viernes, 3 de enero de 2014

Pharma blogs: going beyond the press release?

The rise of personal blogging has grown in the past decade with millions taking to the internet to tell their stories and share their opinions. In recent years the impact of blogging as a social media strategy has not gone unnoticed by the corporate world, and pharma has been quick to get in on the act. 

Some of the better-known names have starting using this medium, albeit in slightly different ways. There are five main pharma firms now publishing blogs: Pfizer’s Think Science Now; GSK’s More than Medicine; LillyPad; AstraZeneca’s LabTalk; and Boehringer Ingelheim’s More Health. 

In many ways this has been a suprising move as the industry is generally conservative when it comes to broadcasting information to the public and press, and a blog suggests that posts may be more insightful and informal than the often formulaic press release. 

Most are updated fairly regularly each week with many sporting ‘guest posts’ by academics or public health figures, but the majority are written by an internal communications team, or by members of staff from the firm. 

GlaxoSmithKline’s More than Medicine blog is aimed specifically at the US with many of its posts speaking of the public health work it does over the world, as well as plugging editorial pieces mentioning the firm in the US media. 

Pfizer’s Think Science Now has a slightly different set-up as the site incorporates its entire social media into one place. The blog element is primarily made up of Pfizer staffers doing repeat posts on a range of topics, with Brian Nunnally, who is in charge of process validation for Pfizer US, the most prolific blogger with over 135 posts (at time of press). 

Pfizer’s posts have a more informal – or at least emotional engagement than many of its contemporaries. As an example, one of Nunnally’s latest posts speaks of his wife and children, whilst Jack Watters, VP of external medical affairs, writes recently about celebrating lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month by highlighting the contributions of some notable LGBT scientists. 

The LillyPad blog is much more focussed on business and patient issues such as drug adherence, counterfeit medicines, highlighting editorial in newspapers and issues around patents and intellectual property. It is written predominately by one person - Amy O’Connor, who leads the digital government affairs team at Lilly - and who does inject an informal style at the beginning of some posts, before getting more serious. 

As an example of being more informal, her biography on the blogs states: “She [Amy] is a graduate of the University of Notre-Dame - Go Irish! - and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute - Hoya Saxa!” But some posts begin and end with a serious and often political tone. 

One blog piece from late August reads: “Even under ideal circumstances, intellectual property law is pretty complex (except for IP attorneys, of course). But the laws in Canada, as they relate to biopharmaceutical products, surpassed ‘complex’ some time ago. Maddening is probably a better word.” 

The post goes on to bemoan the problems in Canada where medicines can be taken off the market before a patent expires. This is a lot further and more political than many other firms will go on their blogs, and perhaps is indicative of the culture of Lilly, who’s chief executive John Lechleiter is well-known for his straight-talking on these kinds of issues (in fact it was Lechleiter’s editorial in a US newspaper that ‘inspired’ this post).  

AZ’s LabTalk is predominately about the impact of collaboration and success stories/the need for more success stories in scientific collaboration. This at times almost appears as a mating call to other firms and biotech companies; AZ has made no secret of its desire to partner with more organisations, and its communications team have clearly been made aware that this is its remit.  

Boehringer’s More Health mainly uses it blog to announce competition winners for certain awards, or to speak of its own successes in awards. It is also keen to plug the virtues of digital and social media; unsurprising given its penchant for this area. 
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