PharmExec Blog

One to Watch: Q&A with Paul Dyer

Paul DyerPaul Dyer, eMedia Director, WeissComm Group (WCG), is already on his way to the top not only on PR News’ 15 to watch list, but also as an emerging leader in the online healthcare landscape.

At 26, Paul Dyer has a long list of accolades that most young professionals his age only dream about. As eMedia Director at WeissComm Group (WCG), Dyer oversees social and new media programming for the agency’s health and consumer brands as well as healthcare clients. Some of his current and former clients have included Virgin Megastore, IBM, Elan Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, and Actelion.

This year the Austin, Texas-based Dyer developed and launched a social media monitoring and analytics program for Pfizer’s entire primary care portfolio. Pharm Exec was excited to get the scoop about it, and pick his brain for thoughts about pharma on the social media scene.

Pharm Exec: In your opinion, is pharma “getting” social media?

PD: A lot of social media pundits would say pharma is totally missing the boat. However, that view is based on the assumption that “getting” social media requires full blown adoption and running 100 mph. Social media has changed online communications so significantly, so rapidly, the attitude has become that if you aren’t moving just as quickly, you’re not “getting” it. It is true that pharma is behind other industries in terms of adoption of social media. However, there is an argument to be made that cautious, strategic entry is the wise approach for any industry. That is what pharma is doing right now.

Pharm Exec:
Currently, what trends do you see happening in this space and which ones are on the horizon?

PD: There are a lot of important trends online. The most important trend we are all living is that consumers are looking to their peers as they make decisions. This includes health and treatment decisions. For most industries, pharma included, this heralds an exciting new marketing opportunity. For pharma, this also introduces serious risks. The key point is that consumers will only continue to place increasing trust in their peers online. How pharma reacts to and embraces this trend will be an important factor in Communications in the future, and may play a role in shaping policy as well.

The most significant trend on the horizon is mobile. Mobile devices are increasingly effective communication tools and technology is increasingly integrated into our lives on the go. Patients are now leveraging mobile applications from companies like Walgreens to fill their prescriptions and find information while they stand in a pharmacy. In the next few years we will see a shift that brings the full experience of the web out of our offices and homes and into our pockets.

Pharm Exec: Tell me about the program you launched for Pfizer’s primary care portfolio.

PD: Without mentioning specific clients, we are currently operating social media “listening” programs for almost two dozen pharma brands. These programs capture online conversations between patients, caregivers, and in some cases, physicians. They allow us to better understand important details about how patients live with specific conditions and what needs they have that pharma can support. In some cases, pharma has been afraid of listening. In others, forward thinking companies understand that these conversations are taking place whether we listen to them or not. Not just from a marketing perspective, but also from the perspective of better understanding how we can help our patients, listening to conversations in social media is an important first step.

Pharm Exec: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date, either professionally or personally?

PD: I would have to say my biggest accomplishment to date was convincing my very first client to run a social media campaign. It was almost five years ago now. Thinking back, it was a ludicrous proposition. Here I was, some kid from LA claiming to be a consultant, sitting with the heads of marketing at a global entertainment retailer in New York, and telling them social media was going to be the next big thing. Equally ludicrous was the idea that I should be the guy to run the campaign. But they signed on it. That campaign was one of my most successful ever—right at the forefront of when consumers were starting to accept companies being involved in social media, and before a lot of social media tactics had become common. The retailer reported increased sales in every segment that Quarter, including CD sales, even while competitors were closing their doors down the street. The social media campaign was credited with their increase in sales. That’s really the campaign that launched my career.

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