Cleveland, OH — As Content Marketing World‘s recap of recaps passed through my LinkedIn news feed, I decided to share my own perspective on what we learned at the conference – specifically, how impactful content marketing can be to pharma messaging and what new tools we can use to better tell stories that resonate with our audiences.

But, what stories are we trying to tell? CMI’s Joe Pulizzi reminded us of the three legged stool (print, digital, in-person) of marketing. While we believe we may have been effective in all (most? some?), weaving an effective story across channels remains a challenge for many pharmaceutical brands.

Content Marketing World embraced multichannel storytelling. As I checked in at #CMWorld using the Swarm app (formerly the good part of Foursquare), Pulizzi offered up double points for anyone checking-in in orange pants. Our Agency Edge speaker, Andrew Davis, heard that loud and clear. Clad in orange pants with matching tie, shoes and glasses, Drew led a room full of 70 agency execs through a whirlwind 8 sessions as part of the pre-Content Marketing World workshops…and the whirlwind continued through four days of great speakers, intensive lectures, panels and workshops providing a wealth of insights and tools that we can employ to tell better stories that elevate the brands we support.

So, what are those tools we in pharmaceutical marketing need to employ?

Know the difference between a content brand and branded content — Andrew Davis addressed this directly and several other talks included the concept. Creating branded content is what many of us do to highlight differentiators about our product in our channels. Creating a content brand is something else entirely. Content brands create content that revolves around the audience’s needs and interests. Two completely different approaches.

While I won’t condemn branded content as many did, it is worthwhile to understand what it means to go all the way in on content. No doubt the content you produce will support your brand… but is it just supporting your products or truly supporting your audience?

Avoid random acts of marketing — Another key theme across many sessions was understanding how each piece of content could support the overall brand. Understanding your audience’s needs from selected channels helps you distribute campaign-able ideas, rather than assets in a vacuum. Too often when our audience is seeking engagement we serve them advertising. Immediate business needs will never cease, but is your brand creating content for the moment, or for the ongoing engaged relationship?

Appreciate content shock — One of the best quotes from the obligatory “Is content marketing dead” panel with Mark Schaefer and Marcus Sheridan was “Goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds… we now have an attention span less than goldfish.”

While amusing, this does bring focus to the shear volume of information our audiences have at their fingertips. Previously, people could cut through the clutter when they focused. Now, even if they wanted to they could not read everything pertaining to what they are looking for on any given topic. This information overload forces us to focus on the quality of our content, rather that the quantity we produce – knowing that continual low quality content may dissolve the connection.

Capitalize on inspiration — A CMWorld concept we have really embraced was around reaching our audiences by focusing on their moments of inspiration… the very places that decisions happen. In order to reach audiences and move the relationship along we need to rethink marketing-qualified-leads, the sales funnel (pick your favorite), the conversion, etc., and instead focus on how to move your target to the moment of inspiration. When we understand what triggers our audience to make a change, can we harness that decision point and meet them in the moment?

Sub-segment your audience — One of the most compelling tools that Drew Davis brought forth was fractal marketing (see video below). With so many of our products serving such small audiences, using this technique can help to provide depth to seemingly uniform audiences and identify niches within where you can have relevant engagements that revolve around their universe – rather than forcing them into ours.

You likely know the prescribing attributes of your target audience, but have you explored the behavioral variations that can drive your message home?

What content do we have already? — Many Content Marketing World sessions focused on content auditing techniques and case studies, which resonates well in pharma where producing content from scratch can be time-consuming and challenging. Focusing on which values should be recorded, to how to score those values can be vital to producing a complete inventory.

Additionally, Ruth Stevens reminded us that as we are planning our content library, design content for repurposing – for example, each long form asset should support 5-10 tweets. The brands we support likely have produced content in the form of studies, data, HCP materials, etc. What available content can be reframed for a new mission?

Have different conversations — Tom Martin‘s session on making content support the sales cycle introduced the concept of second click content: content created not for the introduction, but for furthering the relationship. This type of content is designed to answer the deep questions posed within the sales cycle, and allow the brand to complete through education. Content provided is perceived to be unbiased as it answers the posed questions. In creating content for our audience, are we showcasing our differentiators as the optimum answer(s) to the right questions?

So, calling all my fellow content procrastinators! If you’ve been looking to produce content to support your brand, what has been your approach to aligning your unique content to your brand’s opportunity. What’s been holding you back from producing the content you want?

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.