Can blogging - or any type of social media - be supported in a highly regulated industry, such as pharma?It's a question I've been grappling with as I've presented the concept of blogging and podcasting to one of my clients in the biopharma space. It's a fundamental question that gets to the core of the value of social media. That is, if you'd like to start a blog and your company requires a high level of involvement from the legal department, your blog is going to sound more like a corporate communications piece and will be less authentic - thus negating the very reason for having a blog.
First things first: according to Christopher Barger, IBM's Blogger-in-Chief, companies need to realize that social media is happening around them whether they like it or not. Acknowledge it. At the very least, monitor what's being said. And if you can, participate. And that requires having a good corporate blogging policy.
Okay, fine. "IBM isn't a pharma company," you say. But it's a company that has many stakeholders. According to a recent MedAd News article Lost in the Blog, "People are talking, and the pharmaceutical industry needs to get in on the conversation." There are numerous blogs about pharma companies, but I'm not aware of a single one by a pharma company. If one jumps in, the only question is what the FDA will allow. The agency has been watching the space and will undoubtedly crack down when a company steps over the line.
The fact that no corporate blogging is happening in pharma is probably because pharma is a conservative industry which is understandably concerned about lawsuits and regulatory hammers coming down. As with any regulated industry, pharma is used to a push-marketing style. But this simply won't be sustainable as a strategy in the future. With consumers being more in control of conversations and messages, the rules have changed.
So, if blogging isn't the answer, then perhaps a sponsored community is. GSK, Lilly, Pfizer and others have established communities around diseases that their drugs address.
Let's face it: blogging isn't for everyone. MarketingEdge's most recent podcast The Great Blog Debate is an excellent (dare I say "great"?) discussion about when companies should blog - or not. It's worth a listen.
And the ANA Marketing Maestros' entry B2B Blogs More Important than Ever contends
While you may not be ready to start your own blog, you better now become cognizant of what others are saying about your company, your products, and how your serve your customers. Your business life might just depend on it.
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