John Pinching meets PM Society’s Anneliese Cameron (General Manager) and Carys Thomas Ampofo (Communications)
What role will pharma play, as reform starts to unfold?
Carys: There are opportunities for all the healthcare industries to really help the reform process by not just providing and supporting treatments, but bringing experience from the private sector in order to understand processes, especially at a local level and with joint working.
Anneliese: It’s all about perception and, ultimately, we’re all patients. In the mainstream press there is a lot of negativity but, actually, pharma does a hell of a lot of good and that will continue to emerge in the next few years.
What does pharma need to do, in order to start hanging out with the NHS on equal terms?
Carys: Pharma needs to get smarter. Pharma personnel have to establish the same level of knowledge as the people they are talking to within the NHS. They must understand local needs, the role they can play in improving patient outcomes and how their product might fit into the bigger picture. One of the biggest challenges in the UK is where companies are expected to deliver campaigns that have been developed at a global level. There is no such thing as one size fits all now.
What is the PM Society doing to help people improve their performance?
Anneliese: The PM Society has undergone a period of modernisation in the last 12 months. It has identified some key areas of healthcare marketing that are hot topics at the moment, including market access, NHS partnerships, personal career development, digital platforms and patient engagement. With an interest group in each of these areas, led by an expert in the field, we are looking at providing the information, content and education which tackles those challenges. The role of today’s marketer has changed; there needs to be a much more fundamental understanding of all aspects of the industry, whatever role you work in.
Carys: It’s really important to get everyone that is involved in the drug development process switched on to health technology and marketing needs early on in the trial stages. You will then get the information that is appropriate to support the product, when you actually bring it to market. When the marketers at a national or global level release promotional material they also need to appreciate that the sales rep needs flexibility in how they canvas the information. This requires a significant cultural change.
Can changing a company’s ethos get results?
Carys: The most forward-thinking companies I have worked with in healthcare communications are those that bring everyone around the table, as part of a brand planning team, allowing contributions from all areas of the business and developing a strategy that suits everyone. I worked on one project with Daiichi Sankyo where this approach was put into practice brilliantly.
Anneliese: Yes, they’ve also really embraced info-sharing technology and all its sales staff have an iPad. It’s about presentation; doctors like to see how medication actually works, and what the benefits are for their practice and patients. This is much more exciting if it comes from an iPad rather than a flip chart. These days marketers need to be digital pioneers.
What have been the notable landmarks for the PM Society in the last year?
Anneliese: Personally speaking it would be taking the role of General Manager; a position that the PM Society has never had before. The organisation has been around for 30 years, but it needed to change from primarily a social entity into a forwardthinking, innovative organisation with a solid grounding in business.
Carys: It was a question of drawing a line in the sand, saying, ‘how can we meet our members’ needs in 2013, not 1983’, and preparing the Society for the next 30 years. We now offer greater flexibility, more visibility and, since 2005, marketing-specific modern training programmes, which really make a difference.
Anneliese: In the past we were perceived as bit of a club. But now we are a valued, completely independent organisation run by a voluntary executive committee and dynamic office team.
Do pharma employees regard the PM Society as a support system for their development?
Anneliese: Very much so. We are a none profit organisation, so they don’t feel like there is any pressure from a corporation. We provide impartial advice without charging a fortune for events and content. For me, it’s about making a positive difference during this exciting new phase. Members will also benefit from a partnership agreement we have just signed with the ABPI, which recognises the opportunities to communicate with pharma professionals at all levels.
Your recent market access gig, which I attended, was refreshingly enthusiastic about the possibilities of joint working and breaking down boundaries.
Carys: The meeting was a great example of how the PM Society can help pharma companies develop their skills to meet the changing market. The key experts and experienced speakers from the NHS made pharma employees start thinking about the possibilities of working with public sector colleagues. People attending definitely demonstrated a desire to form positive partnerships; they want to make things happen. It’s also about spreading the word, because inspirational partnerships between the NHS and pharma companies are already happening.
Your awards tend to recognise companies that have demonstrated positivity and teamwork.
Anneliese: The Advertising Awards are about creativity, but it’s also deeper. We examine the campaigns and look at what the outcomes were for both the companies and patients, and how effective those campaigns were in capturing public imagination and making a difference. We also have the only healthcare-specific Digital Media Awards, which last year saw a 30 per-cent increase in entries.
What nuts are you looking forward to cracking in the next 12 months?
Anneliese: I want us to dig deeper into pharma and raise awareness, not to a few individuals in a company, but the entire workforce. We’re very ambitious about creating a real community, which embraces all areas of healthcare. We’re also really keen to introduce ABPI members to our services.
Right ladies, I’m bringing the tone down. You both have high-pressured jobs, what do you do to relax?
Carys: I don’t really have much time to relax! I have three daughters, of six years and under, and have also found myself Chair of the Parent Staff Association (PSA) at their school.
Is that much different to the the PM Society?
Carys: Yes, but the politics are 100 times worse! Being a mother is very much part of who I am; it’s a really difficult balance, as a working woman; giving quality time to your family and also working productively. Intellectual stimulation is really important; I think I’d go mad if I had to spend every day with my children! In the future it would be great to see more professional flexibility for women.
How do you chillax, Anneliese?
Anneliese: I love rugby. I’m a big supporter of Dorking Rugby Club, who my son plays for. My partner is Welsh, so my allegiances have switched a bit, and last year I went to the Millenium Stadium for the first time, to watch Wales vs Italy [John’s internal voice – ‘Traitor!’] I’ve got two dogs and I love walking in the Surrey Hills. My partner recently launched Tillingbourne Brewery, so I help to promote cask ale in my spare time.
Will you be drinking the profits?
Anneliese: There’ll be plenty of market research!
On that note, do you think it’s important that pharma recruits more people from the ‘outside’?
Anneliese: I spent 15 years in the music business. I worked for Polygram [now Universal], on the classical side, during the ‘Three Tenors’ period. Although I didn’t know much about pharma and healthcare when I started, I knew a lot about marketing. I remember in my first year of running the PMEA, at a reception with Rob Wood (then a director at AstraZeneca). He asked me where I came from and, when I told him, he said, ‘that’s fantastic, we need more people from different industries’. Nowadays pharma is bringing talent from other sectors, and that’s really important, because they provide such a range of different attributes. Marketing, advertising and PR skills can always be adapted to a new environment.
You don’t necessarily need to know the secret ‘pharma’ handshake anymore.
Carys: I think it’s changed for the better, and it’s brought fresh thinking. If you only have people from a regulated system it can hinder creativity. Some of the best people I’ve worked with, in pharma, have come from outside, with fresh, exciting perspectives.
To get involved with the PM Society go to www.pmsociety.org.uk.