By Martin Webb, Senior PR Officer at Medilink Yorkshire & Humber
Over the last couple for years, and especially in the last 12 months, we’ve seen a real sea-change in the way our members are looking to communicate with their audience(s).
Ongoing and rapid advancements in technology have been a dictating force in this changing behaviour in the world of communications. Just recently for example, the third generation iPad was launched. Trying to imagine what the likes of Apple might be launching in ten years is very exciting (and slightly overwhelming!)
Because of this fundamental shift in the way we communicate, we’re now well past the point of assuming social media is just for people talking about ‘what they had for breakfast’.
People now live their entire lives through information that is at their fingertips. While this can be an intimidating thought, it’s also very empowering – the plurality of online information determines an innate democracy.
That availability of information is often discussed, understandably, in quite a nervous way by those operating in the corporate arena: ‘What if people are saying negative things about me?’, ‘What if we say something wrong?’, ‘But we haven’t got control...’. These questions and phrases now have so many strong counter arguments, that they are becoming more invalid by the day (or tweet, or post, or blog, or video ...).
In the world of healthcare, the volume of information that is now available to patients and carers has presented a completely new audience for manufacturers, distributors, academics and clinicians.
Where previously conversations between companies and individuals from the healthcare sector would have been relatively insular, patients now have more opportunity to choose which medical treatments are available to them – simply because they are more informed (although not always well-informed!) through the internet, and increasingly, social media. This is the age of ‘Patient Power’.
This means that manufacturers and distributors have had to widen their focus in terms of who they distribute information to – and this is no bad thing. It just means an adjustment in approach. If the right adjustments are made, there is in fact a huge opportunity for manufacturers and distributors of quality products to grow their market share, even in these challenging economic times.
Patients now have the knowledge to say to their GP or surgeon: “I’ve read up on my operation, and I would like X product, because I know it’s statistically less likely to X.” This is hugely powerful.
This influence means that distributors/manufacturers should be opening themselves up to the patient, providing them with relevant information and believing in the quality of their products. Peer advocacy is as powerful a tool as any in terms of marketing or PR, so by communicating information about a product and letting the quality of that product (and its end-users) talking, there is vast potential for yielding positive influence and achieving actual quantifiable results.
Whether it’s sending regular tweets using relevant hashtags for a specific area, engaging with influential bloggers who have achieved huge readerships on a certain topic or creating Facebook groups to garner qualitative feedback from patients, there are lots of ways to achieve this level of social interaction.
So enough words from me, here is a powerful video to sum just how important ‘patient power’ and social media already is. When you’ve watched it, ask yourself this: “If social media barely existed five years ago – what will the scene look like in another five years?” Time to get on board.