With the exciting arrival of Jeffrey Freedman who was recently appointed Vice President, Integrated Communications – Healthcare of AXON US, I sat down with him to learn more about his thoughts on how to make communications projects more effective. Here is what he had to say:

MN: To begin, what is your definition of integrated communications?

JF: That’s a great place to start. An integrated communications program is first understanding exactly who you are trying to reach, and then applying consistent brand messaging across both traditional and non-traditional marketing channels and using different communication methods to reinforce each other.

MN: That’s perfect; we’re all about analytics and insights. Why do our clients need a data-driven approach?

JF: In a data-driven approach for engagement planning, we are better able to pinpoint our targets, how best to reach them, when to reach them and with what message. We are also able to quickly prototype and test different tactics. We can also determine ROI and pinpoint where to optimize programming.

MN: All right, in doing this, what are some of the offerings or outputs in integrated communications? For example, what’s audience mapping? How is it used with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device brands?

JF: Well, through audience mapping, we can segment select targets into groups that share certain characteristics or contain commonality. We can then infer that these segments behave and learn in a similar fashion. So we can target based on beliefs and behaviors rather than demographics or geography.

MN: Okay, then once we identify these audiences, how do we discover their underlying beliefs?

JF: If we believe members of these subsets behave in a similar fashion, we can poll small subsets through quantitative and qualitative research. We can use live market research or virtual polling and email campaigns to gain directional insight and then test these findings in a larger test group.

MN: When we talk about other offerings like journey mapping, how is it used with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device brands?

JF: Journey mapping can be discussed in terms of either the patient or the physician. For patients, it is the journey that they go through from diagnosis through treatment. What are their touch points – how do they learn and access information about their disease. For a healthcare provider, we take a look at a day in their life. How and when do they access information and what tools do they use throughout their day – ranging from email, to publications, to working on their electronic medical records.

MN: That’s great. Now, changing topics, tell me about the importance of doing a digital audit.

JF: Sure, a digital audit is used to look at your brand’s digital footprint and what is missing from a best-practices point of view, and then look at your main competitors to ensure, at a minimum, you are hitting the same channels they are.

MN: All right, and how do you know when an integrated communications project has been successful? What metrics do you use?

JF: First off, all projects are different, and based upon the strategic imperatives of the brand, success will be defined differently, but as part of process for every project, in the discovery phase we find out what is measurable and important for that project’s success. Then, in the development stage, we create the key performance indicators that we use to benchmark the project against. As the project commences, we keep an eye on the analytics and their performance against the KPIs.

MN: How do you know when a project needs a course correction? What strategies do you use?

JF: Well, that’s the great thing about digital programming, we do not have to wait for a project to conclude to determine if we need to change or update the project in whole or in part. Take email as an example, we conduct A/B testing on a small sample of our audience to determine up-front what variables within the campaign work better and then we send the optimized asset to the rest of the targets. On a web portal, we are able to track what assets and what pages visitors use and if these assets or pages are not getting traction, then we can replace them with asset types that the audience has shown to favor.

MN: That makes a lot of sense. Last questions;  metrics aside, how have you personally measured the success of some of your past projects?

JF: My overall objective of integrated communication projects is to build a deep-memory of the programming. Best-practices in adult learning principles show that you should make projects multi-sensory, multi-touch and iterative, and by doing so, you’ll create a deeper and longer-term memory of the situation or product. That being said, I know I’ve done a good job when at a meeting or congress I overhear an attendee talking about a program that we did the year before, or I receive feedback from a client about an HCP that keeps bringing up a certain video or interactive tool that they were previously shown.