Very few people talk about prescription drugs online. Most of these conversations are happening in the offline world of phone calls, cafes, and water coolers.

This finding by the Keller Fay Group, a marketing organization that specializes in word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, first surprised me. So I contacted Ed Keller, CEO of the Group, to talk about the implications of this number.

I asked Ed what the 10% online means versus the 74% offline. He said, “The Keller Fay data is a helpful reminder that whatever is happening in the world of digital media is still only a fraction of all the conversations of health issues, and overwhelming online word-of-mouth are still conversations over the phone with people they know in some way or another personally.”

Just who are people talking to about prescription drugs? Keller said it’s a varied lot: family members, friends, co-workers. And, yes, professionals — but only 1 in 5 of these conversations are consumer to clinician.

Thus most conversations (whether off- or online) are people-to-people — not exactly what pharma companies would call ‘the experts.’

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The point here, Ed Keller says, is that if we want to engage in conversations with patients, we must consider both online and offline milieus.

Which brings me to the parallel universe of entertainment: how will Jimmy Fallon step into the role of Conan O’Brien’s Late Night show in 2009, as Conan steps into Jay’s Big Shows for the Tonight Show?

It won’t be by bringing Jimmy onboard, live, on Day (er, Night) 1. Instead, NBC has made the clever decision to put young Jimmy online first. This web broadcasting strategy will allow Jimmy to wet his feet, build his confidence, allow him to experiment and make mistakes, and grow his audience.

We live in a world of off- and online. Marketers must get comfortable managing between the morphing worlds. People straddle both on- and offline milieus for information. It’s true in entertainment; it’s true in health.

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