Safe & Effective Community Management: A Look At Healthcare Social Media Success

A Q&A with Gratia Maley.

Gratia is a Digital Account Manager at Pascale Communications, a healthcare communications agency, where she specializes in FDA-compliant community management, social media strategy, and content development, and is a Facebook Certified Media Planning Professional. Gratia was instrumental in building Pasacle’s FDA-recognized community management practice and developing adverse event reporting protocols that have been used to educate pharmaceutical and medical device legal teams on how to safely and effectively manage social media engagement and live commenting. She is passionate about the positive benefits realized by both her clients and their audience through good community management.

Q: What are the building blocks of a solid community management program?

A: Pascale’s proving ground was when we were tasked with building a community management system for one of the first branded pharmaceuticals to enable social media commenting. This was at the infancy of social media advertising for pharmaceuticals, with a client that was very sensitive and cautious about social media and the potential pitfalls of allowing comments.

When we built our program we foundationally knew that managing our client’s customers’ comments required the following fundamentals:

● Near-immediate response

● Bulletproof protocols

● Have client-approved response and reporting protocols in place to give the client a sense of security that their social media channels are being moderated in a consistent and compliant manner

● Specific to the social media channel

● Authentic voice and tone

Q: How do you develop a protocol for a client?

A: We start by thoroughly researching the client’s company, products, and brand. We then brainstorm potential questions that users might ask and craft response options that are authentic, informative, and align with the brand voice and messaging. Next, we share these with the client for any necessary legal, compliance, or regulatory approval.

Q: What are the most sensitive aspects of a protocol?

A: For our FDA-regulated clients, adverse event (AE) reporting is the singularly most important part of community management. It is necessary to have absolutely ironclad FDA-compliant response and reporting protocols in place to meet the FDA’s strict reporting guidelines. AE reporting procedures and protocols need to be approved by the client’s medical, legal, regulatory committees. Reportable events cover all reports of medical complaints, incidents, lack of effect, adverse events, off-label use, misuse, abuse, overdose, use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, medication error, or occupational exposure reported to and regarding the use of any Allergan product. developing a very clear adverse event reporting protocol is of utmost importance.

Q: Walk me through what happens when a user has an adverse event or product complaint?

A: When an adverse event or product complaint is received, the client-approved Adverse Event Reporting Protocol is triggered and the event is reported following FDA-required guidelines. A message is sent to the user asking them to call or email a client-designated contact to share additional details directly with a company representative.

Q: Adverse events must be a very serious part of community management.

A: Yes, adverse events, and the strict FDA reporting guidelines surrounding them, are often cited as a main reason why pharmaceutical manufacturers are reluctant to have comment capabilities enabled. With good community management and the right processes in place, this does not need to be something to be feared. It can be completely manageable.

Q: How are non-adverse event comments handled?

A: We believe it is imperative to respond to every user comment or direct message – positive, negative, and anywhere in between. Effective and authentic community management provides a unique opportunity to directly communicate with customers in real-time. Specific information can be provided to consumers to address their exact concerns, ultimately helping them and solving the problem whenever possible. For example, let’s say a user is upset about the cost of a drug. We can connect them to cost savings programs or additional resources that can help alleviate those concerns. By using direct messages we can provide links in real-time and provide users with valuable information. Ultimately, most unhappy customers want to hear and have their complaints validated. Very often, once a disgruntled user feels heard, they ultimately have a better feeling about the product and company.

Q: Describe the impact community management has on a brand?

A: Effective community management with timely, accurate, and thoughtful answers to even the most general questions and comments, communicates valuable information to anyone who happens to be scrolling through that social media channel. You aren’t just communicating with that one commenter, you are sharing a message that will be seen by a much broader audience.

Q: How frequently do you monitor clients’ channels, and what are Pascale’s response times?

A: Our clients’ social media channels are monitored 24/7, 365 days a year. We guarantee that we will respond within 2 hours—although it is typically much faster. After hours, we monitor feeds late in the evening and again first thing in the morning. When an adverse event is reported, we ensure it is passed on to the client following the appropriate protocols and well within the FDA-mandated time frame.

Q: What are some of the “dos and don’ts”?

A: Slow response and/or using generic blanket answers are huge no-no’s. Rapid response and authenticity are very important aspects of effective community management. It is also key to reflect the tone of the brand; sometimes this means being more professional and formal, other times it can be relaxed or conversational. Every comment should be taken seriously, responses should always seek to be educational and clear. I like to start off by addressing the customer or patient by name, showing the response is not automatically generated. Be compassionate, yet professional.

Q: Summarize how community management is important to a product or brand?

A. The direct line of communication available on social media provides a unique, direct link to consumers and allows companies to gain insight into w at is important to their target audience.

At Pascale, we treat clients’ social media channels like they are our own. We care deeply about their presence in the virtual world, and we want them to be heard, well represented, and above all protected. We have been doing community management since social media marketing was in its infancy and we take it very seriously.