Holmes Report 05 Feb 2011 // 12:00AM GMT
The new Pfizer was born on Friday, October 16, 2009 with the close of the $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, the year’s largest corporate acquisition. The real work to integrate the businesses of former competitors into the world’s largest biopharmaceutical company had just begun.
For corporate communicators, the challenge was equally daunting. During a period when the healthcare industry was evolving and pharmaceutical companies were under intense pressure from all quarters, Pfizer needed to communicate that this latest acquisition was putting it on track to succeed by repositioning and strengthening the Pfizer corporate brand, enhancing the company’s reputation, and, importantly, driving its global business.
In order to succeed, Pfizer recognized that it had to abandon the traditional approach to communications it had been following for years by adopting new channels and ways of telling its story to stakeholders. At a time when the pharmaceutical industry lagged far behind others in the use of social media, Pfizer took a calculated risk by establishing a bold social media presence that has paid off.
Today -- having amassed a series of firsts, thousands of fans and followers across the world, and the #1 Twitter feed and Facebook page in the biopharmaceutical industry -- Pfizer has become the industry’s social media leader.
While there was recognition that Pfizer was failing to take advantage of key social media channels for delivering its messages, there was nonetheless concern within the company that doing so could have consequences. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was providing little guidance about the use of social media to the highly-regulated pharmaceutical industry, leaving Pfizer leadership reluctant to embrace social media for fear of running afoul of FDA regulations on the advertising and promotion of prescription drugs. Pfizer communications discussed its research and recommendations with senior leaders, legal and other internal and external colleagues, ultimately resolving the company’s concerns and receiving a green light to move forward.
Importantly, Pfizer recognized that moving forward meant addressing the issue of social media both internally and externally. With the acquisition also came the challenge of uniting employees from two unique cultures around a common purpose and mission, an accomplishment that was critical for the success of the new Pfizer.
So in addition to challenges such as recasting the Pfizer.com home page and establishing an official presence on channels such as Facebook and Twitter, it was necessary for Pfizer to address the use of social media by Pfizer employees. This came to include everything from the creation of internal channels of communication such as corporate blogs and message boards, to guidelines about how Pfizer employees would appropriately engage in conversations about the company on their personal blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
Having received a green light on engaging social media to help brand and position the company, Pfizer laid the groundwork for a social media strategy with extensive research. The research -- including active listening, web analytics, surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews -- provided insights about the expectations of stakeholders inside and outside the company and how they wanted to interact with Pfizer.
These insights informed Pfizer’s Social Media Roadmap, which was developed to guide the creation of an official presence for Pfizer in online channels. The Roadmap established three commitments for Pfizer’s presence in social media: (1) Listening to people inside and outside the company to understand their expectations of Pfizer and how they want to interact with the Pfizer brand; (2) Sharing, through conversations and collaborations, to grow Pfizer’s social media expertise, share best practices, align strategies, and leverage good work and assets already in place; and (3) Engaging in conversations with internal and stakeholders directly.
Pfizer also partnered with social media experts to evaluate and establish an official brand presence in social spaces and identify compelling content to engage stakeholders. The objectives were clear:
Increasing Pfizer’s share of voice and influence online to
Support and strengthen the Pfizer corporate brand;
Enhance Pfizer’s reputation as a healthcare industry and overall corporate leader; and
Drive Pfizer’s business
Becoming the leading online presence in the pharmaceutical industry
The heart of Pfizer’s strategic approach was ensuring that social media sites would always have fresh, relevant, accurate and engaging Pfizer content. To accomplish that, Pfizer implemented a strategy aimed at maximizing the use of approved content, establishing new channels for engagement, and increasing the shareability of content.
This led to the creation of a content syndication network to identify and leverage approved content across multiple social media channels, as well as development of Pfizer.com and YouTube templates that were shared with country affiliates in order to drive Pfizer social media content globally.
Internally, Pfizer created new employee channels, including the only pharmaceutical-company sponsored blog for Pfizer scientists, Think Science Now, on Pfizer.com; a personalized intranet page for employees; and a colleague message board.
Pfizer also made content easier for visitors to share through Facebook, RSS etc. Many of the blog postings from Think Science Now appear on Pfizer’s Facebook page, for instance.
Redesigned company home page and branding space on Pfizer.com, aligning design, look and feel with corporate brand and messaging. Site features dynamic branding with rotating stories, more robust video capability, four ways to surface content, new visual system elements and new content -- including a Health & Wellness section containing original, Pfizer-created and third-party content, since research indicates that 80% of searches are for health information.
Made Pfizer.com content more sharable/portable by visitors via Facebook, Slideshare, RSS, and other means.
Expanded Pfizer’s social media presence:
Launched a Facebook page and Twitter feed that are now pharmaceutical industry leaders
Redesigned the company’s YouTube channel with cleaner design and better categorization
Created a SlideShare branded channel for sharing content such as presentations, videos and blog posts
Made patient safety a priority by providing a “How to Report an Adverse Event” link on all corporate social channels so users can report directly to the company
Established a proactive blogger engagement strategy, including communications directed to bloggers, as well as meetings and special programs at company locations.
Developed Pfizer Social Media Policy, a global corporate policy that provides guidance and clarity on the appropriate use of social media, and social networking web sites and tools, both internally and externally.
Established Global Webmaster Network involving 49 Pfizer country affiliates, with quarterly meetings to share best practices and align approaches.
Created Social Media Leadership team of colleagues who guide company decisions about social media.
Hosted Social Media Webinars with colleagues from across the company to share case studies, best practices and experiences with social media in various markets around the world.
Relaunched Pfizer World intranet site to introduce new employee channels -- Among them are MyWorld, a personalized intranet page to increase employee engagement, enable information sharing and facilitate collaboration; and a colleague message board called Moving Pfizer Forward to encourage candid discussion about company issues and employee engagement.
Created and shared Pfizer.com and YouTube templates with country affiliates to drive Pfizer social media content globally
Built a content syndication network so one piece of news can now reach stakeholders via multiple social media channels, including Twitter, Linked in, forums, blogs, YouTube, etc.
Summary of results
Social Media Leadership:
Pfizer’s Twitter page leapfrogged competitors to become the most followed pharmaceutical Twitter account with +11,000 followers, enabling Pfizer to capture the #1 spot on InventorSpots’ “Top 10 Drug Companies in Social Media.” Daily Twitter mentions average 234. Site is now ranked 289th in NYC, up from 338th, as tracked by Twitterholic.
Pfizer has more Facebook fans (+17,000) than any other pharmaceutical company, with an average of +8,000 people active on Facebook page each month. 61% of Pfizer’s Facebook followers are between 24-54 years of age.
Pfizer had the highest number of iTune podcasts on average compared to competitors
Leading Share of Voice: Pfizer led the pharmaceutical industry with a 40.5% share of voice.
Multiple Social Media “Firsts”:
First company in a regulated industry to launch a SlideShare branded channel
First to launch what is still the pharmaceutical industry’s only scientist blog, Think Science Now
First and only pharmaceutical company to create a transparent and open employee blog, Moving Pfizer Forward
Exceeded Objectives: Pfizer exceeded its goals in a number of categories, including Facebook, Google, SlideShare, unique and total home page visits, and site rank.
Expanded Global Reach: Less than a quarter of Pfizer’s Facebook fans are located in the U.S.; Egypt and Singapore are among top non-U.S. locations for Pfizer Facebook fans.
Engaged Employees: Page views of Moving Pfizer Forward have tripled since 2009, reflecting the value of this tool for colleagues as the merged organization continues to evolve. Issues discussed range from company- and business-related topics – such as healthcare reform – to more personal matters, such as the availability of local childcare facilities.
Think Science Now (science.pfizer.com)