Canadian Regulatory Body Leads the Way in Training Pharma Marketers on the Use of Social Media

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To learn more about the PAAB, go to http://www.paab.ca

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB is the Canadian pharmaceutical advertising regulatory body) to participate in a workshop to train Canadian pharma marketers on how they can use Social Media as a promotional tool. 

What an excellent initiative!  This would respond to marketers’ outcry for guidance regarding regulations regarding Social Media marketing in healthcare.  Then came the unexpected twist.  As the Commissioner, Ray Chepesiuk , was describing his vision of the workshop to me, he said that he did not want this to become just a ‘regulatory workshop’, but rather a ‘business workshop’ which includes regulatory, strategic and technical components.  He then went on to mention that the PAAB is striving to enhance its service initiatives to the industry.  As a marketer who is accustomed to pushing the regulatory limits, this sounded very appealing to me. 

I wanted to learn more about the PAAB’s vision of enhancing its services to the pharma industry, so I spoke to Ray about this.  Here is what he had to say; 

“The PAAB is not here just to regulate advertising.  When an ad or promotional tool comes in for approval and does not meet the regulatory guidelines, we don’t just outright reject it.  We try to come up with solutions that would help the advertiser achieve their business objective as well as meet the regulatory criteria.  The PAAB aims to enhance its service iniatives with the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.  We believe that by doing so, that Canadian patients will be the ones to benefit from better healthcare.  And Social Media is exploding right now.  We realize the opportunities that this represents to pharmaceutical marketers, and we hope to clarify some of their concerns and questions about the use of Social Media in their promotions.”

I was a pharma marketer for many years, and as such, I am very familiar with the PAAB guidelines and process.  Most of the advertisements and promotional tools that either I or my marketing team members worked on went into the review process several times before being approved.  But now that I think of it, despite the fact that many of these projects morphed after getting feedback from the PAAB, none of them were ever thrown out because we felt that we could no longer meet the original business objective for the tool. 

The key learning here is that as marketers, we should not hesitate to be in touch with the PAAB, or your country’s regulatory body, during the developmental phase of your project.  You may feel as though you don’t have time to take that extra step, but the fact is that you may actually be saving yourself a lot of time and money over the long-run.  Also, many marketers may rely on their marketing agencies to work with regulatory bodies such as the PAAB.  This is fine, but it is also acceptable and sometimes even recommended that you, as a client, get involved in some initial discussions with the appropriate regulatory body and the agency to explain the vision you have for the promotional tool.  Communication is critical for successful promotions.

If you are a Canadian pharma marketer and are interesting in signing up for the PAAB Social Media Marketing Workshop, please find the details and registration below;

Montreal: September 29th 2009
Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport Hotel
Registration and coffee 8:30 AM
Session Start 9:00 AM to 1:00pm
Cost: $269
Click here to register: http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=755658

Toronto: September 30th 2009
Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel
Registration and coffee 8:00 AM
Session Start 8:30 AM to 12:30pm
Cost: $269
Click here to register: http://www.regonline.com/Checkin.asp?EventId=755668

You can also stay connected with the PAAB and be updated on their news by joining their FaceBook (http://tinyurl.com/mb344t) and LinkedIn (http://tinyurl.com/n7s528) networks.  A regulatory body on Social Media networks trying to stay in touch with pharmaceutical professionals – now that`s proof of an organization taking the initiative to enhance their services to the pharma industry.

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