Sunday, January 17, 2010

Managing in a media rich environment


Today a manager has a new set of challenges arising from a media rich environment. Messages and information get flashed faster than anticipated. Images float round the web. Hence, managerial work inevitably involves using the various media to achieve predetermined objectives, build businesses, and manage work.

Traditionally, a manager in an organization is positioned to direct flow of work and people activities to ensure achievement of objectives. Managers build businesses. Managers are involved in planning, organizing, staffing, controlling, measuring, integrating, development of people, and leading. The normal communication tools of a manager are the telephone, letters, fax and memos, and meetings with peers, subordinates and superiors (at various venues). However, the advent of new media has changed the way of doing managerial work and the communication tools. The mobile, e-mail, video conferencing, and now tele-presence technologies have revolutionized the way managers direct flow of work and people activities.

Information float and managerial working

Managers have succeeded in the past through control of information/knowledge. For instance, I still recollect how in one of my first jobs, a senior manager made me run helter-skelter to prepare some product notes. Later, when evaluating my report, he took out the "Drugs" and "TRIPS" (Trends In Pharmacological Sciences) journals (to which I had no access), from his drawer and said that these points ought to be included!! But today, the internet has caused the collapse of this information float. Control and manipulative managers are having a tougher time!! It is not easy to control and manipulate access to information and knowledge in a media rich environment.

It is all open! The regional pharma phenomenon!!

During the recent Pedicon 2010, Hyderabad, one low profile new off-the-block company made its presence felt - emphatically yet, quietly. This company is not mapped by ORG. The company is Vijayawada based Med Manor. There are many such companies with an annual turnover between Rs. 14 crores to Rs. 20 crores growing in various regional segments of the great Indian pharma bazaar (these companies are not routinely mapped by ORG). These include companies like Unison, Ares, and so on. But these "invisible companies" are having their tasty morsels of the Indian Pharma market.

I complimented a director of Med Manor who takes care of marketing, in fact they are traditionally C &F operators and stockists in the Indian pharma market; for his participation in Pedicon 2010 and asked his recipe of successful working.

He exulted, "Sir, everything is now in the open!!" "Today, a retailer will tell you the costing for various pharma products! You don't need a cost accountant!! In places like Hyderabad, various companies having factories at places like Hardwar, have offices, and they will help you get the product you desire, two or three batches if you like, but you need to market it!! In fact, the company representatives also travel to places like Rajahmundry, Cuddapah etc and book batches of products to MR agents!

To participate in this event I sat down with my managers and other company managers and made my check list on what to do and how to do! Simple!! It is all open!!!". This is what the gentleman said to me!!

I had heard in the recent past from a field person that there are 'agents' in places like UP who help propaganda cum distribution MRs to get products manufactured from good pharma companies. The propaganda cum distribution MR need not even have a contact with the manufacturer! The agent helps.

These regional segment companies are growing steadily, they are regional operators, yet they are invisible at the macro level.

So one can set out to define this new Indian pharma market trend as the regional pharma phenomenon -

The development of regional pharma companies who cater to targeted prescriber and chemist audiences through specific quantities of pharmaceutical formulations with customized and attractive services, schemes, and value delivery, can be defined as the REGIONAL PHARMA PHENOMENON

Media creates networks

Today, Shashi Tharoor has 6 lakh followers on Twitter! I am one of them! Just imagine his network and the electronic constituency that follows him! That is the effect of new age electronic media. Various social networking and knowledge websites like have changed the way information, insight and knowledge gets around. It is the age of instant media. Today's manager should be communication and media savvy to take optimal decisions, direct flow of work and people activities in this highly digitally oriented wired world.

Media is powerful with rich images and instant messaging is an interesting business media site. The website presents business activities of Hyderabad with rich videos. You can see the Pedicon 2010 trade stall activities by clicking here. A dynamic business leader at Pedicon 2010, Hyderabad, makes his point (on electrolyte energy drinks) through video here. Another product manager makes her viewpoint too. There are several videos of participants talking about their Pedicon 2010, Hyderabad activities. This is instant image rich multimedia messaging for you! Today's manager should have the alacrity to handle such electrifying media stuff.

Social media conversations in pharma are very much on!!

Like it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Conversations through message boards, blogs, twitter, social networking sites and so on, will continue to gain traction through internet, particularly because PC, internet and mobile internet penetration is increasing at fast rates. Social media between doctors also exists. Such conversations will shape perceptions on brands, therapies, and prescriptions on products will be influenced. Conversations between healthcare providers and patients, between patients and patients etc will continue to bloom on the internet.

Social media is very powerful. Its power has not yet been imagined by many. The reason behind the power of social media is DEMOCRATIZATION of knowledge and insights. Social media (or user generated content or consumer generated content) is powerful because it empowers.

Word-of-mouth is vital for marketers. Positive word-of-mouth is more powerful than advertising in conversion of prospects to customers. Social media is akin to word-of-mouth. People talk about brands and this talk influences consumption of brands.

Social media, prescribing habits and patient behavior

Pharma and healthcare marketers are curious about social media because it has influence on prescribing habits, patient behavior and consequently brand consumption.

Doctors prescribe through three ways of medical decision making processes:

a) INDUCTION: where doctors titrate to past clinical experiences, or understand the mechanism of disease and logically use medications; basically, doctors follow empirical clinical experiences and logic to make prescribing decisions.

b) SEDUCTION (or abdication): is a common approach of medical decision making. Physicians take decisions based on what others say: for eg., teachers, consultants, medical representatives, textbooks etc influence the decision making process.

c) DEDUCTION: is the ideal sort of medical decision making process, which needs to be followed by doctors. However, it is a tough way of practicing medicine. Doctors critically review randomized clinical trials and take decisions through evidence based medicine. Deduction will be followed by many intellectual doctors. But it is an effort intensive process. It is possible that with internet penetration, EBM (evidence based medicine) will be the future of medicine.

Social media based medical decision making: the real future of medical decision making

The above phrase is coined by me. Social media based medical decision making will be the bridge between the above three methods of medical decision making. Social media phenomenon cannot be swept under the carpet. Social media will integrate the three ways of medical decision making. Social media assisted medical decision making will be the REAL FUTURE. Pharma and healthcare marketers need to start appreciating this point and participate by creating platforms for social conversations (that link to evidence based medicine, induction, and abdication or seduction in the same electronic platform). It is better to be a part of the change than get swept away by a social current.

Attention age demands attention!

The information age is said to be metamorphosing in to the ATTENTION AGE (where information users get customized messages or information). Information overload is catalyzing the process of the attention age. Social media is expected to play a major role in the attention age, as it helps in customization of information, based on user need or desire.

In the attention age, marketers will be more of facilitators of messaging rather than messaging or pushing messages. This is a powerful change. Marketers will act as conduits of messaging and providing fodder for conversations. They will guide conversations and social media activities. Marketers will provide platforms for social media sites to function. In the attention age, this is the only way for pharma & healthcare marketers to function.

Marketers cannot dominate messaging in the attention age. Marketers will only be modifying messaging, it is inevitable due to the DEMOCRATIZATION of knowledge and information.

Let us suppose, a farmer tending to his fields gets a headache, and pops in a headache relieving tablet. Out of ignorance, he takes the tablet on an empty stomach. This gives him a bad tummy ache. So he takes his internet enabled mobile goes to his twitter account and types in TOOK A HEADACHE RELIEVING TABLET BUT GOT A BAD TUMMY ACHE - HELP! In a short time, somebody replies HEY POP AN ANTACID, NEVER TAKE A PAINKILLER ON AN EMPTY STOMACH. This is the future of healthcare conversations, thanks to the social media.

Are we pharma and healthcare marketers ready for marketing in the ATTENTION AGE?!

Managers need to build businesses. This is what Peter Drucker said. If managers have to build a business in the present age, managers need to be savvy enough to operate in a media rich environment. Social media skills will be required to operate for marketing successes. There is a new future on the marketing horizon! Are healthcare and pharma managers ready for the byte!! Thanks for being a part of this conversation, please do scroll down to read all other blogposts (click on older posts, wherever required), kindly recommend my blog to your acquaintances.

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