Melissa Mackey

The tips and advice in this article were featured in Melissa Mackey’s Member Meeting presentation in New York, “Elevating Novartis’ social media reputation: A case study in mHealth.” Melissa has been a member of since 2009.

For Novartis, social media is sandwiched between FDA laws and the company’s legal and regulatory teams around the globe.

“Those regulators and legal teams review every single tweet and every single Facebook post. You can imagine the number of eyeballs on each piece of content. It’s really intense,” says Melissa Mackey, Associate Director of Digital Strategy for Novartis, in her Member Meeting presentation in New York.

In fact, her presentation began with a disclaimer from the company: “The opinions expressed in this presentation and the following slides are solely those of the presenter and not necessarily those of the Novartis Pharmaceuticals Company.”

Melissa says she’s not alone.

“Conservative organizations, conservative mindsets, or regulated industries are not limited to the pharmaceutical industry.”

So the challenges they face didn’t stop Melissa’s team from using every opportunity to elevate their brand in social.

“Social is a business. All of the tactics we do are commonplace now. So how do we bring it to the next level?”

To strengthen Novartis’ social media profile, they broadcasted their live event, Novartis Mobile Health Challenge, in social.

Novartis sent out a call to developers to join the company at a live event to create a mobile app that helps caregivers of people with acute heart failure. But broadcasting the hackathon on social media wasn’t going to be easy from a regulatory perspective.

“This was rather intense for some of our legal team members to wrap their heads around. Not only was this the first challenge we had ever done, but now, we want to make sure there are social sharing components and asking people to share it.

Getting the legal team on board required making some adjustments.

To monitor the conversation and make sure nothing proprietary was shared, they set up a round-the-clock social media listening command center during the hackathon. Another way they calmed the legal team’s fears: getting them involved.

“What really worked for us was bringing a large amount of Novartis employees to the event. We believe in co-creation. That actually means we had a legal team sitting alongside coders and developers to help inform them about the legal implications of the space and what works in terms of patient information and privacy.”

Melissa says having photographers and videographers at the hackathon was crucial.

“It was really important for us to capture the event, because we were doing something for the first time. We wanted to explain to a lot of internal nonbelievers what happened at the event and bring the experience back to them. That way, we could get them to become a social ambassador for us.”

“We knew we made an impact and were able to own the landscape.”

Melissa shared some great post-event results: 150 developers participated, they earned 46 entries to the hackathon (double the amount of the average hackathon), and reached over 800,000 people with their social sharing.

Equally important, Melissa’s team communicated the power of social media internally at Novartis.

In fact, their C-suite attended the event, took photos and videos, and uploaded them to Novartis’ internal social platforms across the world.

“We leveraged our videos and photos internally as much as we did externally,” Melissa says.

“For an organization like Novartis, we’re really concerned to go where a precedent hasn’t been set. But by bringing the event home to employees’ desktops to let them experience it, it helped make them believers and make them proud of what they helped deliver for the organization.”

Say hi to Melissa on Twitter and ask about her favorite foodie spot in NYC — or you can check out the video from her full presentation here.

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