July 17th, 2007

…And Speaking of Work

With a couple of new company bloggers out there in the health care world, including me at JNJ BTW, there has been a fair amount of talk recently about the authenticity of corporate blogs.

Cornelius Puschmann over at CorpBlawg had an interesting analysis of the recent kerfuffle surrounding a blog entry on Google Health soliciting customers. Among other things, he points out that corporate bloggers will fail if they don’t drop the corporate voice — that they need to shed the linguistic approaches companies have used in the past and to start to talk like real people.

As he explains:

Corporate bloggers should also forget most of what they know about the language of marketing. Certain linguistic tropes (like the aforementioned super-dupering of products via excessive use of adjectives) are recognized immediately and have a lot of potential for negative interpretation.

It’s a great point, and I agree with much of what Puschmann points out in his post. Blogging should be about sharing ideas, insights and information and engaging in a dialogue.

This debate has a particular relevance to me given some recent posts about JNJ BTW. For instance, last week Jim Edwards at BrandWeek NrX compared JNJ BTW to Pravda. (Jim — did you really mean to liken an American who works in the healthcare industry to a Soviet commisar? In the words of Billy Bragg, “just because I dress like this, doesn’t mean I’m a communist.”) To support his premise, Jim cited my attempts to define what I would talk about on the blog through some posts that I’ve made.

In fact, I wrote the posts Jim mentioned to be more transparent. I wanted to help readers understand my limits and to provide some insight into why I don’t elaborate on lawsuits or on speculation about acquisitions. For someone blogging at a company, I figure it is very important to help readers understand why there are certain things that may be difficult to discuss for legal, regulatory or competitive reasons. Particularly when they are just starting out.

John Mack also recently provided an assessment of JNJ BTW on his Pharma Marketing Blog. In it, he advised me and other corporate bloggers to try to bring in other voices from within their respective organizations.

Good advice. It’s actually something I’ve intended to do since I started JNJ BTW.

Just as there are “eight million stories in the naked city,” there are countless stories to be told by the folks who work at Johnson & Johnson or any corporation. I hope to soon have other people from Johnson & Johnson join me on JNJ BTW as guests to talk about some of the things they’ve been working on their personal experiences. (John also encouraged me to post a bigger picture of myself on JNJ BTW — not sure anyone wants to see that, but I may give it a try…)

In other news, Jeff May in the Star Ledger did a little blurb on JNJ BTW last week. In it, he said “For a century-old business, Johnson & Johnson can be surprisingly spry.”

That line got me thinking about people’s perceptions of the company I work for. You know, when paleontologists first dug up dinosaur bones they thought the creatures they had identified were slow moving and sluggish. Much later, they found animals that were clearly much more nimble — and our vision of dinosaurs changed forever. Think of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

3 Responses to “…And Speaking of Work”

  1. John Mack says


    I like the “eight million stories in the naked city” analogy. How many employees does J&J have? 100,000? That’s a lot of stories — sounds like you’ll be a busy person if you take my advice. If I might play Yoda to your Luke: “Use the force…”, ie, Web 2.0 tools (internal blog) to help you gather those stories.

    As for you photo — I see that when I click on it, I get a huge blowup version. Nevermind!


  2. Jim Edwards says

    Hi Marc,

    OK, so JNJ BTW is not exactly like Pravda. The point I was clumsily trying to make was that for those of us who cover your company but have limited access to its executives, we are forced to read whatever tea leaves you show us. Under those circumstances, the more tea leaves, the better.

    (BTW — Did you just compare your employer to a velociraptor?)


  3. Bruce Grant says

    Speaking as one corporate blogger to another — as well as a longtime denizen of pharmaworld — I just have to tell you I think your blog is a breath of fresh air in this industry.

    To quibble about your not covering what no person in any industry would expect a corporate blog to cover is to miss the amazing point that this blog — and its “keep it real”tone — exist in pharma at all.

    And that J&J was the first mover, I find even more amazing.

    Thanks for doing it…and for being willing to learn as you go.


    BTW, I think people’s impression that Billy Bragg is a communist probably comes more from the fact that he’s the author of an updated version of the “Internationale” (not one of your neocon ditties) than from anything he wears. (What does a communist wear, anyway…a Trotsky cap with a red star?)


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