Ep. 002 – John Mack Podcast Transcript

RJ Lewis (EHS): Hello, this is RJ Lewis and we’re back for Episode 2 with John Mack and Don Langsdorf, and we’re talking about the rebirth of Pharma Marketing and Pharma Guy.

John Mack (PG): Thanks for the interview and I really appreciate talking about myself, but enough about me tell me about you and what you plan to do with pharma marketing? Where do you see it going?

RJ Lewis (EHS): So, thanks for that question. The thing that’s probably going to be the most different about what you were doing and what we were doing. First off, I think what you built is a tremendous base. You’ve got a great following. You’ve got the right people following. And you’ve got a rich base of 20 plus years of content. So one thing that we’ve noticed since we’ve relaunched is, SEO seems to like it, it’s coming back in terms of traffic, and we think that’s going to continue to grow. The biggest difference I think is while you were a kind of a sole voice, and you know, starting with news and conference coverage, and then evolving into more opinion pieces about the industry in a bit of a watchdog. We’re certainly not going to shy away from that type of type of content because I think there is a time for an industry watchdog. You know when something goes off the rails or is not going well, you do have to speak truth to power so we’re not going to shy away from that. The biggest difference is we really want to be a community that is collaborative, all around the pharma marketing ecosystem, so we want to invite others into the room as much as we can. And we’re going to invite people to write, we’re going to invite people to do podcasts, etc. And we really want to be as inclusive as we can be. So that’s kind of what we were just talking about with social media, all the voices can be heard and it can be somewhat self-regulating, based on all the voices being heard, how much pharma is going to participate in that is to be determined because they still got their restrictions, although this is a little bit of a different because it’s more of a B2B form, as opposed to involving the patient. But that’s the biggest difference is probably kind of opening up the walls a little bit more and being as collaborative as possible. That’s our vision.

John Mack (PG): Okay. So, you continue with Pharma Marketing news. You’re saying that you think people could help you contribute articles for that. How does that work?

RJ Lewis (EHS): We do, so you know, this is early days we only relaunched that less than three weeks ago so it’s very early for us but the thought is to not position ourselves as competitors with the other industry publications they do what they do really well. MM&M covers the news and happenings in the agency world and pharma marketing world Med Ad News focused on the agency side and a lot of great awards. PM360 is the go-to when it comes to the product manager and the, how-to manual, if you will, for product managers. So they all do things that they do very well and they cover the market very well. So we want to kind of open up a tent and invite them to come in and participate, get featured, be a resource for them as well. So, from a news perspective, if they can cover that’s wonderful. We do think we’ll get and stay very active in the conferences we think we’ll stay involved on that side where we cover a lot of the pharma marketing conferences throughout the industry and write about them and help them to promote and grow attendance. I think that’ll be a big piece of what we do then, just overall, in terms of the industry suppliers that are out there. We want to be a resource for them. We may do some things like you were talking about where we have advertorials, and it’s clearly labeled as an advertorial. But we’re mostly interested in sourcing, unbiased quality content from our peers in the industry that really have a unique expertise and unique information to share.

John Mack (PG): Now, well, that’s always a challenge to get unique kind of content and I guess my niche started out to be covering conferences, but I found that they were getting into publishing as well, the conference producers.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Yeah, absolutely.

John Mack (PG): So, I have been, you know, looking at it closely for a couple of years now.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Yeah, well, we’ve done a few things with those conference providers in recent years, where we will attend the conference and we set up a little station and we do interviews with some of the speakers at the conference and it aligns very nicely with one of our client offerings where we do that at a medical conference. So we kind of did the same thing for our own industry. I think we’ve been pretty well received, and they liked the collaborative aspect of that. It’s another avenue for them to, to market their show and help boost their attendance by featuring some of the speakers from their conference in a format in an environment that’s off the stage where they get to speak their mind a little bit and provide some deeper insights into what they’re talking about. So I would expect we’re going to find the same type of welcoming environment, maybe even more so with the pharma marketing network brand behind us.

RJ Lewis (EHS): So today everybody’s a publisher, part of the beauty of the web and even if you don’t have the technical skills for firing up a website or a blog, which is pretty easy. Most people have those skills to do something basic today. But even if you didn’t have that, you’ve got social media, which is, you know, a two-second registration process in most cases, and you can start to establish a channel and a voice. So whether you’re an advertiser or an event coordinator or a supplier in the industry, most of them have pretty active blogs. I mean, everybody is a publisher. But at the end of the day, part of publishing today is syndication too, it’s not just producing the information, but once you produce this great information, you want to get it into as many places as you can because you don’t own the audience.

John Mack (PG): And you probably have a lot of good experience getting audience to content.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Yeah, It’s a lot of what we do.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Yeah, and Don just mentioned some of these things we’ve done in the past, we’ve also, for the last two or three years, we’ve been eating our own dog food, so to speak, when it comes to leveraging digital marketing as the primary way that we’re spending our marketing dollars, we don’t do as much print as we used to. And we don’t even do as many conferences as we used to, in large part because we’re focusing on digital, and leveraging the tools that we have in our bags such as retargeting to be able to identify the key buyers in our market and reach them wherever we can see them on CNN or Yahoo or wherever they may be exposed to one of our messages, because we’re using the same tools that we would use on their behalf.

John Mack (PG): Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): To market to patients or physicians. We’re using it on our behalf to market ourselves.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Yeah, and social media is a big part of that too. So we’ve expanded our social media reach and scaling and the cadence at which we’re putting posts out and the conversations that we’re having through social media. It’s a big boost to our marketing efforts.

John Mack (PG): So, you’ll be using like the Pharma Guy Twitter account?

RJ Lewis (EHS): Yes.

John Mack (PG): Okay.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Very much. I think, you know, when we sat down, we had that lunch and I said, you know the opportunity here for us to take over the mantle and keep the pharma guy brand going. The two real assets that you’ve built overtime was one this great repository of content you’ve got, I believe was 11,000 articles.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Something like that. Yeah.

RJ Lewis (EHS): We did some deduplication because he has some content in different places on BlogSpot and other places. But once you de-dupe, it’s about 11,000 original pieces of content. And then the Twitter following, which is together we did some de-dupes and Twitter did some updates where they cleaned out fake accounts or dupe accounts. But clean de-duped and everything’s about 28,000 Twitter followers. And when you look through who those Twitter followers are, it’s very heavily skewed towards industry, as is the website, we’ve also put some tools on our website to be able to look at who the visitors are, by company. And, you know, in just a couple of weeks since we relaunched, we had about 50, some pharmaceutical companies visiting.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): 141 different pharma companies from around the world. So it’s not just the United States. We’re seeing them from Europe, and yeah, absolutely.

John Mack (PG): Yeah. That’s great. One of the things was, well, how do you, you know, expand it globally, your audience, and I would get a lot of interest from like India, but I’m, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that. Yeah. So this opportunity, I guess, to be more global with it.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Yeah. I think it’s built-in at this point. I think you know, the office audience that you cultivated over the years, when we look at the metrics, and we look back at the these the companies where the visitors are coming from, they’re all over the world, Germany, a lot from India, France, Switzerland, and the United States on top of that, and it’s already there, because the conversation is relevant, no matter what country you’re living in, obviously, in countries like Europe, and in the African countries, and in Asia, they have a different set of challenges, but they’re still related to things like data privacy, you know, how drugs are being marketed, who they’re allowed to market to, and how we’re much more liberal in the United States with how we can do that. But that could be changing soon.

RJ Lewis (EHS): So far.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): so far. Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): We’ll see what the next 12 months is.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): You look at something like GDPR and the privacy laws that are in place in Europe and California just recently passed something that’s really similar to GDPR, we could see that’s spread across the United States soon, you know, yet to be seen. But those types of topics are relevant regardless of the country you live in and I think pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers worldwide are all aware of these challenges. And so, any of the insights that they can glean from any other country, I think it’s helpful to them, no matter where they’re geographically located.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Yeah, everybody’s a publisher today. But also everybody reaches a worldwide audience because of that because the web is worldwide by definition. So, it’s a big question for a lot of publishers in terms of how you monetize and service those audiences because they get very granular at some level. It’s still very much in the US market though, in terms of at least where we’ve been advertising. Our focus will be U.S. with Pharma Marketing.

John Mack (PG): Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): That’s going to be our focus

John Mack (PG): Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Not to say there won’t be opportunities globally, but I think those are down the road.

John Mack (PG): So, where do you think hot topics are the industry that you might be pursuing in more detail?

RJ Lewis (EHS): Yeah, we have our own laundry list. But that’s part of this crowdsourcing approach and collaborative approaches, we really want to open it up to the community and ask them that exact question. What are the hot topics? In fact, we were just talking the other day about if we want to have a one-question poll? And ask that question, what do you want to see us cover? What do you want to see us address and talk about? And just look at the results that are coming in and which ones are repetitive? And is there an opportunity to then reach out to the experts in that area? And do that, you interviewed me back in 2015, for the results book.

John Mack (PG): Yep.

RJ Lewis (EHS): And we kind of took a similar approach with the results book in that when Scott and I said, hey, let’s write a book on the industry. We sat down, we said, well, what are the critical topics we want to talk about? And some of those topics at the time, you know, the ACA was in its infancy, that was a critical topic to talk about. Big Data was a critical topic. And as we started to outline these critical topics, we said, we’re not the experts on those, we need to bring in some other people to help us write this book.

John Mack (PG): Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): And that’s, that’s kind of the same mentality we’re bringing to Pharma Marketing is, let’s find the relative experts in all the various areas.

John Mack (PG): So, do you have an editorial board or something like that or advisory board?

RJ Lewis (EHS): Yes. We do have an editorial advisory board on folks that can help us think about these issues from a content perspective and it’s to recruit the right experts to write.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): And even putting the word out there with just the announcement that we were relaunching pharma marketing network, we’ve already gotten several really high-quality people volunteering and love to contribute content here.

John Mack (PG): Great, great. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops, so keep me in the loop.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Of course.

John Mack (PG): What about the Hawaiian shirt? I mean, how are you going to handle that?

Don Langsdorf (EHS): You can’t get rid of the Hawaiian shirt!

RJ Lewis (EHS): So, what we’ve done initially is we wanted a way to delineate between the legacy that you built and the content that you built up to this point and then kind of what it will be on a go-forward basis since it’s the models morphing a little bit to be a little bit more collaborative. So, Don, came up with a great idea in using the Hawaiian shirt as the logo to identify original pharma guy content.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): So, any of the original content at the end of the article, you’ll see bright and loud, nice Hawaiian shirt. This is pharma guy, and this is his original content from the site. We want to honor it.

John Mack (PG): Ah okay, I see.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): No reason to box that stuff up. Let’s keep it out there.

John Mack (PG): So, you’re not going to have like a fake pharma guy?

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Nope. No fake pharma guy. It’s going to be 100% real, absolutely.

John Mack (PG): No fake news for you.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): No fake news. We got big shoes to fill, but you know, that’s why we’re going to rely on the community, I think to help us fill them. You were incredibly prolific through the years it boggles the mind when I’m when I was looking through when we first got the content from you to we were going to use for the migration to the new platform. I was just overwhelmed with not just the quantity, but the quality and the breadth of topics that you’ve covered over the years. I mean, every aspect of the industry from FDA approvals and regulations to the actual nuts and bolts of marketing and what works and what doesn’t work. I think you did an incredibly effective job of communicating what it’s like to live a life in this industry, from both sides. If you’re a pharmaceutical company or if you’re an agency or even a consultant. There’s so many different angles and aspects that go into pharmaceutical marketing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, how they’re spending their money, how they’re expecting to be paid for what they’re doing, what their services are, the studies that come out, how to approve new drugs, new technologies that get introduced and the impact that they have on the industry in the marketplace, it’s unending, and you did a phenomenal job of covering all of that.

John Mack (PG): Thank you, thank you.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): We can even do half as good a job as you did over the years.

John Mack (PG): It’s one thing I mean, controversy is one thing, but what about the, I’m not going to say it’s humor, but there’s a humorous side, you got to have a little fun doing what you’re doing. Everybody should have some fun doing what they’re doing. I mean, I had fun with the shirt, and I had fun meeting people. I’m sure you guys meet a whole lot of people. But you mentioned the surveys. You know, you doing a survey, I used to do a lot of surveys too, do you think surveys can be an important way of not just asking people what they think you should be doing, but asking their opinion, that you can create some content from itself.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Most definitely. We want to leverage the site and the social media to keep tabs on current trends. Surveys are one way to do that. current challenges, but we also want to be forward-looking and always be asking the question of what’s coming? What does the future hold? If there’s one evolution and I think this is impacting all of healthcare, pharma marketing is pretty specific. When you look at the Pharma marketing ecosystem, you see that evolving over time into healthcare marketing, even more broadly, with so many digital devices coming into play with the blending between pills and devices. There’s a lot more impacting healthcare today than pharma and it was a pharma’s role has been lessened. There’s still an incredible place for drugs and their advocacy and it’s still by far the cheapest way to manage most patients but there’s a lot of other tools already out and more on the horizon that don’t have anything to do with medicine, or they work in conjunction with a medicine. So I think evolving eventually beyond pharma marketing to more broadly healthcare marketing, I think it’s also in the future at some point.

John Mack (PG): Yeah, one thing I didn’t get much into were devices and things like, you know, the Apple Watch and that kind of thing. I’m not quite sure how that fits well into marketing, but obviously, it’s they’re going to have a role to play in and healthcare.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): I think the data side of that alone, you know, what they’re learning about people and their habits, it can help shape the way you’re approaching a patient population with your marketing and what messaging you’re using, how you’re messaging to them, what vehicles you’re using to get your message in front of them. So yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of exciting things happening right now, in this industry. And like I said before, I mean, I know we’ve got really big shoes to fill. We’re hoping that the audience will appreciate the collaborative effort that we’re going to make by getting some voices in from the industry, and not just dictating what topics we’re going to talk about, but asking the community, what topics should we be talking about? And I think it’s going to change the dialogue a little bit. But I think we’re still going to be able to cover tough topics. We might get a little controversial at times, but I think that like, like RJ said before, it’s really important to be that watchdog, and make sure that you are speaking truth to power that you are helping guide that ethical journey. How do we go through this without compromising our values?

John Mack (PG): Right.

RJ Lewis (EHS): What do you think of that evolution? as the original creator of the pharma guy?

John Mack (PG): You know, I mean, it doesn’t have to be exactly what I did. I mean, that’s not the purpose of this because, you know, it’s a different era and you have to tailor it, I think, to what’s going on today, for me was the social media and now that’s commonplace.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Right.

John Mack (PG): So, there are different issues today that I am not even aware of myself. So, I’m glad you guys are taking it over and going to do something more with it. I’m just looking forward to when you publish may be the first edition of the new newsletter, how do you plan to? I mean, I had it, an email list, do you plan to continue to do that or is a different part of it?

RJ Lewis (EHS): And nowadays, you have to have the respect channel preference, you know, who wants to receive an email who wants to just follow on Twitter and wants to follow on another social media channel, who wants to just come from time to time on the blog? channel preference, I think is kind of table stakes. Now in marketing, you have to give them options. We’re going to respect that.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): You, I think you’ve positioned it really well and that you weren’t endorsing any, any particular product or company, you kept it very fair. You’re very neutral in the content coverage that you had. And even in the sponsorships that you took on, you weren’t running your own event, but you allow people to showcase their events. And I think we’re going to attack this with the same mentality. We don’t want to skew anything. We want to maintain the integrity of the brand that you’ve built. So that collaborative piece of it and getting that voice from the industry involved, I think that’ll help us do that. We’re continuing your legacy. We’re providing this great platform for people to, to engage with and get the information from the industry, have a conversation back and forth, contribute. I mean, anybody, we’re opening it up pretty much to anybody. If you’ve got good content to contribute, we can showcase it on the site.

John Mack (PG): Well, you know, I’d like to really say how thankful I am that you’re taking on Pharma Guy and you’re going forward with this. It sounds pretty exciting. I want to wish you the best of luck.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Thanks, John. Yes, really an honor.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Thanks for your service in the industry.

John Mack (PG): Well, I hope somebody will thank me for my service as a politician.

RJ Lewis (EHS): Voters do every, what six years?

John Mack (PG): Right. thank you it’s been great.

Don Langsdorf (EHS): Thank you.

Listen to this podcast, Ep. 002 – John Mack here: https://www.pharma-mkting.com/the-pharma-marketing-podcast/