Posted in social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Nora Cutcliffe (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of my interview with BioPharma Consultant, Dr Nora Cutcliffe.

In Part 1, I spoke with Nora about the role social media plays in her work and she shared some super tips on getting the most out of Twitter and LinkedIn. In today’s interview, we pick up our conversation again.

Hi, Nora, I’m excited to learn more about how you use social media in your work. Can you tell us which topics hold your interest online?

NC: On Twitter, I try to stay focused on topics related to pharmacy-based immunization, i.e. within the ‘common ground’ of the 2 circles/fields I described in Part 1 of this interview. For example, if I see a detailed report on the future of pharmacy, I check to see if immunization is mentioned. Or if I come across a new update on immunization practice, I try to confirm if the role of pharmacists is acknowledged. If yes, then I’ll tweet about the topline conclusion(s), but if not, I may ask the organization, “Why not?”, i.e. by Twitter, private email, or other means – perhaps in person at a conference.

Nora, this is such an important step – and not one everybody takes. If, as healthcare communicators, we are to build our credibility and trustworthiness we should always check our sources before we share or re-share them. Tell us more about the next step once you’ve established credibility.

NC: Recently, I’ve been pleased to notice a new trend for continuing education (CME) modules, in that CME immunization topics are include pharmacists on their panel of key opinion leaders (KOLs), alongside physicians and nurses (e.g. via @mdBriefCase). Other CMEs are also being  created specifically by and for pharmacists on vaccine topics (e.g. via @PharmacyU). I like to share these on Twitter too, since many PAI and other immunizers might not otherwise know such cross-functional resources exist.


For a newly published report or CME, my usual approach is to ask: “Which organization needs this info and/or would be proud to RT this to followers (since it casts them in a positive light)?” Then I re-direct the piece to the association(s) at their Twitter handle(s), i.e. as a pre-packaged gift, if you will. Sometimes I tactfully add additional or more current resources in an attempt to achieve a win-win-win outcome – i.e. for the initial tweeting organization, for the group posting the Retweet (RT), and for myself, as I gain credibility as a specialist who is able to connect the dots. I also like to cross-pollinate by tweeting updates from Canada, US, EU, and AU, i.e. to provide for broader context for international experts with an interest in the field of Pharmacists-As-Immunizers.


Even within Canada, where each of our 13 jurisdictions has a different scope of pharmacy practice, along with variation in immunization recommendations and/or funding, I find there is significant engagement for tweets that summarize local (provincial/territorial) and national data.

Again another important step Nora. The wonderful thing about Twitter is that it’s a global conversation – it’s important that we acknowledge this in our work. Learning from others and sharing best practice is critical. Do you think organizations are doing enough in this area?

NC: A key observation I’ve made is that several organizations in health care (particularly including public health associations that oversee immunization) appear to handle their social media (SM) activities with very limited budgets and/or staffing. Many such associations may tweet only 1-2 times per week. In these cases, account administrators may be actively looking for relevant content to RT (to help keep their feed alive) and may tend to be more receptive to retweeting general news updates. At the other extreme, some other Twitter accounts may only post their own association materials, according to a pre-scheduled calendar, and might not post RTs of any kind. However, it appears that most accounts will post RTs to supplement their own tweets, and these accounts typically have greater engagement with followers overall.

This is something I’ve seen repeated across many organizations and it’s so interesting that you’ve observed it and stepped into the breach. Have you observed anything else when organizations use social media to disseminate key information?

NC: Another phenomenon related to scarce resources is that some organizations tend to send out email blasts, but do not simultaneously post the same info on their existing Twitter accounts (or ditto for LinkedIn). In these cases, it’s easy for me to repackage the info from an email notice into a tweet which can then be readily sent as an RT from an official/association Twitter account, again gaining visibility for both of us. It’s surprising how many such gaps exist, even just considering my own daily email alerts, so I see this as an excellent opportunity for me to leverage resources by helping such organizations reach a broader audience.

You’ve clearly demonstrated your social media savvy and one of the things that strike me most forcibly about you is how you are so thorough in your approach to social media. For someone who is newly starting out on this path, what advice would you offer to them?

NC: Thanks Marie!I think the most valuable learning approach is to identify a few SM ‘gurus’ in your specific area and follow them as gold standards for your own practice. By paying close attention to the nature of individual posts and replies, there is so much to absorb and apply.

For me, several leaders and/or organizations jump to mind when I think of who is rocking SM, at least on Twitter, both in Canada and abroad (and considering 3 different content streams):

That’s a great mix – tell us some more about why you chose these leaders.

NC: It’s readily apparent that these top influencers have several skills and approaches in common; they demonstrate knowledge, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm, while also expressing gratitude, courtesy and a personal touch in their individual replies – all of which encourage engagement and greater sharing among followers. So I believe these are essential elements of a winning formula for SM leaders.

Absolutely! Any other suggestions for social media newbies?

NC: Apart from following experts, I would also suggest attending a live workshop in your local area on at least one SM platform of interest. For me, it was very reassuring to learn during (or after) the main presentations that others had similar questions to get off the ground, or that even those with significant experience had more advanced questions that allowed me to take a test-drive on the road ahead.

That’s a super point Nora. I know from my own experience way back when I started I was afraid to ask many questions for fear of appearing stupid. I thought everyone who was using social media had it sussed. It’s easy to forget that we all had to start from scratch at some stage.  Any other tips to share?

NC: To look at a few simple mechanical tips (for Twitter), I would suggest the following:

  • Aim to include a graphic or video with as many tweets as possible.
    • A super-easy way to begin is with an image from a Google search (or other source of free stock photos, as recommended by @JBBC), and then copy this image into Powerpoint by creating a single slide in ppt format. Then, convert/save this to jpeg format to post on Twitter. This allows you to add eye-catching borders, which you can customize to create a signature look for your brand. Even better, Powerpoint allows you to insert additional text (in a text box), so you can extend your message well beyond 280 characters. A font size of at least 24 (in ppt) seems to work well for the final tweeted image, e.g. as viewed on a mobile phone.
  • In cases where you would normally send out a quick RT, consider the option to “RT with comment”, which allows you to add your opinion, set the tweet into context for your specific audience, and/or send it directly to another follower (so they receive a notification) by inserting their Twitter handle.
    • In your own comment, avoid repeating the same headline or text from the original tweet, but insert new wording to add relevant detail. In this way, you can provide further ‘bait’ for followers to open and read the original tweet, and to understand your take on the story.
    • If urls are included in the original tweet, I like to open the link(s) to read the full story, and potentially get a quote. Where possible, I try to directly acknowledge the relevant expert (or author and/or publisher) by looking up their Twitter handles (using the Twitter search function), so I would end up with some of the following pieces in the comment for the RT: “text text text @expert @author @publisher @organization #hashtag #hashtag”. This allows these folks to see that you are promoting your work, so they are much more likely to engage with your subsequent content in terms of follows/likes/RTs.
  • To save characters in your tweet (i.e. to claim more ‘real estate’ for critical text/hashtags/handles), be sure to use or some other URL shortener to condense URL links.

This has been a fascinating interview – I’ve even learned a thing or two from you! So I like to finish these interviews by asking folks to share a favourite quote. Do you have one you’d like to share with us?

NC: In my case, I’ve made very gradual progress with SM over the past few years, with lots of upside potential still ahead. So the following quotes really resonate with me, particularly since trial-and-error can be the best teacher, and since the goal of ‘conquering’ SM continues to be a moving target. Also, it’s fascinating that while these quotes were penned long ago, they are still remarkably applicable in our modern-day digital world!

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. (Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, born 1835)

You don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward. Just take your next step. (Unknown)

The expert in anything was once a beginner. (Helen Hayes, Actress, born 1900)

And for final inspiration, if I may, here’s one last quote that popped up on Twitter as I’ve been wrapping up my thoughts – must have been Karma!

If you never stop LEARNING you’ll never stop EARNING. (tweeted by @jerryacuff Jan. 19, 2019.

That’s a perfect quote to end our interview on – in social media we never stop learning and that’s what I find most rewarding about working in this space. Thanks so much Nora for sharing your insight with us – this has been a super interview.

You can follow Nora on Twitter @NoraCutcliffe and connect with her on LinkedIn.

This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here

Posted in social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Nora Cutcliffe

This week’s interview shines a spotlight on the work of BioPharma Consultant, Dr Nora Cutcliffe.

One of the many things that delight me about this series of interviews is when interviewees come back and tell me they enjoyed the exercise of reflecting on why they use social media.  Nora is one of those for whom this process was a chance to reflect and she came back to me with so many rich insights, that for the first time, I’m splitting an interview into two parts.

After working for a decade with a biotech company (Hemosol Inc.) in Toronto, Canada, Nora has been freelancing as a consultant in the field of Biologics for over 15 years. In this first part, I ask Nora about the role social media plays in her work and she shares some tips on getting the most out of Twitter and LinkedIn.


Hi, Nora, I’m excited to have you share your social media story with us today. I know you have many thoughts, so let’s get started right away.

NC: First, I want to say right out of the starting blocks that you, Marie, have been such a powerhouse of knowledge, skill and generosity of spirit in sharing your social media talents – and I’m indebted to you for these gifts! You’re an inspiration to all those in the health care social media (#HCSM) space, and I feel honoured that you’ve invited me to do this interview.

Oh, I’m blushing now. And it’s also true that you have been very generous in sharing information with me, for which I too am most grateful. Can you tell us something about the role that social media plays in your work?

For the past 10 years, I’ve focused exclusively on vaccines and immunization, primarily as a medical writer. I use social media to keep up-to-date as a subject matter expert, and also to share resources with immunization experts, pharmacists and other health care providers, as well as health-related organizations.

To walk you through to the core of my current interests and future direction, if you can picture two overlapping circles (as for a Venn diagram), then the first circle would be pharmacy practice – this field is rapidly expanding its scope in the areas of immunization, smoking cessation, management of hypertension and treating minor ailments, while facing challenges in deprescribing and overuse of opioids, to name a few relatively new specialties.

The second circle would be the field of immunization, which involves vaccine access and delivery by multi-disciplinary health care providers (HCP), all of whom can help increase vaccine coverage. The intersection of these two circles would then include trained pharmacists who offer immunization services (i.e. “Pharmacists-as-Immunizers”, PAI), or alternatively, it could be described as the subset of vaccine delivery that is handled through pharmacies.

That’s really interesting. This is the first time I’ve come across the role of “Pharmacists-as-Immunizers”, can you expand on this for us?

NC: While the concept of Pharmacy-Based Immunization Services is a newly burgeoning field in academia in its own right, I see this area as a current gap in the literature and likewise on social media. Researchers tend to publish in one camp (circle) or the other, often without setting the data in the context of the broader landscape.

Also, it appears that some vaccinators (e.g. MDs, RNs, public health providers, and pharmacists) are still relatively “in the dark” regarding each other’s contribution and/or challenges, and some providers may not function with the mindset that they’re all part of the same team.

So I strongly agree with a key message put forward by @DrVivienBrown, who states that “Immunization is a team sport” – and she also emphasizes that participation is required by both immunizers and patients, as advocates for themselves. While Dr. Brown has focused on Canada, these are common themes on health agendas in other developed countries.

Given this situation, my topline goal for using social media is to help health care professionals and policy-makers become more aware of the research and evidence to demonstrate that PAI are already “moving the dial” towards greater vaccination coverage, particularly for adults.

It sounds to me as if you are a pioneering voice in taking this discussion online. What kind of things are you posting to spread this key message?

NC: In addition to sharing reports describing the progress being made by PAI (in targeting other HC professionals), I also post resources targeting PAI themselves, to help them keep abreast of changes in vaccine market access, etc. For example, I like to share updates on new vaccines being approved and/or publicly funded for specific age cohorts across Canada’s provinces and territories (such as new flu vaccines tailored specifically for adults over 65 years; the new recombinant shingles vaccine; and the 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine).

Whether these new vaccines are publicly funded, or available only on the private market, they are being requested more frequently at the pharmacy by the general public. Since pharmacists are positioned as highly accessible HCPs who can educate patients with up-to-date information, they need to stay nimble and constantly update their reference tools. So that’s what I hope to contribute – and to support PAI consultations with patients that lead to informed decision-making on immunization.

This year I’m excited to be working on several manuscripts with a team from the University of  Waterloo School of Pharmacy – a group that also has a strong digital footprint on several platforms (e.g. Pharmacy 5in5; @UWPharmacy; and @open_pharmacy). Together with a small group of pharmacists across Canada, we’re planning to produce a series of approximately 8 papers on the topic of PAI, to be published in a special issue of the Canadian Pharmacists Journal (CPJ) in 2019.

A selection of Nora’s recent publications in Immunization

So this is a fascinating project for me, in which my client work will align almost perfectly with my interests on SM/Twitter, and some of my new Twitter contacts will become my working team. In this case, since the CPJ journal is in the public domain, we’ll be able to share the final deliverable(s) widely on Twitter, LinkedIn, and potentially other channels.

I love this! It reminds me of a quote from Frederick Buechner – “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”

So now, take us back to when you first started using social media – what prompted you to get started?

NC: I’ve been using LinkedIn for more than 10 years in tandem with growing my consulting business, and I started dabbling with Twitter and Instagram more recently, in 2016. I was initially motivated to use Instagram and Twitter @NoraCutcliffe as part of my volunteer role as Co-Captain of Advertising for the massive annual Flea Market at Kingsway-Lambton United Church, which has generated over a million dollars in proceeds for charity since its inception several decades ago.

I then realized I could easily transfer my social media skills & tools to my ‘day job’ as a medical writer, both to facilitate access to the latest research and news items, and to increase my visibility across my target client base through my own posts. In general, I also wanted to become more digitally literate, and take the opportunity to apply my career experience in immunization in new ways that could continue to grow/expand into the foreseeable future.

A great turning point came for me when I attended a terrific breakfast session in mid-2016, hosted by the Ontario Pharmaceutical Marketing Association (OPMA), entitled “Harnessing the Power of Social Media Marketing in Pharma”. One of the workshop panelists was Yaz Maziar, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications, Prostate Cancer Canada, who is a fabulous role model for wildy successful Twitter awareness campaigns – and from whom I continue to learn as I’ve followed him @ProstateCancerC ever since.

Among other lessons learned that day, I had two key takeaways from that workshop on HCSM. First, as a sector, health care lags behind other sectors, in terms of social media utilization and savvy, so there is enormous potential for future progress. And second, on a more practical “how to” level, I learned that one of the best ways to build a base of followers, say on Twitter, is to simply dive in and consistently post accurate content, building your reputation as a reliable source of timely, useful information. In those early days, Marie, I must reiterate what a tremendous font of knowledge and guidance you were for me – in leading by example, and demonstrating how to become a more competent Twitter user!

Blushing again 🙂 As you know I’m a Twitter evangelist and I love to see how people use it for good. How does Twitter fit into your marketing mix?

NC: My main marketing strategy is to attend conferences to keep acquainted with old contacts and constantly develop new relationships. I feel I’m in a very fortunate position to have more potential work than I can reasonably handle, so I can select projects while declining others. So at this point, I don’t devote any budget to SM activities. However, this may change, with many things on my list to learn, including better use of Twitter (or other) analytics, Twitter lists and surveys, to name a few.

I would also love to test the waters with using Twitter for ‘crowd sourcing’ of data or opinions, as you did, Marie, when you created your article on “How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper”. I was totally intrigued to see how efficiently you requested input across your Twitter base, compiled replies (including my own), and published this piece!

Nora & colleagues at Holiday Reception @BioSciencePEI (PEI BioAlliance, promoting the growth of the BioTechnology sector in Prince Edward Island, Canada)

While Twitter is the mainstay for most of my posts, I routinely check LinkedIn for content posted by my connections. I rarely use Instagram, except in my volunteer role with the church Flea Market as mentioned above. Since joining Twitter, I’ve also created several “Twitter Moments” to capture conference or other event highlights. In addition, I really enjoyed using the Storify platform and its ability to consolidate posts across various SM platforms (e.g. from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) all into one ‘Story’. So after learning how to use Storify based on your online tools posted @JBBC, I was really disappointed to see this platform was discontinued in 2018.

I really like that aspect of using Twitter to curate conference highlights and I too miss Storify greatly. Twitter Moments, while not as good, is still an effective curation tool.  Can you tell us some more about your audience on Twitter?

NC: Currently, I have a very modest number of Twitter followers, but in keeping with my client work, many of my followers are organizations, on both the pharmacy side (including provincial and national pharmacy associations) and pertaining to immunization (including national/provincial public health, research and advocacy groups). The upside of this situation is that a single RT of one of my posts by one of these organizations can have a great reach, across their large membership base(s). Occasionally, even with just 4 or 5 RTs, one of my tweets may reach 20-50K followers, which is quite gratifying for me. In general however, my goal is to increase impact, rather than absolute number of followers.

You’ve hit the nail on the Twitter head here Nora. One of the most powerful things about Twitter is this network effect – the exponential reach of a single tweet. How about health-related Twitter chats? Do you take part in any?

NC: Overall, I consider myself a neophyte on SM. To date, I haven’t contributed to Twitter chats per se, but I have participated in several Twitter campaigns to support advocacy months/weeks/days on both pharmacy and immunization topics.

What I like most about Twitter is that it keeps me up to date, as the single best and most timely source of information in my areas of interest. A second big attraction for me is that tweeting is the antithesis of creating lengthy, confidential reports that I typically develop for consulting assignments. On Twitter, I can quickly share URL links to many resources (including some of those I use in compiling client deliverables), and voilà – instant gratification!

It’s a fun challenge for me to keep within the allotted 280 characters, and a very different reward system in my brain compared to sending out to a client my bread-and-butter “long form content”, a new buzzword I learned recently from you Marie, @JBBC!

Thirdly, wearing my consulting hat as a knowledge broker, it’s important for me to keep an excellent paper trail to retrieve key data that I want to reference later on. Recently, I realised that when I post an update as a Tweet, I’m more likely to remember the data and source – or in other words, “I tweet, therefore I remember”. This may be because I’ve taken a few brief moments to process the info, and repackage it for others. So to some extent, my Twitter feed doubles as a progressive reference library for my own use as well.

Now that’s a super idea. I tend to do the same thing through favoriting tweets. I know you’re also active on LinkedIn. Tell us some more about how that works for you.

NC: I haven’t yet posted any content re pharmacy-based immunization on LinkedIn since my network is much broader (500+ lifetime career contacts) and not many of these folks would be interested in this specific niche area. However, I love that LinkedIn allows me to automatically stay connected with colleagues who move to new positions (which happens constantly in health care), and it’s the perfect opportunity to send “Congratulations” and stay in touch.

Also, since my work involves a lot of teleconferences (TCs) with groups of up to 10 people, another benefit of LinkedIn is that I can look up new contacts prior to ‘meeting’ them by phone, even if we are not yet “linked”. I like to check out research interests and see if I have any contacts in common with new colleagues. If I mention specific publications or contacts during a first TC, this creates an instant connection, and I find that to be very powerful.

Even seeing a LinkedIn profile with photo – to get a sense of character and personal style – is helpful in identifying new voices and understanding team dynamics during a fast-paced phone call. This can be especially important when I need to hastily distill action points for myself and/or other TC participants before winding up the call. Then, immediately following a TC, I send invitations to connect on LinkedIn, while the discussion is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Another note on LinkedIn is that after using this platform for several years, I attended a very inspiring workshop in 2017, as led by Ross McPherson, targeting Oxford alumni living in the Toronto area. One excellent piece of advice Ross gave us, among many other tips, was to ensure that you review the format of your LinkedIn profile on your cell phone before finalizing new edits. He underscored the fact that your ‘Headline’ (the blurb that appears immediately under your name) has capacity for 100-odd characters, and this should be used optimally to market yourself. Note that your ‘Headline’ is different from the longer ‘Summary’, which is truncated on the cell phone display. To be blunt, some browsers may never read beyond a brief Headline, so be sure to nail this one upfront!

I also want to mention Jade Pluck as a terrific expert on using the LinkedIn platform. In early 2017, Jade graciously and efficiently guided me (via online messages) through what I needed to know to maneuver through the new user interface that was being rolled out that time. I would highly recommend her training videos and/or services for those looking to improve proficiency on LinkedIn.

Nora, this has been a fascinating discussion – but we’re not done yet. Join me next time for Part 2 of this interview.

Until then, you can follow Nora on Twitter @NoraCutcliffe and connect with her on LinkedIn.

This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here