Bayer’s Approach to the Challenge of Stakeholder Engagement in Healthcare

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When people are driven to engage with each other on social media seeking community and consensus about healthcare issues, organizations need to make sure they are part of that engagement. As head of pharma health policy region Americas for Bayer AG Communications and Public Affairs, Dominick Kennerson engages in corporate diplomacy and has been key in adding gravitas to the company’s digital communication capacity.

In his session at the upcoming Healthcare Social Media Summit October 23 in Baltimore entitled “How to Increase Stakeholder Engagement,” Kennerson will provide a practical to-do list on how to inspire internal and external engagement with your organization, how to build an ambassador program and how to use social channels to communicate expertise of individuals within your organization.

In this Q&A, he offers a preview of his views on the topic:

PR News: It’s great for patients to communicate with each other regarding healthcare questions, but how and when does an organization have to become part of that engagement process?

Dominick Kennerson: In large part it depends upon the type of organization and how it serves the patient need. For example, an online nonprofit support group may be an immediate early intervention for a number of episodic and chronic health challenges. Hospitals, as acute care models, can play a different role (as evidenced by communities such as CarePages), and research-intensive organizations play a different role as well. From a digital service point of view, patients should be able to communicate with each other across the healthcare spectrum.

PR News: What are the biggest obstacles for organizations trying to incorporate themselves into social media discussions?

DK: Legal and regulatory frameworks play a role, but more often than not it’s the 24/7 nature of care required to develop, monitor, engage and service patients or healthcare info-seekers for social media discussions.

PR News: Which social media platforms provide the biggest challenges for healthcare communications professionals?

DK: Platforms are always secondary, or even tertiary to philosophy, approach and service. A sound philosophical approach distinguishes amongst platforms while providing opportunities for tailoring and scalability.

PR News: What are the key steps to building an ambassador program?

DK: The major key is to first understand the solution it provides for the intended audience, and to provide this audience with unwavering transparency.

PR News: How do you use social media channels to communicate the expertise of individuals within your organization?

DK: Our organization leverages a full suite of online touch points to share individual expertise. From a platform view, this mostly includes LinkedIn, Twitter, and our Pharma Health Policy blog where we take steps to be transparent, establish a narrative and present our point of view.

PR News: Which kinds of social posts are most likely to inspire engagement?

DK: Engagement always depends upon audience served, timing, and the ability to connect. From a corporate point of view, I’m lately most impressed by posts from companies like Wendy’s or even some local news Instagram accounts. These posts carry an authentic human voice, distinctly connected to popular culture, widely engaging several demographics.

PR News: What is the most successful use of social media engagement in healthcare that you can recall from your personal experience?

DK: I’m still most impressed by those early social media healthcare pioneers, nonprofit groups such as The Wellness Community, Gilda’s Club, or the National Alliance for Mental Illness, which quickly recognized the value of adapting all or part of their support group model for the digital space. Through my work at the time, I was formally introduced to the aforementioned organizations in 2006, and their reputation remains intact for social media engagement today.

 Jim Alkon is a contributing writer for PR News and is currently Editorial Director of, a website where readers discover emerging authors.