Pfizer’s Site, Ad Campaign Targets Brain Biologists

Sep 8, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

A Pfizer division is bringing on people to work on brain-related research through an expanded postdoc program, website, two-day recruiting symposiums, and a related ad campaign.

Pfizer Neuroscience employs about 130 people working on neurology, including Autism, psychiatry (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression), Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and more, out of Groton, Connecticut. Last summer it began an effort to expand what was then a limited Postdoc program, from one person to about 15 or 20.

The result was, in short, a website built in about a month and a half with help from CareerBuilder, honored at Wednesday’s Creative Excellence Awards, and marketed around the science world.

Kate Yannacci is the business manager for Pfizer’s neuroscience unit. Michael Ehlers is the CSO — with the “S” standing for scientific. He came up north to Pfizer from Duke University in North Carolina last summer. He liked Groton — and thought it was beautiful, actually — but he and Yannacci realize it’s not New York or Boston. “In our department, it has been a little bit difficult to recruit the young talent we’re looking for,” Yannacci says. Pretty and on the water, the area doesn’t have the nightlife some want during a three- or four-year fellowship in their 20s or 30s.

So the site included a section on life Groton — though that’s now less of an issue as the unit plans a move to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

To spread the word of the new site, CareerBuilder sent out email campaigns through its resume database to a targeted group of candidates. It also worked on SEO. Patrick Moye, senior product manager at CareerBuilder, says “we have relied on a strong search engine optimization setup behind the site to drive traffic. We don’t do an ongoing SEO strategy with them but the strong foundation we set has really paid off with the traffic they get from search engines” — traffic that he says represents about 70% of the visitors Pfizer Neuroscience gets monthly.

Pfizer Neuroscience has been running ads, with verbiage like you see in the graphic, in Science, and in Nature. It also emailed all major “collaborators” about it — like professors with connections to the research division.

It sponsored scientific meetings around the world, paying a few thousand bucks to make sure the web address got out there. It targeted conferences put on by the neuroscience society and by Alzheimer’s groups.

On top of that, Pfizer is holding two-day symposiums for recruits. The first day, candidates give 20-minute presentations. The second day, they interview. All stay in the same hotel. Nine people attended the first symposium, and four were made offers.

Yannacci says about 100 people applied for jobs in the first wave, around August-September of last year. Now, 10 postdocs are on board. The website will grow, featuring employees’ stories of what they’ve been working on, and more about what’s happening with Pfizer’s brain research. Yannacci is also in the process of deciding how best to use Facebook in the division’s recruiting.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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