When Will We Be Convinced eDetailing Works? Part 2: Principles for Producing Engaging Digital Content

This blog was co-authored by: Antonio Pesqueira, Manager Life Sciences; Antonio Pregueiro, VP Life Sciences Commercial Excellence EU; and Sara Carvalho, Senior Associate Consultant. A special thanks to all of them for their input on this piece. 

Digitalization is spreading at a remarkable pace. But in the life sciences, leveraging digital alternatives to enrich customer engagement has a long way to go. eDetailing is an oft-cited example of digital promotion, carrying the promise of transforming commercial and medical strategies in the pharma and biotech markets. In an ealier post, we presented some of the reasons behind the resistance to eDetailing. We also provided key steps for a successful eDetailing rollout, including highlighting potential drivers of adoption in your organization. Although essential, flawless technical implementation and effective change management are not enough to ensure the commercial success of eDetailing. When it comes to maximizing the impact of eDetailing, content is (still) king.

For reps, eDetailing content needs to be simple to navigate and flexible to customize messages and interactions, per customer needs and expectations. At the same time, physicians expect to be offered topics of their interest, containing relevant and timely information, as well as being able to access it in multiple ways. In a 2016 study, two-thirds of physicians complained that content was not customized to their practices and patients. With today’s tools and technologies, this is unacceptable. This post addresses how to create and manage great digital content. And if you succeed there, most of the heavy lifting is finished!

HCPs and Pharmaceutical Reps: Creating Engaging Content

eDetailing is at the core of digital promotion: it links the strategic intent of commercial campaigns and activities designed by brand leads to the day-to-day execution from the sales reps in the field. The critical aspect of this link is “engaging content.” So what makes content engaging?First, content must show relevance. In other words, it should cover topics the physician actually cares about. This may be the latest scientific publication, a visual representation of existing clinical data, or topics de jour that are commonly discussed by the physician’s peers and other experts. Given the plethora of information out there, it is key to carefully select and compile it into an electronic detail aid and other channels such as a leaflet or a brochure. After all, time and focus are luxuries for most physicians and trying to pack too much content into the same detail can be overwhelming and/or dilute relevance and impact.

Content should also be interactive, giving the physician some level of control over the type of content they get to see, how they navigate it, as well as generating live analyses and answers. There are several types of interactive elements available for eDetail aids, such as carousels with different patient profiles, or zippers the physician can use to specify features of a patient population (e.g., age, weight, genotype) before seeing the results of a treatment for that specific type of patient.

Content also needs to be visually attractive. Explaining a mechanism of action, showing clinical results, or highlighting a disease-relevant biologic pathway can all be accomplished faster and more accurately, not to mention more attractively, when the information is presented in video format or digitally animated. Text or static visuals require processing, interpretation, and often lack visual appeal: for the audience, the communication demands more time and energy and the experience is far less enjoyable.

Finally, engaging content must go beyond a physician’s desires. Engaging content offers a sales rep the opportunity to collect information about a customer, supporting stronger planning and execution of future interactions. By generating a clear log of the areas customers want to focus on, the choices made by a physician during an interaction provide the most honest and direct feedback to marketing. Moreover, it provides sales reps “hooks” for future interactions: added value and follow-ups that provide additional information — via email, participation in company initiatives, and so on.  

Engaging a physician means taking them on a continuous journey with the company’s brand or product, with each contact, from face-to-face visits to emails, generating genuine interest and a feeling of excitement about the next interaction or content update. When you engage a physician on a journey, you build up their understanding of the product, increase their willingness to prescribe, and drive their desire to communicate their successes. When they truly feel like they are responsible for building that journey, they will become advocates for the brand.

DAM: 7 Principles

As with other promotional assets, the management of eDetailing content includes developing creative concepts, testing visuals and messages, as well as several rounds of deploying, adjusting, and archiving.

To keep digital content relevant and up-to-date, especially if you don’t have an endless supply of resources, a Digital Asset Management (DAM) process needs to be created, implemented, and adhered to. From our experience, we recommend a DAM process that follows these principles:

Principle 1, Digital assets must be aligned with strategy. Digital assets can be versatile and appealing. But like any other form of content, they need to be designed in accordance with the brand strategy. The content should be updated with new results or features soon after they’re available and in accordance with the planned evolution of the brand positioning: the evolving messaging and focus of the commercial team. Digital content can be fantastic, but like all other promotional tools, it is only effective if it’s part of a concerted approach to market a brand.

Principle 2, Responsibilities for delivering content need to be clear and assigned to individuals. Roles, tasks, and ownership of assets, including data, should be well defined, along with timelines, to ensure content can be delivered, but also that it can be reviewed for consistency throughout the development process. Vendor selection is key — at both global and local levels. Proper governance is particularly essential to harmonize delivering of assets across departments and countries. We recommend a central program management role be set up within the brand team to oversee and coordinate, particularly when it comes to the approval of content for different assets.

Principle 3, Content and form are inseparable. We have already discussed some aspects of what makes content engaging. But we need to re-emphasize here that how that content is communicated and presented to a customer is of high importance. Once content is designed, it should be adapted and optimized for every channel or vehicle. PowerPoint or PDF versions of existing detail aids or publications do little more than save trees (which is a good thing). Instead, from the get-go, think of the form of delivery when you are designing your customer experience. If physicians complain they can’t attend a congress or conference, why not supply them with summary articles? And if you want to make it more appealing, why not have one of their colleagues discuss it in a video interview? You can also convince them your content is a useful source when you teach them something new. Why not start the discussion about a disease with fresh statistics about the patient population and how it’s trending? Physicians know how to recognize symptoms and treat patients, but they may not know the disease burden. Sharing something like this promotes the importance of their work, and it can help you shift the discussion to your products. It’s a great opportunity for a physician to see your material, where you naturally also discuss how your product offers a solution.

Principle 4, Digital assets should be as global as the brand and as local as your customers. In pharma marketing, the global versus local discussion is often a problem because of widely different perspectives. However, one of the great advantages of creating digital assets is the ease with which they can be repurposed or adjusted to local requirements. Keep your global messages and positioning since they’re closely tied to the product profile and the data that supports it. But don’t be afraid to allow the creative concept — which hardly ever gets every country’s vote in the European Union — to be localized. However, it’s important to make sure the digital assets you develop contain the forethought to be created in the right format so that the flow, language, and even how charts are drawn can easily be adjusted, while the data and core claims adhere to the global brand. Of course, content needs to be appealing to physicians, not to mention adjusted to comply with local regulations. But if a global framework is well executed, it should be easy and cheap to proceed with transcreation.

Principle 5, Design, review, test, repeat. No matter how creative you get and how many internal opinions you consult, digital assets need to serve one purpose: engage external stakeholders. They are not just prescribers. They include other healthcare professionals, such as nurses and pharmacists, hospital managers, budget holders, and even patients. So, just like you should try to involve internal functions (e.g., regulatory, compliance, sales, marketing, and medical) in the design, you should also include different external stakeholders in testing the content. Finally, the great advantage of digital content is the speed with which it can be updated. Published content is an opportunity to test its effectiveness, repeat cycles of review and if needed, re-design it. We’ll address this in a future post.

Principle 6, Set your digital assets free. After testing and approval, your digital content needs to be published. What that ultimately looks like is, of course, channel dependent. But once the content is ready, your primary focus is to make sure you get it in front of as many customers as possible. Of course, you want to select who, when, and how often; but ultimately, there’s little to lose by maximizing its circulation.

Principle 7, Lifecycle management. No matter how great a digital asset is, it will become outdated, and maybe even obsolete, just like any flyer or detail aid you created for a previous campaign. But the internet remembers it all, and the last thing you want is old content diverting attention from fresh content. Always maintain a clean (and clear) digital presence: make sure to archive and decommission old content. When to do this — regulatory demands aside — falls on marketing. Marketers also need to make sure to communicate the evolution of content and branding to the sales team prior to major changes to guarantee a smooth transition to the next campaign.

In Summary

Content should be an engaging experience for all stakeholders — and most importantly, a learning experience. Patient cases, interactive elements, and digital storytelling will help you achieve these goals. For content to remain engaging, it must be relevant. That also means it must evolve, as the industry’s knowledge evolves. Both physicians and reps should find value in the interaction and its content.

A Digital Asset Management process should account for those 7 principles. In an upcoming post, we’ll discuss what you can learn from eDetailing activities and results.


Highpoint has vast experience in CRM and CLM implementation. If you would like to learn more about digital content or commercial excellence, please contact Antonio Pregueiro, VP Commercial Excellence Practice.