Time to share.... Social Media Advertising in Pharmacy - Goldmine or Minefield?
Here is a piece I wrote recently for Retail Pharmacy Assistants e-magazine. Handling social media accounts in healthcare needs a different touch to our personal accounts.
The article covers rules, handy tips and typical scenarios. Enjoy! And you might even glean a few ideas to keep up the good work.
Have you noticed how the chatter about social advertising has become more of a shout? Perhaps you heard the call years ago, but it’s only now that your manager has started listening – and for your enthusiasm, you’ve been chosen to run the pharmacy’s Facebook, Instagram or WeChat accounts. You’re on there anyway (on your break, of course) so it’s an easy ask, right?
Hold on a moment. Before you jump in, there’s one not-so-small thing to consider: therapeutic goods legislation. That’s right, the rules. Specifically, the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (TGAC), the Therapeutic Goods Act 72, the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) rules and the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Yes, there are a lot of rules in pharmacy. [explainer box below]
As with all rules, there are consequences for breaking them. Did you know that complaints about advertising can be directed to any or each of these authorities? They are trying to minimise mistakes through education but will definitely crack down on repeat offenders.
In my experience, pharmacy staff aren’t generally deliberate rule breakers – ‘What’s this?’ is the most common response when the non-compliance notification from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) or AHPRA is found among the bills and deal sheets – but non-compliance can result in public warnings, hefty fines and even product cancellation from the ARTG. And then the question arises ‘What do we do now?’
With that extra information, perhaps you are now rethinking your commitment to this extra responsibility. After all, there’s plenty of work to do already - rosters are full of gaps, planograms need attention and that next catalogue drop should be double-checked this time. Social media advertising isn’t going to achieve much really, is it?
Perhaps let’s examine why businesses use social media platforms to advertise.
Primarily, this type of advertising is immediate, agile and can be made immensely personal to your audience. It can also be relatively inexpensive to set up and run, and with positive engagement, offers a quick and easy return on investment. It’s a marketer’s dream.
As a health destination, we in pharmacy are well positioned to support our immediate, local and wider community. Social media offers a way to connect directly with potential customers, as well as other healthcare providers and suppliers. What better way to advertise those attributes that set your pharmacy apart from your competitors than by using a communication method where you have complete control of the content?
Headlice outbreak at the local school? Advertise the range of treatment options you have available. Employed a new team member? Profile them. The local footy team win on the weekend? Celebrate!
But don’t get too carried away. Consider the following.
• Your Insta-famous pharmacist is happy to star in a Sneezin’ Season video promoting the new over-the-counter allergy product range? Not so quick. Healthcare professionals are considered likely to unduly influence a customer’s decision to choose a product. Therefore, the TGAC (Section 16 (2)(c)) stipulates that therapeutic goods advertising can not include an overt or implied endorsement by a pharmacist. Sure, let your customers know what is stocked at the pharmacy, but take care in how this is managed.
• Five staff are now fully qualified to administer vaccinations – let’s beat the flu season this year! Look out. First, you can’t be seen to encourage customers to ask for a particular vaccine, and second, advertising must make them aware that they may be entitled to free vaccines through government programs.
• A customer has posted rave reviews about an eczema cream they used on their toddler. It’s a miracle cure; so much better than chemical-based eczema creams like XYZ that are just a waste of money. Be careful. If you are aware of advertising that compares products and seems unbalanced, it is your responsibility to have it removed from the site over which you have control.
Still keen, or have you handed the job on to someone else? It’s important to be aware of the rules, but don’t let it stop you from harnessing this important medium. Social media advertising offers so much potential for a local pharmacy to demonstrate their special place in their community. You’d be wasting an opportunity if you left this space to your competitors. Start with your existing followers, choose your preferred platform, grab a copy of the rules [insert hyperlink https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2018L01524 ], and go for it.
Of course, if you need help with campaign planning or an expert opinion, always seek advice from an industry expert or a search the TGA advertising hub [insert hyperlink]. It could save you a red face, precious time, a hefty fine – or worse.
With the right start that delivery of 25 additional Father’s Day gift packs you accidently accepted will sell through after all! 🙌
Rules to follow:
Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (TGAC 2018 (2)) – Ensures advertising of therapeutic goods to consumers promotes their safe and proper use, is honest and not misleading, supports informed health choices and is consistent with public health messages.
The Therapeutic Goods Act, (the Act) sets out the legal requirements for the import, export, manufacture and supply of therapeutic goods in Australia. The Act also gives details on requirements to have a product on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), and laws about a product’s advertising, labelling, and appearance.
The Therapeutic Goods Regulations, (the Regulations) supports the Act providing further details of matters covered
Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) supports the 15 National Boards that are responsible for regulating the health professions, primarily to protect the public and set standards and policies that all registered health practitioners must meet.
Australian Consumer Law (ACL) covers the general standards of how a business is conducted. It provides basic consumer guarantees for goods and services, prohibits unfair trading, and regulates the safety of consumer products and services.