Insights in health & wellness branding


Navigating your brand through COVID-19

23 March 2020   |   Lynnette Hunter

In these days of the COVID-19 epidemic, many in the pharma industry are facing the challenge of accessing their customers and engaging in communication. The good news is that there are virtual solutions and approaches that are proven to deliver when in-person selling is limited or no longer an option.  AbelsonTaylor has developed a number of approaches to evaluate, execute, and optimize current marketing strategies so that you may continue to engage with customers and ensure your brand story is delivered and drives business growth including:

  • Evolving the personal selling model to a virtual setting
  • Ensuring your teams are well trained for virtual selling
  • Alternatives to e-detailing and video-enabled sales calls
  • Optimizing non personal channels
  • Keeping patient needs front and center

Healthcare Professional Communications

A key problem is that HCPs are seeing the same information and it’s becoming stale. Well over half of respondents from medical oncologists to dermatologists noted that their reps usually show them info that they have already seen. This doesn’t mean completely changing the presentations in their current state, but it does beg for a change in the way that the remote details be approached over time. Reps need a way in which they can detail the product info that may break out of the traditional mold of their script of slides that doctors have already seen. Finding a new way to deliver the messaging, over remote channels, with more meaningful data can result in more quality meetings.First and foremost, now is the time to consider evolving the sales representative to HCP experience.  There are many platforms you already may be using that enable a 1:1 HCP-rep experience.  As you develop content that is engaging and delivered in a way HCPs prefer to learn, consider that virtual communications are not evolving in step with physicians’ reliance on digital for info. Today’s HCPs are more adept at finding information themselves online as needed – product-related info being the most accessed website resource. As recently as 2017 it was cited by PRNewswire that 74% of physicians surveyed (in a Taking the Pulse survey) used search engines weekly or more, with over half of those using pharma digital resources.

And if a live virtual detail isn’t possible, consider a cadenced representative video program. Representatives record approved presentations to send to their target lists in a cadenced way that reflects their pre-call planning for that physician.

Lastly, it is important to evaluate your approach to lunch and learns and speaker presentations. It isn’t necessary to suspend them entirely, but a new framework for how they are delivered needs to be considered. Not only will the presenter be remote, but likely the group that assembles would rather be dispersed, too. Consider options that are built to connect in an engaging way allowing interaction, facilitating learning and re-creating the best parts of in-person events.

After assessing your personal sales strategy, you must consider filling the valleys in between the peaks of representative visits with well-planned and executed non-personal promotions (NPP).  With today’s current situation those valleys may stretch for an extended amount of time and a new paradigm will be set for how representatives engage and create peaks. Now is the time to a look at your existing NPP ecosystem and evaluate where you can make effective optimizations and increases in outreach.

  1. Activate hand raiser lists as well as 3rd party vendor lists by employing email best practices to get messages that will break through to targets.
  2. Optimize paid search to ensure you’re capturing what physicians may be searching for in light of the COVID-19, such as, product availability and manufacturing shortages, additional and supplemental information to share with patients about the brand.
  3. Ensure your website is working as hard as it can be. Can physicians register to get more information? Do you have engaging videos and other content available? Do you have downloadable tools for both HCPs and Patients? Is there an area for an HCP to interact with a rep or are other virtual connections available?
  4. Encourage HCP website registration during this time by sending out a “Stay in the loop” communication.
  5. Retarget your site visitors through digital display and social media. Use CRM to drive interested parties to the site, then continue messaging via digital display. Statistically, retargeted ads have a click through rate 10x those of traditional display.
  6. Does your brand have a branded Facebook page running content for patients? Now is the time to add content for HCPs. Re-target your HCP site visitors on Facebook. Doctors are people too, after all. According to 2019 MedData information, 80% of doctors are on Facebook weekly and 54% are there daily..

Patient and Consumer Communications

From a consumer perspective, the events worldwide concerning COVID-19 have resulted in the need for social distancing and to shelter in place.  Leaving doctor’s offices and hospitals free for those with urgent need of support and viral management has driven a surge in telemedicine (link).  The opportunity to address many medical issues via on-line platforms and deliver medical care virtually will be a wave of the coming months (and will likely continue over time).

Patient resources that can be used to aid in patient education between the physician and the patient and that can be delivered electronically, in an engaging way can improve the overall patient care and satisfaction.  Videos, online patient educational presentations and educational brochures – designed for this channel of communication offer great opportunities to augment the patient/physician dialogue through telemedicine.

Patient portals will also see an increase in use where physicians and patients can dialogue without the need to have a face to face interaction.  Again, there are many ways that we can provide useful resources, diagnostic tools or checklists and support for this dialogue.

Let’s not forget the value that “” websites can also bring in this situation.  With social distancing and shelter in place initiatives, patients are more likely to search online than physically visit a pharmacy, doctor’s office, etc. in search of information.  Bringing that information to brand activities on social platforms as well allows for reach to patients

It is imperative we keep patient needs front and center for our brands’ efforts during this time. Those living with chronic illness, the immunocompromised or patients needing to visit a medical facility often are experiencing unprecedented levels of duress. Across social media patients are attempting to understand what impacts Covid-19 has to their disease state and whether or not their condition puts them in a greater risk category.

Brands should continue to leverage their full ecosystem across all digital channels, including social media. Consider framing brand benefits within the current environment without pandering or fear-based tactics. For instance, convenience benefits that a brand offers may feel more like a lifeline to a concerned patient population. Infusions that can be done at home, or by the patient themselves change the dynamic completely when you don’t need to visit a medical center.

Remind patients to remain adherent to their treatments and plan ahead when it is time to refill or reorder. This situation may also be an opportunity to focus on patient adherence and persistency by providing information on 90-day prescriptions and savings programs to help off-set costs.  What has always been easy may require more planning and effort now.

Patients should be connected to services that can assist with needs specific to their treatment, too. Prepare call centers for questions and concerns that are out of the ordinary, evaluate whether a brief relevant webinar or online video would be beneficial.

As you consider new approaches, we are here to help, reach out to your AT brand lead, or contact us at

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About the Author

Lynnette joined AbelsonTaylor over 15 years ago as a traffic coordinator. Over the years, she built a deep understanding of agency processes and the unique challenges that surround healthcare marketing and advertising—and has helped make some of the most challenging initiatives a reality. That includes assuming leadership roles in digital marketing and consumer engagement. When not at work on her brands, you’ll find Lynnette on the golf course, on the water, or on-the-go with her family.