Interview with Ciara Byrne, Multi Channel Marketing Lead at GSK.
Working with marketing in the heavily regulated Pharmaceutical industry in the heavily regulated European Union might sound like a nightmare for some creatives.
And if I tell you that there are, just as an example, multiple rules for what they can and cannot say in a simple subject line in a marketing email to clients, you might just think that there is nothing you could learn about creativity from such a rigid and controlled marketing environment.
But I think we can learn from everyone. That is why I am The Creativity Explorer and why I explore what we can learn about human creativity from all kinds of expected, and unexpected places.
So I contacted Ciara Byrne, Multi Channel Marketing Lead at GSK to talk about what creativity advantages we might all learn from Pharmaceutical marketing. Ciara, who is based in Dublin, and one of almost 70,000 employees of the global Pharma company GSK,
When Ciara started our conversation by saying: “Restrictions breed creativity.” I knew I had found the right person to interview.
Ciara agrees that there is robust regulation around what she does. It can be a lengthy process to get an email approved as it has to go through multiple approval processes to make sure it’s compliant from a marketing, legal, and medical perspective. That means many people will be involved with giving inputs, checking and commenting before the marketing material goes out.
And yes, done wrong, that will risk diluting, polluting or contaminating a great idea. (We have all experienced “Death by committee – the slow, painful death of an idea, initiative or project from the stifling effects of the bureaucratic process.”)
But done right a process of having many eyes on an idea can make it much, much better. That’s what Ciara calls “Distilled Creativity.”
When we distill something we purify it, we bring out it’s essence and only keep what should be kept.
Ciara told me what needs to be in place in order to distill an idea, vs polluting it or diluting it.
1) Make sure your idea is strong.
Ciara: “You need to make sure you come up with an idea that is strong enough to stand up to the scrutiny of a lot of people with different opinions. If the idea does not survive then perhaps it was just not strong enough.”
2) Make sure the second (and third) opinion(s) are not just more of the same.
Ciara: “I am not having my ideas reviewed by another marketeer just like me. That is meaningless. Instead, it goes through medical approval, content creation, the tech team, the commercial approval and so on. You want people with different skillsets to use their ‘filter’ to look at your idea as they will see things you just will not. That covers your blind spots and it also reduces biases.”
3) Check for honest opinions.
Ciara: “For Distilled Creativity to work you need people who are willing to give their honest opinion. And you cannot be offended if they don’t agree with you.”
When people from different disciplines and backgrounds meet there is bound to be conflict and tension. But that is the idea. Make sure you get that, and not people giving you the answers they think you want to hear. Then the exercise becomes meaningless.
4) It’s everyone’s opinion but your decision.
Ciara: “One person needs to own the creative project.”
This person decides what the final idea will be. He, or she, will listen to all the different options and suggestions, but the decision, in the end, has to belong to one person. Let’s call this person the “Master Creator” as a homage to the “Master distiller’ who decides when a distillation process is perfected.
Since Ciara is a marketing person I asked her to, on the spot, create a “slogan” for the concept of Distilled Creativity to “sell” it to others.
Without missing a beat she replied: “Distilled Creativity – Ideas Purified.”
I have to say I love that.
How many “filters” do you run your ideas through before you release them? If you ran it through more filters would it purify them? Should you practice Distilled Creativity more often?
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