If you are sick of hearing the word “Storytelling”; some fundamentals, examples, and some advice for Life Science clients

By December 15, 2013Uncategorized

If you a literary type, you'll know that many literary experts declare that in all humankind, there are only 12 true stories arcs. 

But this is business. And one trend that is shouting is the movement to humanize businesses, tear down the walls. Story-telling has been one strategy that has played a big part in this movement. 

But there is storytelling and there's storytelling. And for all the chatter and cow towing I hear from my fellow marketers I keep thinking, "Do they know what they are talking about?" After all, we all love a good story, but very few of us can actually tell one. We as a group have diluted this powerful strategy/concept to a weaker self. There are real, crafted, smart, sequential, stories told by Brands in many categories. Pharma/Life Science holds perhaps the richest repository of stories — the story of drug discovery and scientific inspiration, of patients who suffer, who strive and make more of their lives.  Yes, you can always fall back on Nike or Jeep or some consumer Brand with a great agency, but we need to bring the richness of storytelling to our industry — the sheer impact of the kind of human connection this approach can create can change the course of people's lives, whether it helps them to understand a diagnosis or to stay compliant. 

To make this post useful, I will provide some examples of good Brand storytelling, a 7-step inforgraphic I think is invaluable, and some helpful tips on how operationalize it within your company. 

First, let's look at the Content Marketing Association infographic on the 7-steps to the Perfect Story. I found it on Technology and Mobile Learning site (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/11/a-wonderful-visual-outlining-7-steps-of.html)

  Seven-steps to the perfect storyBest advice here is to folow the categories, they are smart and valid. Some of the detailed content can be a bit hyperbolic! 

A Pharma site for HAE (Hereditary Angioedema) is worth looking at. I know unbranded sites can get away with a lot more, but this is a sad story of "Moments Missed" and the creative and UX tell a story, though mostly visually.  http://www.momentsmissed.com/indexB.html?gclid=COWvs5vlsLsCFYtQOgod3AYAig

Missing Moments HAE h. page

Kudos to Dudnyk Advertising; they let strong photography do its work and with minimal content tell their tale. 

Another Pharma example, this time Branded and very well done, is: http://www.animas.com/  This insulin pump site is a great example of pulling down the wall between Brand and patient and bringing the two together; the Community area, three blogs, a "Tell Your Story" and other features make this a well-constructed example of how many Pharma Brands can activate their Advocates to generate content and create that extra credibility they need. It shouts authenticity which for a product transforms to credibility, it shouts: a product which believes it can change lives. 

Animas h.page

Lantus, a 500-pound guerilla budget-wise, has the http://diabetes.sanofi.us/ which is a fantastic example of how to unify many disparate efforts into one digital experience that says: we're committed. The UX experience needs work, but the home page experience is one of the best in the entire industry.

DX Exp h.page

A B2B, HCP-to-Manufacturer application of this strategy is found on  http://www.amgenbiotech.com/index.jsp?WT.srch=1  The overarching strategy was the need to communicate that Amgen really was the world's leading innovator in biologic manufacturing. The art of science is explained by being the Truthteller – being transparent and taking the camera inside this incredibly complex Amgen biologics plant and giving you a 360 degree tour, Google-style.

Biotech by Amgen home page


The operational part of Storytelling for a Pharma Company or Brand could be approached this way:

  1. Social Media listening: find your Advocates and meet with them in person, develop a relationship, see if they want to be a part of an extended Brand Team.
  2. Work with your MLR on the guidelines for what can and cannot be said, but also the nuances like linking out to a blog or a curated piece of content.
  3. Think holistically about your Brand Experience; this is the future emerging now, where the content, the users’ interaction with that content, and the ability to keep the content fresh, is why User Experience and how it impacts everything is the next part of Pharma’s move to consumerism.
  4. This is digitally-centered, but can be applied to all channels. 
  5. Top down leadership, and bottom-up empowerment: the bosses have to be behind the idea that Storytelling is a powerful strategy that can differentiate your Brand. But also empower staff to offer up their own stories and that of the wider organization, to tap into the personal passions of those who have helped create and launch the Brand.

Storytelling does not work for every Brand. There are many ways to go about it and integrate it into your marketing. You can even add it to your KPI’s! As you weigh the pluses and minuses of such a strategy, do not forget that we are now in a world where “connecting” is a collision of personal, professional, technology, and more…and it is at the very core of human interaction and consumer-centric trends; and last, Storytelling in health is happening in a 1000 moments as I write; between patients and doctors, caregivers and loved one’s, in pharmacies, doctor waiting rooms, and on and on…