Meet Karima Sharif, Benchworks’ new Media Director

Karima Sharif recently joined Benchworks’ leadership team as senior vice president and media director to lead all strategic media planning and nonpersonal promotion (NPP) services. She has launched, consulted, and managed 300-plus NPP/paid media campaigns for over 75 pharmaceutical and medical device brands in over 25 therapeutic categories. Her experience covers audience segmentation and strategy, digital media expertise, sales/partnership building, account/brand management, and leadership/mentoring.


What brought you to Benchworks?

I spent the last 15-plus years at an agency helping it expand media services and innovations in the healthcare marketplace. Benchworks is a company that I have known for over a decade, admiring the company’s continued growth and graciousness mentality. It was a perfect match to join the welcoming Benchworks family, which will allow me to infuse my media/NPP expertise into our life sciences marketing solutions.

Not to mention that I am a Philly native and being able to work in a hip neighborhood like Fishtown with many cool restaurants (I’m a foodie) is a plus!

How will you leverage your expertise for our clients?

Media has always been about getting the right message(s) out to the right target(s), at the right frequency and at the right time (ie, relevancy) across all industries.

When I first started in healthcare media, the pharma industry was linear and siloed, focused on one audience (physicians) and one channel (print/medical journals), and agencies focused on one area of expertise (creative). As the industry evolved for a variety of reasons—such as limited blockbuster drug entries, changes in personal selling access, additional scrutiny from government, personalized medicine, and most importantly the consumption of information in a patient-empowered world—media morphed into a digital and integrated playing field that continues to transform as the healthcare industry progresses.

I am excited to keep our clients abreast of these changes yet ground them in the traditions of efficiently and effectively reaching their customers (ie, HCPs, patients, and payers) at the right time with the relevant messages, and all with one agency.

Part of your role will be the strategic management of media planning and NPP programs at Benchworks—helping to build out these capabilities to create robust services Benchworks can provide to clients. What will be your first steps?

It’s all about partnership!

Being in the industry for 15-plus years has allowed me to cultivate dozens of relationships with media partners, colleagues, and clients. I would like to forge a similar triangular approach to enhance Benchworks’ media planning deliverable.

Partnership with our clients, internal teams, and the supplier community will bring immediate solutions to the table.  I am eager to hear about our clients’ challenges and business goals so that Benchworks can strategize and collaborate with the supplier community on actionable insights.

This will tie our service deliverable to the needs of our clients, incorporating a full circle approach across creative, strategic, and tactical excellence.

One year from now, what do you hope you’ve accomplished at Benchworks?

Laying the foundation for our media planning and buying service deliverable, internally and externally.

This means not only ensuring that our internal teams are being trained on media deliverables, but that we are also educating our clients on the growing media landscape.

What are some of the challenges you see in today’s healthcare marketing climate as it pertains to media planning and NPP programs?

Healthcare marketing is ever evolving, depending on the climate (regulations, new entries, etc). Media will always follow to address these changes.

One challenge recently discussed in our industry is embracing innovation. Many believe that pharma marketing is decades behind other industries in terms of innovation due to our strict regulatory environment, and rightfully so. We can sometimes get in our own way because everyone wants to be innovative, but no one wants to be the first to test and pilot something new.

However, in my experience, dedicating a small percentage of time and budget to explore innovative concepts can spark innovation. It helps when a company assigns a team to “fail fast and forward” and/or embraces a mentality from the top down in which each employee invests at least 10% (as an example) of their day to thinking about innovation.

This type of approach balances the delivery of tried-and-true solutions with the energy to be fearless in exploring new opportunities that can generate positive outcomes.

What else would you like people to know about you?

Being a woman of color with a diverse background, I am a huge supporter of diversity, mentoring, and community service.

I recently went to the PA Women’s Conference and one of the presenters, an African-American executive, said, “Use our privilege to advance others!” That struck a chord in me, as it’s critical not only to be conscious of others who may lack resources or are not on an equal playing field, but to also be able to activate oneself to genuinely help advance others.

For instance, I have been a mentee as part of the HBA’s Greater Philadelphia inaugural mentorship program to learn from pioneers in the industry and volunteer as needed. I have helped the chapter learn and utilize social media in an effort to boost our national involvement for #hbaimpact. I have also led community service days, professionally and personally, and whenever possible I am a mentor to my network of peers.

I also have a 12-year-old son named Azhar who also has a passion for community service.