ELITE 2021 Digital Crusader Sarah Mahoney of Weber Shandwick

Sarah Mahoney

Executive Vice President, Digital Health

Weber Shandwick

Embracing a Different Digital Approach

When Sarah Mahoney joined Weber Shandwick in 2012 as a key member of the agency’s emerging digital health practice, she wanted to build the practice around a key proposition—that to truly deliver against the unique needs of patients, the pharmaceutical industry had to embrace digital and social platforms differently.

She proved that proposition early, with the launch of the multi-award-winning campaign “Living Like You,” a digital and social media platform designed for the multiple sclerosis community that delivered exactly what patients wanted: real talk, real stories, and real engagement. That meant that nothing was off the table—Sarah worked in partnership with Novartis to push the boundaries of what a pharma company might say online by addressing sex, marijuana, and depression.

Later, when Sarah recognized patients needed more than the traditional unbranded disease awareness campaigns that clients offer, she built and launched the agency’s branded social media offering to help patients better understand their treatment options, find support and cost savings assistance, and thereby take better control of their disease management. Then she convinced her clients to do the same.

Her drive led to a series of firsts, including the first branded Facebook Live series in the industry. It was built on specific insights around the needs of people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), and included a custom RA-specific escape room that used real-world scenarios to better articulate the true challenges of living with RA—and the ways in which people with RA could tackle them. And during the pandemic, she used social to launch a major biotech’s announcement of free medicine for anyone impacted by COVID-19—the first such program in the industry.

In her tenure, Sarah has helped grow the integrated digital and social offering from a team of four to more than 50 specialists around the world. Her team is rooted in the belief that creativity is alive and well in healthcare and that we earn attention by pushing boundaries. They see medical, legal, and regulatory teams as a friend, not a foe. And most importantly, they never forget that patients are people, just like them.

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