As digital becomes a greater part of the pharma marketing mainstream, can the sector attract the digital marketing talent it needs to succeed in the space? That’s a question pondered this week by Rich Meyer on his World of DTC Marketing blog.
Rich, ex-Eli Lilly, was spurred to ask ‘Can pharma attract digital talent?’ by a report from the Online Marketing Institute, in partnership with ClickZ and Kelly Staffing. The ‘State of Digital Marketing Talent’ report is based on the results of a survey of nearly 750 organizations who have a need for digital marketing talent, either internally or via outsourcing.
It highlights a real skills gap in the digital marketing sector, outlining seven key problems:
• A gap between what employers value and what talent is available to them.
• Spotty levels of knowledge, skill level and experience at all levels of the organisation.
• Significant challenges in locating talent resulting in a lack of consistency in recruitment.
• Missed opportunities in existing training and skills acquisition efforts.
• Skill assessment plans lacking consistent implementation.
• A broad sense of entitlement among younger employees.
• A need for solid, measurable, and accurate digital talent education.
“This talent gap threatens to undermine organizational achievement and career satisfaction,” concludes the report. “However, those who commit to ramping up the proper talent development programs, with effective education, implementation of measurable standards, and focused training and hiring practices will ultimately win market share and achieve desired business outcomes.”
That’s a great argument for developing digital marketing talent. But wait a minute… isn’t digital marketing dead?
“Marketers need to stop thinking of digital marketing as a separate, special, discipline. Digital is a delivery mechanism not a discreet channel,” said Marc Pritchard — global brand building officer for P&G – last month.
Yes, but that doesn’t mean your organisation can ignore digital. Marketers never needed to know about colour separation to create an effective print sales kit, but they did need to know what a good print job looked like.
Bringing this back to pharma, Rich Meyer suggests a real digital marketing skill set for healthcare, key capabilities that pharma companies should be developing in their digital marketing teams that have less to do with digital and more to do with brand building.
He leads with the ability to understand the marketing insights from brand research and turn these into digital marketing tactics; a solid knowledge of analytics and digital platforms is a prerequisite. Looking inside the organisation, Rich says it is important for digital marketers to be able to sell digital strategy to key members of the brand team to secure resources; programming skills are way less important than communications skills for that job. He also highlights the ability to work with outside agencies to make sure they stay ‘on message’ and develop digital initiatives that drive brand objectives and meet audience needs, and adds understanding of FDA marketing guidelines for good measure.
Those are all key pharma marketing skills, irrespective of the channel. There’s no question that pharma companies need access to specialist digital talent, from Chief Content Officers to Community Managers, Data ‘Whisperers’ to Project Managers , and maybe even Wikipedians. But channelling digital marketing efforts through experts is not the answer — pharma companies needs all of their marketing people to embrace digital as a key part of a multiplatform approach to marketing.
Back in 2011, an article in McKinsey Quarterly declared “We’re all marketers now”with the subhead: Engaging customers today requires commitment from the entire company — and a redefined marketing organization.
More than two years on and the marketing profession still has digital talent gaps at every level of the organization. The answer is not to hire in a couple of digital natives to take on your Twitter account. It’s about developing a broad understanding of digital throughout the organisation and using digital tools and tactics to engage customers wherever they are.
Rich Meyer closes his blog post on a point more depressing than pharma’s inability to attract fresh digital talent. He says that over the last five years he has seen a lot of very talented digital marketing people leave pharma, “because they were tired of trying to get their voices heard.”
Not training general marketers to develop digital skills is wasteful; not hiring in digital marketing talent is short-sighted; chasing away digital expertise through lack of support seems almost suicidal.