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Posts Tagged ‘medical device

Do a Dumb Sketch Today

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Magnetize Eyeballs with Your Dumb Sketch

As a copywriter, I’ve always prefaced my art or design-related comments with, “I’m no designer, but….” I read a number of design blogs because the discipline fascinates me and I hope for a happy marriage between my words and their graphical setting as they set off into the world.

But artists and designers don’t own art. And I’m starting to wonder why I accede such authority to experts. Mind you, I’m no expert, but just like in the best, most engaged conversations, something sorta magical happens in a dumb sketch. Sometimes words shivering alone on a white page just don’t cut it. Especially when they gang up in dozens and scores and crowd onto a PowerPoint slide in an attempt to muscle their way into a client’s or colleague’s consciousness. Sometimes my words lack immediacy. Sometimes they don’t punch people in the gut like I want them to.

A dumb sketch can do what words cannot.

I’ve come to enjoy sketching lately. Not because I’m a good artist (I’m not). Not because I have a knack for capturing things on paper. I don’t. I like sketching for two reasons:

  1. Drawing a sketch uses an entirely different part of my brain. Or so it seems. The blank page with a pencil and an idea of a drawing is very different from a blank page and an idea soon to be fitted with a set of words. Sketching seems inherently more fun than writing (remember, I write for a living, so I’m completely in love with words, too). Sketching feels like playing. That sense of play has a way of working itself out—even for as bad an artist as I am. It’s that sense of play that brings along the second reason to sketch.
  2. Sketches are unparalleled communication tools. It’s true. Talking about a picture with someone is far more interesting than sitting and watching someone read a sentence. Which is boring. Even a very bad sketch, presented to a table of colleagues or clients, can make people laugh and so serve to lighten the mood. Even the worst sketches carry an emotional tinge. People love to see sketches. Even obstinate, ornery colleagues are drawn into the intent of the sketch, so much so that their minds begin filling in the blanks (without them realizing!) and so are drawn into what was supposed to happen with the drawing. The mind cannot help but fill in the blanks.

The best part of a dumb sketch is what happens when it is shown to a group. In a recent client meeting I pulled out my dumb sketches to make a particular point about how this product should be positioned in the market. I could not quite hear it, but I had the sense of a collective sigh around the conference table as they saw pictures rather than yet another wordy PowerPoint slide. In fact, contrary to the forced attention a wordy PowerPoint slide demands, my sketch pulled people in with a magnetism. Even though ugly, it still pulled. Amazing.


What Didn’t You See Today?

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pylon of the month

Giant Metal Men Matter

Have you noticed the gigantic metal men standing in your neighborhood? One’s over there, just above the tree line. Enormous and sinister. Sort of hulking at around 100 ft. tall. What’s that–you’ve not noticed it? How could you miss it, standing there in the wide open? Your kids saw it and have already made up stories about it: why it’s there and how it could reach down and grab anybody at any moment so let’s not spend too much time beneath it.

Electrical pylons are just one of the things we miss as we walk or drive around our city. They only become visible when someone shows you. Then you see them. Your eyes probably registered the shape and presence, but somehow the tall tower did not enter your consciousness. You needed someone to point it out—not that you particularly care about pylons. Same with people: do we even notice the janitor cleaning the corridor at the airport or the clerk at the grocery store? We are trained to have these people blend into the background, just like the pylons. Just like the homeless guy at the stop light on Hennepin and Lyndale. It makes our life easier—less to deal with—when we don’t see these things or people.

How much we are missing when we tune out stuff we don’t want to deal with?

One of my clients is trying to help a particular set of physicians tune in to a class of patients that are largely unstudied. These patients present with certain features in their heart that routinely exclude them from pharmaceutical and other clinical trials. The conventional wisdom is that the outcomes would be significantly worse if these patients were included. So they aren’t. It’s a kind of research Catch-22.

My challenge this week is how to help these physicians see these patients. These patients cannot be treated until they are seen. Which is true for all the invisible stuff in our lives: we can’t deal with it as long as it is out of sight.

More on pylon appreciation: Alain de Botton from The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.


Written by kirkistan

March 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

Don’t Hold Your Breath for an “FDA-Approved” Logo for Your Medical Device Social Media Efforts

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Can "trust" enter our discussion?

The lock in the corner of your browser indicates the website is legit. Go ahead and transact business with your credit card number and personal information—your information is secure. All is well. That is, until it isn’t. If it hasn’t happened already, that little lock can be duplicated and put to nefarious uses.

Same thing with an FDA seal of approval logo to place on your blog or website. Pharmaceutical companies are suggesting such a graphic as a way to set their audiences (and their corporate lawyers and the teams of regulators, their board members and shareholders) at ease. Seeing a logo would be an admission that the contents included are all good to go.

That’ll never happen.

That‘s because while the FDA may approve a device or drug for market, they work hard at not becoming responsible for the results the product. And for a set of folks who want to read every word in a document before it hits the street—people who care about the font size of your disclaimers (5 pt? Too small! 6 pt? OK.)—granting a seal of approval to the wild west of social media would be like arming the inmates and locking the prison doors behind them as you shoo them out (may I mix metaphors?). Aside from the fact that even a word-guy can duplicate a logo and affix it to anything, there is simply no way the FDA will be responsible for watching all the dialogue that must—and will—take place. Hiring staff for such Big Brother activity would break the bank (wait—banks are already broken).

Somewhere in the future, the dusty notion of “trust” may well rise up again. I know it seems quaint, like a whiff from centuries past, but it simply is not possible to regulate every part of dialogue. Just ask East Germany. Or watch “The Lives of Others.”

Dialogue is not about guarantees. It is about exploring. Perhaps the best we can do is to voluntarily adhere to a growing body of disclosure best practices.


Please, Back Away from the Controller.

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It’s about interest, not control.

It’s about interest, not control.

It’s not like you can just adopt this new channel, buy space and you’re good to go.

It’s more like learning to be a friend again. I described the equivalent of “winning the lottery” in a dialogue-based medical device marketing context, but Seth Godin takes the next step with his Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. Instead of focusing on the tools of social media we all find so interesting (or not), he posed the provocative question “Who is it we should be leading?” His question presupposes this inward-looking beginning point for any who care to begin dialogue: “What change am I passionate enough about to lead?”

I like that Godin helps me see that the coming dialogical world is much broader than today’s set of bloggy-twittery-searchable tools. The questions we ask when moving from monologue to dialogue have more to do with what we all care about together. Finding what we care about together is a necessary stop on the journey. And knowing what we care about together is a step beyond carefully controlling the conversation with fine-tuned messages.tribeimage-10062009

What we care about together as humans has always been different from the one-dimensional messages with which we’ve surrounded our product messages. The secret to dialogue is what we learned years ago when our first friend showed up that summer day: we look for common interests. We expect give and take, and a willingness to hear and try something new. Friendship is formed when we stop claiming to know all the answers. Inviting marketers to rethink friendship is a step toward dialogue and a step away from monologue. Inviting marketers to find their place of leadership within friendship and within dialogue is a step toward freeing them to be the leaders they secretly want to be. The tribe-formers we need them to be.


Medtech Using Social Media #4: The Power of the Question

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Yes--what is your question?

Yes--what is your question?

A question changes everything. A question mark sets a thought on a pedestal in the street and invites comment. It says, “I don’t know the answer—do you?” When I teach, a question is one of my most powerful tools. With a question I ask for input while simultaneously implying “You’ve got something valuable to say and I want to hear it.” The best, most fruitful discussions happen when I present what I know and then invite students to contribute from their experience and thinking. Something alive often happens, something I could not plan for or even predict. Something that moves us all forward.

For marketers, the question is equally powerful. If we’re lucky, we’re in a team where we can ask questions openly rather than pretending to own all the answers. Our usual path to outward communication is to ask our questions in the (relatively) protected environs of conference rooms and among colleagues. Then we polish and hone the messages into one-way barbs to shoot out through our media channels. But what if the questions themselves were our communication points? What if we started with questions to our growing community of similarly-interested people, long before we ever started polishing messages for public consumption?

Once upon a time my team worked on promoting a new heart failure device. We identified a single main message that incorporated three strong benefits (based on market research) which became the core of our campaign. We tested our messages informally, received anecdotal feedback and pushed forward. Today, with the help of social media, that scenario might look like this: take the received market research, our questions and immediately begin dialogue. Proceed with message polishing and honing  even as the community dialogue continues. At some point the internal and external dialogues blend and the end result is something beyond what we could conceive on our own. Best of all, this new something already his mind-share in a community of interested people. And if you have a sales force, you know that mindshare is a key gear for turning sales.


Next Up: What would dialogue success look like?



Photo credit: Colt Elementary PTO &

Medical Device Firms Using Social Media, Step #2.1: Curious People Make Better Conversation Partners

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I'm interesting? You're fascinating!

I'm interesting? You're fascinating!

Frenemies are talking—according to one medical-device insider—but mostly because the genie is out of the bottle.  What we need is a wave of curiosity to beset our organizations.

You know and love curious people: they are the ones who unearth some fact about you when in conversation, find it fascinating, and then probe your knowledge of it. And when anybody finds us fascinating—they are instantly fascinating themselves.

Seth Godin, in Tribes, describes the difference between a fundamentalist and a curious person. He wasn’t talking (only) about religion. A fundamentalist receives new information or experience and immediately compares it with established dogma with the intent to reject (or perhaps even approve). In contrast the curious person receives the new information or experience and immediately engages what they have learned with what they know, looking for areas of overlap and disagreement. The curious will also reject ideas, but not before engaging, understanding and even mentally giving the idea a test drive.

Bless the hiring managers who incorporate curious regulators and lawyers into these positions—people willing to explore a changing communication landscape even while respecting the letter of the law.

Can we resolve to test for curiosity before hiring?



Photo credit: OpenPhoto / Sarah Klockars-Clauser

Written by kirkistan

September 25, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Medical Device Firms Using Social Media, Step #2: Make Nice with Your Frenemies

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Counter-intuitive: Build from the top down
Dialogue starts inside a corporation.

Swapping one-way messaging for dialogue in medical device marketing starts with a question. But “Who am I talking with?” is just the beginning. Conversation requires more than just a change of audience—it requires a reversal of communication style. Preparing for this change starts deep inside the protected medical device community. Marketers must talk with regulatory folks. Lawyers need to join the same discussion. It’s important that all the right people join the conversation so it steers clear of the legal and ethical issues different sectors of the medical device community are currently answering for.

Starting conversations with the right people has always been something of a tightrope walk: back when internal regulatory folks and lawyers were thought of as enemies of marketing, they were not invited to the discussion so as to quiet their nay saying—at least until the final review process. But those days are gone—and thankfully so—because the different disciplines will have the best discussion when they speak openly about the requirements they represent, but with the willingness to bend as much as possible to service their patients, physicians and clinicians.

The kind of conversations needed are far from adversarial. Marketing, regulatory and legal need to open new ground for discussion. Opening that new ground includes the goals and parameters of each disciplines. It also includes the rhetorical elements of conversation: the giving of an idea and the listening to what someone else says. It’s just regular, ordinary dialogue. And if it cannot happen inside a medical device company, can it really happen outside?



Written by kirkistan

September 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

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