Next week, David is giving a content marketing workshop for a CRO in Boston. I’m going, too, so I’m boning back up on what the experts have to say about sharing content and doing it right. Of course my reading includes a newsletter series about content marketing for life sciences that David wrote in 2010! And while three years ago is ancient history in this tech-era, the fundamentals of content marketing haven’t changed and their value has increased exponentially — especially for the life sciences industry.

Consider this: scientists pioneered the concept of content marketing centuries ago with peer-review publishing. Even then, they understood that sharing their ideas was a sure-fire way to build an enhanced reputation. But as David points out, there are some key differences. Content marketing, for example, doesn’t have a peer-review system. And without that quality check, it’s easier to publish potentially bad content. Secondly, science has traditionally relied on industry journals, lectures, and scientific posters as channels for these ‘free’ findings and ideas. Today, life science marketers are adapting their messages on social media outlets that include YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook. Many in the life sciences once had little interest or easy access to those outlets. The same can’t be said today.

Take from that two (of the many) essentials for any content marketer:  1) produce good content, and 2) publish it through the channels that are most relevant to the intended audience.  I’m paraphrasing, but in their book Get Content, Get Customers, Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett sum this up as delivering “what customers need to know … in a relevant and compelling way.” (Here’s another way to think about it.)

In a recent webinar titled ‘The Digital Scientist,’ the life-science search engine Pubget proclaims that ours is no longer an Age of Ads, but an Age of Content. They surveyed more than 200 scientists about how they use content, and of the ~135 responses they tallied, 75%:

  • are university or hospital researchers who search and consume content at least once a day
  • browse more by subject than by specific content
  • rely on RSS feeds and email alerts to stay up-to-date
  • visit product and services websites – even if they don’t have direct responsibility for purchasing

Those are pretty good odds for delivering what customers need to know where they’re looking to find it. Brands, Pubget concludes, should aim to be part of the research workflow and not just positioned near it.

But what I found to be the ultimate in life science content marketing is a 12-minute video on TED about Open Source Cancer Research. Jay Bradner, MD heads the Department of Medical Oncology at Harvard Medical School’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and he talked about a molecule his lab developed that makes ‘cancer cells forget they’re cancer.’ To help advance the lab’s research, Bradner and his team sent their findings to everyone they knew. As a result, researchers from around the world built upon The Bradner Lab’s work and found new applications for diagnosis and treatment. This was “less about the science than the strategy,” Bradner explained. His was a commitment to being as open and honest at the earliest stage of his lab’s research as possible.

Last century’s life scientists pioneered the concept of content marketing. Today, they’re taking the Age of Content to new heights. What’s next, and will you be part of it?