PHRMA - Building and Sustaining Engagement

Building and Sustaining Engagement



As public affairs practitioners, we all dream of a large database of advocates. A growing database, however, is only as powerful as it is engaged. Keeping busy advocates interested and active is no easy feat. And, as attention spans are cut shorter by the day, the list of channels for reaching stakeholders grows longer and longer. How do you hold advocates’ attention during both quiet times and critical moments of action? PhRMA came to Adfero with the challenge of building a disciplined email marketing program that could prove to not only engage the right people around one key issue, but also keep them educated and ready to activate around crucial issues down the road.


For three years, Adfero has helped PhRMA build and grow more than six ongoing email newsletters to communicate industry priorities to advocates and stakeholders. Informed by continuous testing and optimization, our strategy focused on creating a direct line of communication to an audience that was proven more likely to activate on PhRMA’s behalf. We looked to provide engaged audiences with consistent messaging in order to increase engagement over time.

Adfero developed this strategy through three primary methods. The first is consistency. Our email marketing tracks are designed with a clear purpose and branding, as well as designed to fit a schedule. This ensures that subscribers remain engaged, as they know what to expect and when. The second method is the use of cross-promotion. Through using other email tracks’ information, we encourage individuals to sign up for additional content, expanding the information’s reach. Finally, we prime and activate subscribers based on their interests. We identify and send information to individuals who are most likely to act, therefore eliminating superfluous sends which risk deactivation.

PhRMA Case Study Marketing


The effect of this strategy has been revolutionary. Adfero has helped PhRMA reach nearly 300,000 advocates since the start of a consistent email program in 2019, an increase of 102%. PhRMA’s email marketing also saw above-average success, earning a .6% advocate conversion rate, three times higher than the advocate conversion rate via social advertising.

Additionally, we saw growth in the overall engagement of the database as more than 34% of subscribers were engaged with regular email content.

This greatly increased our ability to reach new subscribers and share information farther.

PhRMA Case Study Subscribers Chart


The weekly COVID-19 newsletter, focused on sharing the industry’s unparalleled efforts to create vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, was a huge success for the email marketing program. In 2020, we increased open rates and click through rates (CTR) consistently for the weekly COVID-19 newsletter, while also increasing track subscribers week-over-week. The average open rate for the COVID-19 newsletter increased seventeen percentage points from March 2020 to February 2021, reaching a 30% average open rate, ensuring more than 35,000 subscribers received critical information about the pandemic and the industry’s efforts to combat it. This was significantly higher than the average open rates for the health care industry (21.70%).

PhRMA COVID Newsletter chart