Starting Social Media as a CMO: Two Strategic Considerations to Know Before You Begin
Not all Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) are public facing with marketing experience, and not all CMOs want or need to set foot on that journey. But if you find yourself interested in that path, you’ll need to critically think through the image you want to convey and how you’ll get there. If you’re a part of an organization, there are some guardrails to consider, as well, before you begin.
In one of our recent Halloran-hosted CMO Roundtable virtual events – where we bring together like-minded CMOs to engage in a community with peers to talk through industry ideas – we invited Austin Chiang, CMO of Medtronic Gastrointestinal to share his journey in a roundtable on “Social Media for a CMO: Strategic Communication Considerations to Build and Sustain Your Brand.” He partnered with Jared Hopkins, Pharmaceutical Reporter at the Wall Street Journal and Megan McGrath, Senior Vice President of MacDougall to bring together different perspectives.
The panelists shared their own personal experience and illuminated key strategic considerations to identify before stepping foot on social media. In this article, we are going to hone in on two of the considerations – navigating the line between personal and corporate brand before you begin and understanding how to build relationships with journalists – to highlight our key learnings to bring that to you if you’re preparing to navigate the social media scene.
Where to Begin – Understand Your Purpose and Navigate the Line Between Personal and Corporate Brand
It’s challenging to know where to begin if you’re about to engage on social media for the first time. As a CMO, an officer of a company, it’s best to do some research to lay the foundation before any engagement. Maybe you’re curious or you’re encouraged by your organization to share your professional point of view on industry hot topics with the community, it’s important to know the landscape first and develop a plan in order to avoid those ‘I wish I had slowed down’ moments.
See what content is out there around the life science topics that are meaningful and aligned with you and your organization. See what your product development competitors are writing or sharing. Read articles published in digital journals on subjects that are within your company’s wheelhouse. Collect ideas and pick up on writing styles that appeal to you.
As you research, think through the following answers:
- What does your voice add to the conversation?
- What are your goals in engaging an audience on social media? Do you want to highlight the work of others or promote the work within your organization?
- What social media channels are you going to utilize? What channels can you consistently nurture?
Once you’ve collected stock of current content and contributors, identify the purpose of joining a social platform, and think through your goals. In parallel, share your ideas and your plan with others in your organization. Sometimes, your organization’s legal and regulatory teams may need to review and approve your posts depending on the nature of the content, and your company’s policies. As a CMO, you are an officer of the company, and are authorized to speak on behalf of the company. As a result, it’s even more important to be mindful of how the company is represented in social content. So, be proactive and engage with your internal teams early on to set expectations, create a process around your presence on social media, and develop that internal support system.
LinkedIn is a great gateway platform to start your venture into social media since it’s designed for professional interactions. When you are ready to take the next step and expand your social media present to other platforms, engage with your organization’s social team to get an idea of what other teams and members of the organization are doing within their own channels so you can align your content, tone, etc., to your company’s existing external presence.
Consider how social media platforms are built differently and how your strengths may lend toward greater success and engagement and determine the right platform(s) for you. Regardless of the platform, do not be afraid to let your personality shine through. Providing a glimpse of the person behind the CMO role is a great way to boost engagement on industry topics and build a personal and corporate brand simultaneously.
Understand How to Build Relationships with Journalists and What They’re Looking For
Even journalists utilize social media to pick up leads on stories that can be further fleshed out or used to keep on the pulse of emerging information with industry and academia. The content you share on social media may be an opportunity for a journalist to connect with you include a portion of that content in a piece they’re crafting.
If part of your plan is to be quoted in an article written by a journalist or to hold meaningful conversations and share content ideas, it’s important to keep their perspective in mind. Most journalists view social media as a lead or idea to chase, so if you’re sharing a point of view on a story or you’re sharing a brand-new story, dive into it and explain how something works to provide journalists something more to chase.
If you’re trying to be more active and develop relationships with journalists in order to share more industry information or generate more exposure for your organization, here are a few guideposts:
- Journalists have deadlines, so respond quickly! They are simply trying to carry out work in the interest of social good, so be sure to set expectations and be clear from the beginning
- Don’t always talk about yourself – be available to shape a story even when it doesn’t directly benefit you or your organization to contribute to greater industry education
- Be thankful, grateful, and polite – journalists are taking time out of their day to engage on content
Engaging on social media is simple in task, but it’s also a complex landscape because of the sheer amount of people engaged on these platforms and the ability to share content with a massive community within seconds. Social media can influence public perception of healthcare like we saw with the COVID-19 pandemic where thought leaders shared their insight more broadly to influence or inform the public, but it can also cause perception damage.
While users can engage with people more directly, users will benefit with a mindful approach from the beginning by slowing down to start up. See what’s out there, develop a plan, and be in communication with your organization about any guardrails that are put in place specifically for a CMO to craft a thoughtful and strategic social media plan that is both beneficial to the CMO and the organization.