Beyond standard healthcare branding

PRECISIONeffect Spotlight: Pam Caputo

May 21, 2020


Pam is an Associate VP of Media where she oversees our fast-growing media and digital engagement department. Every day, she brings her immense creativity to maximize the right apps and social media to reach our clients’ intended audiences. Bottom Line: She’s built one beast of a department that any medical marketing agency would envy!

We chose Pam when we wanted to bring media strategy in-house to upscale  our expertise of delivering the right message at the right time. Pam went from being our only media strategist to building a high-performing integrated media team that pushes traditional boundaries to drive behavioral shifts in healthcare. Pam mastered the principles of “big data” long before it was a buzzword.

We all were ecstatic when MM&M named her to their first-ever “40 under 40” class and then honored her as a "Woman to Watch." We caught her in between meetings (and ice cream treats) to talk about all things medical marketing — and the craziest thing that literally happened to her on the way into a pitch.

Q: First off, congrats! How did you find out you won?
A:  It was adorable what they did when we were all still working in the office, pre-pandemic. I was going to skip a meeting because of client calls, but a colleague said they really needed everyone in there. I thought I was walking into a real “business-y” meeting when they made the announcement. My “trophy” was an ice cream bar (I have quite a sweet tooth!). It was pretty cool.

Q: The MM&M honor recognizes people “leading medical marketing.” What does that mean to you?
A: Some people think it’s this specialized skill set with “Medical Marketing” in capital letters because it’s a regulated field. For me, it’s about staying hungry and focused on the medical community and working to change standards of care. The marketing aspect is more ubiquitous. We are working to change people’s behavior when the stakes are really high — often life and death. It’s an awesome way to spend your day.

Q: So how do you find people who are right for your team?
A: I like people who have way less experience in “Medical Marketing” because there aren’t preconceived notions to unlearn. Having a “beginner’s mind” and being chronically curious with a love for learning and digging — the way investigative journalists operate — is way more important. You really have to push yourself to think fresh, resist relying on past successes, and keep the appropriate audience in mind. You need grit, and you need to make your voice heard!

Q: Why?
A: When you strive to change the standard of care, everything’s new. You learn new science. You learn who and where patients are, new physicians or caregivers. You must learn and discover ways to overcome concerns — and help audiences understand new concepts in a way that allows them to accept and take action. Since landscapes and innovations change quickly, it’s super important to continuously keep your thinking fresh.

Q: How did you start in this field?
A: It started in college. I was a history major and took a course in modern medical history. That was when I first caught the “medical” bug. My first job out of college was a marketing-fundraising-development job at Old Sturbridge Village. In the nonprofit world, you can do, and learn, much more when you constantly put your hand up and say “yes.” I went from doing bus tours to talking to the board and developing programs with our agency — all at 22 years old and with a history degree. I dove in and just did it. Then I joined the agency doing their marketing. I really got interested in the “how” and the “why” of data that informed which channels and what messaging you use, and which programs work.

Q: What keeps you up at night when you think about “medical marketing?”
A: What’s next? What’s new? I hate doing the same thing over and over all the time. I want to figure out how we push it further. I don’t want to do another display banner. I want to know what are the next platforms that people are using. What channels are we missing? There is no holy grail, so how can I reach a particular group of patients or healthcare professionals? How do we find the next new thing that gets our clients in front of the right physicians and influencers? 

Q: So, answer this question: “In 1-2 year(s), medical marketing will be …”
A: So all marketing — not just “the medical kind” — will be more about  the “surround-sound” approach to address massive channel fragmentation. Whether it’s a doctor or a patient or a consumer, they wake up, they talk to their Google Home or Alexa, they check the news on their phone, they go to work, they’re online. We need to find ways to tap into the full experience of a physician’s or a nurse’s day and meet them where they are. We will need to have virtual “hallway conversations” to get their attention and catch them with important information.

Q: What does that mean for medical journals?
A: Tried-and-true peer-review journals need to evolve. They have to become resources for physicians that meet them where they are in their day — the quick but important hallway conversation. It’s already happening. We have to find new ways to give them strategic snippets, pique their interest, and get audiences to come to us rather than us chasing them down.

Q: Is fragmentation just affecting media channels?
A: No way. It’s also happening at hospitals and integrated delivery networks (IDNs). We need messaging around drug coverage and health insurance. So for example, an IDN on the East Coast and a similar-sized IDN in the Midwest will have different insurance plans to follow, and different drugs will be on a formulary. Health care providers need to take that into consideration for their patients’ treatment plans. So we need to make sure patients have the proper access before we can even begin to discuss the benefits of the new therapy with physicians. It’s about proper messaging and programs at the right time.

When patients know something before doctors do, it can work against you and alienate physicians away from your therapy. So we always try to make sure we talk to doctors first and get them the right information. For example, for our work with Cologuard, we marketed to physicians for a solid year before we did any DTC and it paid off: 90% of their sales were attributed to DTC.

Q: What do you want people to know about your job they may not know?
A: People look at me funny when I tell them I do media and engagement at a healthcare agency. They think it’s just TV, and TV is the smallest part. They think I am a mean negotiator when buying media, which is also not true. The best partnerships are about give and take. I love asking vendors, “Have you ever done this before?” For a client, whose treatment reduces the risk of recurrence in early stage HER2+ breast cancer, we worked with Pandora to launch the first-ever branded pharmaceutical advertisement. We got them to do their first pharma brand advertising once they understood the need for a 45-second spot instead of their usual 30-second spot. And we had the client underwrite “The Oncology Nurse Podcast,” which previously had never had sponsors.

Q: Finally, what’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at PRECISIONeffect?
A: Our CEO Carolyn knew I was pregnant before I realized it! We were on the West Coast getting ready for a day of pitches, and I was feeling queasy and thought I had eaten something bad. I never get nervous before pitches; I was white and nauseous and I couldn’t figure it out. She looked at me right before we went into the first pitch of the day and went, “What are you pregnant?” And I was like, “Oh yeah.” She would know since she’s had two sets of twins. She was like “I won’t tell a soul. You tell me when you’re ready to tell people!” She was so cool about it and excited and happy for me. It was classic Carolyn.