business; how you behave and act as well as look, in order to be believable, build trust, advocacy and happiness in your customers. 

For example, in September 2017, SWR, formally South West Trains, unveiled their new branding. As a designer, and a customer, I was pleasantly surprised, ‘Forpeople’ had done a cracking job and the newly refreshed brand looked slick, professional, clean and approachable, with a nod to happier train times in the new name, and hope for a happier future. With that and new ownership, anticipation for a better rail service was high. Unfortunately these two components aren’t enough on their own to change a service. If, as a customer, your experience doesn’t reflect the care and craftsmanship that has gone into the visual communication (and hopefully strategy) then all this hard work is wasted. If you did a survey of SWR customers about their experiences on their trains since the change, I can well imagine that it would be overwhelmingly negative.

Surprisingly some companies not only are all talk, forgetting to walk the walk, but actively set up their customers to fail. A number of mobile phone companies, TV subscription contracts, insurance and other policy renewals to sadly name but a few have been doing this for what seems like years. Instead of rewarding customers for their loyal service they choose to automatically raise the cost for these services once the contract expires, far beyond the going rate, hoping to catch out people with busy lives or those who are vulnerable. Leaving the best deals for new customers only and a bitter taste in existing customers mouths. Others, like SWR, simply hide or make it difficult to claim valid refunds or return faulty goods.

So why do some companies choose to alienate and disappoint, instead of looking to embrace and support? Enticing new people to your brand through exciting offers, product innovation and sparkles is all well and good but if once they are bought into your offering, behind the curtain doesn’t live up to the hype this enthusiasm will quickly wane. a consistent voice, integrity, belief and honesty doesn’t have to cost the earth and can create positive associations and change in both the people who work for them and the customers who want and need what they sell. A virtuous circle that really is win-win.

I recently attended a talk by Huw and Becky, founders of Paynter Jackets, who for me are the epitome of how to get this right. They have thought carefully about their offering and what is important to them and their customers. They have been clever about their business model and have created something different that people want, both in product and experience. They have then executed on these decisions to the letter, giving equal importance to customer relationships, genuinely caring for who and where their jackets go to, as well as to the crafting of the jackets themselves. Ensuring that the Paynter brand experience, as well as the product, is top draw. As a result, retention, advocacy, and brand love is sky high.

I’m not saying that doing all this isn’t incredibly hard work and a labour of love, but that love and hard work is not lost and can be seen in the smallest details; stitches, labels, buttons, emails and instagram posts. In fact on every surface that Huw and Becky touch.

All brand experiences should be like that. Not hoodwinking people into staying ‘loyal’ because it’s too hard not to, but building genuine brand loyalty through knowing and understanding your customer and ensuring the experience they are lucky enough to enjoy is one to be proud of. Not setting people up to fail, but setting people up for the best experience you can give them.

 

#paynterjacket


I am not a vegan

I became a vegetarian back in the 1980s. In those days it was far from common, and it was hard to find vegetarian food when I was away from home. My friends’ parents didn’t know how to deal with it, and my Dad thought I was some kind of hippy weirdo who would get over it by the time I hit my teenage years. 30 years on, I am still vegetarian. But recently, and entirely out of my control, I am becoming more and more vegan. I am perfectly happy being vegetarian, and although I have reduced my dairy consumption, I have absolutely no plans to become vegan. But society disagrees. Since the recent rise of the vegan movement, vegetarians have been side-lined. It’s great that so many people are turning to veganism, but I don’t see why it should be assumed that I automatically want to join them. All of a sudden, most pubs and restaurants have few if any vegetarian options, instead proudly announcing their new vegan credentials and expecting me to be delighted.

There’s no doubt veganism is on the rise. The number of vegans in Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2018, now standing at 1.16% of the population[1]. In contrast, 14% of the UK population is vegetarian[2]. In addition to these two figures, 21% of UK consumers currently identify as being ‘flexitarian’ – eating a largely plant-based diet that is supplemented occasionally with meat. Looking at these statistics, why is it that vegetarian dishes on the menu have been replaced with vegan ones? There are still more than 12 times as many vegetarians as vegans, so why should vegetarian options be struck off? Would it not be more representative of current dietary choices to reduce the number of meat-containing meals instead of sacrificing the vegetarian ones? Shouldn’t we be providing a greater range of options that reflect the spectrum of diet choices across the population?

There is a wild assumption that vegetarians will be happy to be vegan. Why is that so? I have chosen to cut meat and fish from my diet, but I don’t exclude eggs or dairy. The reaction to rising veganism has been to lump two customer groups together and assume everyone will be happy, rather than to understand the needs of each and catering (literally) to them accordingly. I’m about as delighted about being pushed into veganism as a meat eater who is suddenly told they have to be vegetarian.

I have experienced some hilarious assumptions as a vegetarian. Like the time I got a slightly smaller Mars bar than the non-vegetarians on an in-flight meal. Or last month when my meal at a Sofitel in France was a bowl of vegetables that looked identical to something I could have microwaved myself, straight from the freezer. For the bargain price of €22.

My point is that we shouldn’t be lumping people into buckets and going with the easy option. (Even when looking for stats on vegetarianism for this post the search results were largely about veganism, despite it not being in my search terms.) Instead we should be recognising different customer groups and their needs, and providing choices that reflect that. And also, I really love cheese…

  1. https://www.vegansociety.com/news/media/statistics
  2. https://www.comparethemarket.com/car-insurance/content/cars-against-humanity/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/01/third-of-britons-have-stopped-or-reduced-meat-eating-vegan-vegetarian-report


Believe

We at Salt have been chatting a lot recently about the fact that we’ve not written a blog since last year. It’s sad how these are the things that are first to go when there is a lot of work on, and given our last post was about the joys of cashflow it was pointed out to us recently (thanks Stuart!) that we may have left the wrong impression. Thank you for the nudge, we are back writing again, talking about what we believe in, ensuring we don’t forget the details or what’s important to us as our business grows.

Something that has been niggling in my mind for some time is around continuity of thought. We are living in exciting times, communication wise that is, before anyone points out the political and humanitarian climate that sometimes quite frankly beggars belief. As an industry, we’re investing more and more time into really understanding business challenges, ensuring we get to the crux of the issue, and our audiences, to find out what makes them tick, what type of behaviour they exhibit and how can we connect emotionally with them in order to ultimately change behaviour. Essentially, how can we make it less ‘us and them’ and more ‘we’.

Coupled with outward exploration we are also spending more time with brands and their teams, to understand them, in better ways than ever before. It’s incredibly powerful to look not only at our customers but also at ourselves, to decide who we are and how we want to be seen. Ensuring the team is aligned on the approach so we are united and empowered to do the best we can, together, and creating positive change as a result.

Unfortunately, these valuable preparations all too often fall at the final hurdle when we look to deliver on them. Without implementing this with the conviction and belief needed, or without using all these learnings along the way, we will end up just talking the talk rather than walking the walk with our heads held high. The people we’re looking to influence aren’t stupid and will be able to see this a mile off, or completely miss the original intention of what we are trying to say. They need to be able to join all the dots and do so very quickly to feel a connection and relate to what we’re communicating.

Now I know we don’t live in a utopian world where everyone runs through fields of corn without a care in the world, but even if we are working with budget restrictions, historic campaign equity, and multiple stakeholder views we still need to ensure we stay on course and true to the core insights uncovered at the beginning of the project.

We need to keep the momentum going. Continue to challenge the status quo, stay true to the decisions made with the same passion we had to begin with, and don’t compromise on the core brand as this is who we are. Invest carefully in execution, the craft and detail all matter, and ensure it is based on all this wonderful and valuable research and nothing else.There are so many points along the journey when you can take the easy path, and it takes a lot more time, effort and commitment to stick with your beliefs when timelines and budgets may tempt you away. But if you do, what you produce and the impact it has will be so much richer and more rewarding in return. So let’s keep doing it.


How can this be okay?

Salt is now in its second year, and things are going well. We’re getting busier by the day, with lots of new clients coming on board and existing work expanding into new areas. So how come our cash surplus is disappearing before our eyes, and our bank balance is fast approaching zero?

It’s no surprise that cashflow is one of the biggest challenges for any business, especially a start-up. We started our business with nothing – no clients, no funding, no loans and no overdrafts – so we knew it would take a while to get things going. Once that started happening, thankfully only a few months in, we were able to play catch up and keep ourselves afloat. Small and midsized companies generally seem to understand and appreciate this situation, and manage their finances accordingly to honour their payment commitments to the letter. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more cases where the larger, global organisations do not.

Large corporations, with annual revenues over $30bn, appear to have a systematic culture of late payment, and I am yet to work out why. Is it because those extra weeks keeping hold of your budget gives them an advantage? Is it just laziness or inefficiency? Is it that they simply don’t appreciate that withholding funds can put small businesses at risk? Or is it a power trip – they know they can get away with it? Who knows. An awful lot of time and energy is put into negotiating a contract, yet it seems to mean very little when one side can break it at will. Somehow dealings between two businesses don’t need to conform to the same principles we might put on a person-to-person interaction, and it makes it okay to break the rules without explanation, apology, accountability or consequences.

Being business to business can make the conversation, decisions, actions and principles less human, so it suddenly becomes okay not to pay people what you owe, blaming the system and the rules rather than seeing that it is clearly unfair and taking responsibility. I see no reason why commitments should be any less important in the commercial world than they are in the personal world, particularly if the relationship is valued. And that’s always a sticking point – the clients we work directly with do value the relationship, as do we, so inevitably it is the small businesses that have to compromise in order to maintain it. It is the small business that is asked to start work without a PO, deliver work with no idea of when they might be paid, and take on all the financial risk and burden associated with doing a good piece of work in the spirit of ‘partnership’. It’s totally out of balance, and plays on people’s good nature, willingness to do good work and not wanting to be the one who prevents something from happening. And clearly, a small business is never going to sue a global corporate entity for not fulfilling their contractual obligation to pay on time, so all is well.

Or is it? Is it okay for small business to bankroll gigantic corporate entities? Should we be taking all the risk, uncertainty and cost of bridging the gap? Should we accept that so many good small businesses go under because of these sorts of practices?

We operate our business fairly. That means we pay our associates and partners on time, and we respect their need to run a business as much as we do our own. Because for us, money committed is just that – a commitment, a promise, and fair remuneration for good work. Working this way leaves us exposed in the middle – honouring our payment commitments without being able to rely on the same for our income. Some people may say it’s naïve, but we feel good business is all about being true to your principles. Agencies don’t want to be in a relationship where all the power sits on one side. We choose to work with people who respect us for what we do, are excited to be a part of our journey, and are willing to push on our behalf. And there are plenty of those around.

Right, now I’m off to press refresh on our online banking…


I love it, but can you make it blue?

Where do ideas come from? Truly come from? The great ones, and even more so, the exceptional ones, are brought about through a need. A need to fill a gap, a frustration of something not working properly and wanting to make it better, to express something in a new and interesting way, or to overcome a problem that hasn’t been solved.

The journey to forming ideas can take you to some really exciting places that you never would have imagined from the outset. Whether I like blue or not, relate R&B to a form of sadistic torture or spend a large proportion of my time thinking about food is largely irrelevant in most cases. What matters are the thoughts, behaviours, and lives of the people your ideas need to make a difference to.

Ideas need to be brought to life and made great through interrogating the need. Understanding the root of the problem, the target audience and constraints, looking at it from every angle to ensure that whatever the solution, it is as robust, distilled and impactful as possible. This means, especially in the area of health, that it needs to be evidence based. Rooted in an understanding that makes the answer undeniably right and strong.

We recently developed some ideas for an engagement programme to empower a traditionally hard to reach community to take control of their health. One of the core initiatives we proposed was, on the surface and out of context, really random. I’ll admit it was an idea out of my comfort zone and something that wouldn’t interest me in the slightest. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that would make me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. But then it wasn’t aimed at me. All of the research we conducted and insight we gathered suggested that this was a great way to reach this particular community and motivate them to act.

Being able to separate yourself from your predilections, to open and allow your mind to explore new ideas and ways of thinking based on strong and relevant insights, can really create incredibly powerful results.

If an idea is rooted in good insight, then it is hard to refute. If it truly solves the problem or need set out in the first place then personal tastes, feelings or opinions shouldn’t hold any weight. Subjectivity has no place here.


Bad behaviour

Behaviour, ‘The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others’

In other words, everything we do. The decisions we make, the way we act, the things that show people who we are.

There is so much talk about behaviour change, it’s become a buzz word. But how often do we really aim to understand behaviour, or are we really just tying to manipulate, influence and persuade someone to do something differently? Isn’t that what marketing and advertising are all about? Actually, I don’t think so.

Understanding someone’s behaviour isn’t about using it against them to hoodwink them into doing what we want them to do. It’s not about covert, subconscious ways of brainwashing people into buying what we have to sell, nor is about selling to people without them realising they are being sold to. It’s about understanding who people are and what makes them tick, so we know who we can be most relevant and meaningful for. Genuinely.

People aren’t defined by a set of demographics – I am not a a clone of every other woman in her 40s living in the London commuter belt. It is my behaviour that defines me as being me, not the facts and data about my age, where I live or what I had for dinner last night. That is equally true for an oncologist looking after people with cancer, an NHS commissioner trying to make the most out of limited resources, or a person coming to terms with a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

There are so many cases of behaviour impacting real-life situations in health. GPs are more likely to prescribe antibiotics just before lunch and at the end of the day, when they are weary from patients persistently demanding them. A break over lunch and they re-set their energy and resilience. People with asthma might take their inhaler diligently to start with, but gradually get complacent and feel they no longer need it, until the day they wake up finding they are struggling to breathe. I know, I am one of them, and I have given myself a stern talking to (as has the asthma nurse, who remained patient and supportive despite seeing people harming themselves like this through non-compliance every single day).

We are all people, and labels like ‘HCP’, ‘payer’ or ‘patient’ don’t help to give any understanding of who we really are. So we shouldn’t feel the need to label people like this, instead we should get to know people. Talk to them, understand what drives them, what scares them, why they do what they do. Treat them like human beings, not boxes in a survey. Then we can understand what makes them tick, what they are looking for and how we can help them with whatever it is they are looking to achieve.

Understanding people makes so much more sense than bucketing people. It’s better for them, and it’s better for us as we’re more likely to be heard. Understand people and we can talk to them in a way that suits what they need.

Behavioural insights are still largely considered to be unnecessary – not a core part of what we need to do. Why on earth not? The upfront investment can reap rewards and make everything else more efficient and effective, with proven ROI. Maybe people prefer to keep doing things the same old way, crossing their fingers that they’ll get something different and more effective out of the other end.

If we want communications to be more effective, and genuinely make a difference, we should stop thinking about how to convince and persuade, and instead start thinking about how we can listen and understand. It’s a win-win.


The illusion of balance

I doubt that anyone would disagree that a good work/life balance is a good thing, but seemingly this, for many, is only a theoretical aspiration. Why does this possibility go out the window when it comes to practice?

Why do so many people find themselves working crazy hours week in, week out, with no light at the end of the tunnel? And at what cost does this all-consuming element have on the rest of workers’ lives?

Seemingly gone are the days of a Monday to Friday 9-5 job. What is put down as core contracted hours are rarely achievable as companies expect more and more commitment from their staff, measured by time in the office. Even to the point where colleagues who leave on time are being marked down for doing so. Or asked if they are ‘doing a half day’. Instead of being congratulated for managing their time so effectively that they are able to do so. In many companies it is seen as the only way to move up the corporate ladder. Waiting until the boss has put their coat on and has one foot out the office door before feeling able to shut down and finally leave, whether they’ve had work to do or not. According to the TUC, workers in Briton in 2016 put in 2.1bn unpaid hours.

What kind of culture are we setting in the workplace when this is deemed the norm, or an expected way of working, and what kind of message does that give to our clients?

This is not helped by the continued cuts to employees, increasing the workload for the remaining few. Not only does this add exponential pressure, but increases the chance of people working in silos, unable to afford time to work collaboratively or support one another.

Given that companies still constantly talk about their staff being their most important asset, none of these actions indicates this to be true. There must be a better way. If work becomes a chore, and too pressured then people will start to resent it. Certainly within my own section of the industry, creativity is not something you can overly pressurise without expecting something to be compromised. The answers are not a one size fits all that can be turned on and off at will. People can’t function creatively 120% all the time. Something is going to give, either the quality of work, their passion and drive in the project or their health, both mentally and physically.

Anxiety, stress, depression or burn out are the only winners in these scenarios. People look after themselves less well through lack of sleep and because they are time poor, eating crap because their body needs quick fixes. Then they reward themselves at the end of the day with alcohol in order unwind and help them get to sleep, which will undoubtedly be poor sleep and so the cycle continues. Coupled with the fact that they have no work/life balance so cracks will start to show in relationships with partners, friends, and families who have been de-prioritised.

I realise that I am in danger of going off into a rant, if I’ve not done so already, but hopefully you’ll agree this is not wholly unfamiliar.

Now I’m not suggesting that we should do a complete 180 and everyone should be slacking off. Far from it, people can work incredibly hard in a concentrated amount of time, and from places other than the office. The time spent on something isn’t the same for the quality produced. The age-old quality, not quantity saying works to great effect here. Evidence suggests that productivity actually increases hour for hour if you work fewer hours overall. And if people are less stressed they are less likely to be off work.

Trust people more, give them more responsibility and ownership of the work they have been tasked with. They know the deadlines and when work needs to be reviewed and delivered. If we can’t even do that, why did we employ them in the first place? And if they don’t deliver, they are also clever enough to understand the consequences.

With the advancements of technology, the world is becoming much smaller with many more ways to connect to people. This enables us to work more remotely, on the move, more flexibly to enable juggling work and life to better effect, suited to the needs of the individual.

We need to embrace change and the possibilities now available to us, and use them to our advantage. By thinking of ways to do more with less, and without that meaning piling more pressure on already overworked staff, we can ensure that our most important assets are respected and treated fairly, and that the work produced will be the best it can be.


Why is pharma so antisocial?

My GP has a mug on his desk that says ‘please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree’. People are more information hungry than ever, and when faced with a health problem the first instinct is to google it, just like everything else. We are used to finding everything at our fingertips, and being able to converse on any topic at any time.

So there’s a huge health conversation online, but the pharma industry is still largely absent from it, with only a few cases of pharma companies using social channels well. Why? Primarily a lack of confidence in how to manage social media without getting into trouble. But social media isn’t about selling drugs, it’s about having conversations. So surely we can get over this by now?

In the time pharma has been twiddling its thumbs, the social media universe has become much more sophisticated. The longer they’ve been absent, the harder it is has become to jump on board. It’s not about throwing out the odd tweet here and there, a social presence needs to be well considered, and the goals and objectives need to be realistic and defined.

In the end, it’s about being human. Approachable and interested rather than aloof and unreachable. It’s about having a conversation and allowing people to get to know you, engage with you, and to engage with them in return. It means you need to understand who you are talking to, and what they want or need to hear. It definitely takes commitment – if you’re going to do it you need to be confident you’re going to do it properly – which, I suspect, is why so many still haven’t taken the plunge.

Creating a connection with people you’ve never met is normal now, and it’s easy to assume that anyone who isn’t ‘out there’ simply doesn’t care enough to bother. They’re antisocial. The pharma industry has played a significant but silent role in people’s lives for a very long time, and now we have the chance to strike up a conversation. Let’s take it.