NEW YORK: Effectively using social media could help pharma brands shake off their conservative image and showcase the innovative and essential work they do, a leading executive from Novartis International has argued.

Henry Anderson, Novartis International's director/social media, reminded delegates at the 2014 Social Media World Forum (SMWF) that many pharma companies are anxious about social media due to regulatory concerns.

Despite that, he suggested there was a clear opportunity for these firms to more fully demonstrate they are addressing problems with far-reaching implications.

"It's our job to try and show the excitement of changing how medicine is delivered and what the future of care is going to look like," he said. (For more, including how the company is tapping into this channel, read Warc's exclusive report: Novartis gets to grips with social media.)

"There's a lot of passion in that story, and I think health is a very personal journey for all of us. So projecting that is something of an opportunity for us as an organisation to try and capture the imagination."

Operators in the tech space offer a more immediate example of innovation to many consumers and potential employees, he continued.

"It's hard to make a pharmaceutical company sound sexy when Apple's out there, and Google," Anderson said. "We want to be engaged in the science, and the discovery and the innovation.

"From a talent-attraction piece, we definitely want to project that we're worth working for, and we're really an exciting, science-based organisation."

Beyond recruitment, the need to be on social media is pressing given the rising uptake of these services among the various other audiences of interest to Novartis.

"We want to be present externally in front of the patients, in front of the doctors, and the healthcare stakeholders: they're on Facebook; they're on Twitter; they're on all of these channels that we don't own," said Anderson.

"As an organisation, we want to be the leading pharmaceutical company in the world. So you can't really be shy about a new channel if you want to be a leader. The expectation is there; you figure it out."

Data sourced from Warc