Washington is crawling. I mean slow. It is the slowest news week of the year here. Everyone is gone. So you may have noticed that I’ve taken the opportunity to explore digital communications more deeply. The slowness is one reason, but the other is that over the summer, there have been significant forays into digital media, particularly YouTube. That is why again this week instead of a weekly roundup (of essentially no news – FDA hasn’t put out a press release since August 15 when it warned consumers against eating certain kinds of mussels) I am going to look at a new YouTube channel opened by a pharmaceutical company.
I owe an apology – this one was started back in June and escaped my notice, and looking at the number of subscribers, has escaped everyone’s notice. I didn’t expect Lilly to enter this space so early, given the fact that they still send out their press release updates by email and not RSS Feed like most large pharmaceutical companies. (That is like using the U.S. Postal Service snail mail instead of email.) But, what they have done is brilliant in notion, if not execution.
Lilly has started a disease-specific channel to appeal on diabetes called LillyDiabetes. This is frankly a great idea and exactly the kind of thing I’ve been preaching here. If you want to see them, go to LillyDiabetes, or join me on the Eye on FDA channel, where I’ve placed them into a special Diabetes Playlist.
But opening a channel is not enough. The Lilly channel only has 3 subscribers, I became the 4th this morning, even though it has been open for 8 weeks. I opened the Eye on FDA YouTube channel on Tuesday and have 16 and there have been 233 channel viewings and 133 video viewings. By comparison, the LillyDiabetes channel has had only 43 viewings and 53 vids viewed. All I have so far done is mention the channel here and on my Twitter account. But there is far more to effective promotion.
Bear in mind, YouTube is going to only grow further in its significance and influence and ability to reach disease-specific populations with key messages about prevention and treatment. Right now, a pharma detractor or conspiracy theorist can post a video making outlandish claims about a product and get tens of thousands of hits in a week. Pharma has to master this communications channel and promotion techniques as well. Believe me, Twitter and YouTube are going to be key tools in future crisis communications efforts. I already use them regularly in my own work in that space.
If you are going to start a YouTube channel (and you should before your competitors do), simply opening it does not do enough to attract viewers. That is like getting a cable channel and then not letting anyone know that it is there until they happened to channel hop onto it. Here are just a few things you need to do:
- Issue an Web News Release (WNR) about the launch of the channel. If you don’t know what a WNR is, call me.
- Do some online editorial outreach (OEO) to key bloggers in this space to let them know of the launch and offer interviews with those behind it in print or podcast form regarding the launch, the objectives and the makeup of the channel. If you don’t know how to do OEO, call me.
- Get a linkage strategy going. Consider creating a widget with a link to your channel for putting up on key sites – like Lilly should have a Diabetes Channel Widget made up that could go onto the sites of large diabetes organizations and places where people with diabetes or at risk go for information, that would link them to the vids. If you don’t know how to do a linkage strategy or make a widget, call me.
- Consider allowing partners to post their vids on your channel. Are you going to be a C-Span, where you just show your own vids – or a Bravo – a channel that buys programming and puts it on their channel? By combining partners, you combine appeal and following of others to your own cache. Of Lilly’s 28 vids, most of them are vids produced by other sites. Perhaps you lose control over message, but you allow consumers/patients choice and variety.
- Put together an editorial calendar to let us know what’s coming, kind of like a TV Guide, so we can look forward to it and promote it ahead of time.
- Mention the channel on your blog, if you have one, like Johnson & Johnson’s blog – JNJBTW.
- Put it on your Web site (duh) prominently.
- Open a Twitter account (see my paper on New Media and Public Affairs). Twitter about your YouTube channel. (My twitter account is followed by several media outlets and even some government outlets).
- And oh, if you don’t know how to set up an RSS Feed for your press releases – yes, call me!
- And oh yeah, send out a press release.
In other words, putting together a YouTube channel is not exactly a "if you build it they will come" proposition. Get busy, you are all light years behind. And if your MedReg folks are concerned, by all means CALL ME! I have a whole slide show for them.