Pharma Goes LIVE

by Christopher Jankoski

On Friday, December 11, 2020, the pharmaceutical brand, Aimovig®, brought together TV host, author, and activist, Karamo Brown, and a neurologist for a live conversation on Instagram about living with migraines and how to speak up about the disease. While the use of spokespeople and influencers is not foreign to the healthcare industry, the use of Instagram Live as a way to reach audience is a seldom-seen tactic. Here’s a recap of what went well and optimizations for future live-streaming events of this nature.

Who showed up?

There were approximately 75 attendees at the beginning of the Instagram Live session. Although we couldn’t see other attendees’ personal profiles and comments were turned off, the attendee count held steady at about 85 throughout and spiked to about 99 at its peak. It ended with approximately 84 people on the call, which showed those who tuned in stuck around for the long haul (even after a full Important Safety Information was read).

What went well?


The diversity of voices in the live conversation was definitely a highlight. It was great to see two BIPOC as the main drivers of the session, one a female healthcare provider and the other a notable member of the LGBTQ community. This brought forward important points of view and allowed the conversation to be about everyone.

The moments of unscripted dialogue, genuine connection, and authenticity really shined through.


It’s hard to find the balance of a “real conversation” and a promoted session when working with influencers, especially with the regulatory requirements of partnering with a pharma brand. While some moments felt scripted, the moments in between when the host could add a personal touch and transition were a delight.

Choosing the Right Partners

The choice of Karamo as the host and notable influencer proved to be the strongest piece of the conversation. When awkward pauses in the conversation or transitional bumps arose, Karamo took the lead to steer the dialogue and provided a human touch to the overall experience. This kept users’ attention and added a bit of levity to the conversation about a serious medical condition.

What could have been better?


Technical issues with sound are always a big roadblock to live-streaming and it takes trial and error to get it perfect. Sound was an apparent issue with a bit of echo on the host’s end throughout the session. While they attempted to remedy the issue early in the conversation, the echo persisted and became a bit distracting. Taking a few extra moments in the beginning to get the sound 100% correct could have really improved the overall experience.

Conversation Structure

The structure of the conversation could have been a bit more clearly defined. From what I could piece together, the format went as follows:

  • Introductions
  • Medical/Paid Participants Disclaimer
  • Answering User-submitted Questions About Migraines
  • Personal Rapid-Fire Questions About Migraines
  • Closing the Conversation
  • Important Safety Information
  • Thank You Message

However, the conversation felt a bit rushed and a lot of these pieces were blended together without clear beginnings and ends. Taking a few moments in between or adding some visual/audio cues to note the shift in topic would benefit future live social media engagements.

Reading Scripted Responses

Along with the structural confusion, the speakers’ responses to questions directly from pre-written scripts challenged the authenticity of the whole conversation. Users can easily tell when a host is reading directly off the paper. It wasn’t until Karamo specifically called out that he was reading from the paper (so he captured his thoughts accurately), that this rigidity felt a little more natural and relaxed. How to balance required language and conversational dialogue must be taken into account.

ISI Inclusion

Whether it’s on the tail-end of a TV commercial, a scrolling piece of your FB video ad, or side-rail text box of your website, incorporating ISI is a part of the healthcare marketing experience. Instagram Live and live streaming in general present an interesting opportunity to incorporate safety and balanced language in an authentic and notable way. This conversation started with some disclaimer language in the beginning and included a full ISI visual and audio at the end of the conversation.

Technical difficulties were apparent with the final ISI read-out. It started with the ISI image only taking up half the screen and being unreadable, then expanded to full screen where the user could see it. But then the hosts realized the audio wasn’t coming through, so Karamo took the lead and read the full ISI. This is a testament to a good influencer partner who recognized the suboptimal experience and was able to adapt and deliver the required messaging in what I think was a better way than pre-recorded voices over a single image.

Top Takeaways

Let Your Influencers Shine Through

You have chosen this partner because they bring an added value to the conversation. Brands must be careful not to stifle this added value by forcing influencers to conform and keep the conversation scripted. The highlights of this Instagram Live session were moments of realness and authenticity. Keep this at the forefront of the conversation flow.

Create a Clear Format to the Conversation

Any great social media strategy is rooted in capturing users’ attention within the first few seconds of their exposure to your content. However, this shouldn’t come as a pitfall of quality content. Although this conversation was 20 minutes, it felt much shorter. Take your time to organize the talking points in distinct, digestible ways that resonate with the audience in a memorable way.

Practice, Practice, and Practice

The expectation that some stumbles and awkward pauses will happen must be clear when incorporating a live-streaming component into your marketing mix. However, to mitigate these issues, continual practice and refinement of the conversation is key. Many of these issues (sound troubles, reading from a script, and the ISI experience) could have been eased by taking the time to get it right before the momentum of the conversation started rolling.

It’s Possible

Sure, there were a few stumbles, but there aren’t many brand-level social accounts doing live-streaming conversations with influencers. This is a huge step in the direction of healthcare and pharmaceutical brands fully embracing social media as a means to engage their audiences. While optimizations exist, this was a strong and brave step to bring the right people and marketing strategies into a health brand’s marketing mix. I fully applaud Aimovig® and hope to see more social media tactics like this in the future.

Interested in learning more about how health brands are embracing social media? Check out our Social Check-up Report 2020 where we explored trends of the top healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations’ social media presence.