Dec 01, 2021

Utilizing Grassroots Efforts, with Erica Klinger

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A seasoned digital marketing strategist with expertise in brand content development, digital advertising, and advocacy campaigns. Erica Klinger is responsible for helping some of the most consequential and impactful brands and non-profits tell their stories to audiences that matter. Erica’s strategic vision and data-driven approach have helped Fortune 500 companies and major non-profits generate unprecedented audience growth and bottom-line impact.

Currently, Erica is the Senior Director of Marketing at the Association for Accessible Medicines, the advocacy arm of the generics and biosimilars industry, where she works to ensure greater patient access to generic and biosimilar medicines. At AAM, Erica uses emerging digital and social media marketing techniques to convene and educate a diverse group of stakeholders to achieve priority goals.

Before joining AAM, Erica was the Director of Interactive Promotion and Strategy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Director of Marketing at Seattle Foundation. Erica has held VP channel strategy, creative director, senior digital strategist, and web developer roles at digital agencies and directed the digital creative, applications, and ad campaigns for Fortune 500 companies including Hilton Worldwide and FedEx.

Erica’s unique experience as a digital pioneer and strategic marketer has created unprecedented campaign results and earned her speaking appearances and podcasts including Voices of Advocacy podcast, Advocacy Desk podcast, Public Affairs Council Advocacy Conference 2020, National Press Club's PR Summit DC 2019, ASAE 2019 Annual Conference, CommA Conference for Foundations and the first-ever Google Nonprofit Summit in DC.

Erica enjoys using sophisticated digital strategies to digitally transform organizations and crafting high-value, educational consumer content. A mother of three with a passion for the outdoors, Erica enjoys spending time with her family and hiking in her free time.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why generic pharmaceutical companies have a unique marketing challenge and need more education and advocacy support than traditional pharmaceutical brands
  • How grassroots advocacy can be more impactful than standard marketing practices for the right products
  • How do you start a grassroots effort from scratch without a list 
  • Why Erica has found greater success with infographics, videos, and quizzes than less visual forms of content like emails
  • How the pandemic has allowed older generations to conquer the hurdle of technology, first out of necessity and now preference
  • How Erica learns new MarTech tactics and strategies from others in her industry and decides which to test


Additional resources:  

Show Transcription:

Intro: Welcome to A Brave New Podcast, the podcast all about how brave entrepreneurial companies are unlocking their business potential using inbound marketing. Here is your marketing expert and host, Polly Yakovich.

Polly Yakovich: Welcome back to A Brave New Podcast. I am so happy to be reunited with Erica Klinger for the podcast today. It's been a while since we chatted. Erica is leading the marketing team for the Association of Accessible Medicines. She's going to share all about her marketing and advocacy work for them. I know Erica to be a woman of many questions, many ideas. I would describe you as a futurist. Is that how you would describe yourself, Erica?

Erica Klinger: Yeah, some people might say the word "builder."

Polly Yakovich: There, I love that word.

Erica Klinger: Actually I had this notebook when I was back in college that said, "I'm not crazy, I'm just creative." I try to bring that into the marketing space and the business space, and sometimes it's embraced, and sometimes they're like, "Go back and go create something pretty."

Polly Yakovich: I can relate to that. Building is actually one of the core values of Brave New, because we think of ourselves that way too.

Polly Yakovich: I'm excited to have you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for coming.

Erica Klinger: Holly, it's great. It's great to connect again, and I enjoyed working with you when I was over on the west coast.

Polly Yakovich: 100 years ago, when we briefly crossed paths.

Erica Klinger: Yeah.

Polly Yakovich: Tell me about your story. Give me your bio and what you're doing now, and what you're proud of.

Erica Klinger: Great. Just to say, just in general, I don't feel older or tired.

Polly Yakovich: I know.

Erica Klinger: But I have been in the digital world.

Polly Yakovich: You don't? I do, I don't know how you don't.

Erica Klinger: Over [crosstalk 00:01:47]. I know, I want to say that, but there's still a lot more in me, and every day I'm more excited and excited and see new opportunities. So I think this being in digital has been really great. Really started out right out of college. My undergrad was more as a creative director in design, but right out of college, ended up in a startup. So I'm more of that self-learned, building websites, learning html, everything was Netscape and [crosstalk 00:02:14] memorized the RGB colors.

Erica Klinger: So I think to me, my background was really on the creative side, and really education. I really enjoyed educating people, and building materials. I don't know if it's just my personality, but I like things that engage me, that are fun. So early on, I was really into video and app development, and doing things that were just-

Polly Yakovich: You are a futurist. You are a futurist. That was early. I would've been like, "What's an app? I have no idea."

Erica Klinger: I just wanted to stay away from business. I was like, that's boring, just making people money. Let's just make people have a good time, have fun, that lead to a better business, and why I've pretty much ended up on the brand side, and the marketing, the brand marketing side now, I would say. And really, as a specialist specifically in the digital marketing and engagement. Now I have been through several different organizations, so looking just briefly on where I've been, starting off working with four corporations, so a lot of it on the for-profit side. So whether it was FedEx, or Hilton, really building those application development.

Erica Klinger: Then I ended up working for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. That was my first role, brought in there really as a change agent, I would say, to build and help understand how to build their digital department. They already had a fully functional department, but my role was the promotion. So they didn't really understand the social media channel, search engine marketing, display, they never had run display campaign. So I think it was like they had a really core great fundraising business that was really traditional direct marketing, wonderful, but how do you go and bring that online to that success? Ran and worked with some of the first people, and campaigned for the Thanks And Giving campaign. Exceeded donations, 150% increased year over online donations. And it was many through engagement of the patients, so building their [crosstalk 00:04:25] networks, building like a Google hangout, where patients were able to ask questions to physicians, featuring patients. So something that early on, like patient engagement that was online, that was like a no-no.

Erica Klinger: So bringing it from a very flat print image to real people was where I started. Then that sparked into working in Seattle, working more on the strategy side for multiple nonprofits and advocacy. Then into where I am now, in DC on Capitol Hill with the Association for Accessible Medicines. But very similar to St. Jude, really use and tap into the patient voice to really help share the industry story.

Polly Yakovich: Wow. I want to hear so much about that. Talk about your advocacy work. What is it that your organization does? Give us a little context to understand how the marketing plays a piece of that.

Erica Klinger: Yeah. I actually, both at Seattle Foundation and the Association For Accessible Medicines, I'm in the first marketing role on staff.

Polly Yakovich: Whoa.

Erica Klinger: Not necessarily ... It's all kind of on the communications side, and public affairs, [inaudible 00:05:38]. So I think that's what has brought some success, is bringing kind of a new outlook that really ties into creative and marketing campaigns. What we are essentially is a trade association. Multiple associations, in the DC area, right on Capitol Hill. What we have is, we advocate on the behalf of patients for accessible medicines, generics and biosimilars medicines, which are the competitors to the brand medicines. So all the commercials that you might see on TV, all those commercials with the different brand and names and logos, that's not our industry. We're unknown, most of our members don't have marketing or PR departments. They're the manufacturers of the competitors that come out after that brand drug goes off patent. Then we have a totally different manufacturing process. And we're able to provide a low-cost solution that's the same, they're FDA approved medicines, to patients.

Erica Klinger: When you look at big numbers, 90% of prescriptions filled in the United States are generic medicines, and only 20% of the cost. So it really boiled down to advocacy, it's more of a education, that we are not just, you can't lump the pharmaceutical industry into one big bucket. If you look at generics, there's different policies. Policies might affect our industry and actually make it so that a patient won't have access to those medicines that are mainly, average, under $20 for a copay.

Polly Yakovich: Wow, that's amazing.

Erica Klinger: [crosstalk 00:07:21] $50 or $60 on the brand side.

Polly Yakovich: I'm married to a non-American, my husband is English, and it's funny, when you're married to somebody who isn't from here, what things about America you take for granted. All of those commercials that you talked about on TV, when he first moved here he was like, "What is this insane country I'm in, that they're actually having a commercial about a drug and then I'm supposed to ask my doctor?" On no level does that make sense to him at all. He's like, "That doesn't feel ethical."

Erica Klinger: Yeah, and a lot of influence there, right. If you don't have the money to put out those billion dollar ad campaigns, the generics and biosimilars marketing, we're just not even here, we don't have a voice. So when we talk about voice and advocacy, like I said, a lot of it does fall on the brand and communication and marketing side, because you're really just trying to educate and build awareness about the products and the value proposition.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Talk to me about, particularly now, but I think even at Seattle Foundation, when you're the first marketing comms person in a place, what are you tackling? It seems like, what forces are you pushing back against that aren't used to your role? And then, what are you trying to achieve? How do you set that up?

Erica Klinger: So loaded question there.

Polly Yakovich: Big question. We'll be here for 90 minutes answering this question.

Erica Klinger: Disruptive. Yeah, I'm [inaudible 00:08:42] person that's kind of disrupting everything, asking the hard questions.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, but with such charm.

Erica Klinger: Yeah, you're trying to be helpful. You know it's not all going to happen in a month, so it's definitely a phased approach of coming into an organization, listening, understanding, and cracking what they're currently doing. Then identifying as an audit some areas that you might be able to enhance and increase. So one of my roles early on is really, we were working on kind of a whole rebranding of the organization, we were called the generic pharmaceutical, GPHA Association. GPHA for short. And when we were branded to the Association For Accessible Medicines, we knew we wanted to build in that patient audience as one of our primary target audiences. We wanted to know that we wanted to use them to help tell their story.

Erica Klinger: So part of me, for example, was coming in and just saying, if we wanted to get a patient out of all those patients out there to speak for us ... Because the association is credible, but when it comes from a patient, way better. How can we do that? And I got the answer of, well we don't really have that database, and we work to align with partnerships with patient groups, which is wonderful. But I was looking at other associations they had pretty developed grassroots programs.

Erica Klinger: When you say the word grassroots advocacy, versus maybe grass tops, grassroots is leveraging and empowering a person, or a patient, to go out and actually send a message, or call, email, tweet at, what have you these days, send a video to your lawmaker. And you're giving them the tools to do that. And it's more effective, because lawmakers are patients. and they're going to listen to someone that's in their state, so if you're a lawmaker in the state of California you might listen and care about what your constituent's talking about. Versus an association trying to break through and tap in and schedule a meeting with a lawmaker.

Erica Klinger: So on the technical side, very technical. Making sure there's inputs for people to subscribe. Have a newsletter. That wasn't even existent. Making sure that you had a grassroots platform for people to opt in for advocacy. Making sure you had social channels even set up for people to subscribe to. That's all just marketing communications 101. When you're talking about a small, at that point, 20% organization, the time and resources weren't there to build out those tools. So for me it's just, after working with many different organizations from large to small, and I love the small scrappier ones, giving those tools that maybe one person can run, or two, and so it really comes down to technology. The agility that you can get from technology tools, wonderful.

Erica Klinger: One of the first meetings I had was with our general council, just to talk about social media. If we're doing this, what's our policy? And how are we going to make sure that, in a highly regulated industry, that our legal team sees all the information before it goes out? Again, we're small, I don't have a huge social media team, so we implemented a tool called Gain, which is an app that allows multiple people to input content for all different channels, and a process where numerous people can review it through email and alerts. Just go in and approve. And you became huge, right, you didn't need a [inaudible 00:12:23] team if you tapped into subject matter experts putting in information, and then marketing communications just kind of reviewing it before it deploys.

Polly Yakovich: That's great. That's such a good lesson in, obviously being scrappy, but utilizing the subject matter experts you have, rather than forcing a marketing comms team to produce everything. Then I think you gain so much more buy-in when you sort of democratize the production of your content throughout the organization. People feel proud of what they're putting out there.

Erica Klinger: Yeah, and I think when it comes to today, people know the difference between advertising and authentic content, or try to, because there's a lot of misinformation. And so they really do rely on those bloggers, Twitter. It looks like these people are experts, and so people can drill down, see their background, see their degrees, see where they work, and then trust their information more than it coming out from the news or an organization. So I think we were always a big advocate for our subject matters having their own social channels, and us supporting them.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. That's wonderful. Talk about how you build from scratch. When you're trying to build this grassroots effort, and reach out to patients, and have them advocating for their needs, and you being able to give them a bit of a microphone, how do you start that? That feels daunting. Like if you don't have a list to start from, how do you do that?

Erica Klinger: Again, technology. And I think that's what I always kind of bring to the table. I think it's marketing tech, because I would never call myself someone that's an expert in programming, or even IT these days. Just insecurity. Phenomenally complicated, and that's not my area.

Erica Klinger: On the marketing tech side, for an example, to build a database, and something that can be manned by one person, we used a tool, and we actually tested two tools. We had a firm when I came on, I won't share the name, but a grassroots tool, but people weren't using or subscribing, and I didn't understand why. Then we went through the user experience as a person, and I said, oh yeah, this is really complicated. And if you look at who we're reaching, many times it's elderly people that are on Medicare and Medicaid, that really want to speak to their lawmakers. So we needed a tool that was super simple to use, mobile friendly, if they're on Facebook, if they're on their phone, that they could use.

Erica Klinger: We ended up using a tool called Phone To Action. And there are numerous tools, so I am not in here to plug a product per se. I would say test. I'm just sharing some insights on a tool like that. [inaudible 00:15:09] look and scout other competitors as well. But what that tool does was, it gives you an easy way to put out campaigns through your networks. So you could do, essentially, a Facebook ad that basically would say, "There is legislation right now that is impacting your access to low-cost generic medicines. Send a message to your lawmaker now or opt in for advocacy alerts."

Erica Klinger: Just looking at the prices of advertising across the board, if you're looking at a print ad versus a Facebook ad, a lot more cost-effective on a Facebook ad, and you can really reach that target audience. Anyway, our demographic of patients on Facebook. So to activate them, you need a place or an email where you're going out. But if you don't have an email, that's great, do advertising on Facebook. [crosstalk 00:16:02] interest to an audience that you think has that interest; once they opt in, it just takes time. Just continue to grow. We have over 200,000 messages that have gone out since I've worked at AAM, and over 20,000 different advocates.

Polly Yakovich: Wow. That's incredible growth.

Erica Klinger: [crosstalk 00:16:23] hundred thousand social media followers.

Polly Yakovich: Wow. Did you primarily build this through Facebook advertising, and giving people access to sign up themselves, rather than trying to push out through your members?

Erica Klinger: Yeah, absolutely. Our membership is built on corporate members, and so it was just too hard to reach the employees that work in that membership. And I know that people feel differently about Facebook advertising, so you don't actually have to advertise, you can put out an organic post consistently on your website. You can have a big area. Our website gets a lot of traffic, so people, if they're interested, make sure it's front and center and opt in. So you don't have to use advertising. But if people are listening that are in marketing, yes, we have put out ads across all different channels, and we find that, yes, Facebook would be the one with the lowest cost of acquisition.

Erica Klinger: Text, I would say, is the best medium for then contacting the patient. Email just seems to be, not a lot of people are opening emails any more, so we get them to first subscribe, and then text them when there's something that has urgency. And be cautious, don't over-text anybody, but if they're interested they will click and send a message.

Polly Yakovich: You talked a little bit about some of the channels; what sort of holistic tactics are you finding the best ways to really educate and inform patients?

Erica Klinger: I think that, when I look at the things that have worked in the past, and what we started out with, we were kind of infographics and videos. I know that sounds kind of 101, but people learn in so many different ways, and a lot of times, when I looked across the board at what other people were doing, they were kind of deep, weedy emails, or a website that had so much information that patients couldn't understand what was going on. So I think that an infographic or a video format really helps them understand very quickly what the point is, and then a call to action on what you should do.

Erica Klinger: Moving on to that, we have tested and explored other things that we've seen impact on our last campaign, which was #SecureOurMeds. We activated people through Instagram stories, and so interactive stories was a great way. We did quizzes, and that's, again, not coming out with the hard-

Polly Yakovich: It's like compulsive. I can't not press something. I'm sure I have an opinion, yes, no, whatever it is.

Erica Klinger: And you're testing your knowledge.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Erica Klinger: That's [crosstalk 00:19:29] good, test your knowledge. What's the impact of generic medicines? How much do you think generics saved last year? And if they picked the 20 million and not the 313 million, they're like, the answer, 313, and they're like, "What!"

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Erica Klinger: To couple that, we also did Spotify advertising with some talking about the quiz. So they would say, "Test your knowledge." Very accessible, casual, that's our brand. "What do you think?" Then, after that, if you want to learn more, go here. So I would say that was another one.

Erica Klinger: Then, sticking on those same channels, one of the things we did that was, I would say, one of the most innovative things we've did on the biosimilar side, because that has little ... A lot of people don't understand, even though biosimilars have been adopted across the world. In the US there's been 30 approved and 20 on the market, so it's still very kind of unknown. So we did a Instagram and Snapchat filter and lens, to celebrate the passing of the BCPIA, which is legislation that allowed biosimilars to market in the US. But you kind of zone when I say BCPIA.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Erica Klinger: But if I give you to click on a link, and I have this fun little filter that you can use, and it's augmented reality, so if you pick up your phone and you do a filter, a lot of times I'll do it with the flowers in my hair, or put really cool glasses on my fact. Well we did the same thing, where we actually had more of a medical science-y them, where you medical little glasses on, and then we had hexagons that would fly out of your face, basically, with all these icons that were related to medicine. microscopes, what have you. Then if you turned it around, you actually could put it on your screen, and we had a website where it had a surprise popout of an anniversary card celebration.

Polly Yakovich: Nice.

Erica Klinger: So it's kind of like, [crosstalk 00:21:46], that's my playful nature. If I'm bored, probably everyone else is tuning out after the first minute. That tactic has really been done by Nike, and huge brands, and so just taking that technology and executing it, you could really do that in any in-house department. If you have a Facebook page, you're just using the creator studio to create it. We used, actually Social Driver was something that we used in the DC area that helped us navigate through the creation, and then just use our designers to supply the artwork. The cost is very minimal compared to other things, and it can last for years, so we do like an annual subscription on it. And we had so many people use the lens and share the lens, it's crazy. It's cool.

Polly Yakovich: I think you're touching on something that I think sometimes we forget, particularly in the B2B marketing space, which is, surprising and delighting and engaging people is important. Like not everything is going to have a direct ROI line, but like you said, people were sharing it, people are hearing about who you are as a result, that may not otherwise have engaged with your brand.

Erica Klinger: I know. It's the one thing we kind of overlook, the fun test. [crosstalk 00:23:10]

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. The fun test, I think, that's a good one to put in. Every time you're thinking through, what are our testing options, and then what's the fun test? I think that that's a really important reminder actually, I'm going to add that to my list.

Erica Klinger: We're an industry that, it's very serious. People rely on our medicines, they are life and death. So it's hard to navigate that, that's why you've got to work on your legal teams. That's where at St. Jude we talked about doing these more fun-

Polly Yakovich: Did you run the filter through the legal team?

Erica Klinger: Absolutely. It is a team effort, and our policy folks, and our federal affairs folks, we all need to be on the same page to make sure that the tone is correct. Because putting something like that out, and actually with that filter we had planned to put it out right when the pandemic hit. We went out for a week. We had thousands of filter usage in the first day, and then it was like, we decided to stop. Because we felt we were being tone def. Then we rolled it back out in the fall, but it was right before the elections, so that was at the time when all those restrictions on advertising ... So it still did really well through just organic and partner sharing. Just to say that, you never know what's going to happen, and just make sure that it's covered, and make sure you have to be appropriately fun.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, absolutely. Through all of your work hearing from patients, I think it's been a really challenging year for everyone, but when we look through the patient lens, there's lots of different concerns, and people talk about different kinds of patient adoption that's really stratified over the last year. Lots of things going virtual. What are patients thinking about, what are they concerned about, what are they fearful about, what are they hopeful about?

Erica Klinger: Yes, it seemed to change every month and every week last year, and into this year, so it was important to pull our patients. We actually implemented new technology on our website to allow them to share their thoughts, and we could react too, when we were doing the Secure Our Meds campaign. Which was really about a sustainable supply chain, and it came about because of policy being created during the pandemic to ensure patients received their medicines. They were telling us, "I can't get to the post office." And we were asking them, we were polling them. So we had a place on our website and a survey tool that was all mobile friendly, that they could actually record or upload their own video and tell us what they were thinking.

Polly Yakovich: Oh wow.

Erica Klinger: [crosstalk 00:25:58] a lot of that to help inform those quizzes that went out on Instagram. At the end of the day, the generics and biosimilars industry, to date, like I don't know what's going to happen, but wonderful. Wonderful people that have worked on the front line, behind the scenes with probably not a lot of credit or visibility, to make sure that people receive their medicines. We have not, so far, seen an issue with someone walking into CVS and not being able to pick up their prescriptions, one of the things that people were concerned about. And we put on our website an FAQs campaign for patients, with resources. "Should I backfill my medicines? Should I ..." So we saw a lot of people just making sure that they ordered it so they didn't have to go as often to pick it up at their pharmacy. Then pharmacies adapted the way that they did business, and they delivered things to the patient's door. So it was kind of wonderful to see, people couldn't get their toilet paper, but they can open their front door and their pharmacy bag is safely delivered there no-touch.

Polly Yakovich: That's wild.

Erica Klinger: That's the whole supply chain. So our industry and our members are the ones creating the medicines, but it takes the full supply chain, internationally, to make sure that that gets to the patient. So when patients, looking forward, I think that they need to research and understand how that it works. I think that it's easy for people to say, "I'm not getting my medicine, it's the person manufacturing the pills." So it's important, I would say it's important to anyone listening out there, everyone's a patient, I take medicines, to be educated about it, and then to share your voice if you are relying on generic medicines. There are policies being put in place, and they don't have the education to understand the difference.

Erica Klinger: So to speak out right now, it's a virtual landscape. It is actually much easier to contact a representative and talk to a lawmaker through a virtual town hall. You could have a group of people on a town hall that logistically wouldn't be easy to do. You can't fly, like associations are flying patients to a state capital. We don't have to do that. Now everyone's adopted, they're working from home, many people, and they're just turning on, and it's much easier for them to tap into a 10-minute conversation with a real patient, that they don't have to schedule anything.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. I think that that's been one of the benefits of the pandemic environment. Do you think that that will continue? Do you think people realize that there's a little bit of a democratization in giving access to everyone, in a way that they might have struggled having access before like that? Whether it's to a lawmaker, or to resources?

Erica Klinger: Yeah, I think there was definitely a technology learning curve that we found a lot of the elderly overcame. I know my parents weren't doing Zooms. We did a Thanksgiving Zoom, and that's when I was teaching my parents how to get on and talk, and now my dad's out there doing reading clubs.

Polly Yakovich: Wow.

Erica Klinger: Yes, I absolutely think [inaudible 00:29:17] getting over the hurdles of the technology, and now they realize they can just pick up their phone or do a Zoom with their kids that are living halfway around the world. If that's just happening in real life, that's definitely going to filter to the [inaudible 00:29:32] and policy world. And I do think there is absolutely reports out of, and I know Phone To Action, I was just reading through one of their reports from last year, that grassroots engagement was one of the things that really, really increased during the pandemic, and they're saying they need to continue.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. So you're someone, just to change, a little bit, tacks, you're someone that makes me tired, because it's like you know about 100 new apps or tech tools that are out there, and you're testing a bunch of things at once, and you're trying things, and you have all of these things in your queue. How do you do it? How do you keep up? Are you just so curious, and you just always kind of know what you want to be testing through? What's your system? How can those of us who are not as able learn and test and try and figure out what the new mar tech is?

Erica Klinger: Believe me, I don't have time all day to be sitting there going to conferences and checking and reading all those wonderful newsletters I subscribe to that [crosstalk 00:30:43]

Polly Yakovich: Yeah.

Erica Klinger: I think it comes to basically having that curiosity, and not being afraid to fail. A lot of people don't want to change or try new things, and I think looking at what others are doing ... You might not have time to go to a conference, but get involved in maybe a group of your peers. So just within, I attend the National Health Council affinity group calls for communications and marketing, and I learn so much by what others are doing that could be adopted for my industry. So we're not necessarily competitors. If I'm the association that represents pharmaceuticals, someone that represents swimming pools, go for it. Go do your pool Snapchat lens.

Erica Klinger: So I find there are ways where people just uniquely want to help each other, so just staying in tune with what other people are doing in our own world, and then adapting that. Keep it in the back of your mind, and then have a positive attitude. You don't know how you're going to get it done, but if it's a good idea and it makes sense for your organization, start walking through the process of getting one or two people onboard and aligned that that is a good idea.

Erica Klinger: Then, rely on the experts. We are now more like a 30-person organization and growing, but we're just a core team of more strategists than subject matter experts. We rely on, I have a wonderful creative team, Dirt Media does our photography and branding, signature advertising. In Memphis they do a lot of our event marketing. We have Model B doing a lot of our advertising in DC, and advocacy work. I say the only way I get things done is using and leveraging my internal resources effectively. We have people that know how to write, we have people that are experts in web, we have people that are experts in advertising. And my job is to figure out how and when to activate them, with very clear direction.

Erica Klinger: So if you're not sure, and I hear this a lot with digital, "My CEO will never go with that. My SVP, they don't understand that, they're doing it the same way, and I just hit a bump." And I just tell people, that's your opportunity to use data analytics, and do a small test. So you've got to [inaudible 00:33:15] relationships with people within your organization so they trust you. So do some kind of quick win instead of taking on this big new app development. Go and just get them ... It's all about reputation and trust, so if you're solving a problem a couple times, they're more apt to listen to you the next time when you have an idea. So go out with, they might come with you with some challenge, and you might know another way, or another approach, that you want to try out because you've heard about it. Then ask them if you can do a little pilot or beta, just to see if it even works. You're going to go out, you're going to do a low school.

Erica Klinger: And this is, again, I keep hearing it on Facebook, but it's just because it's so cheap and cost effective that, we're always saying, "I don't have the budget" ... And I know we're pharmaceutical [inaudible 00:34:03], so yes, we have more of a budget than maybe other people, but nothing compared ... I would say the brand pharmaceutical side-

Polly Yakovich: Oh yeah, they have the budget.

Erica Klinger: Yes. Our budget, in one week ... In one week, what we spend all year, they'll spend in a week, right, it's [crosstalk 00:34:22]. So for people, if I'm saying use Facebook only because you can put out a test of messages. So if your policy team is like, "Go out and put out this message to these people," and you're like, "Well I think the creatives should do this, and maybe the simpler message, and I think we should link it here," put them both out together, and those tools in advertising allow you to test head to head, and then just see which gets more engagement. Because at the end of the day, we don't know people's behavior. It changes every day. It's impacted by what's on the news. Just because another organization did it doesn't mean it's going to work for you. So you have to be smart, and you don't act like you know everything. That's part of the fun. Test.

Polly Yakovich: What are you learning and testing right now?

Erica Klinger: One of the things that we're doing that's pretty new, and I think it came from other people doing it, and I think for a number of years I was like, "We need to do a podcast!" Because everybody in marketing does a podcast.

Polly Yakovich: Yeah, why not.

Erica Klinger: Another channel, another platform. And we're like, "I don't think, you know ..." And we just tossed around, we don't know if we had the resources, or what's the impact, who were we trying to reach. So we ended up launching All Access Podcast, because CEO Dan Leonard came to AAM just a year ago, it's actually his year anniversary, and he has a really good background in that media and communication, so he's great on TV. Satellite media tour, we're kicking off for our savings report, we do two reports a year, and our savings report is launching the end of this month.

Polly Yakovich: Nice.

Erica Klinger: He is able to have deeper conversations, just like you are, with industry experts, and it just really has worked out really well. We've had hundreds of downloads within the first podcast releasing, and we had additional podcasts in the queue that we didn't even formally promote, and people were finding them, and media people were tweeting them out.

Polly Yakovich: That sounds great.

Erica Klinger: So kudos to the whole team. On the communication side that's a big effort, on our comms team side. Our CEO just going through, and our whole team finding people to be on the program. And you want to find people that are interesting and add value. You're not just getting up there to talk. I think most of the people are really out there to help others, and a lot of times you can get industry veterans that are out of it, and have that perspective to then share backwards. I like it, I think that people are listening to it, so that's, I guess, just one of the areas, it's called All Access Podcast. You can find it at, you'll see a link to it.

Polly Yakovich: Sounds great

Erica Klinger: Or you can find it, actually, on Apple. Apple, or any of the numerous places that you get your podcasts. I'm thinking more, obviously native advertising is something that ... A lot of times people are like, "You need to go do that big print ad in the Washington Post." So we've tapped into things like Octopus, which is like a ride share platform, that if you have your video or quiz on a screen, and someone's getting picked up or dropped off on Capitol Hill, that is a great time to get in front of that audience and [crosstalk 00:37:48] different channel that maybe most people aren't thinking about.

Polly Yakovich: It's especially interesting for you, because obviously you have lawmakers in a particular locale that are using those services. That's a really interesting way to think outside of the box for your organization, and what that could look like for you in a localized kind of way.

Erica Klinger: And I know that influencer marketing is something that everyone talks about, but how do you actually use it? So let's say, one of the things we're testing out is, for our conference marketing, we use a platform, again a technical platform, called Feather. I don't know if there's anyone else out there like that, but opening our minds of new ways to leverage the speakers, the partners, the sponsors, and supplying them with a platform that allows them to share the conference, and get incentivized. If it tracks back, if someone registers because of that person's email sharing [crosstalk 00:38:43] post, they can get kind of incentivized, whether it be a free pass registration or more visibility to their brand at the event. It's a type of influencer marketing that I don't think enough people use, and so it has worked out, and we're able to track back and actually give them data, and get them engaged.

Erica Klinger: When you talk about influencer marketing just in the healthcare space, I think we all know that there's these YouTubers, and Instagrammers, and if you have a physician that has a million followers, and that physician goes out and says, "Biosimilar medicines, more should be approved in the US, I trust them, I prescribe them for my patients," that's huge. So I think [inaudible 00:39:27] healthcare, I know it's kind of a little bit difficult to get it in and figure out how and why, and I know that maybe TikTok might not be everything everyone wants to be into, and we're not at this point, but I think it's definitely a valid strategy, and done in the right way, in the appropriate manner, with trusted professionals that you have looked at and understand, is a great way to align on a different way of partnership through social media.

Polly Yakovich: That's incredible. If you're listening, and you have not been able to write down all of the great ideas and applications she's talking about, make sure to check out the transcript and just hit up all the ... I'll have to check out Feather, I don't know them. But that sounds really incredible.

Polly Yakovich: Thank you so much for sharing. I want to ask you the last question I ask everyone who comes on the podcast, and I'm curious what you'll say this is about yourself. What do you say is your superpower? What makes you uniquely gifted to do what you do?

Erica Klinger: I do see myself as more of an all-hats. Maybe that's, I used to think, was a negative, but now I think that, because I'm open-minded and don't say I'm an expert in anything, I think questioning is great, is my super power. Just not saying I know everything. Leaning on others, good people is everything. Team is everything. Invest in people, get to know them, get to know your team, spend more time talking instead of always just running and doing. Like we worked on the strategy side, and there's nothing short of having a good strategy. Come up with a strategy, get input into the strategy, get all the people you can to see it, and then execute that strategy. I just think that that's what I do every time, and I don't do it alone.

Polly Yakovich: That's great. How can people follow you, hear what you have to say, listen to your perspective, where can they find you?

Erica Klinger: I think Twitter and LinkedIn, I'm Erica Klinger, so super simple. I also am in Instagram, and my dog is on Instagram more so, on Instagram. He's a good boy, [inaudible 00:41:44] labor. He does not give digital advice, but I'm just ... Actually AAM, this is an example of emotions and doing things outside the box: AAM has an AAM dogs account.

Polly Yakovich: Oh my goodness.

Erica Klinger: So if you [crosstalk 00:41:57] Twitter or Instagram @AAMDogs, we've activated dogs. Because in DC, people love talking about their dogs. People love sharing dog things. That's another outside box away where you don't have to be an expert to look and say, look everyone, in DC has a dog, everybody in PR and communications talking about their dogs. Let's start a dog account. [crosstalk 00:42:19]

Polly Yakovich: Yeah. Just being human and connecting is such an important reminder.

Erica Klinger: Then Accessible Meds is @AccessibleMeds, is our handle. We're on Twitter, we're on Instagram, our website is We're on YouTube, LinkedIn, and then also the biosimilar accounts. I have talked about biosimilars, which people are, this is kind of the alternatives to expensive biologic medicines, [crosstalk 00:42:48] Humira. Millions spent, a lot of talk around that in drug pricing and policy. If you want to learn more about that, go to, and they also have their own channel, it's Biosims Council. Across Twitter, YouTube as well.

Polly Yakovich: That's incredible. We'll link it in the show notes so that it's not hard to find. Thank you so much for your time.

Erica Klinger: It was awesome as usual.

Polly Yakovich: It was so great to chat with you.

Erica Klinger: I know, I was like, "Polly, she's awesome. She always has so many great ideas." So thank you for all the great questions, and hopefully it was a help for others out there, and yeah, feel free to connect with me any time. I love talking digital and advocacy.

Polly Yakovich: And you're on LinkedIn too, I'll link that as well.

Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of A Brave New Podcast. Go to for more resources and advice. If you enjoyed this episode, show us some love by subscribing, rating, and reviewing A Brave New Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.


Polly Yakovich

Polly Yakovich



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