June 24th, 2008

Getting Social at BIO

palm-tree.jpg So why aren’t more healthcare companies engaging with people online? Is it fear of losing control of the message? Legal and regulatory concerns? Worries about having something to say?

I suspect it is a little bit of all of these things.

But some people are trying to figure it out (including me), and last week I joined a few folks from some other healthcare companies — Bo Piela from Genzyme, Michael Partridge from Vertex Andy Gore from Amgen and Larry Weber — out at the BIO meeting in San Diego and heard more about some internal and external attempts to embrace social media.

At least one attendee took away that we were all saying “just do it,” and there is some truth to that — after all, by actually getting involved you can learn a few things first hand, such as:

1) The benefits aren’t what you’d expect. This about relationships — and sometimes relationships have unintended consequences. In my case, some of the people I’ve come in contact with have turned into friends and mentors — while others have been kind enough to alert me to things I should know about. How do you put an ROI on that?

2) This is labor intensive. Like any relationship, to remain in good standing takes work. That means paying attention and listening as well as engaging. (And taking the garbage out to the curb once in a while.)

3) Your audience selects itself. I’ve written about this before, but it is important to keep in mind that you no longer get much say on who listens in.

4) You have to take the chaff with the wheat. It ain’t all going to be good. Sometimes you are going to have to listen to criticism — and respond to it. But, after all, being part of any relationship involves learning more about how others see you.

2 Responses to “Getting Social at BIO”

  1. Mother Jones, RN says

    Marc, you’re doing a great job on JNJ BTW. I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s true, you’ve taken some hits, but I think that the conversations have helped to clear the air. You are setting the standards for future corporate blogs. Keep up the good work.


  2. Mike Spear says

    I guess I’m the one who posted that ultimately I figured the message out of the session is to “just do it”. The panel did a great job of arming the attendees with the caveats but pointed them all in the direction of doing something.
    Apart from the fear of losing control of the message there seems to be a near paranoia about letting the cat out of the bag. Researchers think that hinting about what they are doing will get ahead of their publications, while some executives think that everything is proprietary. One exec I talked to at BIO was nearly vitriolic in his attack on the idea of a corporate blog saying they were “all” headed for legal troubles.
    They seem to forget they are in control of the keyboard. There is lots that can be said about your company and your work that doesn’t cross any forbidden lines. Ditto when it comes to countering critcism or misinformation.
    If I can add another apparent reason for the concern over social media, it seems to be that it is usually taken out of the corporate context and handled well apart from other corporate initiatives. Yet when it comes down to it is just another from of communication (albeit a new technology) and many, many of the corporate principles, policies and PR maxims can be used to guide its use.
    I think your line about the JNJ BTW is important for corporate wanna be bloggers. “Everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?”

Leave a Reply

All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about Johnson & Johnson, comments that don’t directly relate to the Company or to topics covered on this blog won’t be posted. Please see our comments policy for details.