From time to time here at Eye on FDA, the participation of Pharma and FDA on social media platforms have been examined – primarily on Twitter (see TWANK! Pharma Twitter Rankings), Facebook (see D-Day for Pharma and Facebook) and YouTube (see Checking in on Pharma and YouTube). Today the focus will be on blogging – the platform of all of them that is perhaps the most underutilized of any.
There are a number of reasons for that. First, one has to have something to say – a distinct point of view – and that takes time and effort to develop and hone. Second, it is a labor of love – writing a blog requires a great deal of thought and care and it is labor intensive. And finally, blogs are fairly up close and personal. Providing regular content on an on-going basis brings one in touch with a community in a way that the audience truly gets to know a great deal about the author. For medical products companies and the agency that regulates them – all of these things can pose distinct challenges.
To that last point, on the other side of the challenge coin, there is also tremendous opportunity to carve out space with an audience and occupy it, creating a stronger relationship than might otherwise exist and then competitors might have. Websites create a venue for people to come to you for information – blogs offer the opportunity to get information out to the people who will talk about it to others.
Right now there are by my observation only a handful of companies engaged in consumer facing blogging. What is readily discernible is that while some of the older blogs took a generalist approach, newer efforts appear to be aimed at more specific audiences – in essence going more deeply with a narrower focus. Here is an overview:
- Johnson & Johnson – With JNJBTW, J&J has been blogging longer than any other pharma company with an archive going back to June 2007. JNJBTW provides works to forge relationships with a broad spectrum of healthcare consumers by providing insights and resources for a variety of treatment related issues and profiles of company activities. The blog haws multiple authors and accepts comments, though reviews them before posting according to the comments policy. The blog has its own domain.
- GSK – The More Than Medicine blog goes back to January 2009 and uses multiple authors to cover a wide span of subject matter that includes corporate social responsibility topics, chronic diseases, and current events. According to its comments policy, the blog allows for moderated comments. Entries can vary in terms of timing, with all three entries for October appearing on the same day.
- AstraZeneca – Like JNJBTW and More Than Medicine, the AZHealthConnections blog takes a generalist approach by providing information on a broad spectrum of subject matter – some disease or condition specific in the areas of cancer and diabetes – but also including a public policy and general healthcare information. Residing in its own domain, the earliest archive is in October 2009 and the blog permits moderated comments according to its comments policy.
- Lilly – The blog LillyPad is a more recent entry to the blogosphere begin in third quarter 2010, though no archive link is available on the landing page. LillyPad was started with a twitter handle as well of the same name, and more recently joined by a LillyPad YouTube channel called the Lilly Health Channel. The posting on the blog have frequent postings related to public policy and advocacy issues, though there is sometimes a posting on social responsibility or what it is like to work at the company. However, the focus on advocacy and policy issues (supporting innovation) seems to drive this effort in a very specific direction – being less generalist than other approaches. The comments policy is at the end of a post and states that comments are filtered – or moderated – by the company before posting.
- Sanofi US – Here a company has taken a much more specific approach with a blog called Discuss Diabetes. The archive goes back to Janaury 2011 and is therefore the newest entry and has the distinction on being the only disease/condition-specific target audience. The blog, with its own domain, accepts and moderates comments. The focus is to provide information and resources regarding diabetes and resources for those who have it or are care partners, including such assets as its own mobile app for diabetics – Go Meals.
- Pfizer – The Think Science Now blog on the Pfizer site has multiple authors who write to translate the science of medical research, though it lacks some of the traditional characteristics of a blog, such as an archive or commentary policy that was readily apparent. However, it is exemplary of the effort to aim at a specific audience of people rather than go broadly to the consuming public.
- FDA – The FDA Transparency Blog first posted in November 2008 and was originally set to run for six months. The purpose is to provide insight into how and why the agency comes to some of its decisions. It does not have its own domain but is contained in the labyrinth of the FDA’s website. The blog allows for moderated comments according to its comments policy, though I have not found that to necessarily be the case.
Pharma is not exactly burning up the blogosphere, but a few companies have sought to engage and while there are not enough to discern a solid trend, it would appear that as time passes, efforts to reach out to audiences may become more specific and granular in nature – as has tended to be the case with communications in an evolving era of social media.