Disease Awareness Marketing: Best Practices & Must-Know Info

Disease awareness marketing is key for your pipeline products.

Raising awareness of the disease also raises awareness of the need for your product, right?

But you can’t just shout from the rooftops about the disease and call it a done job…

Sculpting a disease awareness campaign (DACs) requires in-depth knowledge of your audience, an informative message, and the right media. The benefits of a good campaign can even boost public perception of your company.

But, if it goes wrong, a bad disease awareness campaign could seriously harm your reputability and authority… so, there’s quite a lot on the line. 

Let’s take a closer look at how to build a successful campaign.

What is Disease Awareness Marketing?

The definition of a disease awareness campaign is:

A public health initiative designed to increase knowledge and understanding of a specific disease or health condition

Many are targeted at either the general public or HCPs (you can’t do both in one campaign, as we’ll explain later).

The goal of the campaign is always to educate about the disease, its symptoms, causes, and of course, the treatments that you provide.

While charities and even governments may run disease awareness campaigns, in pharma marketing they are typically used to promote indirectly registered or pipeline medicines.

Advantages Over Branded Campaigns

Both DACs and branded campaigns require a lot of the same prep. But the way they are released and the benchmarks you monitor can be quite different. Here are some of the most important advantages of disease awareness campaigns.

Wider audience reach:

Raising awareness allows you to reach beyond current patients, including people who may be unaware of the condition or that they are at risk. 

Improved brand image

By educating, a pharma company becomes a thought leader and advocate for patient health. This improves brand image and establishes trust with patients and HCPs.

Greater patient engagement

Helping patients understand and manage their condition leads to greater patient engagement and improved outcomes as patients comply with treatment.

Additional promotion opportunities

DACs are subject to less regulatory scrutiny than branded campaigns, which must adhere to strict guidelines for promoting prescription drugs. By focusing on disease education, pharmaceutical companies can potentially avoid regulatory violations. 

Disease Awareness Campaign for HCPs vs Patients

Patients and HCPs have vastly different knowledge bases and motivators, so creating a single campaign to target both will please neither. Instead, focus either on HCPs or patients.

HCP-focused campaignPatient-focused campaign
Primary objectiveEducate healthcare professionals: highlight the finer details of the disease, including symptoms and available treatments or early diagnosis options.Empower patients: help them take an active role in managing their health and encourage them to seek appropriate medical care.
Main focusScience: use evidence-based information on disease pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment.Patient outcomes: emphasise the impact of the disease on quality of life for them and their family.
Content purposeExpand their skills: provide a broad knowledge base (in-depth info) and the sources needed to diagnose and treat effectively.Generate awareness and understanding: provide patients and caregivers with accurate info including symptoms, causes, and solutions to improve patient outcomes.
Information typesPractical information: diagnostic criteria, symptomatology, and dosing info that can be applied in clinical practice. Include the potential benefits of treatment, research and development processes, and clinical data.Support information: key details about the disease, followed by info on patient support groups, and links to educational resources.
TacticsBuild a presence: use a multi-channel approach, including medical conferences, professional organisations, medical journals, and others.Build engagement: create engaging, shareable content to increase patient and caregiver knowledge and engagement, improving access to care and support.

6 Best Practices for DAC Pharma Marketing

Follow these best practices to ensure that your campaign hits the right target and doesn’t fall foul of regulatory restrictions.

Educational purpose

Aim at improving patient care and focus around education. The primary goal should not be promoting your product.


Adhere to the regulations and guidelines set by regulatory bodies and organisations. Having your campaign labeled banned or restricted can become a public-relations nightmare.


Strive to make campaigns that are factually accurate and evidence-based, even for patient-focused campaigns that can’t go into the finer details.

Multi-channel approach

Choose a variety of communication channels, both traditional and digital, that are tailored to your target audience.

Unbiased info

Avoid overstating the benefits of any particular product or treatment. Your goal is to educate, not sell. Both HCPs and patients will appreciate unbiased information.


Do not be tempted to hide the relationship between the pharma company and the campaign. Transparency evokes trust.

3 More for Seasoned Pharma Marketers

Here are three more best practices that you can use to make an award-winning campaign.

Balance media vs production costs

Your promotional costs should always be at least three times higher than the initial production costs. This will get your content in the right places at the right frequency.

Create modular content

Content creation should always be in different formats for different channels. Repurpose and reformat content rather than taking a blanket approach.

Utilize teamwork

Leverage existing channels such as MSLs or sales reps to take the visibility of your campaigns further and provide support for others.

Do’s and Don’ts for Disease Awareness Marketing

Use this checklist to make sure you are creating a campaign that’s built for success.


  • Consider a mix of the three main channel types: owned, paid, and earned.
  • Select channels based on their media cost, reach, credibility, impact, and frequency.
  • Consider professional and niche social networks when targeting HCPs.
  • Focus on trusted medical media and journals with a strong digital offering.
  • Host medical content with trusted third-party platforms, like CME platforms.
  • Affiliation and sponsored awareness campaigns with patient advocacy groups are highly effective for patient campaigns.
  • Use extensive general social media for patient campaigns with organic and paid formats.
  • CME platforms are highly effective and trusted for medical and DSE campaign content. Most allow you to leverage content on your own channels too.
  • Use analytic tracking tools to monitor performance of digital channels and make adjustments.


  • Invest largely in your own DSE websites or apps. Studies indicate that neither patients nor HCPs have high trust in content coming directly from pharma companies!
  • Use general social media for HCP campaigns. LinkedIn and Twitter may be effective for reach and awareness by offering a relatively good cost per engagement. However, there are limitations such as low credibility among some HCP segments, plus difficulties in using these platforms for specific professional targeting.
  • Use or repurpose the same search ad strategies for HCPs and patients, or focus on a single ad format (e.g., display banner).
  • Spend lots on channels/publishers that don’t provide detailed analytics and performance insights.

Next Steps…

Disease awareness campaigns are important, but they are a single arrow in your quiver of marketing tools. Find out how you can excel in the healthcare industry with digital marketing by reading our useful guides and how-tos at phamax Digital’s Academy.

About the author

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Peter Mazzi

With a background in both healthcare and marketing, Peter is a true jack-of-all-trades, able to diagnose a company's digital marketing needs and prescribe the perfect treatment plan. Data-driven marketer, Peter has extensive hands-on and strategic experience in the industry. Italian creativity meets German reliability!

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