What Would it Take to Make a Great Pharma YouTube Channel?

As an industry, Pharma has not done a good job on YouTube.  Most of the channels have malnourished content and appear as if they were an untended garden.  Other industries have gone to great lengths to connect with their consumers and it is perhaps counterintuitive that the pharmaceutical and medical products industry which spends so much on Direct-to-Consumer advertising has virtually ignored YouTube.

That is not to say that DTC ads are appropriate for YouTube, far from it.  But YouTube has become a ubiquitous part of communications today.  According to statistics reported by ViralBlog, YouTube now exceeds 2 billion viewings per day and is uploading 24 hours of video every minute.  More video is now uploaded in 60 days than was produced by all three major U.S. broadcast networks in 60 years.  In short, YouTube has a capacity to both entertain, educate and motivate.  There are a host of possibilities:

  • Clinical Trials – I have long been an advocate for using YouTube to recruit for clinical trials, and a few pharmas have begun YouTube channels exclusive to that purpose.
  • REMS – FDA seems to think people really read MedGuides.  Ok, maybe.  But a consumer friendly video educating a health care professional or patients about a specific concern or issue with a medical product, or a how-to-use correctly theme, would be additional support that would likely be quite effective.
  • Philanthropy and Global Development – Video is also a great medium for demonstrating the impact of corporate philanthropy – a story that has long gone largely unspoken, and invites potential partnerships with global health and development third parties.  That could be both interesting and provide the industry with a much needed image bump.
  • Recruitment – And, as many companies have Twitter feeds that are exclusive to jobs (here is a link to the EyeonFDA compilation of pharma job twitter feeds) why not post job videos?
  • Crisis Communications – And, during a crisis, an active YouTube presence can be a very important tool for getting out your side of the story.  Not so much if you don’t have a channel, or have one that no one subscribes to.  As mentioned in last week’s posting of a few observations on the nature of social media and industry, interests and communications are becoming much more granular.  Specific people are interested in specific content.

There are exceptions, but to date, industry content has been pretty anemic.  And the channels themselves appear unsupported.  For nearly all current pharma YouTube efforts, there has been a “if you build it, they will come” mentality when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  A vibrant YouTube channel requires coordinated communications support.  That said, it isn’t hard.

  1. Say What People Want to Hear, Not What You Want to Say - Many in pharma YouTube seem to be intent on pushing out their message their way.  Long, boring statements from CEOs or others in the company that tell your story aren’t necessarily as engaging as you may think.  Like television, people watch stuff that is interesting to them, not you.
  2. Research – What is your target audience and why?  Once you have identified them, ask them what would be useful – what would be helpful? Make content accordingly.
  3. Communications Support - Don’t start a channel and keep it a secret.  Put the link on the landing site of your Web page.  Put it in employee emails.  When you put in significant video, do a social media release on it.  Do some online editorial outreach.  Tweet about the video and drive traffic.  Promote.  Don’t just sit there.
  4. Make it User Friendly – Some of the channels actually have a LOT of content.  But it is of such a varied nature, that it is hard to find what you want.  If you are only going to have one channel, make sure you have playlists.  If you go to the EyeonFDA YouTube channel,  you will see a categorical organization of video to the right.  Organize your material.

YouTube offers a rich potential to the savvy communicator.  Other industries have reach out to consumers very creatively through the use of video.  It can be done.

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